Saturday, April 11, 2015

Final Thoughts on Chrono Trigger DS

Now that I'm done with the stat maxing, I feel like this is as good of a point as I can get to talk about the game one last time.  I still have the six items you can only get from Arena of the Ages left to actually obtain, but I'm not feeling very pressured to go get them.  I'll post about them specifically once I go back and get them.

As far as the gameplay goes, it's still the Chrono Trigger we know and love.  The redesigned menu system that takes advantage of the touchscreen is nice.  The range of options allowing for toggles between classic gameplay elements and newer stuff that takes advantage of the second screen was also nice.  I welcomed that as well, opting to use the bottom screen for all my battle menu stuff and leave the top screen uncluttered.  I did enable the classic battle UI for a while, but the smaller screen and the smaller font size really made it feel cramped.

The new items were an interesting touch, though I think most people wouldn't have cared if they hadn't been added to the game.  The stats on some of the helms and armor are basically combining together other items, which is really neat in the post-game.  For instance, if you get three Angel's Tiaras out of Dimensional Vortex, your female characters can be under permanent Haste and status protection.  That's basically the same as if they had a Haste Helm and a Vigil Hat equipped at the same time.

The new areas, however, are kind of clunky.  For my stat maxing, I did get into a rhythm for running through the 12,000 BC and 1,000 AD Dimensional Vortex areas (the 2300 AD one didn't require as many runs), but in general, they feel like a romhack that isn't completely polished.  I've touched on this before.  There are too many unavoidable battles.  Also, these areas differ from the rest of the game in that you can trigger a battle with an enemy that's onscreen without having to make contact with them.  The only enemies in the rest of the game that do that are bosses.  Just saying.

Arena of the Ages is kind of neat, however, it needs better integration with the game.  I know it exists in a parallel space or whatever the story is, but when you send your monster out for its 10 minutes of game-time training, there's nothing that tells you that it's come back.  No audio cue, no dialog box, nothing.  You just have to remember to check.  Most of the time, I didn't.  Additionally, you'll notice I said "10 minutes of game-time traning".  Yeah.  You can't send your monster away and then put the system in sleep mode for 10 minutes, because that stops the game's timer.  You have to leave it open.  Not an issue if you're actively playing the game, but if you just want to power up your monster, it's annoying.  Furthermore, it gets reset when you start a New Game +, without even telling you, so all your hard work will go away.  To fix this, I'd suggest four things, two of which would be backed by options:
  1. Either an audio cue or a dialog box to direct the player back to Arena of the Ages when their monster comes back from training.  This would prevent the player from forgetting about their monster.
  2. When starting the Arena from the main menu (and perhaps only from the main menu), have an extra option available to speed up time, so the player can train their monster faster.  This would allow a player like me who's completed everything else to do this without having to sit around doing nothing for 10 minutes between menu selections.
  3. Don't reset the Arena of the Ages when starting a New Game +.  It just doesn't make sense.
  4. Make the monster come back after 10 minutes of real time, not 10 minutes of game time.  This would be somewhat addressed by my second suggestion, but I think the difference between game time and real time is still an important distinction to make.
Then there's the issue of the re-translation.  It's in this weird gray area where it's trying to be more accurate than the original, but still keeps a lot of the original's stuff.  Frog's dialogue not having the dialect is just a slap in the face to classic gamers.  On top of that, items and techs were renamed, even when their renaming doesn't really make sense.  It led to me being confused for about 99% of my gameplay, because I couldn't easily tell what I had gotten and what I was still missing.  I don't know if the amount of storage space in the cartridge is an issue that would be run into, but I would've preferred having the option to choose between the new and old translations.

Overall, even with its flaws, I think the DS version is probably still the version to recommend these days, just because the SNES version is a kind of expensive collector's item, and the PS1 version has its loading times.  Console gamers these days are more likely to have a DS or a 3DS than a SNES or a PS1/PS2.  Plus, portable Chrono Trigger?  Hell yes.  I'm aware that there are mobile ports, but... if you're going to play games, do it the right way: on a platform that's meant for it, or your personal computer.

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