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Chrono Trigger DS (Nintendo DS) Review

Review for Chrono Trigger DS on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

13 years, five months and 15 days. That's exactly how long European gamers had to wait to get their hands on an official European release of Chrono Trigger, after North American gamers got the chance to taste it for the first time on the 22nd of August 1995. After an original release on Super NES, and a re-release (actually several) on the PlayStation with added animated cut-scenes in other regions, the DS version finally gives Europeans a chance to try the game without having to import. This game is often regarded as one of the best role playing games ever made. Does it still stand up so well today, though? Let's find out.

The young hero of the story, Chrono, is woken up by his mother Jina in the morning of the first day of the first ever millennial fair, celebrating the 1000th anniversary of the Kingdom of Guardia. We begin in the year 1000, which serves as the ‘present time’ in the world in which this game's story takes place.

Chrono must meet his friend Lucca at her stand at the fair, to see her new invention. He heads to the fair where he bumps into a blonde girl with a ponytail, making her drop her pendant. Being a gentleman, Chrono picks up her pendant and returns it to its owner. She introduces her as Marle, and she forces Chrono to hang out with her at the fair, since she's on her own and fairs are no fun when you're alone. Chrono and Marle eventually reach Lucca's stand, where she's demonstrating the first ever teleporting machine, the Telepod. No one wants to try it, so being the kind of guy who clearly can't say no to girls, Chrono accepts the chance to be the first to try it out. He steps on the machine, and is teleported between the pods. Marle then wants a go too, and that's where things start to go wrong. The teleporting device goes haywire, and some sort of black hole appears of nowhere. Marle is dragged into it and disappears, leaving only her pendant behind.

Lucca notices that the pendant is the cause of the machine’s strange reaction, and suddenly seems to remember Marle from somewhere. Chrono then decides to go after her, stepping into the pod with the mysterious jewellery donned. He arrives in an ancient-looking place, devoid of all the modern things from his own era. He finds Marle at Guardia Castle, who has been mistaken for the missing queen. However, while he's talking with her, she suddenly vanishes before his eyes in a flash of light. Lucca soon arrives at the castle and explains everything to Chrono. It seems Marle was in fact Princess Nadia, of the Kingdom of Guardia, and they're now in the Middle Ages. In that era, Queen Leene was abducted my monsters, but history tells that she was rescued. Since Nadia, who looked so much like her ancestor, showed up in the Middle Ages and was mistaken for her, searches for the real Queen Leene stopped. This caused history to be changed, changing the present into one where Nadia was never born... and couldn't have traveled to the past. Queen Leene in the Middle Ages is about to be killed by the monsters because the searches for her were stopped. Our heroes set out to rescue the real Queen Leene in time, permitting Nadia to be born in the present era and get everything go back to normal - but their adventures in time will soon lead them to discover that a much bigger danger threatens their future, forcing them to prevent a great disaster from happening by altering the flow of time and history.

Players had the privilege to taste Chrono Trigger’s outstanding plot for the first time in English in the Super NES North American version, thanks to famous translator Ted Woolsey. However, according to several interviews with everyone's favourite son of a submariner, the original translation for the game was rushed because Squaresoft wanted the game to be released quickly on the North American market. It was also highly trimmed due to cartridge size constraints. For those wondering, this is due to the larger character set of Japanese text, thus meaning that less characters (and memory space) are needed to tell extensive, complex narratives.

Screenshot for Chrono Trigger DS on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

On the DS, however, the translation is now much more accurate and true to the original Japanese version... though some of Woolsey's mischiefs are still present, like Chrono's technique “Illumina” being called “Luminaire”, Marle's real name “Marledia” being Nadia (in the original japanese version, Marle's real name actually ends up being whatever you named her, plus the added “-dia” suffix), or the legendary sword “Granleon” being called “Masamune” instead (which, surprisingly is not case in the other translations on the cartridge, like the French one). This must be so that those who played the original English version to death don't feel completely lost with the new translation. Hardcore fans rejoice (or cry...) - Frog doesn't speak in Middle English anymore, which arguably contrasted weirdly with his occasionally badass attitude from the Japanese version.

