Latest news
Ten reasons why Chrono Trigger is better than Final Fantasy VI
by Andrew Testerman

Squaresoft, one of Square Enix’s pre-merger companies, has made some of the most celebrated games of all time.

Arguably their best work was produced in the mid- to late-90s, on the SNES and PlayStation. Of their many classics, few are in as high regard by gamers as Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger for the SNES. Released a year apart from one other, in 1994 and 1995 respectively, both FFVI and Chrono Trigger have had a resounding impact on the RPG genre. Both titles are fondly remembered even today, and remain mainstays on many gaming publications’ 'Greatest Games of All Time' lists.

Of the two, though, Final Fantasy VI is often remembered as the better, placing higher on the same Greatest Games lists, and enjoying greater notoriety than Chrono Trigger’s relative level of obscurity. This cannot do. As someone who has played and loved both titles, I can say without reservation that Chrono Trigger is the crown jewel of Square’s SNES catalogue, and better than Final Fantasy VI in many respects.

You ask for a reason? Here are ten of them.

1: Combat is much more fun

Whilst the story in Final Fantasy VI is rightly adored, at the end of the day, games are meant to be played, and this is where Final Fantasy VI starts to lose some steam to Chrono Trigger. Compared to the stiff, lifeless battles in Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger boasts an exciting, dynamic take on the Active Time Battle system. Characters actually seem to occupy the same physical space as enemies, and the small idle animations give each monster and ally a feeling of life, rather than an ornate, but ultimately static, picture of opponents. Also, whilst FFVI bestows each character with different abilities for use in battle - Locke can steal, Cyan can use Sword Tech, etc. - none of them are as fun to use as the Inventive Tech system, a variation on magic that allows different characters to combine their powers into an über-attack.

2: Better-looking characters and backgrounds

Perhaps it isn't fair to call out an older game for looking worse than a newer one, but Chrono Trigger’s sprite work is easily superior to Final Fantasy VI’s. Whilst series stalwart Yoshitaka Amano’s lovely art direction isn’t necessarily worse than Akira Toriyama’s work on Chrono Trigger, the world and characters in Chrono Trigger look much better-realised, with brighter colours, more environmental detail and far more expressive character sprites for each of the cast. Modern consoles will become more and more powerful as time goes by, but there will never be a day when Chrono Trigger is not a beautiful game.

3: Leaner, more-focussed experience

Final Fantasy VI is an epic, grand tale of many characters, locations and plot points, taking anywhere between 35 and 60 hours to complete, depending on your level of thoroughness. Chrono Trigger, whilst telling a story spanning across time, has fewer characters and locations, making its play time something more like 15 to 20 hours (again, dependent on thoroughness).

Why is this a plus? Chrono Trigger has much better pacing throughout, and its comparable brevity makes it easier to revisit (more on this later). Final Fantasy VI is replete with well-written characters, each of which are fleshed out (yes, even Gau...), but it’s easy for members of the cast to get lost in the sauce. Chrono Trigger - whilst not necessarily featuring characters as complex - features fewer characters painted in broader, but no less loving, strokes, resulting in a more memorable cast of digital thespians. Perhaps it’s personal preference, but I would rather have a slightly shorter, more-focussed game I could replay often (see also Super Mario RPG), than a sprawling, overly-long game that I would never want to sit through again (see also Final Fantasy VII).

4: Greater sense of imagination and place

The steampunk vibe of Final Fantasy VI is undoubtedly pretty damn cool. Steam-powered armour, subterranean castles and an Orwellian research facility for magic contribute to FFVI’s sense of aesthetic. That said, there are just as many bland, generic towns dotting the map face are there are memorable locations. Chrono Trigger’s world is smaller than FFVI’s, but it presents six variations of each location, depending on when you visit it. These range from prehistoric mud huts, to lively modern fair grounds, to post-apocalyptic domes. FFVI’s appeal lies in the subtleties of the locales, whilst Chrono Trigger’s settings are distinct from the moment the player steps foot in them.

