The main character and primary protagonist for much of the game. Crono is a silent lad, reacting only to the events of the game through quiet gestures, though his strong sense of justice and love of fair play shines through nevertheless. A wielder of Lightning magic, Crono is a mandatory member of your party for roughly half of Chrono Trigger…
… though that’s a good thing. Crono excels in most categories: he’s strong, he’s fast, he has reasonable defences, and his Techs are almost universally good. He also has a fantastic rapport with his teammates, and his Dual Techs are some of the most devastating in the game. Crono’s also a staple member for almost every Triple Tech, though they tend to be a little wasteful of resources. Crono’s only downside is his somewhat lacklustre magic, though with a crazy spell like Luminaire you don’t need the stat to be too high to get good results. Expect Crono to be in your party often.
Cyclone - Deals physical damage to a small area. A solid early-game Tech, and okay if you’re low on MP late in the game, but otherwise forgettable.
Wind Slash - Deals physical damage to a line of enemies. Another early-game Tech that you’ll probably ignore even when it’s of the most use. Wind Slash gets its time in the sun during the Masa & Mune fight; beyond that… meh.
Lightning - Inflicts Lightning damage on a single enemy. Crono’s first spell, and a fairly good one at that - though he won’t be dishing out the same amount of pain as, say, Lucca or Marle when he gets it.
Cleave - Inflicts double damage to a single enemy. Want a guaranteed critical hit? Cleave does the job. A good choice even late in the game if you want to conserve Crono’s MP while reliably dealing damage to an enemy.
Lightning II - Hits every enemy with Lightning damage. A solid enough spell, but Crono lacks the magic stat to make it really shine.
Raise - Revives one ally with 50 HP. A useful spell if you don’t have any Athenian Waters, which you should have. Raise is a bit too expensive for a utility spell, especially since its targets are likely to get knocked out again unless someone else heals them immediately.
Frenzy - Strikes one enemy four times with normal hits. A solid attack Tech for fighting bosses, and part of a large number of excellent Dual Techs, but a tad expensive for the amount of damage it does.
Luminaire - Hits every enemy with Lightning damage. Once you get it, assuming you give Crono a Stud to lower his MP expenditure, Luminaire becomes a go-to spell. It’s ridiculously powerful against most groups of enemies, despite Crono’s low magic stat, and it’s pretty solid against most bosses. Expect to abuse this spell a lot.
A young, rambunctious woman with a major secret. Marle will join your party very early on, though she doesn’t join up permanently until after the first two dungeons. From that point on she’s at Crono’s side ’tip the end. She wields Water magic.
Marle is… not great. She’s got decent speed and her magic output is pretty good, but her physical damage with her crossbows is pretty abysmal. She stinks at taking physical hits, perhaps moreso than anyone else, and though she doesn’t have a much better magic defence her HP is too low to last long without a fair dollop of healing. Her Techs are also less-than-fantastic, as she lacks a top-tier damage-dealing Tech and looks instead to healing… though she can’t heal everyone at once, like, say, Robo or Frog. Marle is best used as a support character, providing extra oomph to her admittedly good list of Dual Techs.
Aura - Restores a small amount of HP to one character. For a long while, this will be your go-to option for healing other characters. Good for what it is, Aura will eventually be outclassed.
Allure - Confuses a single enemy. It doesn’t work on enemies that are actually difficult most of the time, and it’s easier to just kill foes upon which it’s effective. Pretty useless overall.
Ice - Inflicts Water damage on a single enemy. A solid offensive option, and the first ability Marle possesses that will make her into an attacker.
Cure - Restores a moderate amount of HP to one character. A great option if somebody’s just been mauled by an enemy, and late in the game Marle will have enough magic power to make it a more economic healing option than its higher level counterpart.
Haste - Doubles a character’s speed in combat. An utterly fantastic spell, and one of the main reasons you might want Marle on the team. Haste Helms offset the usefulness of Haste itself, but if you don’t use said Helms…
Ice II - Inflicts Water damage on every enemy. For a while, Ice II will be a solid, go-to spell for killing large groups of enemies. Unfortunately, it’s the last damage-dealing Tech Marle gets, and it loses its oomph by the end of the game.