The main selling point of this game of course, is the time travel-focused scenario. While it's not as extensive gameplay-wise as The Legend of Zelda : Oracle of Ages, it creates plot twists that were very original at the time of the Super NES release, and which still feel very good by modern standards. It was a game ahead of its time. To top it all, the game's scenario writer Masato Katô was called in to help with the writing of additional plot elements for the two brand new dungeons added especially for this remake. The new areas link the plot more closely with the game's sequel, Chrono Cross, released on PlayStation. The first of these dungeons is the Lost Sanctum, which is accessible from two different eras and has you traveling between the two in order to take on quests. Secondly, the dimensional vortex: a long dungeon where all eras are mixed and where the biggest surprises regarding the new plot elements await you. While these dungeons are a bit tedious in their structure, the new plot elements tied to them more than make up for it.

The game follows the traditional turn-based combat system 16-bit J-RPGs had us used to, with the Active Time Battle system from Final Fantasy being used here too. Each character takes turn to attack the enemy when their ATB gauge is full; the speed at which the ATB gauge fills up being tied with characters’ speed stat.

The nice twist here is that characters can combine some of their ‘techniques’, be they physical or magical, to form combos either known as Dual Techs or Triple Techs, depending on how many characters are involved. These can be pulled off fairly easily. When a character has learnt a technique that can be combined with one used by another character present in battle, the combo will be unlocked at the end of the battle. To execute that combo, simply wait for the two involved characters' ATB gauge to fill, and the currently available combos for the characters present in battle will be selectable. The techniques are learned by earning Tech points at the end of each battle.

Screenshot for Chrono Trigger DS on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The DS version, as you would expect, comes with a couple of new things too. All the changes from the PlayStation version are there, minus a few reworked music tracks, load times and the not-so-good MJPEG compression of the animated cut-scenes which, despite a slightly lower resolution, look arguably better on the Nintendo DS.

The extras menu from the PlayStation release makes a comeback. It's identical for the most part, except for the added Item Encyclopedia, which lists all the items you encountered in the game and dares you to find all the types, not unlike the Collector's Book of Tales of Symphonia. The other items include an art gallery that lets you appreciate Akira Toriyama's character design; a sound test to listen to the soundtrack; a bestiary that lists all the monsters in the game (their locations, items they drop or you can steal from them, etc), which is accessible from the in-game menu as well; a theatre to watch all the in-game movies that have been seen while playing through the story; a dojo which lists all the techniques you already unlocked; an ending log which lists all the story endings you already saw (complete with the unlock requirements, an ending summary and a screenshot); and, last but not least, the Treasure Atlas (which is basically all the maps in the game, and the treasure locations indicated on them).

Another whole new feature in the DS version of Chrono Trigger is the Arena of the Ages. It lets you raise a creature for battle against other CPU controlled creatures, or friends over local Wi-Fi. You pick your start creature from one of four elements: Water, Fire, Light and Shadow Smidges. It's different from something like Pokémon, as you can't directly control what your creature does, but you can pass it items which will help or influence its decisions. When and whether it uses the items you pass it or not all depends on its “trust” statistic.

Screenshot for Chrono Trigger DS on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Before you make it fight against other creatures, you'd better train it first. You can send it to eras in the game that you already visited, and depending on the era you send it to, it may or may not morph into another creature (enemy creatures, actually) which can be found in that specific time. The creature sent on training comes back after a certain time. Sending them away, or making it fight against other monsters, can earn you neat items, including some that you won't find anywhere else in the game. Did anyone say “Item Encyclopedia completion”? The items won in battle depend on the tier in which you make your creature battle. The higher of the three tiers competed in, the better the prize is - but, naturally, the battles’ difficulty increases. The passive nature of the battles, though, is likely to put off players, except maybe those who really want to collect every single item in the game.