5: Visible enemies

Let’s face it; one of the most tedious parts of JRPGs is the random encounter. No one likes being lost in a dungeon and exploring the place, only to be interrupted by a new battle every four or five steps. Like many JRPGs at the time, Final Fantasy VI suffers from this problem. Unlike many JRPGs at the time, Chrono Trigger - thank goodness - doesn’t. Every monster roams about the dungeon, allowing players to choose when they want to fight - if they want to fight at all. Granted, some areas are impossible to get through without first defeating some enemies, and foes will occasionally spring an ambush, but for the most part, there is no fighting in Chrono Trigger that is out of the will of the player.

6: Player impact on the world

Final Fantasy VI lets players follow along with its well-told and entertaining narrative, but they’re never given a chance to really impact the world with their decisions. Near the end of Chrono Trigger, players are offered a host of optional sidequests throughout different points in time. These quests, whilst not essential in order to finish the game, create visible changes within the game world, letting players alter history, and sometimes the result is not always what the player was expecting. There are also a few other moments of player choice-impact scattered throughout the main quest, but far be it for me to spoil them here.

7: 'New Game +'

Perhaps the single greatest gift to RPGs, and one of the greatest to gaming as a whole, is 'New Game +'. For the uninitiated, 'New Game +' is the option to start a new game, but retaining all previous experience, equipment, money and items collected on your first playthrough. Not only does this offer a great opportunity to absolutely destroy challenging sections of the game, but, in Chrono Trigger, it also gives way to...

8: Multiple Endings

Why bother to go through Chrono Trigger at all once it’s been beaten? The promise of new endings, of course! Chrono Trigger features thirteen different endings, which vary depending on when players decide to challenge the final boss, a challenge which can be undertaken at almost any time from the outset. Endings vary based on who is in the party and during which events the boss is fought. The endings range from good, to bad, to out-and-out strange, with the weirdest breaking the fourth wall entirely. An excellent incentive to relive the title’s finest points, multiple endings give Chrono Trigger an added sense of personality, as well as a stratospheric ceiling of replay value.

9: Many, many small presentation- and gameplay-related reasons

Again, perhaps it’s not fair to condemn a game for not having the small fixes made by its successor, but it’s these small fixes that make Chrono Trigger a much better-playing game. Characters in Chrono Trigger can move in eight directions, feeling much less stiff than the north-south-east-west mobility of Final Fantasy VI. Rather than having to equip an item to run, players can simply hold down a button to move faster. Characters that go unused in battle still level up (though they don’t gain new Tech abilities). When going from exploring to a battle, the game stays on the same screen, instead of breaking the flow and transitioning to another one. Chrono Trigger possesses numerous small fixes that ultimately add up to a better gaming experience, and one that has aged much more gracefully than its more highly-praised brethren.

10: Magus


That isn't to say that Final Fantasy is somehow a bad or inferior game. Far from it. Final Fantasy VI’s grand, epic story and deeply memorable score are just two of many reasons to love it unreservedly. That said, I hold Chrono Trigger closer to my heart, and it will always be my favourite over Final Fantasy VI. Fortunately, both are available on the Wii’s Virtual Console for a measly 800 Wii Points (around $8, or £5.60), giving gamers a better opportunity than ever to experience two of the greatest games of all time. Want to really decide which is better? Snap them both up, and decide for yourself.

Do you think Chrono Trigger is the better of the two, or does your heart lie with Final Fantasy VI? Let us know in the comments, or Tweet us your opinions via the Gamer's Guide to Twitter account.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

- Andrew Testerman

Discuss this article in our friendly forums

Sign up to our community today and discuss our articles, debate over upcoming games and organise matches and playsessions with like-minded people just like you.

Liked this? Spread the word - share with your friends!

Done? You might also enjoy these!

All comments are subject to our commenting policy

GGTL Classics
Some of the very best articles dug out from deep in the GGTL archives, written by some of our past and present wordsmiths alike.
Your continued use of this website and/or any others owned by Gamer's Guide to represents your acceptance and indicates your full understanding of all of our legal policies and terms. Our legal policies and terms are legally binding. If you in any way disagree with or refuse to be bound by any part of said legal policies and terms, you are advised to leave this website immediately.