Tag Archives: chrono trigger

Return to the Past: I Am Setsuna

Chrono Trigger is a game often described as a masterpiece, both in design and character, yet over the years only a few RPGs have taken direct inspiration from it. I Am Setsuna is a new RPG for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita promising to not only harken back to the golden age of RPGs from the mid-1990s, but to also wear it’s Chrono Trigger influence unabashedly on it’s sleeve.

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The first thing you will notice is the battle system is almost directly ripped from Chrono Trigger; the lack of random encounters, the way the characters jump into position during battle transitions, the use of the ATB gauge, the 3 character battle party and of course the Combo attacks between party members. Well, if you’re going to copy the foundations of a battle system, Chrono Trigger is one of the best. The battle system also has some other tricks including equip-able items called “Spritnite” which are similar to Final Fantasy VII’s Materia system and some new additions such as the “Setsuna” gauge which fills up with each attack and grants boosts to characters actions.

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While the game design looks like a definite homage to classic 16-bit era RPGs, the visuals are more modern. The artstyle has a sombre tone that builds an atmosphere that matches the games tragic narrative. The world is covered in snow and mountains, which adds to the dreary aesthetic and adds mystery to the adventure. The focus of the story is Setsuna, she has been chosen by her village to be the sacrifice to bring the world peace. Together with her safeguards and the mercenary Endir, who is initially tasked with killing Setsuna, the party set out to protect Setsuna on her journey across the land to her final destination. The narrative clearly sounds similar to Yuna’s pilgrimage in Final Fantasy X, so it will be interesting to see how it differs in both story and character development.

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Other than the battle system and presentation, other design choices that relate I Am Setsuna to the games of the past are the lack of voice acting outside of battle, allowing the music to take centre stage. The soundtrack is comprised completely using piano and sounds both beautiful and haunting. The game also features a world map, fully traversable by foot as well as airship, and many villages and towns to explore and converse with NPCs. It certainly looks like it covers all the criteria from those old-school adventures.

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I Am Setsuna is filled with influences and references to classic RPGs that many people love, the main question is will it have enough new elements to stand on its own and deliver an engaging and fantastic RPG experience. It sounds very promising and would be a great beginning to a new RPG series. So if you’re still mesmerised by these classic games and are keen to jump into a new adventure, you should be excited to play I Am Setsuna.

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The Rise of SquareSoft (Part 2) – The Golden Age

The first article recounted how a small Japanese games company named Square had gone from being on the verge of closing down, to finding a hit with the original Final Fantasy and continuing to grow in popularity. Squaresoft had originally planned to release Final Fantasy II in English, but these plans were cancelled as they looked towards the new generation of game consoles with the international release of the Super Nintendo.

During the early 1990’s, Final Fantasy evolved with new hardware adding better graphics, a more detailed and featured storyline and more complex soundtracks. Final Fantasy IV, V and VI would be created in Japan but only IV and VI would be localised in North America and they were released as Final Fantasy II and III respectively. A major update to the series was the removal of the purely turn-based battle system and the implementation of the Active-Time-Battle system by game designer Hiroyuki Ito. Envisioning Formula One racing cars passing each, Ito designed the combat system where each character had a speed gauge that determined when they could act in the battle. The revolutionary new system stayed mostly unchanged up until the ninth instalment in the series.

Final Fantasy IV offered one of the most dramatic and compelling narratives seen in a video game at the time and Cecil, the main character was one of the first heroes to be shown with redemption as his motive. Final Fantasy V instead put game play back at the forefront updating the job system used in the third game, leading to an incredible amount of character customisation. This would be the last time the story would be put in the background as Final Fantasy VI featured one of the best RPG tales ever, combined with a large cast of deep and memorable characters. Hironobu Sakaguchi had directed all of the instalments in the series up until the sixth game when he moved to the watchful role of Producer and handed over the directorial duties to Yoshinori Kitase and Hiroyuki Ito. Final Fantasy VI is often regarded as one the best games in the series and featured Nobuo Uematsu’s greatest soundtrack at that point in his career.

“They say that technologically, it’s good to keep going, and each time, we give it our all and expend out skills and energy until we can go no further; this is what I consider to be the “final fantasy”. – Hironobu Sakaguchi

Square was not content with creating just one masterpiece on the Super Nintendo and in 1995 they released Chrono Trigger, which was designed by a “Dream Team” of developers. Sakaguchi combined with Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii and Dragon Ball manga artist Akira Toriyama to create one of the greatest RPGs of all time. Bringing together designers at the top of their field seemed to allow the creativity to flow, as Chrono Trigger revolutionised RPGs. It removed random battles, allowed characters to combine their special abilities into team attacks and featured a time travel narrative that showed the outcome of player’s actions in the past and how they affected the future. Most notably though it was one of the earliest games to have multiple endings (13) and have a new game plus mode. Chrono Trigger also saw the rise of other great designers at Square such as writer Masato Kato and the brilliant composer Yasunori Mitsuda.

