I'm pretty sure the first time I ever played Chrono Trigger was when I rented it from the local Video Spotlight. I'm not sure if I had ever even heard of the game before, I might have blind rented it for all I can remember. I was an avid reader of Nintendo Power and they never really hyped the game like they did Secret of Mana (in magazine strategy guide spanned multiple issues and they had a poster). I have one distinct memory of renting it and that was starting someone's saved game in the Black Omen and fighting something like the Terramutant. I wailed on him with super powerful techs like Luminaire and Flair, good times.
Something must have hit the right note when I rented it because it was on my birthday list and I received it May of 1996. My Super Nintendo would never be the same.
I don't remember my entire first play through of Chrono Trigger, that was over 14 years ago. I do remember some bits and pieces though. Here are some of the highlights.
You know what really ticked me off about the fair? The "soda" drinking contest. For one, I'm almost sure it was beer or something in the original Japanese version, but of course Nintendo of America censored that. Secondly, how the heck is this mini-game possible without the turbo controller??? A guide on Gamefaqs says you have to press the A button 64 times in seven seconds. Is that a joke? Almost ten times a second? I probably did it once too and was even more pissed off that you only get 5 silver points for it.
Otherwise, the fair is a fun place to waste time. My favorite pastime is betting on the footrace, and then trying to slow down the runners by running "on top of them" hoping that the game would have to try to process their sprite and mine at the same time causing them to slow down or something. I don't think it ever "really" worked, but sometimes it seemed like it did.
One of the most memorable scenes in the game is the trial. Crono returns from the past after saving the timeline along with multiple monarchs, he's thrown in front of the Guardia court to defend himself and his actions. Seemingly innocent decisions made by the player at the very beginning of the game are called out into focus and the game pokes fun at some typical RPG cliches. Remember the old guy's lunch at the fair? If you eat the dude's lunch he'll come to court and yell at you! But if you find the little girl's cat, she'll defend you for helping her out. Of course, no matter your actions are, the outcome is the same, and I was never able to get every juror to say "not guilty"! That always made me angry.
The Trial is revisited near the end of the game in an optional side-quest and is presented with even more awesomeness. Marle jumping through the stained glass window was epic.
So after the trial, you're tossed in jail with the task of escaping and getting the heck out of 1000 AD. While most gamers will mess with the guard's head and knock him out for the solo escape, you can actually wait around a few minutes for Lucca to rescue you. It's actually a really cool sequence when she busts in and saves you, and the escape from the dungeon is much easier. You won't get all the experience from fighting the guards, and you still have to fight the tank boss, but it's a nice little decision you can make to mix up the game.
2300 AD always freaked me out. Seeing the world in its apocalyptic state is so depressing. The music is sad, the people of the time are down and out, and it's obvious that Lavos has won. I also thought at first that walking around in the overworld made your HP go down as you were exposed to radiation or something, thankfully, that's not actually true. 2300 AD is also slightly infamous for screwing over a lot of people playing the game on an emulator due to the multiple layers it used that wouldn't let you see unless you knew how to turn them off.
For one, Heckran was really, really tough for me. I don't know if I just didn't understand the battle or what, but I remember having to do a bit of power leveling in Heckran Cave to beat him. Speaking of Heckran Cave, nearby is Melchior's House. There's an awesome scene in the game where you create the Masamune sword with the Dreamstone found in 65,000,000 BC. If you have Lucca and Robo in your party they help Melchior (the time-tossed swordsmith) reforge the sword by lifting their hands and yelling or something. The screen goes crazy as the all powerful sword is remade. Some sweet effects, but the first time it happened, I was in the bathroom! I was having a birthday party or something and my friends were watching me play it, I figured this would be a good time to go so I gave the controller to a friend and told them just to press A. When I got out, I asked if I missed anything cool and they were all like "YES!" so we had to replay it.
The first time you enter Magus' Castle, it is completely empty except for your party members' family and friends. It is super creepy. When you talk to them they say these really morbid things about death and "coming home". The craziest part is that there is no music at all (I think there might just be a really high pitched note). The game has really hyped up your confrontation with Magus and when you finally are ready to start tearing down his home, there's nothing to fight! Of course, once you talk to everyone, they turn into real beasts and the battles begin. One of them even tells you that you'll have to fight 100 bad guys! That seemed like a ton.
