‘Chrono Trigger’ Port for PC Fires Blanks

“Chrono Trigger” is one of the best games ever made. Though one could pose an argument that “Final Fantasy VI” offers more to the Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG) genre, I refuse to acknowledge any other JRPG as better. Look at any feature — its revolutionary real-time turn-based combat, the intricately detailed pixel art by “Dragonball”s Akira Toriyama or the banger-loaded soundtrack — and you, too, will appreciate why the game is held with such reverence. If you are unfortunately unenlightened, you play as the young Chrono and together with a group of allies from various time periods, you go on an time-travelling adventure to slay the evil alien Lavos that seeks to destroy the world.

On Feb. 27, Square Enix released a port of the beloved game for the PC, and — in a completely baffling act of sheer incompetence — they managed to screw it up.

The cardinal sin of “Chrono Trigger” for the PC is that it is a direct port of the game’s mobile version rather than the original 1995 Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) version, or the later port for the Nintendo DS in 2008. The visuals of the SNES version are pixel-art at its zenith, whereas the aesthetics of the mobile version are more reminiscent of a fake video game pop-up that shows up on sketchy websites. The once sharp, defined features of “Chrono Trigger” are muted by filters which reduce the nuance of the artistic detail. Instead of colorful, dynamic sprites, the characters look as if their faces have been smudged. What took the biggest beating graphically is definitely the overworld map area, with inconsistent tiling preventing the large world from seamlessly coming together.

As a fan of Nintendo games, it would be hypocritical of me to dismiss a game because of its graphics. I can, however, dismiss a game because of its clunky user-interface (UI). The original “Chrono Trigger” was well-received at its release because its smooth UI allowed its real-time, turn-based combat system to work. Enemies didn’t wait for you to attack; you had to quickly navigate through each of your character’s movesets and attack before the enemies attacked you. As a result, every battle was an adrenaline-filled encounter that ensured that the battle-system never grew stale.

The UI of this “Chrono Trigger” port makes OPUS look competent. The menus present too many options during combat that saturate the screen. When navigating through the Tech menu (these are your special attacks), your options are presented in two columns, rather than the single column of the original SNES version. This clutters the screen with too much information and makes it hard to navigate quickly. While this decision would work well on a touchscreen, it translates poorly onto a PC.

Though unimportant, the absolutely pathetic text-input UI is perhaps the worst of Square Enix’s porting sins. Whenever you name a character, an ugly, grey Windows 95-esque text box appears, prompting you to type it out. This is, unfortunately, the only instance in which Square Enix decided to actually stick to the artstyle of the mid-‘90s.

I began this review by explaining that “Chrono Trigger” is one of the best games ever made, and this will always be true regardless of the disgusting nature of this new port. If you have absolutely no other way to play “Chrono Trigger,” then this castrated option will still offer many of the successes of the original game. You will still get the zany, quirky cast of six playable characters. You will still get the absolute tune that is “Corridors of Time.” And you will still get its thoughtful, original exploration of time-travel. That being said, in an era when you have the likes of “Shadow of Colossus” and “DOOM,” both of which have each been thoughtfully remade and ported, this release by Square Enix is comparatively lazy and — quite frankly — offensive to die-hard fans of “Chrono Trigger” who continue to flirt with the idea of a complete remake for a modern console.

Oh well. At least we might get Chrono in the next Super Smash Bros.

 

Grade: C-

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