Review: Trinity Trigger

24 Apr 2023

Throwback games are nearly always a risky business. There’s certainly much to be gained by taking notes from the classics that came before, but a lack of innovation on tried and true concepts can just as readily cause a game to feel like a drop in the bucket for a genre rather than a proper splash.

Designing video games in this style is something developer FuRyu has been familiar with for some time now, particularly through their contributions to games like The Legend of Legacy and The Alliance Alive. Both of these RPGs had a very old-school bent to them, and the soon-to-be-released and similarly alliterative Trinity Trigger is no exception.

FuRyu self-published Trinity Trigger last year in Japan, but the game is now headed to North America on April 25th, 2023 (and Europe on May 16th) courtesy of XSEED Games for PC, PlayStation 4/5, and Switch, with the PS5 version being played for this review.

And thus the question remains: is Trinity Trigger a drop in the RPG bucket, or is it a splash?

Great Googly Godswar

In the world of Trinitia’s distant past, the gods of Chaos and the gods of Order clashed with one another in a divine war. Over the course of said war, their massive weapons descended from above and embedded themselves into the earth, which humans called Scavengers explore and plunder at their own peril.

At some point, the gods stopped battling directly and decided to have humans do fighting for them, designating one Warrior of Chaos and one Warrior of Order to duke it out to the death and decide the victor. The story largely focuses on Cyan, the Warrior of Chaos, and his attempt to find the Warrior of Order and unearth a more amenable solution to the conflict alongside friends Elise and Zantis.

Upon first glance, Trinity Trigger’s story sets up some pretty intriguing concepts. Having many of the game’s dungeons take place inside the gargantuan, discarded weapons of gods is an inherently cool idea and having characters fight against a destiny that’s been forced upon them is always a solid framework for any RPG story.

Unfortunately, the presence of these concepts is about as far as Trinity Trigger is willing to go to make things narratively interesting. As the main storyline unfolds, plot points continuously feel predictable and familiar, and the requisite twists struggle to shock. The story is at its most dire in the opening hours; everything from characterization to the narrative push felt so straightforward that I half wondered if it was a deliberate choice to mask something more going on underneath the surface.

Things don’t stay that way for the entire game, though. Once you’ve gained access to all three party members and are able to start undertaking side quests, things start to feel more fleshed out and consistent. In fact, the side quests are perhaps the best bits of story Trinity Trigger offers. They’re fast-paced and primarily focused on worldbuilding and short character vignettes which are always welcome, but they also bring more dimension to the core cast and showcase their dynamic in a way the main questline doesn’t allow.

On the whole, however, Trinity Trigger stretches a run-of-the-mill premise as far as it can possibly go. It makes almost no effort to twist the intrigue of its story, nor do any members of the core cast change very much. The story is competently told, but bog-standard.

All About Action

“Standard” is a word that comes to mind with Trinity Trigger’s gameplay, as well. It’s a top-down action affair that allows you to swap between different weapons (or party members, if you prefer) at will to exploit enemy weaknesses and deal extra damage to them. It feels a bit like Secret of Mana crossed over with the more recent entries of the Ys series because of this, but it’s much more evocative of the former than the latter.

Controlling Cyan and co., you work your way through the various regions and biomes of Trinitia, helping out townsfolk and exploring the innards of the fallen weapons from the Godswar while smashing the faces of every enemy you come across. As you progress, you’ll discover new weapon types to equip for each character and gear to fine-tune your gameplay style for each one.

The combat system as a whole is a very deliberate one, with most moves in your three-attack combo rooting you in place once you commit to doing each step. As a result, you’ll be constantly looking for windows of opportunity to attack with your weapon of choice, and each of them feel quite different from one another. It’s an interesting way to get players to memorize specific attacks patterns, and it’s bolstered by each enemy having a rather limited pool in order to avoid overwhelming the player.

Apart from finding proper placement and looking out for attacks, the Synchro Gauge is what you’ll be keeping an eye on most in each combat encounter. This blue circle is constantly above your character’s noggin and is consumed by attacks before it regenerates. If you attack while it’s empty, you’ll deal negligible damage, which is another way the game requires you to be mindful of where and when you’re attacking. Dodge rolling the moment before an attack lands is rewarded with a quick refill of your synchro gauge, which makes for some satisfyingly clutch moments of narrowly escaping danger before immediately jumping back on the offensive.

