Insert Coin: ‘Chrono Trigger’ on Android will make you skip class

Will Podlewski, Columnist

Video gaming isn’t cheap. With a torrent of online passes, downloadable content and system peripherals taking a huge bite out of gamers’ wallets, it’s harder than ever to get a decent value when you plunk down your hard-earned cash for the next big thing. But in an industry that seems to care only about “Call of Duty” and “Assassin’s Creed,” it’s easy to forget that some of the best games out there cost little to nothing to enjoy. That’s why every two weeks, I’ll be showing you a great new way to get your video gaming fix for less than $20. So get your quarters ready and game on!

1995 was quite a year. Newt Gingrich (and his adorably horrible toupee) became Speaker of the House, the DVD was first unveiled and a little role-playing game called “Chrono Trigger” hit the then-fledgling Super Nintendo.

A genius collaboration between the creators of “Final Fantasy,” “Dragon Quest” and “Dragon Ball,” “Chrono Trigger”  told the charming yet convoluted story of Crono, a typically silent RPG protagonist who travels through time to gather allies (everything from a busty cavewoman to a depressingly sardonic robot) in order to defeat Lavos, a monster that could potentially devour time itself. Heavy stuff.

“Chrono Trigger” could have failed easily in its ambition, but under such expert direction, nearly every facet of the game shines even to this day, to say nothing of the waves it made when it first hit store shelves. The story, while at times hard to follow, was arguably the first ever in a game that actively adapted to the player’s choices and didn’t shy away from making you keenly aware of your mistakes (it was possible to cause Crono to fail in his quest within five minutes of booting up the game). The portrayals of the characters took familiar RPG molds (like the stoic knight) and flipped them on their heads (like turning that stoic knight into an anthropomorphic frog). Beyond design choices, the production values of “Chrono Trigger” were among the best of their time, with vibrant 16-bit environments, bombastic battle animations and a soundtrack worthy of a symphony hall. It was a game that deserved every bit of the praise that was thrown its way and still stands as one of the canonical members of the RPG genre.

So when I heard that this classic was coming to Android in late October, naturally I jumped at the chance. And it seemed to be quite a steal at only $9.99 in the Google Play store, considering the original cartridge can fetch upwards of $150 on the market today.

The port isn’t perfect. Swapping out physical buttons for touchscreen controls is serviceable at best and downright frustrating at worst, causing mistakes that could potentially leave you screaming at your phone while your fellow El riders look at you quizzically (hey, it happens). But no number of touchscreen mishaps can pull you away from the sheer joy of level grinding in a dining hall over dinner or while waiting for classes to start. Or instead of class entirely.

If you haven’t played this game yet, you now have absolutely no excuse.