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    jp's Chrono Trigger (DS)

    [January 20, 2009 04:57:33 PM]
    I'm done!

    Yes, it is as wonderful as everyone says it is. Interestingly, for me at least, this isn't a game that you can "get" in 10 minutes. Portal is an excellent game, but it's excellent because of one idea (that was very well implemented). Chrono Trigger doesn't really have that one idea, it has lots, and lots of little ones that are each implemented and included with an incredible amount of polish and care. You can't really "get it" from 10 minutes, maybe 10 hours?

    Anyways, on to the ending...

    I knew before starting that Chrono Trigger had several endings. I assumed that they would work similarly to other games: the ending you get is an indicator of your success at the game. After reading a few FAQs (once I finished) I discovered that it doesn't really work that way in this game. Once you've beaten the game you can play it again and essentially choose to take on Lavos earlier. Do so at the right moments and you get a different ending. I guess this really makes sense given the theme of the game: time travel. From a certain perspective it sounds almost stupid for a game to have one ending when you (the characters in the game) have the ability to travel in time and change things around. While "technically" there are infinite possibilities, it serves as testament to the game's designers foresight that they actually included alternate (yet consistent) endings for the game.

    For the record, I think that this might be the first time I've played a game that had a cut-scene AFTER the epilogue, ending, and credits roll. Glad I stuck around. :-)
    add a comment Add comment
    [January 15, 2009 09:23:03 PM]
    The main reason I started playing this game was to get a sense of how "time travel" (or temporal manipulation) was implemented and integrated. I was particularly interested in seeing the game mechanic aspect of it and how the narrative supported that.

    In this respect, the game only really hits its stride near the end: once you have the Epoch (time-travelling space ship) and have had it modified so you can fly anywhere and travel in time anywhere (to anytime). Earlier in the game you're limited to time-traveling through specific portals that take you to specific places/times.

    In total, the game has 7 time periods:
    Pre-history: 65,000,000 B.C.
    Dark Ages: 12,000 B.C
    Middle Ages: 600 A.D.
    Present: 1000 A.D.
    Apocalypse: 1999 A.D. 1:24 P.M.
    Future: 2300 A.D.
    The End of Time

    While time-traveling is an important part of the "main" storyline, the gameplay starts to shine with all the side quests. My main concern was that, once you've unlocked the anytime/anyplace, the quests would get needlessly complex involving multiple time periods and locations. I was worried that I would either be overwhelmed (and not know where and when to go to) or that the game would strip out all the fun by explicitly telling me these things. Thankfully, the design of each side-quest is reasonably constrained: each one covers one or two general geographic locations and two time periods. You travel back and forth a few times (as well as "now" and "then"....hmmm, what's a nice equivalent of "back and forth" but using temporal words?). Here are a few examples of some of the things I've had to do:

    Get a crystal and place it on a dais. Learn that if I had another crystal that was the same, they would merge into another kind of crystal. Travel to the future, pick up the crystal that I left on the dais. Travel to the past. Place the "new" crystal on a second dais next to the original. Now I have two! (they merge, and presto, new crystal!)

    Lady needs help planting trees (to help make a desert disappear). One of the characters volunteers to help her out. Travel to the future and the job's been done. The character (Robo) is sitting in a shrine. He's been working for years until his batteries ran down! Jumpstart him and he rejoins the party.

    Mayor is a really stingy person who has something I need. Travel to the past. His ancestor wants something I have. Give it to the ancestor as a gift. Ancestor is really please and promises to teach his children to be generous. Travel to the future, the mayor is now a really nice person, generous and all! (his children are all over his house, before they hated him, now they think he's too nice!). Mayor gives me the thing I wanted!

    4. Young adventurer called Toma is looking for a rainbow shell. He gives me something to sprinkle on his grave...then leaves on his quest. Travel to the future, sprinkle the liquid on his grave and his ghost appears! He says he located the rainbow shell. Travel to the past and go to the place he mentioned. Bingo!

