Chrono Trigger Review: A meticulous masterpiece decades later

Chrono Trigger Review: A meticulous masterpiece decades later

In the ever-evolving landscape of video games, certain titles stand out as classics that have left an indelible mark on the medium. Among these, Chrono Trigger holds a special place, revered for its innovative gameplay, captivating narrative, and enduring charm. Developed by a dream team of RPG visionaries, this game broke new ground in the world of role-playing adventures, offering players a seamless blend of real-time and turn-based combat, all while exploring a time-spanning narrative that remains a masterclass in pacing. Now, without further ado, I, Brighton Nelson, will delve into the components that make Chrono Trigger an experience like no other—where time is not just a gameplay mechanic but a testament to its timeless brilliance—in today's article: a Chrono Trigger Review: A meticulous masterpiece decades later.

Battle System - 10

This game manages to make a system in which you technically run into encounters, yet it still feels seamless with the world-building and level design. The game's battle system is real-time and turn-based without random encounters, making everything feel fluid. Due to the fluidity, battles never feel unnecessary, and since the game is relatively short, enemy designs are never recycled—every counter feels unique. Since the game has so many customization quirks, it never feels like you have enough time to experiment with it all, making it one of the only games I've played where I'd constantly seek out battles, as well as a game I am seriously considering replaying, something I rarely do with even my favorite games. While this game doesn't have a unique or groundbreaking battle system, it has one that never got tiring—a system that made replaying this game and seeing its 12 endings worth it.

Story - 9

This story isn't the most groundbreaking or exciting story I've ever gone through, but not only does it perfectly tell a time travel story, but it also does something I can confidently say no other game has ever done: it has perfect pacing. This game never had any filler, and it was so brisk that the story always had levity and tension, even if the overarching story wasn't all that special. Outside of the meticulous pacing, the highlights here are Frog's story and Magus's story, both of which were fun and intriguing. In summary, as a time travel story with not a second of filled and tons of memorable moments throughout a multitude of eras, Chrono Trigger tells a very captivating story that never slows to crawl and keeps the player unrelentingly hooked.

Music - 8.5

This game has so many legendary tracks, from the incredible title track to the theme at the End of Time; everything here perfectly fits the game and its array of different settings. While there are a couple tracks I dislike (including the incredibly repetitive battle theme), for the most part, this soundtrack more than lives up to its reputation, and it exceeded my expectations on a first playthrough. However, in the end, this isn't an all-time great soundtrack for me personally (probably because I didn't grow up playing this game), as good as it may be.

Art & Graphics - 9

This game boasts some of the most timeless pixel graphics. I played this game for the first time in 2020, and it still looked fabulous. Compared to most SNES RPGs, which look a little dated to me (don't come after me with pitchforks, please), this game is one that I am not particularly interested in a graphical remaster for—these graphics truly hold up that well. While these graphics are fantastic, many stylistic styles look quite a bit better, but as a whole, this game still looks incredible decades later.

Characters - 6.5

This game is often lauded for its characters, but I personally believe that is this game's weakest aspect. Crono is a decent silent protagonist, but that still isn't saying much, especially since I usually despise that trope. Marle is a mostly one-note friend and love interest who experiences very little growth or development. Robo and Ayla both have very little since, neither of them can speak coherently. Also, the main villain, Lavos, is paper-thin compared to someone like Final Fantasy VI's Kefka, even if he's interesting to fight. With most of the playable cast and the main antagonist out of the picture, how does this game still deserve a 7? Because Frog, Magus, Schala, and (to an extent) Lucca are all awesome characters. Frog has a sweeping backstory that leads him to face the challenge of whether to seek revenge or grant forgiveness. Magus and Schala have a beautifully interwoven story, although both stand on their own as compelling and intriguing characters. And Lucca, Crono's best friend, who we see grow through many cutscenes, and see her not be a love interest—which, at least for the time, was very rare to see between two characters of the opposite sex. In summary, I didn't fall in love with these characters nearly as much as many others, but I still liked all of them to an extent. But, in the end, the characters were the weakest part of the Chrono Trigger experience and a small stain on an otherwise near-perfect game.

Sidequests - 8

This game has some very fun sidequests! From Frog's story of upgrading the Masamune to the long and fun (albeit long) Lost Sanctum; from early game final boss fighting to finding all 12 possible endings, this game has a fun line-up of sidequests that don't overstay their welcome! There's hunting Nu for resources and experience. There's going through the optional final dungeon (yes, you read that right) in multiple periods to get heaps of loot. There's Ozzie's Fort, where you face off against the Three Generals again. There's restoring the forests across all the time periods to show you can make a difference. Two sidequests were particularly special for me: rewriting Lucca's tragic past and reuniting Robo with one of his kind at the Geno Dome. While this game's sidequests are few and far between, they all make a solid impact on the player and flesh out the concise and snappy plot of Chrono Trigger.

Locations - 9.5

This game takes you through so many terrific setpieces across multiple eras! From the Guardia Kingdom to all the Antiquity era locations, there are many unique and lovable locales here. This game excels in showing the world across hundreds of years, showing the changes in each era and how your actions make an impact. While a story about time travel could've had more vibrant areas, this game just excelled so well in showing the player the world as it changed and evolved, so it'd be stupid to give this any lower of a score.

Quality of Life - 10

Judging that this game came out on the Super Nintendo and only minimal changes were made in later releases, it is insane how perfectly polished this game has always been. Most older games need fixing in later ports, and to be honest, most modern games are released partially unfinished, but Chrono Trigger? It has never had any issues here. Outside of a couple of translation errors, this game has absolutely no notable issues, and that's insane!

Customization System - 7.5

In essence, this is a very simplistic customization system. Your characters learn a few abilities as they gain more TP; you learn magic after a particular story beat and use those abilities in battle. However, the Double Tech and Triple Tech abilities add an insane amount of simplistic depth, making every battle worth fighting! This system adds a lot of replay value in which you can experiment with so many different characters, trying to find which combinations were my favorite. Recently, I've loved the wacky party of Robo, Ayla, and the optional character—that party has such a vibe, even if it doesn't mesh very well. However, next playthrough? I'm going to challenge myself to use Marle, Frog, and Lucca and see how I can make that mediocre team become something incredible! While I love this system—its antics and replay value—I think it isn't as complex and intriguing as many other video game customization systems are, so a 7 feels like a perfect score in my eyes.

The Verdict

Fun Factor: 9
Overall Score: 77%
Letter Rating: A

Chrono Trigger is the most timeless game ever made, with a lightning-in-a-bottle development team making it into something extraordinary. While I don't believe it to be the best RPG ever made—in fact, it doesn't even crack my top ten—I can acknowledge its incredible impact on RPGs as a genre. Having played this game for the first time in 2020 as a young 13-year-old without any prior knowledge of the game's legacy, this game still captured me with its beautiful world, unmatchable pacing, immaculate battle system, and shocking replayability. While this game doesn't exactly hold a special place in my heart like it does for my dad, uncles, and many others who grew up with this game, I wholeheartedly believe this game deserves the love it gets. It breaks my heart that we may never get a third entry in this behemoth of a series. I recommend Chrono Trigger to anyone, and quite honestly? I can confidently say it is the best gateway drug into classic RPGs and maybe even RPGs as a whole—it is just that incredible.

Interested in buying this timeless masterpiece and formulating your own opinion on it? Feel free to buy it through the affiliate link below to help support our website :) I recommend the DS version, as it has bonus content and it doesn't have the subpar mobile controls!

Chrono Trigger (SNES)
Chrono Trigger (DS)
Chrono Trigger (Mobile)

Primary Version: Chrono Trigger (DS)