Chrono Trigger is hailed by many as the greatest JRPG, and by many more as the greatest game ever made. It has been around for over 20 years and has been re-released multiple times. Everything about the game is masterful. It is the greatest example of what happens when you put the most brilliant people from varying disciplines together in one room and let them create to their hearts’ content. As beloved as this title is, I have found 10 facts that you probably never knew about this truly incredible game.
Creator of the Final Fantasy series Hironobu Sakaguchi went on a trip with the Dragon Quest series creator, Yuji Horii, and the legendary manga artist and creator of Dragon Ball, Akira Toriyama, to do some research on American game design. While they were traveling together they were impressed by many of the things they saw and decided that they wanted to create something new. Both the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest franchises were incredibly successful, but they wanted to take the best of each of those games and combine it with a very different art style and gameplay mechanic. Thus, the impetus of Chrono Trigger was born.
They would return to Japan and assemble the “Dream Team” of (cue Ocean’s 11-style character intro music); Hironobu Sakaguchi and Yuji Horii (ring-leaders), Akira Toriyama (design man), Masato Kato (writer), Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu (music men).
As the creation process went underway many of the designers wanted to give the game a different feel from the other games the studio produced. Yasuhika Kamata, who was in charge of programming the graphics and the lighting for the game, sat down to watch Ridley Scott’s classic Alien. He was very impressed by the lighting design in the movie, and how light and darkness were used to tell the story. Yasuhika would take much of this and use it to design some of the game’s incredible lighting effects. For example, when you are walking through a forest you can see shadows of the leafy canopy splayed out on the ground around you, giving the feel that you are in a living, breathing world.
The makers of the game wanted Chrono Trigger to be replayable. So they did something that was nearly unheard of in big budget console games, they gave the game 9 different endings! Your choices in the game would influence the ending you received. Before this, games might give you a different color ending screen, or different dialogue at the end, but truly multiple endings in a game had never really be done before. Many game franchises and studios would be built on this mechanic alone (for example Fallout, Tell-Tales Studio’s Games, etc.)
Another big first that Chrono Trigger introduced was that of a New Game Plus mode. Now, some games let you replay them and gave you slightly different content. For example, The Legend of Zelda would let you play in adventure mode once you finished the game, but it was the same game but with slight differences. Furthermore, Super Mario Brothers would replace all the goombas with the hard shelled black enemies once you replayed the game. But these are not really New Game Plus created by Chrono Trigger. When you replay on New Game Plus all your weapons, skills, and experience are at the level they were when you finished the previous play through. And being that the game hits a level plateau once you reach about level 40 or 50, and the enemies keep getting harder to beat if you want rarer endings, this mode is irreplaceable. Today, New Game Plus modes are rather standard.
Chrono Trigger had been delayed for over a year past their original release date due to unforeseen technical troubles and was released on March 11th, 1995. Due to delays, they had even less time than hoped for to prepare the international release. Hironobu Sakaguchi asked Ted Woolsley to do the translation. Ted Woolsley had translated Final Fantasy IV into English, which was largely praised. So, Sakaguchi told him that the translation had to be done within 30 days to meet their release schedule. After picking his jaw up off the floor, Ted got to work. Back in those days, they didn’t have translation and localization teams, just one dude in a back office with a lot of different dictionaries and copious amounts of coffee. Because of limited time and resources, Ted had to memorize several scenarios and even had to use player guides for the dialogue. But despite the many problems he had, Chrono Trigger might be one of his best translations.
One of the headaches for poor Ted was Nintendo of America (NOA). NOA had much stricter content standards than their Japanese counterparts. American parent’s attitudes toward games at the time were on very shaky ground. Japanese games had to be very careful that the content in their games did not offend the much more puritanical American values. For example, any instance or implication of alcohol had to be removed. There is a scene which Chrono gets in a “soup” drinking contest with another character. One very important and interesting storyline was nearly cut out entirely, that focuses on the religious reverence some of the bad guys hold for another of the characters.
Yasunori Mitsuda had been working under Nobuo Uematsu for many years, and he wanted a chance to show everyone what he was truly capable of. Trusting in his protégé, Uematsu gave him his chance by stepping aside and letting Mitsuda score the whole game himself. Mitsuda threw himself whole-heartedly into the task. Mitsuda’s work takes up 3 full CDs, and with the possible exception of Final Fantasy VII, might be the most iconic RPG soundtrack. Each track of music lasts nearly 3 minutes, wich was very rare at the time. Mitsuda worked so hard on the project that he developed severe stomach ulcers and was forced to take a break. Uematsu stepped in and finished the last few tracks.
Chrono Trigger’s music is incredible. If you don’t like the original MIDI sound, you can find multiple orchestral versions. One of my favorites is the Chrono Trigger – Chrono Symphonic OverClocked Remix Album. If you like game music or epic sounding music, this is not one to be missed.
There have been at least 2 unsuccessful attempts by fans to remake Chrono Trigger in full 3D. Concept art and some fully rendered scenes were released on the Internet rousing fans into a fervor of near violent anticipation, but sadly both of these projects were hit by a Cease and Desist Order from Square-Enix. Fans shot multiple petitions to Square-Enix to allow the development to continue, but Square did not budge. Kill-joys…
A sequel game Radical Dreamers was released on February 3rd, 1996 for the Stellaview, an add-on for the Super Famicom. This was not a true sequel, rather a side story, where you play as Surge who is accompanied on his adventure by Kid and a mysterious magician. Radical Dreamers was very different from Chrono Trigger. It is a visual novel, and thus is much more heady, and kind of strange at times. Masato Kato wrote and directed the project. But after the release, he was rather unsatisfied with the finished product. In the end, Radical Dreamers was never released officially abroad, but it would go on to inspire Chrono Cross.
In 2001, Square unleashed a flurry of speculation and rumors when it trademarked Chrono Break. Many people assumed this would be a third entry in the series and waited for a formal announcement with baited breath… And waited… And waited… And are still waiting. Sadly no announcement ever came, and the trademark expired in 2012.
Chrono Trigger is one of the best, most important games of our generation. If you have never played it, then why are you reading this? Just go and play it. If you have not played the game in many years, pick it up. It holds up surprisingly well. Enjoy!