Other franchises from Square were also hitting their stride on the Super Nintendo, such as the Seiken Densetsu series which produced the magical action- RPG classic that was released in English as Secret of Mana. Showing its versatility, Square also teamed up with Nintendo to make Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars which had some of the best graphics ever made for the console. SquareSoft was now localising a lot of RPGs for the North American market and even translated and released Capcom’s original Breath of Fire game as well as creating Secret of Evermore themselves. Unfortunately a lot of games were not released outside of Japan during this period and the English speaking world missed out on RPGs such as the fantastic sequel to Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3, as well as the Romancing SaGa games, Live a Life, Bahamut Lagoon and the tactical- RPG Front Mission.

With some of the most creative and best video game designers and composers at their disposal Square were releasing some of the greatest games ever made. Still, RPGs were not the most popular genre at the time and Square’s success outside of Japan was still limited, but with the next generation of video game consoles fast approaching and the arrival of the new Sony PlayStation that was all about to change…

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Filed under Chrono Series, Dragon Quest Series, Editorial, Final Fantasy Series, Mana Series, Music, SaGa Series

Top 5 Moments from Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger is remembered as one of the greatest RPGs of all time. Not only did it possess great game play, but some of the events are the most memorable of any game. From travelling through time on the Epoch, to playing games at the Millennial Fair, narrowing it down to just 5 is no easy task. These are my top 5 moments from Chrono Trigger:

1. -The Battle With Magus-

After discovering that Lavos will destroy the world in 1999 AD and believing Magus to be the reason, the party travels to the middle ages in 600 AD to confront the magical fiend. After scaling his terrifying castle and defeating his minions, you reach the top and begin to walk slowly towards what you think is the final battle. Erie flames light the path and at the end stands a menacing Magus. The battle is difficult, the theme music is epic and at the end you are thrown into another time gate into the distant past to find out Magus was not behind Lavos and your real journey has only just begun!

2. -Chrono’s Death and Revival-

When returning to the mystical Kingdom of Zeal to challenge the Queen, Lavos awakens and Magus, revealing his disguise, attempts to defeat it. Outmatched, Crono sacrifices himself and is killed by Lavos allowing the party to escape as Zeal is destroyed. Killing the main character was a major surprise to the player and he can be left dead for the rest of the game. Although later, the party acquire the “Chrono Trigger” from the guru of time and can use it to go back and save Crono’s life. The touching scene is then shown of Marle embracing Crono in front of an eclipse as Lucca bursts into tears.

3. -Frog Unleashes the Masamune-

After learning of Frog’s sad past with Magus killing his friend Cyrus and then cursing him by transforming him into a frog, the party power up the Masamune and attempt to open the way to Magus’ Castle. Frog accepts his fate as the true wielder of the Masamune and unlocks its full power. After turning it to the heavens, he then leaps at the mountain side cutting it in half, revealing the secret passage to Magus. The scene is even more epic with the heroic “Frog’s Theme” playing triumphantly in the background.

4. -Recruiting Magus, or Gaining Your Revenge-

Later in the game, after Zeal has fallen and Crono is thought dead, the party once again finds Magus on the top of North Cape. After viewing the flashbacks of Magus’ former life as the Prince of Zeal, he gives you the option of one last fight to the death. If Frog is in the party he will challenge Magus alone and if he succeeds, he will not only kill Magus for good, but also lift the curse, returning himself to human. The player also has the option to spare Magus’ life as Frog accepts that killing Magus will not bring back his dear friend Cyrus. Not only is the choice entirely up to the player, but if you refuse to battle Magus he will actually join you party as one of the most powerful characters in the game.

5. -The Trial-

In front of one of the most striking images of the game, depicting a beautiful stain glass window, Crono is put to trial for being accused of kidnapping Marle, the Princess of Guardia. As the evidence mounts, the game replays segments of the opening when you were free to roam around the Millennial Fair. Did you take the old man’s lunch? Did you try and grab Marle’s pendant and see how much it was worth to sell? Did you help find the little girls cat? These seemingly normal fun mini-games were actually being tracked by the game and the player’s decisions results in whether Crono is proven to be a thief or not. Of course the trail is rigged and you are sent to prison either way, but it is scenes like this that show the genius design of Chrono Trigger and why it is so fun to play!

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Filed under Chrono Series, Top 5 Lists

The RPG Square’s 1st Birthday

The RPG Square has now been in operation for over a year, allowing me to share my thoughts and opinions about some of the greatest RPGs ever created.

I will continue to update with reviews, editorials, music reviews and top 5 lists of games I have played and loved. I have also decided to start adding some previews of upcoming RPGs that have caught my interest. If you have any other ideas, please add your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you for reading, commenting and reminiscing about all these stories and characters, that we have all experienced!

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Why I Prefer No Voice Acting in RPGs

There was a time when characters only “spoke” through dialogue boxes and showed all their emotions and charm through body language. In modern RPGs voice acting is the norm, but I find myself more immersed in older games where I am free to imagine characters personalities. At first I thought this was just nostalgia to games made from that era, but after recently playing the newly released The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword I have come to the conclusion that I prefer it that way.