    Each of these is a small example of something you might have to do. Most of the side missions had more than a few of these...
    add a comment Add comment
    [January 13, 2009 02:33:59 PM]
    Perhaps I don't want the game to end. Perhaps I'm too chicken to fight Lavos. Perhaps I think that I really have to level up in order to have a chance. Either way, I've been making my way through most of the sidequests and enjoying the variety of bosses you run into and marveling at how many of them are made more interesting/enjoyable thanks to little things. For example, there is a boss that has three targettable (sp?) locations. If you use any spells/techs that target all locations, you die (because some of the locations counter-attack for massive damage). You need to change your strategy, and target specific locations! In another fight, there is a boss with a "center" and 5 satellites (he's some kind of fire-thingie). You can't attack the center directly (die quickly to massive retaliation). Instead, you have to target one of the satellites that, when hit, channels damage through to the "center". Every now and then the satellites spin around (making the "correct" one, change). Hmmm! Finally, there's a boss called "Mother Brain" which is essentially a super-computer that manifests as a hologram. It has three satellites, video screens, that continually heal it. My gut instinct was to take out the video screens (easily done). However, mother brain then goes berserk and to use attacks that get increasingly more potent. It took me a while to figure out that the better strategy was to destroy 2 of the 3 satellites but leave one working. Since it would constantly heal the brain, I then had to make sure to do more damage to it each round than the satellite was capable of healing.

    So, what's my point? Well, most games follow the "simple" formula of making bosses tougher by giving them attacks that are more damaging as well as more "hit points". It's essentially about matching power. Bosses in this game are interesting because ocassionally, you actually have to think a bit more. This isn't the same as giving a boss a particular weakness (say, weakness to lightning attacks) but rather giving something for the player to think about when they go about attacking. Most of the time, pick the most dangerous items/spells and use them as much as possible while trying to stay alive. Here you actually have to be a bit more careful. :-)
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    [January 7, 2009 09:29:42 PM]
    So much to write about!
    I forgot to note how many hours I've played so far, but it is in excess of 20, which I guess is reasonable for an RPG. I do hope that I'm getting close to the ending though! (I think I am, I just rescued "Tajo", the main character and in theory I should be able to face Lavos, the major enemy).

    Anyways, here are some of the things I wanted to note:

    (a) It's surprising how much can be achieved through the use of very simple graphical effects. At different moments in the game the entire screen is "overlaid" with a graphical effect that changes the visibility of what is happening "below". Snow, rain, sandstorms, etc. And they are incredibly effective!

    (b) I've been wondering how people manage character equipment and inventories in their games. I mean players, not designers. I imagine that I'm on the very conservative side. I tend to hoard everything: potions, elixirs, etc. I buy way more than I actually need (because you never really know if you'll need them, right?) and I end up making my way through games with the bare minimum necessary in terms of USAGE. (as opposed to hoardage, which probably isn't a real word but it should be) Most games of this type also have "1-use" items with permanent effects that you really want to use as soon as you get them. For example, items that increase the stats of your characters. How do other people decide whom to give these items to?

    I've noticed that different games handle this "dilemma" differently. In some games, a particular 1-use item is only usable by one character so the player doesn't really have to decide. (this is often the case with equipment as well, particularly so in Chrono Trigger, where most equipment is only usable by one character). In other games, the group of characters you control is stable. Characters don't leave. As a player you then know that you can optimize to your hearts content (I'll give the fighters the +strength so they're tougher, or boost up the mages so they're not so weak...etc.). The "true" dilemma comes in games where the group of characters you control changes. Ie, some characters leave your party. As a player, I'm always wondering whether or not I want to potentially "waste" some really nice items on a character who might be gone soon! (dang! he took the uber-sword of slicing and I used all my +strength magic capsules on him as well!). The way I've been "solving" this dilemma is by essentially giving everything to the main character or protagonist. I assume that while the OTHER team members may leave or be replaced...the protagonist won't. And this is where Chrono Trigger threw me for a loop. :-)

    (c) Chrono Trigger also has an interesting structure in terms of the quests/missions you go on. I actually spent some time working on some of these before I realized they weren't central to advancing the plot, which is besides the point. Anyways, in most games it seems that side-quests are essentially that: completely voluntary and non-relevant to the main game. Why do them? To get some extra treasure or experience. When can you do them? Usually all the time. At any given moment you might have 1 or 2 "main mission" things to do and a few side-quests as well. In Chrono Trigger, the segmentation of these is completely different. If I had to describe the game's progression it might be something like this:

    main mission - ... - main mission - {multiple sidequests} + main mission

    Essentially, the sidequests only become available near the end of the game after a significant event has happened. Now, what role do the sidequests play? They're explicitly there to help you prepare for the final battle as well as help provide additional depth and background to the cast of characters in your party. From this last perspective they've been really enjoyable, interesting and completely unlike the disposable side-quests that most games have.

