After months of playing Chrono Trigger in little fits, mostly whilst stationary biking, I finally finished up my second full playthrough the other day (the first being done as a teen in 1995). I promised myself that I would wait until I was fully done with the game to both talk about it and examine its multiple endings.
While there are some issues that keep it from being completely polished and perfect in today’s gaming climate, Chrono Trigger is definitely one of the best older console RPGs to revisit and enjoy today. There’s just so much to like about it: The graphics, the personality, the time travel plot, the music, the party combinations (and attacks), the little easter eggs, and the boss battles. I love that this is a game that starts out by easing you into the world by enjoying a festival — and yet uses that festival in numerous ways to advance the plot later on.
I really enjoyed this second playthrough, even though it wasn’t redone for retina graphics and the controls can be fiddly (especially in a few sections). The game was pretty good about keeping my save games over the span of months, and I rarely got lost or confused about where to go next.
My main complaint is that the last third of the game feels a lot less focused and clever as the first two-thirds. The twists and turns and revelations of the front half of the game in particular keep you playing almost nonstop, eager to see what happens next. By the end, I was feeling a lot of “meh,” especially when the game opened up for more sidequests and exploration.
I was kind of surprised to discover that my memories of this being a long RPG couldn’t be further from the truth. I clocked a full playthrough in about 15 hours, which is downright paltry for an RPG. Yet it feels huge, and I suppose one of the greatest things in its favor is the game’s multiple endings.
You see, if you beat the game in a certain way (mainly by going through a long endgame dungeon), you’ll unlock the New Game+ mode. Chrono Trigger was one of the first, if not the first, video game to do something like this. New Game+ allowed you to challenge the final boss Lavos at several junctions, and depending on when you beat him, you’d unlock a different ending. So New Game+ became an awesome way to replay the game, since you could keep interrupting the regular journey for side trips to the end.
I’ve never seen all of the 13 or so endings, and another promise I made to myself is that I’d wait until I beat the game to load the endings video up on YouTube and watch them (I don’t have the time/patience right now to unlock them naturally in the game). It amazes me that all of the endings combined make up an hour of epilogue. That’s pretty cool — and there’s never been a game quite like this (even its sequel, which was good in its own right).