Mission [JRPG]: A new year, a new game project

Thank Kotaku. Now if you could just give me all the time in the world...
Thanks, Kotaku. Now if you could just give me all the time in the world…

Last year I dove head first into something that was brand new for me: a “follow me as I play” project of sorts in which I tackled my very first Pokemon game, Pokemon LeafGreen. The whole process was extremely rewarding as it provided me with not only a great gaming experience, but also opportunities to reach out to a slightly different and expanded audience. (As well, the project really opened my eyes to the universe that is Pokemon, and I’m currently having a blast plodding along in Pokemon Emerald.) Once I was done with LeafGreen, I almost immediately started formulating thoughts for another game play series. As there’s nothing less than a semi-infinite plethora of games old and new that have slipped my gaze over the years, a mountain of games came to mind. Even so, I kept placing one game at its apex: Chrono Trigger.

Chrono Trigger was released when I was right in the middle of college. During this time, my roommates and I didn’t have any game consoles, so the only time I gamed was at home, my resting place during various breaks. My younger brother was pretty much the only gamer in the house then, and he had taken over the likes of our Super Nintendo. While we had a cache of permanent games — mostly Mario, Mega Man, and Metroid, and Street Fighter, of course — he often rented new titles and traded games with friends. So every time I came home, there’d be a different selection of random games in the house. During one such stay (spring time 1996),  Chrono Trigger turned up in one of the random piles. I didn’t know a thing about it. The phrase “Japanese Role Playing Game” was nowhere on my radar. I had not played any pre-Ocarina of Time Zelda games, or anything similar. So when I started up the game out of pure curiosity, I was simultaneously confused and amazed. During its opening credits, I remember thinking that the game looked pretty, really pretty. I remember the bewilderment I felt watching a battle briefly play out. I remember thinking how much the game sounded like Mega Man. When the credits ended the game started up in earnest, but I remained unconvinced about playing. And then…the phone rang.

Long story short, the phone call was about a summer job that I desperately wanted. From the discussion came a date for an interview that was just a couple days away. Once I got off the phone, other phone calls happened — to my friends relaying the news and to my parents to make arrangements with the car. And in my excitement, you know what I complete forgot about? Yep. Chrono Trigger. In fact, I left the damn SNES on all day only to have my brother find the game in situ, probably. Ah well.

So that’s the extent of my experience with Chrono Trigger. I always wanted to go back to it, but just never had the opportunity…until now, just before its 20th anniversary, perhaps?

Maybe.

See, I did consider simply setting forth Chrono Trigger as this year’s mission (hence my title, rather than just called it a “project,” also with a to-be-determined tagline), but when I started looking into the game, the journey sent me down the path of examining other possible JRPGs for the SNES that I could play. And as some of you well know, there were sooooo many! Chrono Trigger, as seminal as it may be, was really just the tip of the iceberg. So that’s when I decided, once again, that I would turn to the community for advice. After all, so many of you were wonderfully helpful in advising me about which Pokemon game to play, it followed in my mind that perhaps I could get similar help for this project…I mean, mission.

So my mission for this summer (and fall, and probably next winter), as I have chosen to accept it, will be to play through a JRPG that was released in the 1990s for the SNES.  I already have a list of possibilities, including Chrono Trigger, but I welcome your thoughts on suitable games. What games are necessities and what are some to avoid? Is Chrono Trigger really the be all and end of 1990s JRPGs?

With this project, I’d like to stay away from the familiar, so that includes any game with “Final Fantasy” or “Zelda” in its title. For other reasons, I’d also like to steer clear of Super Mario RPG. I’m not opposed to the obscure, but the more accessible the better. And having a game that’s playable in short bursts (20-30 minutes per session), if such an animal exists, would be a welcome bonus.

Taking into consideration my list and your comments, next Monday I’ll provide a poll of choices, because everyone loves voting. (Don’t you?) The top pick will become my willing subject for “Mission [JRPG]!”

 

17 thoughts on “Mission [JRPG]: A new year, a new game project”

  1. Every now and again, you’ll come across that one game everyone has nothing but good things to say about. Then you play it and you realize that it very much lives up to the reputation that precedes it. Chrono Trigger is most definitely one of those games. It’s one of the best JRPGs of all time, and I strongly believe that it’s Square’s magnum opus.

