CHRONO TRIGGER / Square / Nintendo DS

If you've never played Chrono Trigger before, this extremely solid DS port - still selling for only $10-20 new a year after release as I write this - makes for an affordable "legitimate" hard copy that gives you everything the original SNES game did and then some. The emulation of the SNES version is nearly flawless, the sound and music are ported over well and even sounded slightly enhanced in some places to me, and the animated cut-scenes of the Playstation port have been incorporated as well (minus the slowdown of the Playstation version.)

You also get some nice new features - the DS second screen is used well without encumbering the gameplay. You can still play the game totally with the control pad and buttons in the old-school style if you choose to, but the menus have been shifted down to the bottom screen to unclutter the playfield, and you can thus also use the stylus to do everything as well. You can even use it to move about via a new basic auto-map that is shown on the bottom screen when menus aren't active, but I found that a bit ineffectual. The game also adds a lot of bonus features on an "Extras" menu off the title screen - concept art, a bestiary, a jukebox, a collection of in-game FMVs, and a technique guide are gradually unlocked as you play through.

And then there's "bonus content", though this is the only area of the port where things get disappointing. Unlike the FF4 DS remake, this is just a straight-ahead port of the original SNES ROM, not a 3D re-imagining of the game, so there's really little that's new to see here. The additions are like those added to the Gameboy Advance ports of FF4-6, but even less substantial. There's two bonus dungeons, one of which is encountered during the regular course of the game, and another that opens up after completing the game to reveal a new end boss and new ending. The first bonus dungeon is largely a series of rather tedious fetch quests, however, and serves only to get some more uber equipment that isn't even really necessary given how easy this game already was anyway. The second is a bit more interesting, but those who have already played through Chrono Cross will likely already know where the game is going with the new boss and ending; it's a kind of clumsy attempt to retcon in more "continuity" between the two games, largely using popular fan theories and rumors. There's also a rather unexciting monster-raising area added; you send a monster off on "training missions" while you are bopping about the game proper, and stop back in every now and then to have him battle other monsters in an arena for cash and prizes.

In spite of the "bonus content" kind of being a letdown, this is still a great port of the game on the whole, and much appreciated given that the SNES and Playstation versions are becoming increasingly rare and crazily priced. You can't help but feel Square kind of squandered an opportunity here though, since it is well known the game was originally released before it was fully complete, and a number of planned additions (like a much more elaborate End of Time area) didn't make it into the final game. Going back and completing the game in that manner would have been the best thing to do here, but they didn't see fit to. Still, it's quite welcome.


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