Because of my parent’s policy on TV in the house (which was none at all), the majority of my childhood gaming was done on portable systems. Although I loved my adventures on the black and white screen, I was keenly aware of a whole universe of games I was not privy. In elementary school, I would hear classmates rave about epic sagas and mind-blowing mode 7 graphics. This inequity in gaming was compounded by my dutiful monthly reading of “Nintendo Power,” which would tease further worlds I would never know in my television-less existence. Mega Man X. Final Fantasy III. Link to the Past. Secret of Mana. Donkey Kong Country. All were SNES games I desperately wanted to play, but had no means of doing so. Undeterred, I soldiered on; awaiting the day I would finally be able to play these, and many other, desired games.
Years, and console generations, go by.
When I was in high school, my dad relented on decades of fanatical Apple devotion and purchased a mid-level Dell in order to access work documents at home. One of the first games I purchased for the PC was Final Fantasy VII. FFVII was not my first foray into RPGs, or Final Fantasies for that matter, (Pokemon and Final Fantasy Legend hold those distinctions, respectively) but it was the first RPG that really got me into the genre. After being blown away by the game, I moved on to FFVIII. Around the time I finished FFVIII and was looking for another game to satisfy my new-found appetite for RPGs, I began to hear murmurings of programs called emulators. Not wanting to get my hopes up, I rationalized that an SNES emulator couldn’t be among them, and even if it did exist, it certainly would be too grandiose to run on my father’s basic desktop. Ah, the naivety of youth. After being reassured by one of my closest and most trusted friends that our computer would certainly run an emulator, he gave me a disk full of SNES roms and that most wondrous of all programs, ZSNES.
I was in heaven.
Games previously denied to me by my parent’s forbiddance of televisions were now freely available. Within the next couple of months, I plowed through handfuls of games I could once only dream of playing. I fell in love with fan translations of FFV and Seiken Densetsu 3. I marveled at strange games such as E.V.O: The Quest for Eden and Out of This World. But most importantly, every AAA title longed over from the pages of “Nintendo Power” was reachable with only a few keystrokes. Like I said, I was in heaven.
I remember hearing accolades for “Chrono Trigger” around 4th grade. “Nintendo Power” had given it a review stating it had absolutely no weaknesses and if anything, would spoil the player from enjoying RPGs ever again. Additionally, my video game pals raved over the game, citing the music, character, battle system, etc. as being second to none. I was told on multiple occasions that they envied me for being able to play it for the first time. So with inflated, but supposedly justified expectations, I located the rom for “Chrono Trigger” and prepared to be wowed.
It’s important to note here that I didn’t hate “Chrono Trigger.” It certainly was a complete and competent game. Likewise, I don’t think my opinions were tainted by playing later RPGs first, which had taken some of “Chrono Trigger’s” innovative ideas. For instance, I loved the crap out of Final Fantasy III(VI), Seiken Densetsu 3, and the Dragon Quest games, even though I played them after their next-gen sequels. Heck, I still hold FFVI as my favorite game in the series.
But there was just something about “Chrono Trigger” that didn’t strike a chord with me. For one, I found the characters annoying. Particularly Lucca. Her swarmy, full-of-her-own-intelligence attitude grated on me. Even after finding out about her mother’s accident, I was still unsympathetic to her plight. Maybe that makes me a soulless monster, but she still was my least favorite party member. The music was okay, but it certainly wasn’t as mind-blowing or memorable as other tracks from the era. The battle system was decent, and it was a welcome break to have non-random enemy encounters, but it wasn’t much to write home about. Even the story, which many heralded as the best part of the game, couldn’t hold my interest after the first couple of hours. By the time I arrived at the End of Time, I had stopped caring about Lavos and the fate of the world, and just wanted to grind in order to finish the game. It wasn’t terrible, but it certainly wasn’t the end-all, be-all SNES RPG experience.
After I had defeated Lavos, and a few times more on the new game plus in order to see some of the much-trumpeted multiple endings, I expressed my blasé attitude towards the game the same individuals who triumphed its cause. I was met with disbelief and horror. I was accused of being tainted by later RPGs, or not “getting” the story. Even though I had become relatively well-versed on SNES games, my nonchalance towards “Chrono Trigger” marked me as a permanent pariah in the eyes of “true” gamer-dom. Perhaps had I played “Chrono Trigger” when it was first released, I would have been mesmerized by its charms and become as fanatical as my peers. Perhaps their memory of the game was filtered through nostalgia lenses. In either case, my “meh” stance on “Chrono Trigger” has separated me from the ranks of “legitimate” old-school gamers.
A final note. When “Chrono Trigger” was re-released on the DS, I purchased a copy, hoping that the new content and time had made the game more favorable than I remembered it. Turns out, nope, nothing changed. I gave up on the game around the fight with Magus, traded it into for a second copy of “The World Ends With You,” and haven’t looked back since.
Thoughts? Do I now earn your distain for not liking “Chrono Trigger”? Are there any games that have nearly universal acclaim you just don’t like or understand what all the hype is about?