Firstly, I need to state that this review is for the DS version of Chrono Trigger. Unfortunately, the DS version was not a part of dooyoo's catalogue, and I am somewhat miffed that an RPG with such a prestige is totally review-less within dooyoo. Luckily, they are exactly the same game, albeit the DS has added extras.
Chrono Trigger is the epic of JRPG gaming, taking the genre beyond any level that the Final Fantasy's of this world have reached, despite what the fan-boys may lead you to believe. The game contains all the hallmarks of a classic Square RPG - fantastic storyline, brilliant characters, over the top special moves and more endings than you can count on your hands (literally).
The game follows the story of Chrono, a young boy who wakes up on the morning of the Millennial Fair. What starts out as a normal day soon turns into an adventure that spans the length and breadth of time, as Chrono and the allies he encounters fight to save the world from extinction, and thus change the course of history. This is one of the games biggest selling points, is the fact that your characters are capable of traversing history, initially via portals, but later on you can use a time machine to travel at will. This gives the game a huge amount of depth, as the actions you take in the past will impact certain events in the future. For instance, one side quest involves leaving one of your characters in the middle ages. They are left to plant trees, and when you visit the same place in the present, what was once a barren area is now a lush forest due to the way in which you changed history.
Traversing time also gives the gameplay a great deal of variety. The enemies you encounter will all differ depending on the historical period you are in, from fighting huge dinosaurs in the prehistoric era, to robots and mutants in the post-apocalyptic future. The playable characters are also varied to reflect the times in which they are from. Ayla is a character from prehistoric times who fights only with her fists, and is not equippable with any weapons, whereas Frog, a humanoid frog from the middle ages, uses a selection of two handed swords.
Suffice to say, the different features of the player characters has meant that Square have let their imaginations go wild with the special moves on offer. Characters use things called 'Techs', which are available as a move used by a single character, two working together, or the whole team. Therefore, experimenting with different team set ups is essential to getting through the game, to ensure that you get the most from your characters. Finding the right special item and using it in conjunction with the right team set up will allow you to unlock the best team techs. It is not a case of just picking the three best and then mashing through menu selection after menu selection, the game makes you think about what you are doing.
The other aspect of the game that moves it away from 'death by menu's' is the way the battles play out. It essentially uses the active time battle system that is a staple of Final Fantasy, but modifies it. Enemies in a battle will move around, instead of being in a static line or group. This means choosing the right tech for the right formation of enemies is essential, as each of the techs have certain area of effect limits. For instance, Chrono could use a tech that hits all enemies standing in a line, therefore it is best using this tech when the enemies present themselves in that way, rather than wasting it on an isolated foe.
The story is one of Square's best but any description of it comes dangerously close to revealing huge spoilers. The plot is filled with great twists and revealing moments, and certain aspects of the story will change depending on your actions. Nowhere else is this more obvious than in the number of endings available, 13 being the grand total for the DS. Therefore, the game has a huge longevity as it will take a good while to see all 13 endings. However, this is made easier by the New Game+ option, whereby you start the game again, but with your characters at the same levels they were when you last completed the game.
If 13 endings wasn't enough, the DS version has also included other extras. The first of these is the monster arena, which is essentially Pokemon Lite. You create a monster, train it, fight other monsters, level it up and win items throughout. I have to admit, I have not explored it fully, as I found it quite tedious, but I imagine you can get some rare items if you stick with it. The next is The Lost Sanctum, a set of side quests that result in some good loot. Finally, there is the Dimensional Vortex that opens up after one play through of the game. These are essentially extra dungeons and a new final boss, which grant a different ending upon completion. There are other, smaller differences between the DS and previous versions, such as translation differences and other bonus features.
To me, this game is a masterpiece and is well worth the purchase, as its shelf life is huge. It certainly has more depth and creativity than many console games out at the moment, which is pretty good for a handheld remake of a game originally released in 1995! Fans of JRPG's have probably played this already, and those who haven't, should. Those who are not into the genre should give it a go, if any game would change your opinion, it would be this. But be warned, it has the potential to devour your life in an Oblivion-esque way.