Forget Final Fantasy. Forget Star Ocean. Forget Dragon Quest. The best 16-bit role-playing game is none other than Chrono Trigger. Released mere
days after the PlayStation, this Super NES game was largely ignored due to the excitement over impending 32- and 64-bit wars. However, what Chrono Trigger does is successfully take everything that SquareSoft had learned about making quality role-playing games and mixed it with one of the most compelling stories of all time. Here we are more than a dozen years later and Chrono Trigger remains the single greatest 16-bit role-playing game around, even going as far as rivaling the best of the newest RPGs. It's not perfect, but regardless of whether you're a long time fan or new to the series, Chrono Trigger is a must-own Nintendo DS game.
While a lot of modern day role-playing games take a long, long time to get going (I'm looking at you Final Fantasy XII), Chrono Trigger gets the ball rolling almost immediately. You play Crono, a silent hero who decides to go to his town's fair to support his inventor friend Lucca. Along the way he helps a few people and meets a beautiful (yet oddly familiar) young woman named Marle, who decides to tag along. Before long you're being asked to take part in Lucca's crazy teleporter invention, which is a shoe-in to win the best invention award at this year's science fair. There's just one problem, when Lucca's creation malfunctions it has a tendency to send people back in time.
In true science fiction fashion, Lucca accidentally sends the beautiful Marle back in time, which means that the two friends are going to have to step up and rescue her. Unfortunately when you play with time travel things tend to get a little sticky, and that's exactly what happens in Chrono Trigger. Before you know it you're traveling into the future to discover that the world is going to be rocked by cataclysmic catastrophe, which means that you're going to have to travel back in time to fix it, which results in all sorts of problems. By the end of the game you will have traveled all the way to the end of time and back to when dinosaurs and cave people roamed the planet. All this just to make sure everything works out for your present day existence.
What sets Chrono Trigger apart from most of Square's other adventure games is how fast all of this happens, not even an hour into the game you will have traveled back and forth through time, battled dozens of enemies and, unfortunately, been tried for kidnapping. If all that happens in the first hour then you can only imagine how exciting the rest of the game is. This is one role-playing game that doesn't slow down, you're constantly rushing around trying to resolve problems, pick up rare artifacts from ancient times and, most importantly, make sure the future isn't as bleak as it looks when you first saw it.
To make sure all of this happens you're going to need a few friends, and Chrono Trigger has all sorts of cool side-characters just waiting to help you out. While you can never have more than three people in your party at any given time, the game does allow you to swap in people who can aide you on your quest. For example, when you travel back to 65,000,000 BC a young cave woman will help you on your adventure, yet in the future you will team up with a robot that Lucca helped bring back to life. Heck, there's even a courageous frog that is there to battle the bad elements with you. It may be a cast of misfits, but it's a memorable lot with some funny dialog and plenty of witty one-liners.
While the time traveling and crazy story may be original, it's not the only innovative aspect of this role-playing game. At first the game looks and feels very much like a traditional 16-bit Final Fantasy game, you play a group of characters that is seen from an overhead perspective. But the similarities end there, as you will notice the first time you step into battle. Instead of being transported into a brand new area when you go to battle, Chrono Trigger keeps the fights on the standard map. This means that you can always see the enemies and choose to engage them or not. Better yet, by keeping the battles on the playing field you don't break up the action, so you don't have to worry about random battles or losing the flow of the experience. What's more, it's actually a lot of fun to see the various enemies interact with the world you've been exploring. All these years later this may not sound like much, but there's no doubt that it changes the feel and pace of the game in a positive way.
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