Ah, Magus. This was really the final moment of Act 1 in the game if you ask me. Crono and friends can finally wield magic and the legendary hero, Frog, has joined up for good (don't forget to bring him to Spekkio too!). Now you have to do battle with an evil sorcerer with 6,666 hit points! This guy really was evil! I remember having a friend over and while we fought him, had a calculator out counting down the damage. Of course, once he used Dark Matter all bets were off.
This is the area of the game that made your jaw drop as you gazed upon a society in the sky. Simply incredible. The writing around it was astounding too: magic users lived in Zeal while non-magics were stuck on the ground living in little hovels. Queen Zeal was going insane with the power Lavos was funneling through her and her mysterious kids... Plus Dalton and the Blackbird, along with Melchior making an appearance (what?!), not to mention all the epic moments in that era.
Zeal is so memorable for me because of the Golem Twins and Mount Woe. The Golem Twins were a super hard boss (for me) that mimicked the type of move you used on them. If you cast lightning, they would use a lightning attack. If you hit them with a physical attack, they would take away half your health. It is because of the Golem Twins that I always fight every single enemy in the game so I will have Luminaire by the time I reach them. And one easy way to get lots of tech points is on Mount Woe. There are some enemies named Rubble that when defeated, will reward you with 100 tech points. This is a significant number of points when most enemies will just give you 1-3 points. Of course, the challenge is to beat them before they run away. They immediately block you from using any techs or items, and decrease your accuracy, so you just spam your attacks as quickly as possible and hopefully you'll get a few attacks off in time.
This is Chrono Trigger's "final dungeon", even though it's optional, and even if you go through it, there's more to do afterwards. It's the game's toughest challenge and is a really fun area to boot. There are a ton of difficult bosses if you haven't been over-leveling, and make sure you bring Ayla because there are a lot of really great items you can charm off them. Some regular enemies at the Black Omen even give up mega-elixers which refill everyone's HP and MP! The final boss in the Black Omen has some really, really good loot, and it is kind of unfortunate that the only way to get it is to have Ayla.
I didn't actually make my way through the Black Omen until a few years after I got Chrono Trigger, I had beaten the game before, but never tackled its real challenge. I'm not actually sure why, but finally one day my cousins were over and said, "you have to do this, now." And we did, and it was great. To get Chrono Trigger's full story, you really need to tackle the Black Omen.
The game's final confrontation is, of course, Lavos. I talk about the actual character below, but the battle is really fun. He has three "forms", but you're basically breaking further and further inside of him. I always thought the second form was the coolest, because not only are you inside of him at that point, but he takes up the entire screen and tosses some really awesome attacks at you. The outer shell is also very cool, but very easily beaten with the right characters and attacks. The final form is actually a bit disappointing, in my opinion, especially since the game tries to trick you with putting the "real" Lavos in one of the characters to the side. It's just... weird. Still a great fight though.
I'm going to be a bit vague here for spoiler reasons, but my favorite moment in the game is on top of Death Peak on the rescue mission. The moment is incredibly beautiful and moving, the single best cinematic scene I've ever seen in a 16-bit game.
Chrono Trigger is rather famous for not only being a great game, but for its multiple endings. I can't remember the exact number, but the game features something like fourteen endings. First, you beat the game once and you unlock New Game + mode. New Game + is pretty much a standard in gaming these days, but I'm pretty sure Chrono Trigger was the originator. With New Game +, you start the game over at the same level that you beat it with, along with all the items and tech knowledge. I honestly can't think of anything you lose. This means you can plow through the game and even actually beat Lavos earlier in the game in the Hopeless Boss Fight. That's how awesome this game is.
But the individual endings are unlocked by beating the game at different points in the story. Along with being uber-powered, you're allowed access to the Lavos fight at nearly any time in the game, even right at the beginning. So if you beat Lavos before Event A happens, you get on ending. If you beat him between Event A and Event B, you get another ending, and so on. Some of the endings feature alternate pasts and futures, and you can tell the writers had a lot of fun with it. The "ultimate" ending is unlocked by beating the game as soon as possible, and allows you to run around in The End of Time and talk with the Dream Team and the rest of the developers. Very, very cool.