Firstly, by having characters converse through written dialogue the player is free to input their own ideas of how they think the character should sound. This really helps with engaging the player in the story as they care more about characters they have helped conceive. It is also easier to identify with the protagonist of the story if the player feels like they can imagine themselves saying the characters lines or adding in a bit of their own personality.

With the emergence of voice acting, musical scores in RPGs have also seemed to take a backseat. In older games music was used to create atmosphere, highlight a memorable scene or to characterise an important party member. In Chrono Trigger we instantly knew Frog was a courageous and noble character just by the triumphant music that played with him and most players would also remember fondly each character from Final Fantasy VI just by hearing their accompanying theme songs. When an RPG features voice acting, it takes centre stage and the music is relegated to background noise, more like a movie. Most of the soundtracks I hear in modern games consist mostly of not very memorable ambient sounds rather than the catchy melodies of years past.

Voice acting can also be over the top, and may even lose the simplicity of scenes where characters show their feelings through their actions. In Final Fantasy VII, after Aeris’ death, each character has their own unique reaction to the tragedy. Some look to the heavens or stand in contemplation, others break down crying or try to hide their tears, but no one says a word and the whole scene is more powerful because of it. If it were remade with voice acting I fear it would lose a lot of the emotion by trying to be too dramatic. Even the cut scenes in previously mentioned The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword perfectly demonstrates Links insurmountable determination and his affection for Zelda without the need to reiterate it through having him speak. I guess a picture really is worth a thousand words.

There are many RPGs that have featured fantastic voice acting, but for me I would rather let my imagination fill out the characters personalities, let the enchanting music set the scene and have the characters show me their emotions.

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Filed under Chrono Series, Editorial, Final Fantasy Series, The Legend of Zelda Series

Top 5 Songs From Chrono Cross

The soundtrack found in Chrono Cross is often regarded as the epitome of video game music. Its combination of Celtic, Mediterranean and African themes produced some of the most mystifying music that can be appreciated regardless of one’s connection to the game itself. These are my top 5 songs from Chrono Cross:

1. -Scars of Time (Time’s Scar)-

What starts out as a haunting and beautiful introduction soon erupts into a flurry of violins and percussion, transporting the listener into another world. It’s impossible not to be mesmerised by its intensity and energy. This may very well be the best piece of video game music ever written.

2. -The Dream That Time Dreams (Time of the Dreamwatch)-

Played alongside scenes from the game if you wait for it at the title screen, I always thought it perfectly summed up the entire game. It builds up throughout the song into a magical melody. Like other pieces from the Chrono Cross soundtrack it includes arrangements from original Chrono Trigger music. It is an inspiring and motivational piece.

3. -Radical Dreamers-

The swirling melody is very thoughtful and emotional. The vocals fit the mood of the song well and will give you shivers the first time you hear them. I always envision reminiscing about the past when I listen to this fantastic track.

4. -The Girl Who Stole the Stars (Star-Stealing Girl)-

A touching and chilling piece that highlights the darker side of some of the music found in Chrono Cross. It evokes a sense of sadness and mystery and serves perfectly as Kid’s theme in the game. It is simple and beautiful.

5. -Chronomantique-

Like many of the tracks in Chrono Cross, it gives off an easy going vibe of a tropical island paradise. It is warm and inviting and it’s easy to just get lost in its melody as you start to daydream. It flows so well that it can get stuck in your head for days.

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Filed under Chrono Series, Music, Top 5 Lists

Why I Prefer Turn-Based Battle Systems in RPGs

Back in generations past all the best RPGs utilised turn-based battle mechanics. Usually your party would face off against their opponents and you would choose commands for each of your combatants to execute, depending on their turn order or speed gauge. Recently, most modern RPGs have relied heavily on action battle systems where you can only control one character. Many people think turn-based systems are just relics from the past, because older hardware was not capable of processing all the actions in real time. This may, or may not be the case, but I am still far more engaged by turn-based battles.

The first thing I enjoy more is the increased ability to use strategy against opponents. I still have fond memories of winning epic boss battles by figuring out the enemy’s weakness and casting the corresponding spells. You had time to think, and plan your actions about which character would serve which role in battle and if your plan of attack wasn’t working you could always switch to something else. It created a great sense of suspense as your characters were decimated by the enemy’s attack as you rushed to heal and regroup before launching a counterattack.

I feel that being in control of all of your characters actions helps to be more engaged with their story. As the different characters use their abilities in battle it gives the sense of unity that they are all fighting together against the greater evil. Some characters have unique abilities and techniques and it helps get the player more invested if they are the ones controlling them during battle. RPGs such as Chrono Trigger took this to another level enabling characters to combine their powers into combination attacks, adding to sense of teamwork. Games that let you have full control over your party members instead of just using AI, let you develop your own battle style and techniques.

Customisation in RPGs are always a big part of the experience and there is nothing more satisfying then when you equip one of your characters with a new magic spell and you head into battle to test out it’s devastating effects. By customising your party in different ways it allows you to play the game in a variety of ways and helps to stop combat from being repetitive.

I have played and loved many action RPGs as well, but to me nothing beats a solid turn-based system with menus, commands and a variety of roles for the characters to take, or the ability to customise your fighters however you like.

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