Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chrono Trigger: The Beginning

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You know what? Chrono Trigger was my first RPG.

Well, technically the original Dragon Warrior was, but every time I played it I never got more than five minutes in before I said, "What the hell is this shit?" and turned it off (I still hate that game to this day).

Anyway, it is really a coincidence that it is also my all-time favorite video game, but I suppose it is no coincidence that I ended up loving RPGs as a result (I play virtually all genres, but that's beside the point). Note my second RPG was Final Fantasy VI, and that is to this day my favorite Final Fantasy (and I didn't even really understand that one until years later, heh). Of course, Chrono Trigger was in many ways not your typical RPG.

And the one aspect of that which no one seems to ever notice, despite it being possibly the most important, is the direction it took the Active Time Battle system in. Sure, ATB became a staple of RPGs for quite some time after that (being about as common if not more so than the traditional turn-based), and FF6, which was released around the same time, had it, but it was fundamentally different in a subtle, yet important, way. In games like FF6 or FF7, even if all your characters' "time gauges" are filled, only one is active at a time, and you have to actively switch between them. On top of that, when it is your "turn", the battle essentially pauses, giving you all the time in the world to decide what to do. In other words, it might as well have been turn-based with the turn order determined by a speed stat (as many turn-based RPGs especially later on did anyway). Chrono Trigger allowed the selection menus for all your characters to be active at once, showing you with finality that, yes, they are all ready, and tying in well to the combination technique system, wherein more than one character can act at the same time. Also, as long as you didn't turn it off (LoL easy mode equivalent), the battle time is still active while you are making your menu choices, so it doesn't feel like just another "turn." You have to make your decisions on the fly, upping the level beyond just any amatuer tactician who can come up with any plan if given all the time in the world to do it (imagine American football with unlimited timeouts, but only for the home team... yeah...). Heck, if you really want to challenge yourself and your ability to think quickly, you can even turn the battle speed way up, so the enemies are practically constantly attacking you at all times, not giving you even a moment to breath, much less think about a plan, making it almost like an RPG/RTS hybrid wannabe.

I've said it for years, but Chrono Trigger is the original reason I like swords like I do, and more specifically why the katana is my favorite. I've realized more recently that it was really my first ever exposure to swords, so it's entirely possible anything could have done pretty much the same (though probably not a Final Fantasy-style RPG... because sword use is beyond bland in those games, never going further than a generic slice). When I talk about liking swords like I do, I mean total, absolute affinity. Swords permeate my every thought, whether it seems like it always or not. I dream about freakin' swords, for crying out loud. And, while katana may be my favorite, I have an obsession with swords in general, and can tell nearly any sword variety at a glance (see my sword type poll, and yes, I listed all those types off the top of my head).

Alright, I think I'll go ahead and end this train of thought now, before I give myself a headache from nostalgia attacks.

Peace out.

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