Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chrono Trigger

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Chrono Trigger
Developer - Square
Publisher - Square
Release date - June 29, 2001

Chrono Trigger 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 the remaining tracks to Final Fantasy series 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 the 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, again ported by Tose, 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 a critical and commercial success upon release and is frequently cited as one of the best video games of all time. Nintendo Power magazine described 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 PlayStation iterations have shipped 2.65 million copies as of March 2003. The version for the Nintendo DS sold 790,000 copies as of March 2009.


Chrono Trigger takes place in a world familiar to Earth, with eras such as the prehistoric age, in which primitive humans and dinosaurs share the earth; the Middle Ages, replete with knights, monsters, and magic; and the post-apocalyptic future, where destitute 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 periods without first having to travel to the End of Time.

Chrono Trigger's six playable characters (plus one optional character) come from different eras of history. Chrono Trigger begins in AD 1000 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 R-66Y), a robot with near-human personality created to assist humans. Lying dormant in the future, Robo is found and repaired by Lucca, and 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 playable characters are Frog and Magus. Frog originated in AD 600. He is a former squire once named Glenn, who was turned into an anthropomorphic frog by Magus, who also killed 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 who wage war against humanity under the leadership of Magus, a powerful sorcerer. Magus's seclusion conceals a long-lost past; he was formerly 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, the game's main antagonist 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.


Chrono Trigger features standard role-playing video game gameplay. 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 Japanese 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; successful attacks reduce that character's hit points, which 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. 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, excluding money, with which he or she ended the previous play through. However, 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, Final Fantasy X-2, and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.


Chrono Trigger was conceived in 1992 by Hironobu Sakaguchi, producer and creator of the Final Fantasy series; Yuji Horii, director and creator of the Dragon Quest series; and Akira Toriyama, creator of the Dragon Ball comics series. Traveling to the United States to research computer graphics, the three decided to create something that "no one had done before". After spending over a year considering the difficulties of developing a new game, they received a call from Kazuhiko Aoki, who offered to produce. The four met and spent four days brainstorming ideas for the game. Square convened 50–60 developers, including scenario writer Masato Kato, whom Square designated story planner. Development started in early 1993. An uncredited Square employee suggested that the team develop a time travel-themed game, which Kato initially opposed, fearing repetitive, dull gameplay. Kato and Horii then met several hours per day during the first year of development to write the game's plot. Square intended to license the work under the Seiken Densetsu franchise and gave it the working title of "Maru Island"; Hiromichi Tanaka (the future director of Chrono Cross) monitored Toriyama's early designs. The team hoped to release it on Nintendo's planned Super Famicom Disk Drive; when Nintendo canceled the project, Square reoriented the game for release on a Super Famicom cartridge and rebranded it as Chrono Trigger. Tanaka credited the ROM catridge platform for enabling seamless transition to battles on the field map.

Aoki ultimately produced Chrono Trigger, while director credits were attributed to Akihiko Matsui, Yoshinori Kitase and Takashi Tokita. Toriyama designed the game's aesthetic, including characters, monsters, vehicles, and the look of each era. Masato Kato also contributed character ideas and designs. Kato planned to feature Gaspar as a playable character and Toriyama sketched him, but he was cut early in development. The development staff studied the drawings of Toriyama to approximate his style. Sakaguchi and Horii supervised; Sakaguchi was responsible for the game's overall system and contributed several monster ideas. Other notable designers include Tetsuya Takahashi, the graphic director, and Yasuyuki Honne, Tetsuya Nomura, and Yusuke Naora, who worked as field graphic artists. Yasuhika Kamata programmed graphics, and cited Ridley Scott's visual work in the film Alien as an inspiration for the game's lighting. Kamata made the game's luminosity and color choice lay between that of Secret of Mana and the Final Fantasy series. Features originally intended to be used in Secret of Mana or Final Fantasy IV, also under development at the same time, were appropriated by the Chrono Trigger team.

