Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes Review
Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes is the unofficial addition to the Chrono series; this fan game was developed by Kajar Laboratories and was intended to be an unofficial bridge between Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross. The game was originally due for release in 2009, but Square Enix sent cease-and-desist letters to the developers before release and as a result, the project was canceled.
While the game was never completed, different versions of Crimson Echoes exist online, and the 98% complete version is now available as a repro cart for the SNES. What initially began as a ROM hack has finally been released as a cartridge which is perfect for fans of the Chrono series and SNES game collectors.
It can be easy to dismiss fan games as they don't always have the best reputations but Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes is one of the best fan games currently available for anyone who enjoys role-playing games.
Crimson Echoes is set between the events of Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross; it starts with Chrono and his friends as they try to help the Guardia and Porre nations come to an agreement. Naturally, this doesn't go so well, and the group is sent far into the future. They must fight to not only return home but uncover the story of the Frozen Flame and stop the new evil that threatens the timeline itself.
It certainly features a story that suits the Chrono series nicely, and the game fulfills it's role of bridging the story between the two games. Crimson Echoes sets the stage for Chrono Cross by showing some backstory for the Frozen Flame and Lavos, the main enemy from the next official game. This game fills the story gaps almost entirely and falls closely in line with the canon story which makes this a very believable game.
There are a large number of endings in the game which are determined by the player's actions throughout the 23 chapters featured in Crimson Echoes. This is a large story that can easily suck players in for the full duration of the fan-designed plot. Fans of the Chrono series will enjoy the story in this game and the sometimes cliché plot-twists it features.
In addition to the main story, there are a large number of side quests to complete. They add more content to the game and most of these suit the game very well, but there are a few strange quests that seem a little out of place.
Unsurprisingly, the gameplay in Crimson Echoes follows the same style as the official games which only makes it blend in more with the series. It's a classic RPG that sends players on a journey through the 2D pixel world in search of a way back home.
The player controls Crono and his party as they explore different areas in the world; the overworld map is used for most of the navigation in the game and some areas from the other games are available to explore also. While some areas are open to the player, most of them are not accessible which is disappointing to see. Zones such as Denadoro Mountains are blocked off with no reason why. There is just no way to access them, and it's easy to spend time searching for an entrance that just doesn't exist.
This is certainly annoying, and some areas are plagued with another issue; once some zones have been completed, they will disappear from the map and the player will no longer be able to access them. This is most likely a bug that would have been fixed for the completed version, or these areas are simply no use to the player once they've been completed.
Thankfully, there are also new areas in the game including a variety of new dungeons for players to complete. These new areas blend in perfectly with the game series, and players who are less knowledgeable about the Chrono Series will just assume they are official places from the other games.
Crono levels up as the players gain experience points from killing enemies and completing quests; stats are adjusted by adding points to them and also by equipping different items of equipment. Both armor and weapons can change his stats to make him better or worse in different areas. Shops have been improved in this game to make them much easier to use; players can now equip items straight from the shop, and it's much easier to see the information about that item.
Each character in the party can have their stats modified which is perfect for players who are looking to create their 'custom' party set-up. The player can also select which abilities the characters should have through their Tech menu, each ability has a different effect.
Combat in Crimson Echoes works almost identically to the other games in the series and fits the classic RPG genre; it takes place in a turn-based style where each character has a chance to attack. Most enemies will appear on the overworld map and will attack the player if they get too close, avoiding these fights is usually simple.
Characters in the game use magical and physical attacks in battle which may leave a lasting stat effect on the target; each attack deals different damage making battles relatively strategic. When the player gets to attack, they are given a short option menu for what to do with their turn; it's also possible to use an item or a simple basic attack as opposed to a more powerful Tech attack.
The battle is over once one side has run out of HP and when a playable character runs out of this, they will faint leaving them unable to fight. Players can heal their party members by using a potion or a restoration spell.
Chrono Trigger's popular Active Time Battle System 2.0 has been included in the game which makes the combat feel similar to the original game. It includes the classic battle features seen in the first game where the enemy can move positions during the fight, characters can combo attacks and spells can have area based effects.
While this isn't done very often in battles, it is possible to run away allowing the party to survive, heal and become stronger before attempting that fight again.
Chrono Trigger was criticized for being too easy, and the developers of Crimson Echoes took that into account while developing the fan game. As a result, the game is much more challenging to the point that fans of the first game may struggle for a little bit. Many battles in the game feature tough enemies that require a more tactical and careful approach to achieve victory.
As expected, the game becomes harder as it progresses and upgrading characters to fill particular party roles becomes a must; designing stats around different positions allows the player to make a much stronger team.
The developer hosted several tests for the game and adjusted the game's difficulty level according to the testers of the alpha and beta. There is no way for players to set the difficulty level and players expecting the game to be as easy as Chrono Trigger will be frustrated as a result.
As to be expected from Crimson Echoes, the graphics in the game are almost identical to the first Chrono game; there are some slight adjustments at points in the game where the original game just didn't feature what the developers needed. It looks very close to the other games in the series and seamlessly blends in with the Chrono series.
The overworld map looks identical to the one from the Chrono Trigger; it features the classic overworld icons for structures, forests, and mountains which fit perfectly with the series. Fans of the Chrono series will be pleased with how this game looks and the slight aesthetic changes only serve to enhance the graphics.
Hardcore fans might be annoyed by this; there are quite a few changes to how characters speak in the game. Crono can talk in this game, and Frog has lost his classic old English text which made him stand out from the others in the game; as a result, he seems a little bland and can feel like a very different character at times.
Music and Audio
Fan games can have a bad reputation when it comes to the music, but Crimson Echoes breaks the mold; the game was created as a ROM Hack for Chrono Trigger, so the developers opted to re-use most of the music and audio from the original game. This means that many of the classic sound fx and some music tracks are in Crimson Echoes.
Some of the music and audio in the game is new and blends nicely with the fantasy world and work well in conjunction with the official music. There are a few points in the game with music that doesn't sound as good, and some sound fx can seem a little strange sometimes, but overall, the audio in the game works very well.
Crimson Echoes is a great RPG, it uses all of the positive points from the original Chrono Trigger and adds a few other useful gameplay mechanics to the game; while this is a good game overall, there are a few issues unfortunately.
For some players, these won't be much of a problem, but there are some issues that all players will find a little confusing or annoying to deal with. There is a major bug in the game that causes some areas to become invisible once they've been completed; it's sad to see that a bug such as this made it this far into development, but bugs should be expected in the game.
Repro carts for Crimson Echoes contain the almost complete version of the game; this is the 98% completed beta version. While it includes all of the gameplay, it does mean that the developer didn't have a chance to do another test to find and stomp out all bugs.
Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes may have started as a ROM Hack, but this fan game fits the series nicely and could easily blend in with any Chrono series collection; it features a strong story that explains how Crono and friends ended up in Chrono Cross. Players will see familiar faces as the story unfolds in this fan-created bridge between the two games.
Gameplay in the game is solid and features some slight changes that improve the overall experience of Crimson Echoes. There are some problems with the game, however, and bugs that would otherwise have been removed during the final stages of development are still in the game, with the 'disappearing areas' bug being especially annoying.
Crimson Echoes looks and feels like an official Chrono series game which makes this perfect for fans of the series; it's also an excellent story for RPG fans, however, the story may be a little confusing for players who have never explored this series.
Pros & Cons
+ Great plot
+ Active Time Battle System 2.0 is featured
+ Higher difficulty level
+ Good gameplay that matches the series
- Some areas from other games are off-limits with no explanation why
- Minor issues that could annoy hardcore fans - Bugs