Okay, so now that I’ve beaten Chrono Trigger for the DS, I figure it’s time for a Review. Did I like it? Of course, it’s Chrono Trigger. Main Game wise, nothing’s been changed. That was never a concern. Did I like the Extra Content? Not so much. By the by, this is a review for people who have played the original game to completion. There are points that won’t make as much sense to you, and a few spoilers if you haven’t. You have been warned. (I also “Ruin” the extra content, but there’s not much there to “Ruin”. Again, just warning you.)
First the DS interface. The bottom screen provides a world map when you’re on the field, and an area map that fills itself in as you explore the different zones. On top of this they provide the ability to move using the Touch Screen. You move by touching a point on the bottom screen away from the Center. Close to the center and you walk, further and you run. Also, the “Action Button” (Talking to people, searching, opening a chest, etc.) is activated by tapping the screen, and whenever there are dialog choices they appear as buttons on the Bottom Screen. I don’t like this method of movement and have yet to meet anyone who does. Unless a game has been designed around this movement system, I don’t think it should be shoehorned in (It’s not “Bad”, just not something I like. It works fine.) . I will admit that I did find myself using it while “Grinding” a few times, as I could play the game one handed while doing something else (Using the Mouse/remote/etc.) with the other. There’s an entire post that could discuss grinding in games, but Chrono Trigger’s not that bad about it, so we’ll skip it for now. ;P
On both sides of the Map are customizable menu buttons. Direct access to your Item/Equip/Swap/Tech/Etc. screens, and even the Menu Screen itself are available via these buttons and they give you the ability to arrange them however you like. Like the movement I initially didn’t like them, though the fact that you can go directly to these screens without having to go through the Menu Screen, and the ease with which you can reach them (As they are along the sides of the Screen) kind of grew on me. With one tap access to screen that would normally be Menu –> Screen, it wasn’t a bad thing, and I found myself using them on and off as I remembered them.
Your actual “Menu Screen” has also been reworked. When you hit the Menu Button, your Character’s Base Stats (Name, Level, HP/MP), Time Played, and Gold are displayed on the Top Screen. On the bottom you have the Sub-Menus as larger buttons filling the screen. You can still navigate the Menu via the control pad, but everything has been reworked into Buttons/Tiles to make navigating via the touch screen easy. I found myself using the touch screen over the control pad occasionally as they really did a good job with it.
Finally, you also have the option of the Battle Menus and Character Status (Remaining Health/MP) appearing as they did before (On the Game Screen) or showing up on the bottom screen to keep the top screen uncluttered. I must say I enjoyed that, as it was just as easy to use as if it’d been up top, and it gave the whole top screen to the actual combat. Of course them Menus were redone in the Button/Tile Fashion of the Game Menu, in case you wanted to use the Touch Screen to navigate them. I just used the Controls for the most part though.
Now onto the Extra Content. The first one I’ll mention is the Arena Mode. As that’s the first one you can access. If you wait to use the Arena of the Ages until it’s “Reachable” in the Game Proper, you won’t have access to them until you reach the End of Time. There’s another little light column that shows up in the corner up the Hub room with the Lamppost that leads to it. They have however given you the option of going into the Arena directly from the Title Screen. You just choose which file you’re entering it from, and make sure to save before you exit it. It has no effect on your current position in the game, save that you suddenly have whatever items you’ve won in the Arena. (There is a point in the game where you’re stripped of your equipment and during that point the Arena is “Down for Maintenance”. ;P I thought that was a nice touch.)
The arena is pretty much what I’d feared it would be. You choose a character from four identical monsters with different elemental attributes, and you let them bash away at whatever other monster shows up in the Arena. You do not directly control the monster, so it’s very dry. There is the option to “Assist” it by handing it an item that Heals/Boosts/Makes it Cast a Spell, but it’s generally unnecessary. You can also train it (Which you need to do to raise it’s Stats so it can bash away at stronger monsters) by “Sending it out” into an Era that you’ve visited. Each of which upgrades different stats. You can even hand it the same limited items you can use on it during it’s battles to assist it in increasing it’s stats while it’s out. Sometimes, after in game criteria have been met, you’re monster will come back as a “Bigger Better” Monster.
That said, the reason you’d even waste your time there is because through this little Arena you can win items that you’d generally not have at that point in the game. The higher the tier you choose to fight in (The tiers unlock as your monster gets more powerful, and you advance enough in the game), the higher the entry fee, and the better the items you can win. There’s also the ability to get multiples of items that are limited in the Game, and even a few things that do not exist outside of the Arena. Though truth be told the “Arena Only” Items are rather lame. Accessories that are Character Specific which allow your characters to counter attacks of elements not their own 25% of the time. Seriously. And an item that “Might” reduce the enemies HP to 1 when you hit it… Maybe. I did spend enough time there to get enough of the End Game Equipment to fully equip my entire party. Something you can’t do in one play through of the Original Game. I guess you can also send your monster off to fight someone else’s… but I cannot imagine this adds too much to the interest as you do not directly control them.
