|Chrono Trigger (クロノ・トリガー, Kurono Torigā?) is a role-playing video game developed and published by Square (now Square Enix) for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1995. Chrono Trigger’s development team included three designers that Square dubbed the “Dream Team”: Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of Square’s Final Fantasy series; Yuji Horii, a freelance designer and creator of Enix’s popular Dragon Quest series; and Akira Toriyama, a freelance manga artist famed for his work with Dragon Quest and Dragon Ball. Kazuhiko Aoki produced the game, Masato Kato wrote most of the plot, while composer Yasunori Mitsuda scored most of the game before falling ill and deferring remaining tracks to Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu. The game’s story follows a group of adventurers who travel through time to prevent a global catastrophe.
Square re-released a ported version by Tose in Japan for Sony’s PlayStation in 1999, later repackaged with a Final Fantasy IV port as Final Fantasy Chronicles in 2001 for the North American market. A slightly enhanced Chrono Trigger was released for the Nintendo DS on November 25, 2008, in North America and Japan, and went on sale in Australia on February 3, 2009 and in Europe on February 6, 2009. The game was never released in PAL territories before the Nintendo DS version.
Chrono Trigger was well-received by reviewers and commercially successful upon release; it is now considered by some to be one of the greatest games of all time. Nintendo Power magazine described certain aspects of Chrono Trigger as revolutionary, including its multiple endings, plot-related sidequests focusing on character development, unique battle system, and detailed graphics. Chrono Trigger was the third best-selling game of 1995, and the game’s SNES and PSX iterations have shipped 2.65 million copies as of March 31, 2003. The re-released version of Chrono Trigger for the Nintendo DS has sold 790,000 copies as of March 31, 2009. Chrono Trigger was ported to mobile phones and Virtual Console, and is awaiting the PlayStation Network release in 2011. iOS and Android ports are planned.
Chrono Trigger features standard console role-playing game (RPG) gameplay with several innovations. The player controls the protagonist and his companions in the game’s two-dimensional fictional world, consisting of various forests, cities, and dungeons. Navigation occurs via an overworld map, depicting the landscape from a scaled down overhead view. Areas such as forests, cities, and similar places are depicted as more realistic scaled down maps, in which players can converse with locals to procure items and services, solve puzzles and challenges, or encounter enemies. Chrono Trigger’s gameplay deviates from that of traditional RPGs in that, rather than appearing in random encounters, many enemies are openly visible on field maps or lie in wait to ambush the party. Contact with enemies on a field map initiates a battle that occurs directly on the map rather than on a separate battle screen.
Players and enemies may use physical or magical attacks to wound targets during battle, and players may use items to heal or protect themselves. Each character and enemy has a certain number of hit points, and successful attacks reduce that character’s hit points, while hit points can be restored with potions and spells. When a playable character loses all hit points, he or she faints; if all the player’s characters fall in battle, the game ends and must be restored from a previously saved chapter, except in specific storyline-related battles that allow or force the player to lose. Between battles, the player can equip his/her characters with weapons, armor, helmets, and accessories that provide special effects (such as increased attack power or defense against magic), and various consumable items can be used both in and out of battles. Items and equipment can be purchased in shops or found on field maps, often in treasure chests. By exploring new areas and fighting enemies, players progress through Chrono Trigger’s story.
Chrono Trigger uses an Active Time Battle system—a staple of Square’s Final Fantasy game series designed by Hiroyuki Ito for Final Fantasy IV—named “Active Time Battle 2.0.” The new name is attributed to battles taking place on the field and the area of effect nature of certain spells and abilities. Each character can take action in battle once a personal timer dependent on the character’s speed statistic counts to zero. Magic and special physical techniques are handled through a system called “Techs.” Techs deplete a character’s magic points (a numerical meter like hit points), and often have special areas of effect; some spells damage huddled monsters, while others can harm enemies spread in a line. Enemies often change positions during battle, creating opportunities for tactical Tech use. A unique feature of Chrono Trigger’s Tech system is that numerous cooperative techniques exist. Each character receives eight personal Techs which can be used in conjunction with others’ to create Double and Triple Techs for greater effect. For instance, Crono’s sword-spinning Cyclone Tech can be combined with Lucca’s Flame Toss to create Flame Whirl. When characters with compatible Techs have enough magic points available to perform their techniques, the game automatically displays the combo as an option.
