I hope I don’t invite the wrath of Chrono Trigger fanboys, but having heard so many great things about Chrono Trigger and missing out on it during its Super Nintendo glory days, I thought I’d give the DS version a shot (I was a Sega Genesis fanboy in those days, building my chops on games like NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat, Madden and Street Fighter. Ironically, I’ve owned every other Nintendo console, except the one many consider its best, but I digress).
In the end, I was sorely disappointed.
The game’s story is very solid and the characters are well developed and really likeable. I also like the fact that there’s the possibility of multiple endings depending on what happens during the game. Rarely do I actually go back to play through a game again just to get all the endings, but I appreciate the effort and thought that goes into giving gamers their money’s worth.
So all that sounds pretty good right? Then I actually started playing the game, and became increasingly frustrated by the battle system and inventory management. If it’s an action-RPG, make it an action RPG. Don’t give me this hybrid, turn-based/real-time action bullcrap. If I attack an enemy before it attacks me, my attack should hit first. Not after three of the enemies get in their strikes without any advance notice. If it’s real time, make it real time! I know there was an option to switch the battle style to a more classical mode, but that was even more disorienting and annoying.
I also thought the fighting itself was too repetitious. Maybe RPG strategy has advanced greatly in the past 15 years, but it felt a bit mindless and unchallenging (from a strategic standpoint, not from a difficulty standpoint). But maybe I feel this way because I’ve played too many strategy RPGs recently.
But I eventually sort of got used to it. Except when it took me several seconds cycling through a character’s attack to find one specific attack (or usually it was to find the heal command), during which the enemies would get in a few more hits on a character, killing them. Same thing with inventory management. It’s a bloody mess. I spent too much time cycling through an unorganized list of crap, never able to find exactly what I need when I wanted.
“Now where’s the hi-potion…”
*Character gets hit
“Not the low-potion, not panacean, where the hell is the hi-potion?”
*Character gets hit again
“WHERE THE #$&% IS THAT SON OF A BITCH!”
*Character gets hit again, dies
“Where is the Athenian water…”
*Lather, rinse and repeat
The worst part of all this is, let’s say, you had Marle queue up a Heal spell (or dropping a potion) on a dying Chrono, and before you the spell is cast, Chrono gets killed. Marle should be able to get her move back and do something else, like toss an Athenian water on Chrono and bring him back to life right? NO! She LOSES her move. How does this make any sense!? So not only did you not get to cast that original heal spell, that character becomes a eunuch for a turn. Great.
But to be honest, the game wasn’t that hard, and I actually only died maybe a handful of times. But then I got to the last boss, Lavos. Spent the first 20-25 minutes whomping all his inferior forms, and then got to his final, or pre-final form. What happens? He casts a @$%#ing confuse all spell and slowly, but surely obliterates my guys. And not only are they useless when they’re confused, even when they’re not confused, Lavos is getting two attacks in for every one I get. But just when I’d recovered from the confuse spell and was starting to get the upper hand, he casts another @$%#ing confuse all spell and kills my group off.
Let me just say, confuse attacks (and its just as obnoxious cousin, charm) are the biggest load of shit in RPGs. I can live with poison, I can live with crap like darkness and berserk, but confuse is a lame deus ex machina that games resort to to make an easy fight, unfairly difficult.
At that point I tossed the DS aside, cursed the hours I’d wasted on it and went on YouTube to watch the endings. Two can play at this cheating game.
Would I recommend this game? If you’re an old-school RPG fan (and somehow haven’t played it already), totally. If not, I would give it a lukewarm recommendation for its story. As pissed off as I was in the end, I admit that it’s not a terrible game. It was an engaging experience with flawed gameplay, IMO. I just can’t fathom how people consider it to be an all-timer.