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    [December 28, 2008 08:08:25 PM]
    Almost 16 hours of gameplay and I've been defeated by Lavos in some sort of underwater palace. My defeat was quite obviously planned/expected as soon after I was treated to a real "oh wow, I can't believe that actually happened" kind of moment. I'm still (sort of) reeling from the surprise.

    I guess the more I play the more surprised I am that this game was originally released for the SNES. Did that version really have the short anime clips that this one does? Wow! That must have been pretty surprising back then. (hmm...a few minutes on wikipedia suggests that the anime cutscenes were added for the Playstation re-release and were thus not present in the original SNES version, oh well..)

    I've only recently started to experiment with swapping characters around. It is quite easy to do (interface wise) and I've been doing it to answer a few questions I had, namely:

    (1) Do characters gain experience when you're not playing with them?

    Answer: Yes, none of the characters have lagged behind terribly in terms of level and experience. Apparently there must be some sort of "catch-up" rule where all of the characters have to be within "X" levels of each other. I guess... I haven't checked HOW much experience they get. (ie, if I get "100xp" after a fight, is it 100 to each character? 100 to the active ones and 80 to the rest?

    (2) If they gain levels while not active, do they also learn new abilities?

    Answer: Apparently not. I get the impression that you have to have them join your party. After the first battle they'll "catch-up" on all the abilities/magic they should have learned but didn't. I'm not sure though. It might be an issue of "twinking" (ie, they get 100TP after a fight and thus immediately obtain all the skills that required 10TP, which was quite an amount the last time you used that character). This is also necessary for those 2- and 3- combo skills (ie, the ones that require 2 or 3 specific characters).

    Anyways, it's still great fun! :-)
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    [December 24, 2008 10:19:57 AM]
    I've already clocked a little over 10 hours of gameplay and I have to confess that despite my misgivings, I've really been enjoying myself. Since Chrono Trigger was an SNES game, it's a Japanese RPG, and it is really easy to fall prey to the rose-tinted goggles syndrome... well, let's just say that I was expecting to be a little bit bored and non-plussed. The truth? This is an excellent example of a game where polish and attention to little details makes all the difference. So much so, that, similar to my experience with Zelda: Ocarina, it doesn't feel dated at all!

    The following is a (short) list of some of the little things I've enjoyed or been surprised by:

    (1) No random encounters! In fact, many encounters are avoidable altogether.

    (2) You can't really buy things in the pre-historic world. Only trade... (for set items you have to obtain in the same time period)

    (3) Apparently Toriyama was much more involved than I had originally thought. There are (a few) fully animated cut-scenes! I thought he had only designed the characters...perhaps he was more involved than that?

    (4) Combat is mostly fast and easily resolved, though there is a little more depth (in options) than I expected.

    (5) The score is fantastic and really helps set the tone and mood.

    (6) I was in a pre-historic castle (Tyranno lair?) and reached a room with monsters on both sides (left and right). There were two buttons on the floor. I pressed one, and the monsters on the left dropped into a pit that opened up beneath them. Then I did the same for the monsters on the right! Yay! A few rooms later, I pressed a similar button but this time a pit opened up beneath my party. The room I landed in had some monsters waiting. Guess which ones! (awesome!)

    (7) The game has a few action (and interaction) elements I wasn't expecting. For example, the buttons I mentioned earlier. Makes the game feel a little Zelda-ish at times!

    (8) Did I mention no random encounters?

    (9) In the "current" time period there is a fair where a group of people are performing some "traditional" dances. They happen to be the same ones you get to see the pre-historic people interpret. When you talk to the "original" dancers they express interest in having later generations know about the dances.

    That's it for now!
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    jp's Chrono Trigger (DS)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Monday 15 December, 2008

    GameLog closed on: Tuesday 20 January, 2009

    jp's opinion and rating for this game

    A classic that is truly deserving of the multiple releases it's had. I'm glad to have played it.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

    Related Links

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