Retro Thunderdome – Final Fantasy 6 vs Chrono Trigger

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Two games enter, one game leaves in a battle of digital supremacy.

It’s RPG week here at Skirmish Frogs and what better way to celebrate the world of experience, magic and endlessly grinding levels than pitting two legends of the genre against each other. Due to the sheer magnitude of complexity, we’re looking at seven categories to crown a winner.

Grab yourself a snack, rest up at the inn and equip your favorite set of iron mail. It’s time to get it on!

WARNING!! THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!! THOU HAS BEEN WARNED!!

In the Red Corner: Arguably the greatest RPG in this long running series, this SNES classic burst onto the scene in 1994. Boasting an epic story, dozens of characters and mind blowing mid game twist, it redefined what the genre could do.  Introducing…FINAL FANTASY 3 – I mean – 6!!!

In the Blue Corner: Released one year after its Thunderdome nemesis, this time jumping tale wowed gamers with innovative gameplay and a story to match. Considered by some (aka Picky Old Gamer) as the greatest game ever made, it remains a singular gameplay experience. Dashing into the arena from a time long forgotten, please welcome CHRONO TRIGGER!!!

final chrono box art 

Main Protagonist

When a character’s name is in the title, the lead is clear. Chrono is Chrono Trigger. FF 6’s main protagonist is debatable. For the sake of this battle, Terra gets the nod. As a half human, half magical being, Terra is the hinge the entire story swings on. Demure, scared but powerful, her vulnerability makes her endearing. Problem is, there are better characters in the story.

On the flip side, Chrono is an everyman who happens to be good with a sword yet he’s infinitely more badass than Terra. There’s just one issue: Chrono is you and chances are, you’re not that interesting. By making the player the protagonist, the game gives us a sense of empowerment at the expense of a good back story.

But the flip side is lasting effect. When Chrono dies, you feel it in your gut. When Terra flies off like a maniac, it’s a shrug. You already have eight other people to control. In the end, story is king and Chrono, the character, doesn’t have the depth to really stand out. This should be a tie, but this isn’t 1980’s era hockey. Somebody has to win.

Winner: Final Fantasy 6

 

Main Antagonist

FEAR MY PRODUCE SECTION!

FEAR MY PRODUCE SECTION!

FF6’s main villain, Kefka, is one of the series’ most memorable, outside Sepiroth. A military general with ambitions of world domination, he’s delightfully evil. Dressed like a killer clown and constantly laughing at his own exploits, Kefka is a likable yet sinister character.

Chrono and the gang square up against Lavos, a time traveling world destroyer. While the idea of a civilization ending monster is terrifying and epic, Kefka grows from a normal guy to a demi-god. This arc is more interesting and connectable than an apocalyptic creature.

Besides, Kefka becomes a monolithic deity requiring three stages to defeat. Lavos turns out to be an alien astronaut with killer radishes.

Winner: Final Fantasy 6

 

Supporting Cast

frog-cyrusWhat Chrono Trigger lacks in a fleshed out lead, it more than makes up for in the supporting cast. Everyone has an internal or external conflict. Frog has demons of losing his best friend, Marle is a pent up princess and Ayla has to deal with the pressures of being a female warrior. And they are all useful in battle (more on that later).


FF 6
boasts 14 permanent characters but the sheer amount dilutes the quality. For every Sabin, Edgar and Locke you have a Strago, Relm and a Setzer. Thinly realized, ho hum characters who are relatively useless in battle. And don’t get me started on Gau. You stink, Gau.

Even though FF 6 has some memorable character building moments, nothing comes close to Frog’s battle with Cyrus or Robo’s traitorous girlfriend. And Gau still stinks.

Winner: Chrono Trigger

 

Art Design

Moving from classic RPG fields and forests to the end times caverns and cliffs straight from a Harlan Ellison story, FF 6 is no slouch visually. From the snowy hills of Narshe to the barren wasteland of the end times, the world of FF 6 feels real and cohesive.

landscape compare

But hold onto your Chocobos, dear readers. Chrono Trigger’s art style is more engaging than FF 6 because of the ever shifting time periods. Trigger’s time travel mechanic makes for some stunning locations. Nothing in FF 6 comes close to the beauty of Zeal or the crumbling ruins of 2300 AD.

