Last month, Square Enix released a dismal Steam port of its classic SNES RPG, Chrono Trigger. The game utilized poor "high resolution" graphics, was peppered with tiling errors, and expected players to navigate a user interface optimized for mobile platforms. In fact, Chrono Trigger for Steam was the mobile game "upscaled" for computer monitors.
Fans of Square Enix's retro library were disappointed by the rushed, half-baked port, and vented their anger up and down Twitter. One loud-mouthed busybody went ahead and listed the exact ways in which Chrono Trigger for Steam was a mess, and claimed it besmirched the memory of Square's golden years.
To Square Enix's credit, it listened and quickly set out to make things right. Last week, it announced it's working on some patches to fix up Chrono Trigger PC. One of those patches landed today, and it might be the most significant one: It lets players switch back to Chrono Trigger's original un-filtered sprites. It also changes the game's font and cleans up the UI a little.
Overall, the new patch makes Chrono Trigger PC much more pleasant to look at and play, though there are still some notable issues Square Enix plans to address in future patches. For now, I went through the patched version of the game and investigated how (or if) Square Enix addressed players' most common complaints.
The unattractive high-res graphics—Fixed
The most noteworthy addition to Chrono Trigger for Steam is the new ability to switch back to the game's classic pixelated SNES-style graphics. If you want, you can switch back to the high-resolution option in the Settings menu. My save file defaulted to the high-resolution sprites, so look at your Settings if you're not seeing the change right away.
Unsurprisingly, the game looks immeasurably better with the classic sprites applied. The visuals obviously get quite pixelated if you play in full-screen at 1600 x 900, but the tiling errors that were (and still are) painfully obvious with the high-res graphics are greatly diminished. Chrono Trigger's sprites are a masterpiece that deserve to be admired, so let's join hands and celebrate this triumph of retro game preservation.
The RPG Maker-grade font—Fixed
The wretched font Square Enix used for the initial release of Chrono Trigger PC is gone, and a more classic pixel-based font-something much closer to what the Nintendo DS release uses-is in its place. There's no option to switch back to the old font, so if you liked it, you might be out of luck.
Square Enix's patch notes claim Chrono Trigger PC's text boxes have a new background gradient that's a bit bolder than the old gradient, but other than the improved fonts, I didn't notice any significant changes to the text boxes.
The inappropriate mobile-based user interface—Partially fixed
In the Steam community post highlighting the patch's contents, the Chrono Trigger PC team states it's still working on improving the game's UI. In time, we should see separate UI formats for people playing with controllers, and people playing with a keyboard and a mouse. I still noticed Square Enix fixed a couple of things, though.
One of my biggest problems with the initial release is how I was required to make an extra button push to highlight which choices I wanted to make in battle. This was a leftover quirk from Chrono Trigger PC's roots as a mobile title, where a touch-based menu made it unnecessary to automatically highlight players' first option. The quirk's been fixed-for the most part. If you go into battle, the "Attack" option is highlighted, which is great. However, talking to NPCs with "Yes" or "No" questions still requires that extra bit of input. Also, the "Yes" and "No" options still take up most of the screen, unfortunately.
Other leftover quirks include the inability to toggle the Auto Battle on and off without a mouse, and the lack of a clear means to exit to Chrono Trigger PC's starting screen. You're only given the option to quit if you select the "Bookmark" option from the game's sub-menu.
Presumably, this is all stuff Square Enix plans to remedy with its promised UI overhaul. Ideally, I'd love to see the minimalist SNES battle menu make a return, at least as an option for controller-users. It's functional, and it doesn't get in the way.
The jarring musical segues from area to area—Partially fixed (I think)
When I first played Chrono Trigger PC, I complained how the game's music segues felt unnaturally abrupt. For example, the music shifted very suddenly from the bouncy town theme to the melancholy overworld theme the second you stepped outside city limits in 1000 A.D. This transition was much more gradual on the SNES, and I think Square Enix has added a small pause to bridge the change on PC. The shift still isn't as smooth on PC as it is on the SNES (I notice a small hitch whenever new overworld music loads), but the music in the update still feels less jarring. There's no mention of the change in Square Enix's official patch notes, however, so I can't be sure I'm not just imagining things.
All things told, the patch makes huge improvements to Chrono Trigger PC, and it's heartening to hear more are on the way. As things stand right now, I think the Nintendo DS version of Chrono Trigger is still the best (I just like having the UI on a separate screen), but if you lack the cash necessary to secure your own copy, the Steam version is shaping up to be decent. I'm looking forward to Square Enix's continued improvements-and once they're done, I sure wouldn't say "No" to a Nintendo Switch release. Juuust saying.
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