GC 2008: Hands on with Chrono Trigger DS

Not quite as we remember it...

GC 2008: Hands on with Chrono Trigger DS
| Chrono Trigger

Our first sighting of Chrono Trigger on the show floor involved a man attempting to insert a DS into his left ear, just so that he could hear the classic score more clearly amongst the din of the conference hall. It's not unexpected behaviour for a Chrono Trigger die-hard, and it plainly illustrates the level of anticipation we are dealing with here.

It's not easy to get an overall impression of a game like Chrono Trigger at an event like the Leipzig Games Convention. As the aforementioned Chronofan aptly illustrated, it's almost impossible to hear yourself think, let alone be drawn into the game's mood amidst the disco-in-a-cement-mixer atmosphere of the show floor.

The real barrier, however, is that 45 minutes with a title as large and as narrative heavy as Chrono Trigger, is simply not enough time to gain any real understanding about what the finished game is likely to be like.

That said, we managed to learn enough about Chrono Trigger to be distinctly worried. But what's to worry about, you ask? It's a remake after all, a simple re-skin, child's play for a company as experienced as Square Enix.

The pixellated, somewhat bland sprites can be explained away by the earliness of the code, as can the absence of options menus and the ability to switch between classic and DS modes. The control scheme and layout, however, are more persistent concerns and might end up making Chrono fans feel like they should have been more careful about what they wished for.

Movement is taken care of with the stylus, but with the action positioned on the top screen, Square Enix has opted to have you track on the map positioned on the touchscreen the path that character Crono must follow.

It's imprecise and you will often find yourself either caught on scenery (particularly when attempting to use stairs), or unable to get into position to communicate with other characters without first performing an unnecessary dance around whichever room you are in.

Worse still is that as a result of the control set-up, the map takes up an inordinate portion of the touchscreen, leaving precious little space for those all important RPG stats and menus. There is the option to use the D-pad instead, but it completely undermines the point of utilizing the touchscreen in the first place.

Perhaps the core of gamers that will buy Chrono Trigger will be willing to endure such design slips for the sake of retracing the game's all-important story. But it's a shame to see a company usually so precious about its IP to appear to be sleeping on the job.

Okay, that's possibly a hasty judgement, and there's still ample time for the control scheme and layout to be tweaked before release. Indeed, Chrono Trigger won't make its way to the UK until 2009, so here's hoping Square Enix spends the remaining development time wisely.