The graphics show their age, but the sprite-based 2D still stands pretty good nowadays, thanks to excellent work by the designers back in the day. What used to be a graphical wonder on the Super NES still looks good enough today to make you grow fond of the characters, locations... and even bad guys. Akira Toriyama's work on the characters helps that too. Some of the special effects and brilliant use of the Mode 7 scaling and rotating 2D effects helped making the game look even better, and it still works on the DS.

Chrono Trigger’s soundtrack is still among the best you'll hear in any video game, full stop. Yasunori Mitsuda's compositions are brilliant (along with a few tracks by Final Fantasy music master Nobuo Uematsu) and range from lighthearted themes to overly epic music. The DS version is close to the Super NES sound, though different. On some tracks, the DS sound chip / speakers (or the way it was exploited by the programmers, maybe) shows their shortcomings when it comes to rendering bass sounds. The last battle theme in particular, and the Lavos' screams, don't sound as good as they did on the Super NES. The transitions from one track to the other (when entering or leaving battle, for example) are a bit too abrupt to my tastes. All these little details will go unnoticed to anyone who didn't play the Super NES version extensively as I did, however. The compositions are still as astounding as they were back in 1995. Four new tracks from the PlayStation version make a comeback here, and one particular track, coded in the original game but never used, is now heard in one of the new bonus dungeons. Most sound effects, while close to those of the Super NES, sound different.

Screenshot for Chrono Trigger DS on Nintendo DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review


While moving around your characters using the touch screen is a bit awkward, the button-based gameplay is still more than good enough to allow you to play in the best conditions possible.


Sprite-based graphics may be a thing of the past, but this game has aged better than a lot of others from around the same time and still looks awesome despite (or thanks to) its retro look.


There's only one thing to complain about regarding the sound in this game: it's the slightly inferior renditions of its awesome music tracks in this DS version. It's still a masterpiece well above the vast majority of other DS RPGs.


The adventure itself is rather short, but once you finish the game, you'll want to try the New Game +, and go for all the alternative endings, as well as completing the item encyclopedia, Bestiary, etc.. The Arena of the Ages helps to increase the time you'll spend playing this game if you're into creature raising sims. You get good value for your money, on top of the game being awesome as it is.

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

About this score
Rated 9 out of 10

I could say it in a thousand different ways, but let's put it simply: whether you already have this game or not, you have to buy Chrono Trigger DS, because it's just one of the best RPGs ever, if not one of the best games ever. Square-Enix said that if we want more Chrono games, we have to buy Chrono Trigger for DS first. I sure know I want more, so what are you waiting for? All Chrono fans will be grateful if you do.

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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (64 Votes)

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Nice review Kafei! I agree with you in the text, but I would personally have given the game a 10. I played it for the first time last year, and Chrono Trigger astounded me. Its more modern and cutting edge than most games released 15 years after it.

C3 Moderator

Must go back to this some time. I got stuck and lost... time travel is confusing and something big murderised me.

Add me on anything. I'm always looking for new friends/opponents/town visitors/chances to appear more popular than I actually am.

I have this game on my SFC. I wouldn't want a sequel, but it is a fantastic game.

I played it and I didn't like it.

Excellent review Kafei.

( Edited 04.07.2010 12:48 by Marzy )

I have the original cart for my SNES and my brother decided to get the DS release so he could take it with him on a work trip he had. Tried it for a bit and while it does feel weird to play the game on a smaller screen it was still a fun experience. Overall a great port. I'll give it a go once he's finished it.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Fab review and bloody awesome game! Smilie

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer
rdfux (guest) 07.07.2010 23:04#7

Best RPG ever !!Smilie

CHINAMAN (guest) 11.07.2010 21:20#8

your text here
This game is not bad.
Maybe if it improve its screen effect,it will be more better.I give it 9 out of 10.

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