Cure II - Restores a large amount of HP to one character. When you first get it, Cure II is pretty great. By the end of the game it’s kinda overkill, though the relatively low MP cost helps a little.
Arise - Revives and fully heals a single ally. If you’re in dire straits, Arise is fantastic. It brings a fainted character back and removes any risk that they might immediately be knocked out. Arise is only stunted by its high MP expenditure, and if you need to use it often you’re probably not going to win that particular battle anyway.
Inventor extraordinaire, and, to an extent, the reason Chrono Trigger takes place at all. Lucca is one of Crono’s lifelong buds, and her natural curiosity and strong brain drive her to investigate the Gates, time travel, and the possibilities of a future that is demolished. Lucca uses Fire magic.
Lucca quickly earns a place as a damage-dealing wonder. Her normal attack stinks, granted, and she’s pretty bad at taking damage (though not quite Marle level bad), but Lucca’s reasonable speed and high magic output allow her to demolish enemies consistently during the game. She learns some powerful Techs, almost all of them quite useful, and by the end of Chrono Trigger she’s one of the few characters who’s arguably more useful attacking on her own than as part of a Dual Tech. Expect to get a lot of use out of Flare. If you don’t recruit Magus, Lucca is your magic user par excellence.
Flamethrower - Inflicts Fire damage to a line of enemies. Great for the first two or three areas. After that it loses its effectiveness completely.
Hyponowave - Puts every enemy on the screen to sleep. Early on, this can be quite useful - though it’s usually better to just outright kill enemies. Later in the game Hypnowave won’t get much use.
Fire - Inflicts Fire damage on a single enemy. Given Lucca’s high magic stat Fire will probably be your most powerful attack spell for a while, and, thus, it’s a great move.
Napalm - Inflicts Fire damage to a small area. Almost on par with Fire for damage output, and handy for crowd control. A good Tech overall, though Fire II eclipses it completely.
Protect - Boosts a single ally’s defence. Protect is pretty handy for boss battles with hard-hitting foes, though Lucca is better utilized strictly as a damage-dealer than for wasting turns casting Protect on everyone.
Fire II - Inflicts Fire damage on every enemy. A fantastic spell for crowd control, possibly the best you’ll get halfway through the game.
Megaton Bomb - Inflicts Fire damage to a small area. Basically an upgraded version of Napalm. It does more damage than Fire II, granted, but will probably be used less often.
Flare - Inflicts Fire damage on every enemy. Flare is easily one of the most powerful spells in the game, better even than Luminaire, and is fantastic at chewing up crowds and bosses alike. Flare also eats up MP like crazy, so you shouldn’t use it with wild abandon unless Lucca is equipped with a Stud to lower her MP expenditure.
An amphibious swordsman with a strong sense of honour and a sorrowful past. Frog joins you twice, both times in 600 AD, and his personal tragedies drive a large quest that spans much of the game’s first half. He wields Water magic.
Frog is, sadly, not that great. He’s basically a pared-down version of Crono by the end of the game: a decent, fast hitter with a subpar magic stat. He can’t take as much abuse as Crono, however, and his Techs leave a lot to be desired. Even Frog’s Dual Techs typically aren’t that amazing. Frog can fill a lot of roles - attacker, magic attacker, healer - but there’s always someone who can do his job a little better. His only great advantage is his high critical hit rate with the Masamune while wearing the Hero’s Badge, which nevertheless robs him of the use of any other accessory. (Fetching the Champion’s Badge from the Lost Sanctum in Chrono Trigger DS helps.)
Slurp - Restores a small amount of health to a single character. Slurp is useful during Frog’s first appearance. by the second time he joins it’s largely worthless.
Slurp Slash - Inflicts damage to a single enemy. Better than Frog’s normal attack, but not by a whole lot. Pretty forgettable.