I would have liked it a bit more if it either had more depth, or at least let you interact with your monster through items you could find in game. That way it felt like it was a part of something more than just it’s own little corner of the world. Maybe let you give it your old equipment/accessories when it went out to train or something. (Which would have in turn allowed you to recycle a lot of the things you were winning in the Arena, but not needing. Win/Win. :P )
The next extra comes in the form of a set of portals that open up in both the Prehistoric Era and the Middle Ages once the Black Omen rises. You need to enter the one in Prehistory first, and it leads to a village of Reptites from an Alternate Time Line or something in both times. (It’s very poorly explained.) In this new zone, known as the Lost Sanctum, you do a series of self contained quests that net you very powerful new equipment not available in the original game, and some of which is not even winnable in the Arena. It’s kind of neat at first, to get this extra content… but when you realize that it’s COMPLETELY self contained, and has not only no impact on the game proper, but also isn’t an offshoot of something that occurs in the game… it really comes off as “Tacked On”. It would have been neat had they worked it if not “In” to the story, at least “Around” it. That way it felt like it belonged. (Say that they descended from Azala’s people, and were scraping by in this new world they found after Lavos squished their home or something.) Also, the “Story” being told through this area was poorly written. It was hard to see anything more than “I have a Fetch/Kill Quest that I need you to do for me. Please do it and come back for your present.” So even in it’s own little world, it wasn’t well put together.
After that, there are these “Dimensional Vortex’s” that appear in Antiquity, Present, and Future once you’ve beaten Lavos at least once. Again little portals that this time lead to a series of randomly generated dungeons pulled from a stock of areas from the game with a new area or two mixed in that climaxes in a new “Dungeon” with a Doppelganger of Marle/Crono/Lucca respectively to fight at it’s end. These dungeons also have new equipment not attainable in the original game nor winnable through the Arena, and once you beat a Character’s Doppleganger, that Character gets a little Stats Boost. There is absolutely no story to them whatsoever… outside of a Completely pulled from the air fight with Dalton which not only makes no sense story wise, but is quite literally just dropped in there at the end of the Future Dungeon. (There is a little bit of dialog there… but it’s so out of place that I didn’t care.)
Finally, after you’ve beaten all three Vorti, the Bucket at the End of Time “Acts up” and you are suddenly able to access a new boss. It’s the Final Boss from Chrono Cross (I’ve already made clear how I feel about “that” gem). You get a little bit of Dialog from a Magus from this “Alternate Time Stream” explaining it, and then you bash away at it until Schala sends you home since you “Can’t defeat it at this point”. After that battle you get another Exceptionally short animation, a mini Magus Ending, and Crono’s Ultimate, no “Really this time” Ultimate Weapon. There’s no other reason to do it, and the ending isn’t all that hot. It, like the Vorti, feels tacked on. (Though it’s obvious from the content that both Dalton, and this ending are supposed to help “Set the Stage” for Chrono Cross…. ;? )
In Summary, I liked having the Extra Content. Even as bad as it was, as it gave me something I didn’t have before. I would have just liked it more, had they put a little more work into it. Overalll, I preferred the Arena, and the Dimensional Vortex’s over the the “Lost Sanctum” and Dream Devourer Boss, as they didn’t even try to pretend to be more than “Here you go, Extra Shat. Have fun”. It would have been completely the opposite had more work gone into making them a part of the game proper. Heck, I’d have liked the Reptite Village better had it just been better written. Seriously, a few scenes, and some better dialog to tie it all together, even with it being self contained, and I would have liked it better. As it stands, I would have preferred the “Lost Sanctum” had just been a long dungeon with possibly interesting connections across time, and the Dream Devourer to have just been another “Uber Boss” no questions asked or answered over what was delivered.
Do I still feel the game is worth picking up? Heck yeah, it’s Chrono Trigger. And while the Extras may not add considerable incentive, they certainly don’t detract from what was unquestionably an amazing game. Just don’t expect much from the Extra Content.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention. There’s also an “Extras” option on the Main Menu. This let’s you choose a File and then presents an “Encyclopedia Chrono” for you of all the Songs/Artwork/Techs/Items/Movies/Beasties/Endings/Treasures you’ve obtained for that Save categorized into smart little submenus… as if the OCD “Completionists” didn’t have it bad enough. ;P (As and OCD Completionist, I happen to like this feature, though I wish it was accessible through the In Game Menu. The Bestiary is, but not the rest of it.)
It would have been nice had they fleshed this out a little more as well. Let you watch the Characters execute the Techs. (Possibly on the Arena only Smidges for the Lols. ;P ) Watch the Endings. (Since you’d have to beat the Game again at that particular point to watch it again) And see the Beasties execute their attack animations. Nothing crucial, it’s fine the way it is, but those little touches would have been nice.
Not Related: While browsing for images/videos to link in my review, I realized that I really just need to find a way to capture image/video directly from my DS myself, as it’s hard to find “Just” what I’m looking for. ;P On the positive side of searching though, I found this, which is rather awesome. ^.^