Chrono Trigger features several other unique gameplay traits, including time travel. Players have access to seven eras of the game world’s history, and past actions affect future events. Throughout history, players find new allies, complete side quests, and search for keynote villains. Time travel is accomplished via portals and pillars of light called “time gates”, as well as a time machine named Epoch. The game contains thirteen unique endings; the ending the player receives depends on when and how he or she reaches and completes the game’s final battle. Chrono Trigger DS features a new ending that can be accessed from the End of Time upon completion of the final extra dungeon and optional final boss. Chrono Trigger also introduces a New Game+ option; after completing the game, the player may begin a new game with the same character levels, techniques, and equipment (but not money) that he or she ended the previous game with. Certain items central to the storyline are removed and must be found again, such as the sword Masamune. Square has since employed the New Game+ concept in later titles, including Chrono Cross, Parasite Eve, Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy X-2.
Chrono Trigger takes place in an original world similar to Earth, with eras such as the prehistoric age, where early humans and dinosaurs share the earth; the Middle Ages, replete with knights, monsters, and magic; and the post-apocalyptic future, where humans and sentient robots struggle to survive. The characters frequently travel through time to obtain allies, gather equipment, and learn information to help them in their quest. The party also gains access to the End of Time (represented as year ∞), which serves as a hub to travel back to other time periods. The party eventually acquires a time-machine vehicle known as the Wings of Time, nicknamed the Epoch. The vehicle is capable of time travel between any time period without first having to travel to the End of Time.
Chrono Trigger’s seven playable characters come from different eras in the game world’s history. Chrono Trigger begins in 1000 AD with Crono, Marle, and Lucca. Crono is the silent protagonist, characterized as a fearless young man who wields a katana in battle. Marle (Princess Nadia) lives in Guardia Castle; though sheltered, at heart she’s a princess who enjoys hiding her royal identity. Lucca is a friend of Crono’s and a mechanical genius; her home is filled with laboratory equipment and machinery. From the era of AD 2300 comes Robo, or Prometheus (designation R66-Y), a robot with near-human personality created to assist humans. Laying dormant in the future, Robo is found and repaired by Lucca. He joins the group out of gratitude. The fiercely confident Ayla dwells in 65,000,000 BC. Unmatched in raw strength, Ayla is the chief of Ioka Village, and leads her people in war against a species of humanoid reptiles known as Reptites.
The last two characters are Frog and Magus. Frog originated in AD 600. Frog is a former squire once named Glenn; Magus turned Glenn into an anthropomorphic frog and also slew his friend Cyrus. Chivalrous but mired in regret, Frog dedicates his life to protecting Leene, the queen of Guardia, and avenging Cyrus. Meanwhile, Guardia in AD 600 is in a state of conflict against the Mystics (known as Fiends in the US/DS port), a race of demons and intelligent animals. Under the leadership of Magus, a powerful sorcerer, they wage war against humanity. While Magus appears to be a powerful magician, his seclusion conceals a long-lost past; in Antiquity, he was known as Janus, the young prince of the Kingdom of Zeal, which was destroyed by Lavos in 12,000 BC. The incident sent him forward through time, and as he ages, he plots revenge against Lavos and broods over the fate of his sister, Schala. Lavos, who awakens and ravages the world in AD 1999, is an extraterrestrial parasitic creature that harvests DNA and the Earth’s energy for its own growth.