Water - Inflicts Water damage to a single enemy. Good on paper, but Frog doesn’t have the magic power to make it useful. Possibly the worst of the single-hitting elemental spells.
Heal - Restores moderate amounts of health to all characters. This is one of Frog’s better spells, making him a decent support character, though Robo’s a bit better at crowd healing. If nothing else Heal is good for bringing your party back to full between battles.
Aerial Strike - Inflicts damage to a single enemy. A good physical strike, roughly on par with a critical hit, and a component of a fair number of good Dual Techs. Largely eclipsed later in the game when Frog gets the Masamune upgraded and can deliver large numbers of critical hits without expending MP.
Water II - Inflicts Water damage to every enemy. A good choice for crowd controlling weak enemies, and useful in the Sunken Desert. Otherwise, this is the weakest of the all-hitting, second tier spells.
Frog Squash - Inflicts damage on every enemy; damage output is higher when Frog’s HP is lower. Frog Squash is a risky situational Tech that can be useful, though its use indicates other problems that should be solved first. Solid, but problematic.
A robotic servant from a ruined future. Robo joins the party in 2300 AD, and aside from a side quest he won’t ever leave. Sturdy, polite, and pure of purpose, Robo is dedicated to helping his friends stop Lavos. Though Robo doesn’t technically wield magic, his lasers inflict Shadow damage.
Robo is pretty good. He’s a tank: high HP, high defence, solid strength, and some excellent matching Techs. He’s also not a bad healer for large parts of the game, slightly edging out Frog as far as healing the whole party goes, and he has a few Dual Techs that do even better in that regard. Robo’s a little weak in the magic defence department, though, and for most of the game his speed is bottom-of-the-barrel bad. Insert Speed Capsules here and he’ll improve significantly.
Rocket Punch - Inflicts damage to a single enemy. It’s better than most normal attacks?
Cure Beam - Restores a small amount of health to a single character. A handy for much of the game if you don’t have any Potions around.
Laser Spin - Inflicts Shadow damage on every enemy. Not bad early on as basic crowd control, particularly in 2300 AD, but pretty useless as your foes grow in strength. Laser Spin will probably see its final use during the battle with Magus to counter Shadow attacks.
Robo Tackle - Inflicts damage to a single enemy. A great option for fighting bosses without utterly draining Robo’s MP.
Heal Beam - Restores a moderate amount of health to all characters. Heal Beam is pretty great, being ever so slightly better than Frog’s Heal, and is an awesome utility Tech for much of the game.
Rapid-fire Fist - Inflicts damage to a single enemy. Rapid-fire Fist is Robo’s go-to Tech for solo attacks against bosses, as it does a lot of damage for a Single Tech. That said, its high MP cost makes Rapid-fire Fist somewhat undesirable for repeated use.
Proximity Bomb - Inflicts Fire damage to an area surrounding Robo. Proximity Bomb is quite strong, but it’s utterly situational. If Robo’s separated from enemies it will be absolutely useless. Pretty meh.
Electrocute - Inflicts Lightning damage to every enemy. Basically a poor man’s Luminaire. Good for crowd control against robots; otherwise… eh. Not as good as it probably should be.
The rambunctious chieftain of 65,000,000 BC. Ayla plays a role in the saga of the Masamune, and joins permanently after your final battle with the Reptites. She’s feisty, unapologetic, cheerful, and as fearless as they come. Ayla cannot wield magic.
This gal is magnificent. Ayla has the highest physical strength in the game, and her damage output rivals - and sometimes beats - Crono’s. She’s terribly fast, her HP and defence are healthy, and though not all of her Techs are terribly amazing, the ones that are good more than make up for the ones that are meh. Ayla is the centre of a large number of very painful Dual Techs, and her presence in your party will allow you to make mincemeat of sooooo many bosses. Ayla’s only major drawback is her poor magic defence, so be sure to equip her appropriately.
Kiss - Restores a small amount of HP to a single character. Kiss is largely useful because it also dispels status ailments. Good if you want to save a Panacea; otherwise, pretty useless.