Techs were one of Chrono Trigger's most unique aspects and is what still stands it apart from many RPGs today. Chrono Trigger allowed for three characters in a battle, and each character had a static list of techniques available to them, I think just eight in total per character. Some of them were magic spells and others were more advanced physical attacks. The awesome part was that for every character combination, there were three double techs available to them. Basically, two characters combine one of their particulars techniques to unleash even more fury on the bad guys! Not only were they effective and useful, but they looked really, really cool too. And we can't forget triple techs! Every party combination featuring Crono (and a few more) had one triple tech available to them. All three characters would do something totally insane to the opposition, some of these were actually really funny too. I never really found them as useful as single or double techs, but it was always cool to know they were there for random purposes.
So not only were techniques available plus the other typical RPG staples (items, run, etc.), but battling was highly positional dependent. What I mean by that is Chrono Trigger didn't have random battles, when you encountered an enemy, or group, you would almost immediately do battle with them. Your characters might arrange themselves a bit, but they would pretty much start fighting from where they were standing, same with the enemies. So that means if you had a technique, such as Slash, that would attack a line of enemies, if you targeted a particular enemy, any enemies behind him would also get hit by the attack. You could really take advantage of this with double techs such as Fire Whirl, in which Crono did a circle around a particular enemy while Lucca lit his sword on fire, any enemies within that circle would also be hit! There were also some techinques, Robo's Area Bomb in particular, that you couldn't perform if you were too close or far away from an enemy! This kind of depth to the battle system made Chrono Trigger awesome!
Well, he's the silent protagonist of the game and wields a sweet katana. I thought he was pretty cool when growing up, but now I think he's rather lame. I think those feelings started to appear when I saw some of Akira Toriyama's other work in Dragonball Z. Both Crono and Marle are essentially ripoffs of Goku/Gohan and Bulma. Really kind of lame now that I think about it, actually, the guy is still drawing like that in Dragon Quest 8 which was released in 2005, come on man! Crono does have the awesome spell Luminaire though, which makes up for a lot.
I always thought she was really hot. She had a lot going for her, she was a princess disguised as a tomboyish red-head, she wielded a crossbow instead of a lame bow and arrow, and even though she was the healer she could kick some butt. Also I always knew she was in love with Crono (which meant me!) so I had favored her over others. The thing is, I never knew how to say her name! I started out calling her Marla but one of my friends called her Marley. Now I call her Marl, rhyming with Carl. The Japanese romanization of her name is Maaru, which kind of makes me want to stick with Marl. Her royal name was Nadia, which I would often later name her when starting the game. Then Lucca would be like, "Nadia is Princess Nadia!!!"
I've grown to like Lucca a lot more over the years. I saw her as the brainy dork of the group with a crippled mom, but once I got around to really using her, I realized she was a really good magician and her Wonder Shot gun is amazing. I always thought it was cool though when she was in battle and her targeted enemy was really close, instead of shooting it, she would clunk it on the head with a funny sound effect. Marle did that too but it was more of a boring thump than a clunk.
Robo... never been a big fan. I've tried to like him my last couple of play throughs, but he's kind of a one dimensional character. It seems like there is a lot of potential, and none of this is really tapped until you leave him behind in 600 AD to tend to Fiona's forest. When you time travel to 1000 AD and he has a shrine built around him, that's pretty awesome. And of course, that triggers the amazing fireside conversation and Lucca's sidequest. He is rather powerful though but why use him when you can use...
What a frustrating character. As the daughter of the insane Queen Zeal and Magus' big sister, she plays a pretty pivotal role in the game. But her fate is never explained (until the Nintendo DS re-release)! Ugh, always ticked me off that this was never wrapped up. Okay yes, she's in Chrono Cross (at the very, very end), but nothing in that game satisfied me. I heard the DS version has some new info on her though. Hope it's enough to satisfy me.
If you forgot, Tata is the little bastard child who steals Frog's Hero Medal and is mistakenly hailed as the Real Hero. There's a funny scene though where he hightails it out of the Denadoro Mountains because of all the bad guys there.
