Game Retrospective: Chrono Trigger
On the 11th of March 1995, Chrono Trigger was first released for the Super Famicom in Japan. The game would be translated into English and released in North America five months later.
Developed by Square, Chrono Trigger’s creative team were led by three designers, often referred to by Square as the “Dream Team”: creator of the Dragon Quest series, Yuji Horii; creator of the Final Fantasy series, Hironobu Sakaguchi; and the artist behind both the Dragon Ball and Dragon Quest series, Akira Toriyama. Although much of the game’s soundtrack was scored by composer Yasunori Mitsuda (who had previously worked as a sound engineer of a variety of Square titles including Final Fantasy V and Secret of Mana), long-time Final Fantasy series composer Nobuo Uematsu took over following Mitsuda’s departure due to poor health.
Chrono Trigger casts the player as Crono, a young boy who, at the beginning of the game, visits the Millennial Fair in Leene Square in the Kingdom of Guardia. After enjoying some of the carnival games, Crono and his friend Marle, join a crowd to witness the demonstration of a teleportation machine by their friend Lucca. After volunteering to be teleported from one podium to another, Marle is accidentally transported through a time portal to another place and time. Using the machine, Crono and Lucca set out to rescue their friend and are subsequently thrust into a time-travelling adventure, that spans several eras, ranging from the dawn of civilisation in 65 million BC to a futuristic post-apocalyptic 2300 AD.
The game was initially conceived in 1992 by Horii, Sakaguchi and Toriyama, who, after a joint trip to North America to study and explore the latest advances in computer graphics, decided to collaborate on a project together; a completely new type of RPG. Square designer, Kazuhiko Aoki, who had worked on both Final Fantasy III and IV, contacted the three and offered to produce their new game. Following a period of idea gathering by the four, the project was eventually approved by Square, with development officially beginning in early 1993.
Square’s intention at this time was for this new game to be part of the Seiken Densetsu (or Mana) series with the game being assigned the working title ‘Maru Island’.
Horii would spend the first year of development working on the game’s story, along with Masato Kato; a videogame and anime writer who had worked upon numerous projects including the original ‘Ninja Gaiden’ trilogy on the NES and the ‘Nadia: The secret of Blue water’ cartoon series. The time-travel aspect to the game reportedly originated from Horii’s fondness for time-travel fiction, although some sources claim this came at the suggestion of an uncredited Square employee. Kato, was initially against the idea of time-travel as a basis for the game’s narrative, fearing such a concept would simply lead to repetitive, and ultimately boring, gameplay.
Early on in development, details regarding Nintendo’s new CD-ROM based Super NES add-on unit, which the company were working on in collaboration with Sony, were released to Square. Upon seeing the specs for this new device, Square and the rest of the development team instantly knew that their ‘Maru Island’ project would be a perfect fit for this exciting new platform. Unfortunately, Nintendo’s CD-ROM peripheral deal with Sony would eventually collapse, and the game would instead release on a SNES cartridge. Speaking in 1995, producer Kazuhiko Aoki, explained how this initial plan to release the game on Nintendo’s ill-fated peripheral would actually complement the game’s time-travel plot: “We first thought Chrono Trigger was going to be on CD-ROM. We wanted to take full advantage of the space afforded by that media and make a game where you visit multiple different worlds. So the time travel idea, where the map would change as you visited different eras, was decided on very early.”
Upon release, Chrono Trigger received particular praise for its impressive graphics, engaging story and solid gameplay and would go on to amass countless positive review scores, with American videogame magazine, GamePro, even giving the game a perfect 20/20. UK based SNES magazine, Super Play, in their review of the game, would describe it as “an essential purchase for RPG fans.” The game would go on to be 1995’s third best-selling game of the year. The game would be later ported to the PlayStation, Nintendo DS, Windows, iOS and Android.
Chrono Trigger co-writer Masato Kato would write and direct a short, text-based game for the Super NES satellite modem peripheral, the Satellaview, in 1996 called Radical Dreamers: Nusumenai Hōseki. Believing there to be some narrative loose ends in the original game, Radical Dreamers served to tie up several plot points from Chrono Trigger. A sequel to Chrono Trigger, called Chrono Cross, would be released in 1999 for the PlayStation. Featuring a plot involving parallel worlds, the game features an entirely new setting and cast of characters.
🕹Are you a fan of Chrono Trigger? On which platform have you played it? Did you enjoy its PlayStation sequel, Chrono Cross? Would you welcome a new game in the series?🕹