So I finished Chrono Trigger DS a few days back. I'm happy to say that I still find it a very charming game, with characters that are memorable and compelling, and plenty of moments that made me chuckle and blubber.
I also noticed, perhaps for the first time, that the gameplay is very nicely balanced: there's enough slaying of monsters to make it feel like your party of heroes are saving the world, but you actually spend a very significant portion of the game just exploring, talking to people, and uncovering hidden bits of apocalyptic portent throughout history. Which is fine by me, because I've often felt that most Japanese RPGs are too much like a great story turned into a grinding ordeal by random battles, and Chrono Trigger avoids that completely.
It's difficult for me to distil exactly why Chrono Trigger is such a favourite of mine, though. I think it's mostly just a combination of things that all gel with my personal preferences - with its alternate reality time periods with steampunk technology and magic and dinosaurs and implacable alien monsters, not forgetting everything I mentioned last time.
But I also think a big part of it is the game's upbeat, positive tone. And I don't mean a saccharine 'everything is great' smile-fest, I mean a game where you see the end of three civilisations, war, genocide, death and personal tragedy - and yet our heroes always look at it all and decide to fight to make things better. The worse things get, the more determined they are to put things right. And that, to my mind, is just the way to make a heroic epic that's not leaden or pretentious, but bright, affecting and... you know, likeable.