Rethinking Chrono Trigger’s Follow Up Chrono Cross After 23 Years

Photos: Square Enix

Photos: Square Enix
The drawing: Carl Gustafson

When we were kids, we saved the world, simply put.

That was a big part of the attraction Chrono player, the 1995 SNES Square masterpiece about a group of bright and colorful young heroes who cross time and space to undo a terrible future. Yes, the game can get bleak. Yes, heroes can die. (RIP – briefly – the protagonist Chrono himself.) But at the core of the game was child-friendly moral simplicity: With enough time and opportunity (and time machines), any evil could be undone through righteousness and will. Chrono, Marl, Luca and their friends were the ultimate victors. The end of the world was averted. And despite protests from that nightmare-inducing game on screen, the future, in fact, agreed to change.

And then they all died.

Believe what we know

Believe what we know
screenshot: Chrono player

Few of the sequels were radically inconsistent with the main vibration From their parent material like 1999 Chrono player tracking Chrono Cross—So much so that the two men who served as major mentors in its creation, story writer Masato Kato and producer Hiromichi Tanaka, have greatly discounted the idea that the game could be considered a game. Chrono player sequel at all. (As mentioned by both creators in subsequent interviews, they didn’t intentionally name the damn thing Chrono Trigger 2after all.)

Twenty-three years later – and with a shiny new remodel, Radical Dreamers EditionJust last week – those protests look a little disingenuous. chrono cross Trade liberally in pictures chrono player, And the accompanying love for her characters among fans. There’s a reason the game’s first few hours left out of typical versions of fan-favorite characters Frog, Lucca, and Magus (Glenn, Luccia, and Guile, respectively) in quick succession. And though it takes time to unravel, chrono cross‘plot’ It is primarily concerned with connecting the biggest, and most fanciful, ending of the original game’s story.

As someone who wrote his share of Chrono player Fans in the four-year difference between the two games, I can certainly speak. Eleven was the perfect age for Chrono player To hit him for me – even more than my lover too Final Fantasy IIIIt was specially designed for a kid who loves Back to the future Japanese role-playing movies and games. The fact that both were much easier And It was shorter than many of its contemporaries meant it was the first JRPG that actually managed to rent my way through the beating. Really, I was obsessed with: the colorful artwork of the game, which he presented Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama; With the perfect soundtrack by Yasunori Matsuda SNES soundtrack; With the quiet nobility of characters like the frog, a medieval sheriff swordsman turned into an evil curse. (and then LaterYou discover that the man who cursed him is not actually like that badthen they have to work together to beat fact The bad guy, and…. in hindsight, Chrono player My first exposure was to Anime Storytelling 101.)

At the age of fifteen, and with some serious attempts to expand the franchise informally through my back-sighting writing efforts, pursuing it left me much cooler. I wanted to like it; Hell, I wanted to love him. But in spite of my efforts, chrono cross He never seemed to love me again.

Playing it now, in the wake of its re-release, it’s easy to watch the game out of the unenviable context of constantly comparing it to the greatest video game a fat son has tested to date. In terms of its advantages, chrono cross Sometimes it’s confusing, sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but it’s always beautiful. The really popular Matsuda soundtrack hasn’t lost a stride in the past two decades, and the game’s battle system – one of Square’s endless manipulations with turn-based combat – is an interesting approach to imposing stakes and rewards on battles. The character’s art is bright and beautiful, and the plot’s focus on alternate universes is rich in all sorts of new possibilities, even if it allows itself to get sidetracked later.

But what surprised me was how quickly I came back cross It forced me to re-evaluate a thesis I had nurtured for years: that the game was an inherently adolescent response to a child-friendly nature Chrono player. Attractive idea on the surface. cross Much darker than the previous game, and while not continuing Like Dim (or majoring student psychology) like formerly Tanaka Xenogears (A very complex, ambitious, and ultimately somewhat silly Square PlayStation One RPG crown jewel), yet it feels a deliberate backlash against the massive success of its predecessor.

Back in my late thirties, though, it amazed me relentlessly depression This game. Even in the idyllic setting-off village of Arni, the random characters you talk to will mourn the roads not traveled, or ponder the way the ocean will hold out for all of us. By the time you meet the grave of the protagonist Serge – whose death in one world and survival in the other is the backbone that crossTwo parallel truths hang – I began to realize that what I was seeing wasn’t a game about an angry teenage rebellion from a previous success; It was in which the creators – who at the time were my age now – treated a deep sense of futility at the idea of ​​changing the world for the ever better.

chrono cross

chrono cross
picture: Square Enix

Which helps explain, perhaps, the one thing I’ve never forgiven chrono cross For, the most ruthless decision Kato made when writing itOne of those story decisions is so sweeping in its implications that it must be consciously ignored in order for earlier work in a series to be received in the same spirit in which it was released. To Intelligence: He Rewrote (or Perhaps Just Expanded) The Rules of Time Travel in chrono universe, reveals that changes to the timeline are made through time travel – that is, basically, everything is individual to the player and the main characters in the universe. Chrono player achieved – it simply did not change history; It plunged everyone in the pre-existing timeline into a dimension of endless cold darkness. Excuse me!

Twenty years later, this is still the painful and the thread that will remain forever cross Among the group of games that I can truly love. Because Chrono player It is inherently a game about changing the future for the better. In the most memorable scene, the cute, drawn characters simply speculate that their entire time travel adventure has been directed by an invisible entity (implicitly the planet the game is on) who wants to give its people a chance to save themselves by watching the entirety of its existence.

chrono cross She can’t stand the simplicity of that moment, and so she does everything she can to retroactively destroy it. In turn, it’s a game about how little we actually do. Its most memorable scenes focus on characters being manipulated, controlled, and transported to their locations by unseen agents. It indicates at certain points that said entity, once loving, became so deeply hated by humanity for its mistreatment of the planet that it became complicit in our extinction. It reveals, almost incidentally, that terrible things have happened to heroes Operator It wasn’t long after we said goodbye. (All of this was only confirmed in the 2008 Nintendo DS re-release of Chrono playerwhich ties the game more closely to it cross By adding scenes and side quests that highlight the sheer absurdity of Crono’s mission and the company’s time-consuming endeavor.)

At 37, the ideology chrono cross Hits more honest to me than ever. It’s sad and well-written, and as I replay it I find myself touched by his lethargic ideas about death and choice – far beyond what I mostly remember from the dialogue from this era of games. But despite all that, I can’t forgive her for killing the friends she made as a kid, or for turning her back on the idea that a kid with a time machine could really make the world a better place.