When it comes to customizing the game to your playstyle, you’ll be constantly earning and crafting items called manatite that can be equipped to weapons and armor. These grant passive bonuses and their effects are many and varied, but their descriptions (or lack thereof) leave much to be desired. Whenever I opened the menu to switch things up, I’d often find myself scratching my head and asking, “What does ‘Multiple Trigger Strikes D’ mean exactly?” or something to similar effect.

There’s a surprising amount of customization and fine-tuning that can be done to your characters in this manner, and because each weapon allows you to equip a different set, Trinity Trigger lets you specialize each in a different way. I discovered a particularly potent combination by equipping an item that let me recover HP when dealing critical damage on a weapon that dealt them handily.

Lamentably this system falls short where it matters most, as a vast majority of content in the game doesn’t necessitate the granular customization that’s allowed. Most combinations simply don’t impact the game all that much, and while fine-tuning can be fun enough on its own, without meaningful returns for the effort, it ends up feeling more pointless than it should.

If ever there was a highlight of Trinity Trigger, it would be the dungeons. They sport a decent level of challenge, and each one provides a unique mechanical gimmick to contend with as you battle and open up chests, such as needing to strike glowing mushrooms to illuminate the area and aid in exploration. I also greatly appreciated the touch of having certain enemy spawns tied to interacting with the environment. Being thrown into a battle after destroying a cactus or failing to avoid a slowdown trap is greatly preferable to every enemy casually waiting for the player to stroll on by.

They all feel more distinct from one another than you’d expect—which is something of a surprise given how much asset reuse there is—but no matter which way you slice it, combat is what you’ll be doing a majority of the time, and while it can be fun to pull off perfect dodges and take down enemies, the gameplay never really changes or improves. Fighting enemies four hours into Trinity Trigger feels very similar to fighting them at the 25-hour mark when the credits roll, and while that’s fine, it’s hard not to want a little more from it.

Sketched Stylings

On the visual front, Trinity Trigger’s strongest aspect is its character design. Whether it’s an important main story character or a one-off NPC, everyone is consistent in appearance while still maintaining singular traits belied by a more muted tone and coloring. The texturing and lighting on the character models is greatly assisted by a scratchy, almost charcoal brushstroke aesthetic that looks straight out of an illustration, and it has a very unique feel overall.

Unfortunately, the environments the characters inhabit completely lack this stylistic flourish, leaving many of the towns, dungeons, and areas in between looking flat and featureless. I can imagine the game would have had a very striking look had this illustrative effect found its way across every facet of the visuals, but it would be a fine line to walk to avoid making things muddy in the middle of the action. Still, it’s a shame that the more unique aesthetic approach is the one that’s utilized the least here. There’s a very unique look to the characters and their dialogue portraits.

And speaking of those portraits, you’ll be seeing a lot of them. There are a handful animated cutscenes for the biggest moments, but nearly all scenes and dialogue are delivered in a style similar to a visual novel, with character portraits superimposed over the screen above a text box. There’s a rare instance of a cutscene being done in-engine, but there’s not much action or momentum to the animations to provide any oomph.

Everything in the main storyline is voice acted while the side quests are bereft of voiced dialogue. The English voice acting is decently done, but as discussed above, the acting feels like it falls victim to the story itself not providing much to work with or endeavoring to draw out anything special from the performances.

Aged Alliteration

Trinity Trigger was clearly crafted to hearken back to the co-op action RPGs of yesteryear. It accomplishes this goal to a T via its storylines, gameplay, and presentation, but this adherence is also the exact reason the title struggles to find its own footing and excel in any meaningful way.

Its plot goes in one ear and out the other, its visuals are nothing to write home about, and its combat is more shallow than its highly customizable stats system implies, but it’s still an enjoyable enough action RPG at its core. Trinity Trigger fits the bill if you’re looking to turn your brain off and save the world for a jaunt, but don’t expect it to leave a lasting impact.

~ Final Score: 6/10 ~

Review code provided by XSEED Games for PS5. Screenshots taken by reviewer. Featured image courtesy of XSEED Games.