    If you’re looking for other great JRPGs from the nineties and don’t mind going off the rails a bit, I also highly recommend Live A Live and Treasure of the Rudras. The former is a game that’s composed of short stories, each taking place in a different time period. In fact, it’s sort of the spiritual predecessor to Chrono Trigger, only the eras exist independently with no traveling between them. The latter is a turn-based JRPG with a unique magic system where you can create your own spells. Neither of those games were localized outside of Japan, but there do exist English patches for them, and I really enjoyed both of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve not heard of those games before, but I will have to check them out — thanks! (“Off the rails” is fine with me as long as I can find some sort of common ground somewhere.)

      As for CT, I’ve made up my mind to play it even if it doesn’t get picked for this challenge. I knew it had a strong following, but to see such strongly positive things said about it, cements it as nothing less than a “must play.” Only wish I had realized this years ago, but that’s life. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s fine. I myself didn’t pick up the game until more than a decade after it came out. It wouldn’t be the only time I did that either; the first time I played Earthbound was in 2011. I’d say that the persistent fan following those games have speaks to how well they hold up after all these years.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Chrono isn’t just the best snes rpg, is one of the best rpgs ever. Do yourself a favor and dive in. I’d recommend you avoid the psx release though. Battle load times hurt the experience. Go original console or wii digital if it’s available. Handheld is also a good way to play

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I *wish* I had an SNES still, but for this project, I’ll be using an emulator (most likely) or handheld, because I’ll mostly be playing on-the-go. But the Virtual Console is a fantastic place for blasts from the past. 🙂 And yes, Earthbound has made my short list!

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  3. VeryVery gaming makes a solid case for Chrono Trigger that I absolutely agree with. It’s something special that hasn’t been duplicated since. Heck not even it’s semi-sequel (its…complicated) Chrono-Cross managed to capture that same magic.

    That said, with FFVI and Mario RPG ruled out. The only other games I can mention are Illusions of Gaia and Secret of Mana. The former I only know by reputation, and all I know about the latter is that I like the combat system. Sorry I don’t have more information for you, but they’re nonetheless options which aren’t exactly obscure. Looking forward to seeing how the challenge progresses!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now with the second mention of FFVI, that one’s going straight onto my to-play list. I did have it included as an option initially, but with it I really wanted to go with something that was completely new to me. (P. S. Both Gaia and Mana *might* show up in next week’s poll! 🙂 )

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So… I’m not all that up on my 16-bit RPGs but I’ve played a few. Considering you don’t have a whole lot of time on your hands, my feeling is that FFVI and Chrono Trigger are your best options, and since you ruled out Final Fantasy then that leaves Chrono Trigger. I’d recommend either of these two games on accessibility alone – rest assured they’re not going to make you waste time grinding and dungeon crawling. All that annoying stuff is kept to a minimum with Chrono Trigger and FFVI. I think Square put in the money and the time in development to create lots of varied environments, so there was less incentive for the designers to pad the experience by making you stay in any one location (or time) for overly long. Saving is frequently available in both games.

    And I know I’ve recommended Chrono Trigger for this before, but I love the option to beat the game at almost any time after about the 5 hour mark. Of course the thing about the game is it’s so good you probably won’t want it to end, I know I didn’t. I ended up doing all the sidequests and finishing in 30 hours. But it’s still cool to have the option, and Chrono Trigger pioneered the whole New Game+ concept so there’s that. After I beat the game and restarted in New Game+, I beat the game a second time in less than 30 minutes thanks to a special trick that takes you straight to the final boss! It’s a really tough fight since you only have two characters, but beating the game that way earns you an amazing secret ending.

    Sorry for the long comment, that’s the last time you’ll hear a rant from me about how great CT is!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I will never speak ill of long comments, so comment on! 🙂 I really appreciate all this info — it makes me want to play Chrono Trigger just because. The notion of getting through an RPG in less than 10 hours is almost mind-blowing, so I’m simply excited to see how it plays out. *If* it plays out, that is. I’m still going to go the democratic route with a poll next week. (But my fingers are crossed for CT!)

      Liked by 1 person

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