From Mississippi, living in California. Game critic since 2013. Created award-winning blog Game Bias. Published in Slant, Paste, Unwinnable, and the Monkey Island Chronicles book from Limited Run games.
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Played in 2023


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In the history of turn-based combat, there is nothing duller or more nonsensical than watching so-called heroes passively absorb consumable spells from clueless enemies. And the story reads like it was written by a talentless high schooler. An embarrassing sequel that unfortunately has inspired a number of juvenile, awkwardly complex JRPGs.

Chrono Trigger is extraordinary in many ways. The Millennium Fair ranks as the greatest initial location of any RPG, serving as an organic tutorial, a location where your actions will be judged later on in court (a groundbreaking idea), and a damn fun place to visit in general. The soundtrack by Mitsuda and Uematsu — a masterpiece by itself — stirs every emotion in the book with a grandness that transcends the efforts of so many fully orchestrated tracks we hear today. The turn-based combat is tight and fast-paced, with a combo system that hasn't been topped. And the plot is full of colorful characters and brilliant twists, including the death of the protagonist and the shocking conversion of a devilish villain.
At the same time, people overrate Chrono Trigger when they call it the greatest SNES RPG or, worse, the best RPG ever. Too many little flaws for either claim to be true: the overworld graphics are tiny and dull; certain sound effects, like that hoarse creature roar, are comically overused; some techniques are useless and visually embarrassing (see Ayla's Dino Tail); the endings are as underwhelming as they are plentiful; and that bike mini game is insultingly atrocious with its contrived place switching. Final Fantasy VI, Illusion of Gaia, Super Mario RPG, Earthbound, and Secret of Evermore are more consistent than Trigger, yet Trigger gets most of the glory. We need to rewrite the RPG history book when it comes to this injustice, despite Trigger's obvious greatness.

If you put me in a room of trash talkers who want to play this particular Smash Bros., I'll gladly pick Samus and snipe people like a cheap bastard and have a great time. (And by "play," I mean a multiplayer brawl, not a stripped-down one-on-one fight. I'm sorry tourney nerds, but Smash is an uninteresting one-on-one fighter. You suck the fun and uniqueness out of Smash Bros. when you sanitize it in the name of some conservative notion of competition.)
But from a critical standpoint, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has been spit-polished to the point where it registers as very made-by-committee and antiseptic. Its distinguishing characteristic is a ridiculous amount of content (a word that shouldn't be confused with creativity). The number of characters is obscene when one recalls the main appeal of Smash Bros.: pitting the most iconic and popular Nintendo characters against each other. Now everyone shows up for the sake of random fan demands and Nintendo's almighty bottom line. All the stars from the non-Nintendo games, as well as the Nintendo-branded characters who don't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as your Marios and Kirbys, betray the notion that we're watching larger-than-life Nintendo figures fight it out. I don't care about Ryu from Street Fighter trading blows with Cloud from Final Fantasy. Does Ryu really need to be in another game? I can raise the same question for others. Ultimate may not be an open world game, but it champions a similar type of quantity-over-quality philosophy. Meanwhile, as fine-tuned as the controls are in Ultimate, I still vastly prefer the faster flow and more dangerous vibes of Super Smash. Bros Melee (which introduced the most fascinating stages in the series: Hyrule Kingdom and Brinstar Depths). Ultimate feels quite safe despite the lofty implications of its title.