Winner: Chrono Trigger

 

Sound / Soundtrack

Both games boast impressive, gorgeous music. Chrono Trigger’s soundtrack dances among haunting string vamps, stirring adventure themes, quirky electro pop and industrial. There isn’t a sour note in the game.

FF 6 sounds like a classic RPG. Featuring a mix of lush string arrangements and classic bravery themes with the occasional surprise. FF 6 is in line with previous installments. But it’s also more memorable. Nothing in Chrono Trigger comes close to historically beautiful moments like Terra’s theme or the opera house. There’s a reason why orchestras play that one. And the classic prelude is almost cheating.

With sound effects being equal, FF 6 claims the slimmest of victories by virtue of its standout tracks being instantly recognizable classics. Both are beautiful, but FF 6 is legendary.

Winner: Final Fantasy 6

 

Story

hqdefaultOne is a simple battle against an evil empire that turns into a fight against a demonic god, the other a time traveling struggle against our eminent demise. They both have the same scope and the same scale. Chrono Trigger’s ten endings may seem like an edge, but FF 6’s finale is a twenty minute piece of brilliance. Just like the supporting cast, quantity does not trump quality.

The difference is control. FF 6’s story is a linear affair while Chrono Trigger is directly impacted by the choices you make. You don’t have to bring Chrono back to life. You don’t have to destroy the Ocean Palace. You don’t even have to win. Advantage Chrono Trigger.

Winner: Chrono Trigger

 

 

Gameplay / Controls / Battle System

63-CT-2967Pick up an SNES controller today and both games will play wonderfully. FF 6’s traditional turn based battle system is classic yet dated. Random encounters can damper the fun (although I still love them) and leveling, while deep with the Esper / Relic equipping mechanic, requires tons of grinding. My brother had to quit halfway through because he was too under-powered to level.

Chrono Trigger’s experience system is thinner yet more approachable. Characters have smaller move sets and they’re easier to max out. Combining techs creates multiple ways to get the job done, but the novelty wears off quick. Three battle characters as opposed to four also limits the options.

But Chrono Trigger puts the stake into FF 6’s heart by providing players with more to do and dozens of ways to do it. Love your airship? The Epoch jumps time. In a rush to the Millennial Fair? Run past enemies you’d kill in one stroke. From mini games that are actually fun to changing the future by messing with the past, Chrono Trigger has too many gameplay innovations to ignore.

Winner: Chrono Trigger

 

When starting this article, I was sure Final Fantasy 6 was going to win. It defined my 15 year old childhood. I’ve beaten it dozens of times. But I can’t let my prejudice get in the way of cold, hard facts. Congrats to Chrono Trigger!

 winner

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About BillTucker

Writer, gamer and beer geek, Bill Tucker writes words for a number of sites and publications. He currently blogs for the Entertainment Weekly Community and The Austinot as well as contributes film reviews to a number of literary sites. He’s also a published author of creepy short fiction and uncomfortable essays. Follow him on Twitter @BillTuckerTSP and check out all of his everything at thesurrealityproject.com.

3 Comments

  1. Final Fantasy 6 is the greatest game ever. Period. THERE IS NO COMPARABLE!! (I’m biased of course. It’s my favorite game of all time)

    All kidding aside, this is a great comparison. I honestly haven’t played Chrono Trigger since it’s release, but recently picked it up for the DS over Christmas. I’m looking forward to playing it again, almost for the first time! And this definitely wants me to give it a go. Nice work!

    • You have no idea how devastated I was to learn that Chrono Trigger won. And it was my contest! Just goes to show that you can’t let your preconceived notions blur the facts when you tally up the votes. FF 6 will always be better in my heart, but Chrono Trigger won this one.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Both games are amazing, but graphic, gameplay and character-wise, I’d say Chrono wins. (As much as I love Magus’s theme song, though, it doesn’t beat the final boss theme in FFVI.)
    It’s really hard to pick a winner, though, but I agree with the outcome.
    Still, Kefka has one of the best leitmotifs in the gaming world.

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