Its got great pacing, art, and music, but the combat is really shallow with little moment to moment choice, the fixed encounters make exploration a huge chore, and the story and characters are a little too stock to find personality in. It's got heart in a lot of places, but like the most polished, studio-made work, despite being so handcrafted, it's kind of a vapid blockbuster. Not trite, but vapid. You could say it was too many cooks. Too many hands building towards a really general, mass appeal vision.

I often hear this game lauded as the best of both worlds with regards to the creators of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy coming together, but it would honestly feel like the weakest entry in either series if put side by side to them. I don't like this frame of looking at it.

Dragon quest games use simple plotlines to convey often extremely subtle and sometimes very complex themes. They feel timeless because of that. The combat systems are made from really simply conveyed choices that feel really weighty; even simple attacks feel intentional, and have the ability to perform unexpectedly to lots of random factors like enemy stat variations, class stats, and flat fractional critical rates. Its combat is like a wizardry 2.0. The best dragon quests have a random encounter rate just low enough to make the player think they can get away with peering just around the corner, while dreading every step in case they run into something truly devastating. Every treasure nets a huge boon, but each one may be your last, with penalties for death being very real. Exploration is the method, and adventure is the dream. To reiterate, complex themes, simple plots, simplified combat terms, devestating and exciting blows with real choice that furthers the desire for more exploration and adventure.

Final fantasy has often really complex plots that have simple themes guiding them. They feel personal and grandiose at the same time. The characters are often commentaries on the tropes they wear on their sleeves, with a lot of hidden depth and backstories to chew at for miles. Exploration is there, but it's in favor of highly scripted and exciting setpieces. Like those setpieces, the combat favors theatricality and performance that heightens the player-character relationship, and the product of that relationship guides the player to navigate the often complex character-building systems of those games. The combat then has complex terms and systems although streamlined for a mass audience to operate on a base level, and play the entire game that way if they so choose. Rather than having a combat around survival and risk/reward, between loot/exploration/death, final fantasy combat is about giving the player a language to understand the world and personality of its inhabitants. It is communication serving the themes of the story (DQ does this too, but in very different ways). To reiterate, complex systems made feasible guided by complex characters, in a complex plot guided by simple themes.

Chrono trigger has simple characters, a pretty simple plot, simple themes, and a simple combat system.

You don't have much say over how you build the characters, the combat doesn't serve as a language, its a bit too easy with penalties too light to serve a vehicle for adventure, not to mention most battles playing out the same way, with a generally unchanging player psychology (tactics are simple, rules generally stay the same, even the introduction of magic mostly keeps characters fighting the same way as before). It's just kinda alright. I play it when I want a simple linear game. (But tbh even ff4 is kinda better at that)

Reviewed on Feb 11, 2021


3 Comments


6 months ago

Your description of DQ is extremely on point and for me it's very hard to find people that truly get DQ here in the west, and looks like I found someone. The best example is probably DQ4, which feels like a really straight forward and simple chosen one story, but when you go down to it you can find a lot of depth in its narrative and the structure.

6 months ago

I agree with Marley, the description you gave of DQ could not be more accurate, and the best examples for me are DQ3, DQ7 and DQ9.

I think I can understand your point of view and where this is coming from. I confess, when I played Chrono Trigger I also expected it to be a fusion of the best of DQ and the best of FF, a game that had a very deep battle system, a big world with lots of places to explore and a super complex story, etc. but in the end the fact that Yuji Horii and Hironobu Sakaguchi joined forces was only in a somewhat "over the top" way since Chrono Trigger focuses more on being something new aimed at a more casual audience, rather than starting from the bases of FF or DQ.

What I find a bit funny and ironic about your points if I may say so, is that the description you give to Chrono Trigger could easily fit any Final Fantasy. FF4 has simple characters, a pretty simple plot, simple themes, and a simple combat system, and it's not something exclusive to that title, since several others share those characteristics, there are many others that have simple characters (FF5, FF7, FF8, FF9 partially), simple systems (FF1, FF3, FF4, FF6, FF9, FF10) and worst of all, in FF the battles against enemies are not so well designed if you ask me, because FF games usually focus more on presentation and story. Chrono Trigger at least has battles that are well designed an aspect that shares with FF4, which had good boss battles.

6 months ago

As a final comment, simple≠bad and complex≠good.