Game Of The Month: October 2015
Chrono Trigger - Super Nintendo / Playstation 1 / Nintendo DS
Like good wine some videogames get better with the passing of time, when one such example is actually based around the concept of actual time itself this makes for something truly special. For the month of October 2015 we decided to focus attention on the RPG genre and to select one from the Golden Era of gaming. With that in mind it took about 3 seconds to decide which one should be selected, a game that is truly a product of great minds, a great story and released on great consoles. Chrono Trigger simply put has no equal!
Starting out as the product of a 'Dream Team' of game designers and producers this was always destined to be something by which other titles in the genre would be measured. The lead producers from three massive franchises, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and Dragon Ball was a clear signal of intent by 'Squaresoft' to create a 'moment' of genuine industry changing and defining storytelling and it worked!
Released initially on the Super Famicom / Super Nintendo in Japan and North America in 1995 (yes Europe once again missed out) this massive game on a 32-meg cart was both a labour of love and in every single possible way an instant classic, nothing else at the time looked as good, played as well or had more of an impact on gamers hearts and minds. It told a story of a group of friends/allies that jumped through time in order to save a world fallen under a prophecy come true. With optional characters to control and choices to be made with each and every one the gamer in many ways felt like a narrator or director of the story themselves, with so much depth and choice you were immediately drawn into a massively complex game world and it was impossible to let go until you knew the outcome. That's the power of a well crafted videogame design and masterful pacing in the storytelling.
Initially controlling a young boy and two of his friends over the many hours (and we do mean many hours, this game is enormous) you first go back in time to solve the disappearance of one of the lead characters, this in turn has consequences on the present day events and so begins a multi-layered, multi-time adventure that although may sound confusing is a brilliant way of taking a linear genre which RPG's can mostly be and completely blowing the invisible walls and barriers away. With the fear of an impending future of desolation and destruction it is up to you to set things right and restore the balance of 'time' This is done by going back and forth through a 'hub' area that exists at the end of said time and is a great early example of a base camp style design execution. For the time this was pure genius.
Wandering through the land and time you come across a massive array of monsters and human enemies that are fought in the classic turn based way of all the best RPG games ever made. With potions and weapons and spells to acquire and stats to raise Chrono Trigger is every bit the hardcore experience that serious gamers wanted. The graphics used just so happened to make everything look super cute for the most part however this superbly helped open the doors wide to a mainstream audience who promptly took one look at the back of the box and snapped it up.
After selling extremely well for the 16-Bit Snes 'Square' then ported it across to the next wonder console the 'Playstation' in all of it's glory with some new bits and pieces a few years later in 1999 however once more RPG fans in Europe were again forgotten as North America and Japan were the only regions to get that as well. Even after the massive sales surge of the genre thanks to games like Final Fantasy 7 it was still considered too much of a risk to translate it and release it for the complex languages of mainland Europe. Once again however the game sold superbly and a new generation of gamers were treated to the magic of what most fans of the genre rightly state is one of the best games ever made.
Finally seeing the light of day in Europe in 2009, this time on the sales monster that was the Nintendo DS console a re-mastered version was received with massive review scores and very good sales. The DS version containing new areas to explore as well as some quite glorious cut scenes and animation it now commands quite high prices thanks to it's much smaller print run and desirability as Europe's only way of playing it on cartridge format officially. For digital fans the Nintendo Virtual Console and Sony's Playstation Network also now have it for you to download and an iOS/Android version is also out there for fans of playing on the go. In all it's estimated that nearly 5 million hard copy units of Chrono Trigger have sold, for a game withheld for the majority of it's life from a major region (Europe) that's pretty damn impressive.
With a game world that really feels alive, with more examples of new things that took a genre into fresh and exciting areas and for looking like it's a work of art while sounding like angels are singing to you it easily ranks as an example of how to make a perfect game. The fact that it's even better than the sum of it's parts and that the second you finish it you will want to start again is a true testament to how that 'Dream Team' completely nailed it! Chrono Trigger is not just a great game, it's a hobby changing event, it creates a passion and a love in those who never before liked the genre and for those already in love it's like spending every single moment of your life with your best friend. There's no such thing as the perfect game some may suggest, however at RGG we would place this up on our shoulders as proof that it has been done.
Chrono Trigger is the videogame version of a one size fits all T-Shirt and like your favourite shirt it's gonna get used, loved and kept forever. This was Squaresoft at their absolute peak, they don't make them like this anymore, they don't need too though cause this one got it perfect 20 years ago and it's only getting better!