What Mass Effect Learned From Chrono Trigger

I think it's a bit of a stretch to point at Chrono Trigger as a major influence to BioWare's Mass Effect series, but that's exactly what DeltaGamer has done in this lengthy new editorial. There are quite a few spoilers within, so proceed with caution:
If you plan on putting a ton of hours into Mass Effect 2, I hope you like loyalty missions; I hope you really, really like loyalty missions. It felt as though 90% of the game was either a loyalty mission or a recruitment mission: go to a planet, recruit a party member, party member starts to whine about something in his or her past, Shepard yells, (Don't make me turn around and go home, because I will!) and then he makes good on his promise, either burning or mending bridges in the NPC's past so they would finally stop pestering him and worrying so much about their feelings on the clock. The most emotional moment of Chrono Trigger for me was taking Frog back to confront the ghost and memory of his old mentor Cyrus; that plot was so stirring I may or may not have cried I can neither confirm nor deny that at this time. Let's just say I had to wipe my DS off pretty thoroughly before the touch screen would work again. While I did just poke some fun at Mass Effect 2, it did handle its characters' back stories very well, making the player feel a real sense of empathy for the character, just as anybody with any sort of emotional capacity did for Frog or Ayla or Lucca.

One of the things that helped Mass Effect, I think, reach a much wider audience than most RPGs do was its real-time third-person combat. It combined a (somewhat clumsy, at least in the first game) Gears of War-like mechanical experience with the hallmarks of a traditional RPG, such as player-customizable statistics and weapons and armor. Similarly, one of the more revolutionary aspects of Chrono Trigger was its Active Time Battle System 2.0, lifted from Final Fantasy IV and tweaked and improved for the new game. Of course, this was not as dependent on twitchy player skill as is the three-dimensional combat in the Mass Effect games, but for the time, it was as interactive as could be expected of a turn-based battle system. What's more, the player's success or failure was entirely contingent on which party members he chose to bring along for each battle. How much of Mass Effect's strategy and sense of interaction boiled down to selecting which squad mates would be best for the mission at hand, or even which characters you took a liking toward? Sometimes, I'd pick characters I knew weren't the best-suited for the task, just because I liked their dialog and personality; with Crono's adventure, I took along Frog and Magus much of the time, just because the lines they would pipe up with were so well-written (in the remake, anyway. Translation was shaky at best in the Super Nintendo version.)