In the My Favorite Game series, get to know us better as staff writers share the game they love most and why.
Chrono Trigger is that band you’ve known all your life. You went to all their concerts, knew them before they were popular, have read everything about them and desperately hope for a reunion tour. They’re not mainstream. They’re your favorite thing.
Not many on the outside know what it is. It isn’t the Rolling Stones. Those on the inside surely do. Mention Chrono Trigger to anybody who considers video games a hobby, and they’ll nod. They know. Reaching a certain level of quality dismisses the notion (forever) that it shouldn’t be taken seriously as anything other than the best. It doesn’t matter if millions of people haven’t heard of it. It’s irrelevant, because millions also have heard of it and widely agree. The undeniable truth is that Chrono Trigger isn’t just my favorite game, it’s one of the best games ever made.
It’s sort of sad that my favorite game was made 17 years ago. I’m not sure I would have the heart to tell 11-year-old me that this is as good as it gets. In a way, though, it’s comforting knowing that Chrono Trigger confirmed my young suspicion that video games are my reward. My incentive. I’m talking running out of the soccer-mom van, running up to my room, tossing needless things aside like my backpack, lunchbox and slamming the SNES power bar up a half an inch to escape. Great adventures were planned. Clandestine play sessions were created. The volume was set so I could hear, but my parents couldn’t, even if they were walking past my door. Is it possible that Frog’s theme is even better at the quietest of volumes?
A friend of a friend let me know what Chrono Trigger was, after hearing me proclaim that Super Mario RPG and Final Fantasy II (IV) were completely awesome. What do you mean you don’t figure out who the bad guy is right away? Time travel? Katanas? The beginnings were laid out to me while I was sitting with my friends in the back seat of a blue BMW. I still know the smell; I would buy it if I could. Those detailed, wonderful memories of finding out something you know you will love… you can’t anticipate them. That’s the great part. Psychologically side-swapped. Your brain wasn’t ready for this.
The game has aged as well as any wine or cheese. In 2008, they released a port on the Nintendo DS with a few extra features. I was thrilled that the game still holds up. Playing it with a more mature attitude at the age of 24, I appreciated how there is zero fat on this game. None. You start off in a peaceful, welcoming era. You get thrown into the past of a deliciously medieval 600 AD, then back home. Nobody at home knows about the adventure, save for you and your two female companions, Lucca and Marle. You are punished for kidnapping the princess. Consequences. Reality. Get out. Go to the future… devastated? What happened? Never has a game built towards your goal like this.
It’s a Japanese RPG, meaning there are weird, random statements of emotion. There are stats. There are lots of menus and dialogue. There are no insane moments of heart-pumping action like in Bayonetta or God of War. It’s fairly linear, although (genius) in the final scenario, it opens up more than you’d think. But none of that matters. All that matters is that we have an example of what can truly be created when the top experts in their field unite for a special, once-in-a-lifetime occasion, and create a product of pure elegance.
The magic system is fun, and the battle system was revolutionary at the time and still great today. There are multiple endings. It was one of the first games that allowed for a New Game+, letting you play through the game again and carry over your stats. The characters are lovable, not likable. There are dark moments, funny moments and rabid fan moments. The graphics on the SNES have never been better, and still look good today. The main character, like me, has green eyes and red hair, which may be another reason why it’s my favorite. Did I mention it has one of the greatest soundtracks ever?
It will take something of a small miracle for a game to knock Chrono Trigger off my top spot. The emotion, nostalgia and current appreciation of this game rivals any piece of entertainment I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.