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Chrono Trigger

Entry updated 22 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1995). Square (SQ). Designed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, Yuuji Horii. Platforms: SNES (1995); PS1 (1999).

Chrono Trigger is a Console Role Playing Game (see Computer Role Playing Games), played in a two-dimensional overhead view. It is one of the best known Japanese CRPGs, strongly upbeat and not overly serious, full of endearing characters and clever puzzles. It is perhaps best characterized as Young Adult in tone. Chrono Trigger popularized several innovations in Console Role Playing Game design, notably the use of a multilinear plot (see Interactive Narrative) with many possible endings, some only available if the game is played more than once, and the inclusion of many optional subplots which provide deeper insight into the characters involved. The gameplay focuses on exploration, puzzle solution, negotiation and combat; Chrono Trigger was also innovative amongst Japanese CRPGs for eschewing the use of random encounters with monsters as a way of increasing the game's length.

The game is set in an Alternate World where both Science and Sorcery exist, though primarily in different time periods. It begins in the Kingdom of Guardia in the year 1000, where the teenage boy Crono follows a mysterious girl through an experimental Matter Transmitter and finds himself in the past. Adopting the primary role of Crono, the player must rescue the Queen of Guardia in this earlier time in order to save the girl who, it emerges, is the Princess of Guardia in the year 1000, and will never be born if the Queen does not survive. Later, Crono and the other characters who the player has recruited into their group visit the far future, where they discover that in the year 1999 the world is destroyed by the mysterious "Lavos". A great deal of Time Travel ensues, notably including the death of Crono (and potentially his eventual resurrection using the "Chrono Trigger" device), visits to a prehistoric airborne Kingdom, and the establishment of a base at the End of Time. Players can experience many classic sf Time Travel devices, including individuals meeting in reverse order along their own personal timelines and a version of the grandfather paradox (see Time Paradoxes). The various endings are diversely charming; in one, manipulation of the past has resulted in all the characters becoming intelligent dinosaurs.

Chrono Cross (1999 SQ, PS1) designed by Masato Kato, Hiromichi Tanaka is a loose sequel, focusing on Parallel Worlds rather than Time Travel and using a combination of three-dimensional and two-dimensional overhead views. The game begins with Serge, the main character, slipping into a parallel version of his reality, in which he died young. The player can discover that many things are duplicated across the two dimensions, some with curious variations. The two realities are closely linked; making changes in one may induce corresponding alterations in the other. Gameplay is similar to that of Chrono Trigger, but the tone is rather more adult and serious. The plot is strongly multilinear, with many points at which the player can choose to recruit different characters into their group. Thematically, the game is concerned with the multiple paths that lives and universes can take; this aspect is reflected in the many characters available to enlist, and the varying personal interactions that exist for different combinations. Chrono Cross' complex story involves a research institute catapulted into the past after a failed experiment, a race of intelligent reptiles, a malignant computer, and magic; ultimately it is revealed that Serge himself is of vital importance to the structure of the universe, and that the two realities split as the result of an attempt to save his life using Time Travel. In the end, the sundered dimensions can be rejoined.

Related works: Radical Dreamers (1996 SQ, SNES) designed by Masato Kato is a menu driven text Adventure, illustrated with static visuals, which was intended to tie up an unresolved subplot from Chrono Trigger. It includes different versions of many characters who would later appear in Chrono Cross, and has been retrospectively defined as occurring in a different Alternate World. The game was only released in Japan, via episodic satellite download. [NT]


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