Famous Japanese game developer Square Enix is rather fond of re-releasing games. All of the old Final Fantasy games have been redone for at least one new platform. If it’s a classic role-playing game (RPG) from Square Enix, you can count on it being re-released at some point in the future. Chrono Trigger is no exception, having been already released for the Super Nintendo and Nintendo DS.
However, today it comes to iPhone and iPod Touch. The new version is about what you’d expect from a Square Enix re-release: everything is how you remember it with a bare minimum of changes to accommodate the new platform. To be honest, a Chrono Trigger re-release for iOS is a welcome sight. The game is considered one of the best RPGs ever made. Bringing it to Apple’s touch screen flagship should help widen its audience a little, always a good thing.
So, what’s Chrono Trigger like on a new platform and in a new age? Join us in our in-depth review to find out.
An RPG You Can Touch
The first and most important thing to note is the new interface. Chrono Trigger was originally designed for a controller, but it now sports a redesigned control scheme based on touch. Movement uses touch pad control sticks and automatic running. To be honest, the controls on SNES emulators feel more natural than this scheme.
What does stand out, though, is the battle system. Fighting in Chrono Trigger is done by tapping various menu selections to choose your attacks. A menu that’s easy to navigate is very important because battles tend to be fast-paced affairs. The new menu system is marginally better but will probably give fits to people with thick fingers.
Aside from the redesigned touch screen interface, this is the same game that was re-released in 2008 for the Nintendo DS. The game ships with two bonus sections, but these are the same bonuses that came with the DS version.
Adventures Through Time on a Touch Screen
If you’ve never played Chrono Trigger, I’ll summarize the plot. A plucky group of kids accidentally falls through time to the future. In the future, they find out that their planet is destined to be annihilated by a monstrous alien.
Of course, the kids vow to stop this from happening. Thus begins a spectacularly fun adventure as they travel through time and space to stop the Earth’s destruction. Chrono Trigger’s version of Earth is in direct peril from the forces of evil and only Crono and his friends can save humanity.
I have to give credit to the developers for the story. Time travel is usually pretty sketchy, turning into a mess of plot contradictions and confusion. However, Chrono Trigger actually presents a unified and entertaining story.
That’s not something you see a lot in apps- an adventure story. Chrono Trigger really nails that sense of magic you find in Pixar films. Journeying across time and space through a strange and wonderful land is simply amazing. Without spoilers, Chrono and his friends visit some truly awe-inspiring places.
Tapping Your Way to Victory
That journey isn’t going to be an easy one, though. The places you visit are packed full of enemies to battle. They tend to be monsters, but the occasional surprise enemy and boss battle changes things up a bit.
Battles are an addictive blend of speed and tactical thinking. You have to strike quickly, but each attack has to be the right one. Some enemies are only vulnerable to certain types of magic or physical attacks. One memorable boss had shifting shields that cycled through different weaknesses every turn.
Thankfully, the game gives you the tools to win. You always have three people in your party. Those three people each feature unique attacks and strengths in battle. The sublime pleasure of Chrono Trigger is figuring out which party combinations work and which don’t.
Choosing party members can be a bear. Over the course of the game you recruit a motley cast of warriors, robots, and even one of the main villains. They’re all at about the same level of power, so no matter who you have there’s a reasonable chance of winning.
The path to winning is never a straight one, either. The various items, skills, and magic spells learned by your party allow for an infinite number of party combinations.
Speaking of combinations, Chrono Trigger is also the home to some awesome combo attacks. Multiple party members can team up to execute team attacks that do incredible damage. These are great for boss battles. Speaking of those…
Bosses and Balancing
Chrono Trigger is a superb game on many levels, but I do have to offer a few caveats. This game is a lot of fun as long as you know how to play it. People who aren’t prepared or don’t know what they’re getting into might struggle.
First of all, if this is your first time playing, get a walkthrough. The game is not too clear about what to do and where to go sometimes. Other secrets are so obscure that you need a guide to find them. My advice is to copy and paste a guide into the Notes app and refer to it often.
Second, the boss battles. Most of the game is moderately challenging but nothing too serious. However, the bosses are much more difficult. If you’re inexperienced or if your team isn’t a high enough level, you will struggle.
The problem there is that Chrono Trigger is a holdover from the 1990s. Games back then had one difficulty level, “Insanely Hard.” The iOS version keeps that approach to the boss battles. The final boss in particular is beyond impossible to defeat.
Thirdly, the game is wildly unbalanced towards one character, Marle. She is incredibly overpowered and easily stands as the best character in the game. Square Enix wouldn’t have gone wrong to underpower her for the iOS version.
I guess my biggest issue with game is that it’s just not very friendly to newcomers. It doesn’t have a tutorial or explain combat/inventory/what each item does. The player is left stranded. Again, get a guide or spend some quality time with Google.
Finally, the price. Chrono Trigger clocks in at $10 on the App Store. This is a high price for an app, but remember it provides around 25 hours of gameplay. The exact length depends on whether you do the sidequests (do them if you want to beat the final boss).
Despite its somewhat elevated difficulty (especially for an app), Chrono Trigger remains an outstanding achievement in game design. It proves that you don’t need fancy graphics or elaborate cutscenes to tell a story, just compelling characters.
The difficulty might be off-putting for some people (especially the final battle), but I encourage you to persevere. Those who think they are up to the challenge get to experience one of the best RPGs ever released.
Download Chrono Trigger for iOS