Yuji Horii, a fan of time travel fiction (such as the TV series The Time Tunnel), fostered a theme of time travel in his general story outline of Chrono Trigger with input from Akira Toriyama. Horii liked the scenario of the grandfather paradox surrounding Marle. Concerning story planning, Horii commented, "If there's a fairground, I just write that there's a fairground; I don't write down any of the details. Then the staff brainstorm and come up with a variety of attractions to put in. Sakaguchi contributed some minor elements, including the character Gato; he liked Marle's drama and reconciliation with her father. Masato Kato subsequently edited and completed the outline by writing the majority of the game's story, including all the events of the 12,000 BC era. He took pains to avoid what he described as "a long string of errands ... [such as] 'do this', 'take this', 'defeat these monsters', or 'plant this flag'. Kato and other developers held a series of meetings to ensure continuity, usually attended by around 30 personnel. Kato and Horii initially proposed Crono's death, though they intended he stay dead; the party would have retrieved an earlier, living version of him to complete the quest. Square deemed the scenario too depressing and asked that Crono be brought back to life later in the story. Kato also devised the system of multiple endings because he could not branch the story out to different paths. Yoshinori Kitase and Takashi Tokita then wrote various subplots. Kato became friends with composer Yasunori Mitsuda during development, and they would collaborate on several future projects. Katsuhisa Higuchi programmed the battle system, which hosted combat on the map without transition to a special battleground as most previous Square games had done. Higuchi noted extreme difficulty in loading battles properly without slow-downs or a brief, black loading screen. The game's use of animated monster sprites consumed much more memory than previous Final Fantasy games, which used static enemy graphics.

Hironobu Sakaguchi likened the development of Chrono Trigger to "play[ing] around with Toriyama's universe," citing the inclusion of humorous sequences in the game that would have been "impossible with something like Final Fantasy. When Square Co. suggested a non-human player character, developers created Frog by adapting one of Toriyama's sketches. The team created the End of Time to help players with hints, worrying that they might become stuck and need to consult a walkthrough. The game's testers had previously complained that Chrono Trigger was too difficult; as Horii explained, "It's because we know too much. The developers think the game's just right; that they're being too soft. They're thinking from their own experience. The puzzles were the same. Lots of players didn't figure out things we thought they'd get easily. Sakaguchi later cited the unusual desire of beta testers to play the game a second time or "travel through time again" as an affirmation of the New Game + feature: "Wherever we could, we tried to make it so that a slight change in your behavior caused subtle differences in people's reactions, even down to the smallest details ... I think the second playthrough will hold a whole new interest. The game's reuse of locations due to time traveling made bug-fixing difficult, as corrections would cause unintended consequences in other eras.


Chrono Trigger was scored primarily by Yasunori Mitsuda, with contributions from veteran Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu, and one track composed by Noriko Matsueda. A sound programmer at the time, Mitsuda was unhappy with his pay and threatened to leave Square if he could not compose music. Hironobu Sakaguchi suggested he score Chrono Trigger, remarking, "maybe your salary will go up. Mitsuda composed new music and drew on a personal collection of pieces composed over the previous two years. He reflected, "I wanted to create music that wouldn't fit into any established genre ... music of an imaginary world. The game's director, Masato Kato, was my close friend, and so I'd always talk with him about the setting and the scene before going into writing. Mitsuda slept in his studio several nights, and attributed certain pieces—such as the game's ending theme, To Far Away Times—to inspiring dreams. He later attributed this song to an idea he was developing before Chrono Trigger, reflecting that the tune was made in dedication to "a certain person with whom [he] wanted to share a generation". He also tried to use leitmotifs of the Chrono Trigger main theme to create a sense of consistency in the soundtrack. Mitsuda wrote each tune to be around two minutes long before repeating, unusual for Square's games at the time. Mitsuda suffered a hard drive crash that lost around forty in-progress tracks. After Mitsuda contracted stomach ulcers, Uematsu joined the project to compose ten pieces and finish the score. Mitsuda returned to watch the ending with the staff before the game's release, crying upon seeing the finished scene.

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