Roundillo Kick - Inflicts damage to a single enemy. A strong attack throughout the game, though you may as well just have Ayla attack normally and save her MP.
Cat Attack - Inflicts damage to a single enemy. Strong, and good for taking out bosses when Ayla can’t resort to Dual Techs. Also a great option for reliably taking out normal enemies.
Boulder Toss - Inflicts damage to a single enemy. Slightly better than Cat Attack; thus, a solid attack. Boulder Toss can’t be used on enemies that are enormous - the Tyrannos, Giga Gaia, Lavos, etc. - and thus its usefulness is somewhat limited.
Charm - Steals an item from an enemy. Charm is absolutely fantastic, as it allows you to pick up large numbers of rare and valuable items from the game’s enemies. You can get some crazy stuff when stealing from bosses. Charm alone makes Ayla a solid choice for a permanent party member.
Tail Spin - Inflicts damage to a group of enemies surrounding Ayla. Similar to Robo’s Proximity Bomb, Tail Spin can either be quite useful or absolutely useless, depending on the layout of the field.
Dino Tail - Inflicts damage to all enemies. Dino Tail’s damage output is stronger if Ayla has less HP, similar to Frog’s Frog Squash. Handy if she’s low on HP; otherwise, not that good.
Triple Kick - Inflicts three hits’ worth of damage to a single enemy. Triple Kick can rip enemies apart, and it’s a component of several awesome Dual Techs. Its high cost makes Triple Kick a limited use move, however, and it’s usually better to combine this as part of a Tech than to have Ayla use it alone.
The villain of the Middle Ages, and a cruel, proud jerk in general. Magus is an antagonist for a large part of the game, and you’ll have to fight him at least once (and it’s an epic fight, to boot). If you opt not to fight him during your second major encounter he will instead join your party, and is the only member of the team to never leave once he joins up. Magus primarily wields Shadow magic, though he also starts with second-tier Lightning, Fire, and Water spells.
Magus is an oddity, but a good oddity. He has no physical Techs, instead utilizing a full roster of spells, and he has no Dual Techs whatsoever. (He has some Triple Techs, but you need to be wearing specific accessories to make ‘em work.) That said, Magus wields some of the best damage-dealing Single Techs in the game, and his high magic stat allows him to dish out the pain quite effectively as an independent character. He’s also surprisingly good as a physical hitter, and his solid speed allows him to go often. His durability could use some work, so equip him accordingly.
Lightning II - Inflicts Lightning damage to every enemy. Useful against robots. Magus is much better than Crono at using this spell.
Ice II - Inflicts Water damage to every enemy. Good for Fire crowd control. Magus is about on par with Marle at using this spell.
Fire II - Inflicts Fire damage to every enemy. Good for crowd control in every other circumstance. Magus is slightly worse than Lucca at using this spell, though the difference is almost negligible. Of the three second tier elemental spells, Fire II will probably see the most use.
Dark Bomb - Inflicts Shadow damage to a small area. A solid spell, and for a while it will probably be your go-to Shadow Tech for Magus.
Barrier - Boosts one character’s magic defence stat. Barrier is a fantastic utility spell when fighting many late game bosses (Queen Zeal and Lavos are good examples), and can save characters like Robo and Ayla from being demolished by strong spells.
Dark Mist - Inflicts Shadow damage to every enemy. Decent for crowd control, but not terribly amazing. Dark Matter eclipses Dark Mist pretty quickly.
Black Hole - Has a chance of instantly killing one or more enemies in a group. Black Hole is useless against bosses and chancy against normal enemies. The cost of using the spell coupled with its unreliability makes it a pretty poor choice for most battles.
Dark Matter - Inflicts Shadow Damage to every enemy. Dark Matter is Magus’s version of Luminaire and Flare, and is the go-to attack for most late game boss battles. Unless your foe resists or absorbs Shadow damage, this is the spell you’ll want to use when Magus is attacking. (Just keep an eye on his MP.)