One of the best written characters in the game, Dalton is Queen Zeal's power-hungry underling and when the floating islands of Zeal collapse, Dalton steps in to rule! He's throws out the best lines in the game, including: "You're excess baggage!" At one point he calls upon the power of the Golem Boss and you're all freaked out because you think he's going to be really hard (I think at this point you've fought the Golem Twins who were really tough) but he's too afraid to fight and you can just beat up on him with normal attacks. Anyways, I don't think we really get Dalton's story wrapped up... his megalomania gets the best of him and he may just die a fiery death upon his Blackbird. Too bad.
As the main human antogonist, Queen Zeal (Schala and Magus' mother) really gets sidelined. After you destroy her Kingdom, she gets all pissed off and hides out in the Black Omen from the rest of the game. You can of course confront her there, and the "real" path to beat the game is through her. She's tough, but she's more there just to steal from, she's got some good loot.
Lavos is an alien parasite who burrows into the planet in the year 65,000,000 B.C. so that he can suck the life out of the planet and produce a bunch of alien spawn to send off to more planets. It's really a genius concept. In the game you actually get to see Lavos land (pretty much on top of Azala) and also re-emerge in the year 1999. Very awesome scenes that define the game. The whole point of Chrono Trigger is to stop and kill Lavos before he can emerge and put the world into an apocalyptic state (see 2300 A.D. in the game). You would think it would have been better to somehow surf Lavos in before he could hit the planet and destroy him in space, ah well.
Melchior, Balthasar, and Gaspar all used to live in 12,000 B.C. and were Queen Zeal's greatest thinkers. Called wise men and gurus, the three sympathized for the non-magical folk on the surface of the planet and were eventually sucked through a time portal created using the power of Lavos. Melchior, the Guru of Life, was sent to about 1000 A.D. and forges and sells weapons. He helps reforge the Masamune which he created originally (I suppose in 12,000 B.C.?) and is an all around helpful guy early in the game.
The saddest story of the wise men, Gaspar the Guru of Time ends up landing at The End of Time. A dark and bleak place where nothing lives. Gaspar is left their alone where time stands still. He's a great mystery for much of the game and his true purpose is to simply help out Crono fix the planet and erradicate Lavos, while mopping up Queen Zeal along the way.
The Guru of Reason, Balthasar, gets chucked into the year 2300 A.D. and uses his brilliance to build the Epoch time machine. Except it took the mad, mad brilliance of Dalton to put wings on it and make it fly! Though I guess time travel is a lot more difficult than flying. It appears he never used it himself though.
Nu is a large blue being that appears in different places throughout the game. I think his most poignant appearance is in 2300 A.D. in Balthasar's laboratory. Balthasar invented the Epoch time machine and before his life is over, transfers all his knowledge to a Nu. Right before Crono and gang claim the Epoch for their own, the Nu asks you for a final request: to switch him off forever. It's actually really sad to think about turning off the mind forever of one of the greatest thinkers in the Chrono Trigger universe. But you have to do it to proceed with the game.
I treasured the strategy guide for Chrono Trigger about as much as I did the actual game. The guide was just beautiful with tons of Toriyama drawn art on every page. Chrono Trigger is really not that complex of a game though, so the guide is more or less unnecessary, but it's still an important part of my collection.
Soon after getting though, my cousins and I discovered the awesomeness of carbon copying. Basically, you lay down a cool piece of art, lay down a piece of carbon paper beneath that page, and then a regular sheet of paper underneath that. Then you trace the art with a hard point and the carbon presses on the paper and you have a near perfect outline of your favorite character! Of course, this can be a messy process, especially with thirteen year olds and their younger sisters. The carbon would rub off on everything, you would leave imprints on the art, and everything would just start falling apart from the pressure being put on it.
My Chrono Trigger guide was the main victim of the carbon copying since the art was so vivid and varied. The condition of guide started to suffer though as everyone was flattening pages or accidentally laying the carbon paper the wrong way, not good! I don't regret it though, good times had by all.
Chrono Trigger features some of my favorite game music of all time, and the soundtrack as a whole is awesome. I never actually owned anything official until the Orchestra Extra Soundtrack came with the Nintendo DS version, I just had tons of midis and eventually some mp3s. The Lavos themes were my favorite, and in sixth grade, we were making websites in computer class and I filled mine with Chrono Trigger midi music on every page. The teacher even told him, "I really like that lavos_b2.midi!" Yeah teach', so do I.