In 1000 AD, Crono and Marle watch Lucca and her father demonstrate her new teleporter at the Millennial Fair. When Marle volunteers to be teleported, her pendant interferes with the device and creates a time portal that she is drawn into. After Crono and Lucca separately recreate the portal and find themselves in 600 AD, they find Marle only to see her vanish before their eyes. Lucca realizes that this time period’s kingdom has mistaken Marle for her kidnapped ancestor, thus putting off the recovery effort for her ancestor and creating a grandfather paradox. Crono and Lucca, with the help of Frog, restore history to normal by recovering the kidnapped queen. After returning to the present, Crono is arrested on charges of kidnapping the princess and sentenced to death by the current chancellor of Guardia. Lucca and Marle help Crono to flee, haphazardly using another time portal to escape their pursuers. Upon arriving in the year 2300 AD, they eventually learn that an advanced civilization has been wiped out by a giant creature known as Lavos that appeared in 1999 AD. The three vow to find a way to prevent the destruction of their world. After meeting and repairing Robo, Crono and his friends find Gaspar, an old sage at the End of Time, who helps them acquire magical powers and travel through time by way of several pillars of light.
Their party expands to include Ayla and Frog after they visit the prehistoric era to repair Frog’s sword. They challenge Magus in 600 AD, believing him to be the source of Lavos; a summoning spell causes a time gate after the battle that throws Crono and his friends to the past. In prehistory, Crono, Ayla, and the others battle the Reptites and witness the origin of Lavos. They learn that Lavos was an alien being that arrived on the planet millions of years in the past, and began to absorb DNA and energy from every living creature before arising and razing the planet’s surface in 1999 AD so that it could spawn a new generation. In 12,000 BC, Crono and friends find that the Kingdom of Zeal recently discovered Lavos and seeks to drain its power to achieve immortality through the Mammon Machine. However Zeal’s leader, Queen Zeal, banishes them from the realm and seals the time gate they used to travel to the Dark Ages. They travel next to 2300 AD to find a time machine called the Wings of Time (or Epoch), which can access any time period without using a time gate. They travel back to Zeal for the Mammon Machine’s activation at the Ocean Palace. Lavos awakens, disturbed by the Mammon Machine, and the prophet reveals himself to be Magus and tries to kill the creature. Crono stands up to Lavos but is vaporized by a powerful blast, after which Lavos destroys Zeal.
Crono’s friends awake in a village and find Magus, who confesses that he was prince Janus of Zeal. In his memories, the disaster at the Ocean Palace scattered the Gurus of Zeal across time and sent him to the Middle Ages. Janus took the alias of Magus and gained a cult of followers while plotting to summon and kill Lavos in revenge for the death of his sister, Schala. As Crono’s friends depart, the Ocean Palace rises into the air as the Black Omen. The group turns to Gaspar for help, and he gives them a “Chrono Trigger”, an egg-shaped device that allows the group to replace Crono just before the moment of death with a Dopple Doll. Crono and his friends then gather power by helping people across time with Gaspar’s instructions. Their journeys involve defeating the remnants of the Mystics, stopping Robo’s maniacal AI creator, addressing Frog’s feelings towards Cyrus, locating and charging up the mythical Sun Stone, retrieving the Rainbow Shell, and helping restore a forest destroyed by a desert monster. The group enters the Black Omen and defeats Queen Zeal, then successfully battles Lavos, saving the future of their world.
If Magus joined the party, he departs to search for Schala. Crono’s mother accidentally enters the time gate at the fair before it closes, prompting Crono, Marle, and Lucca to set out in the Epoch to find her while fireworks light up the night sky. Alternatively, if the party used the Epoch to break Lavos’s outer shell, Marle will help her father hang Nadia’s bell at the festival and accidentally get carried away by several balloons. Crono jumps on to help her, but cannot bring them down to earth. Hanging on in each others arms, the pair travel through the cloudy, moonlit sky.
Chrono Trigger DS added two new scenarios to the game. In the first, Crono and his friends can help a “lost sanctum” of Reptites, who reward powerful items and armor. The second scenario adds ties to Trigger’s sequel, Chrono Cross. In a New Game +, the group can explore several temporal distortions to combat shadow versions of Crono, Marle, and Lucca, and to fight Dalton, who promises in defeat to raise an army in the town of Porre to destroy the Kingdom of Guardia. The group can then fight the Dream Devourer, a prototypical form of the Time Devourer—a fusion of Schala and Lavos seen in Chrono Cross. A version of Magus pleads with Schala to resist; though she recognizes him as her brother, she refuses to be helped and sends him away. Magus subsequently erases his memories and awakens in a forest, determined to find what he had lost.