Ask anyone what their favorite RPGs from the SNES era were, and you can almost bet Chrono Trigger will be on their list. Creative battles, an interesting storyline and the ability to go back and play the game again with powered up characters via New Games + made this a game people just did not want to miss.
When you talk about what really separates Chrono Trigger apart from other RPGs of that time, however, many of us who played it will point to one particular memorable moment within the game. This one event completely changes the game, and it will probably go down as one of the bigger surprises in gaming. One event in the game just stands out more than anything else, and that event is the focus of this edition of “Why We Game.”
WARNING: In order to talk about this event, I will have to spoil one of the major events of Chrono Trigger. If you have never played the game and intend to at some point, STOP READING NOW! Trust me, you do not want this spoiled.
The Silent Hero
You start out Chrono Trigger taking on the role of Crono, a young man who is just looking to have fun at the Guardias Millennial Fair. You meet up with Marle, a girl on her own looking to have a good time as well, and soon the two of you are running around and just generally having a blast. Together you head up to where your friend Lucca is demonstrating her newest invention, a teleportation pad. As no one seems willing to give it a try, you step up as the guinea pig and are successfully transported from one pad to the other. Marle decides she wants to try it as well, but something goes horribly wrong; the teleporter reacts to her pendant, and she vanishes without a trace. As Lucca and her father try to figure out what has happened, you grab the pendant, left behind when Marle vanished, and convince Lucca to send you after her.
And thus the adventure begins. Next thing you know, you are rocketing both backwards and forwards through time trying to keep the all powerful Lavos from destroying the world. You will meet several different friends and enemies who can join your party, and you soon find yourself having to choose just three characters to travel with, one of them always having to be the silent Crono.
That’s right: you never get to see Crono speak throughout the game. You know he does talk, as the various characters will react to things he says, but you never get to actually see what he says, with a couple of exceptions where choose among a few answers he can give. Crono becomes the silent but powerful hero who really helps propel the stroyline forward, and he is the one who truly seems to hold the group of heroes together. Square (this game came out before the company became Square Enix) really went out of its way to make you identify with Crono, quite a feet considering he does not really have a voice.
Which is why you are not prepared for what happens to him.
As the storyline progresses, you find yourself in the magical floating kingdom of Zeal. You discover the kingdom’s leader, Queen Zeal, is preparing to use a device called the Mammon Machine to draw energy from Lavos deep within the earth, and this could truly be disastrous. Crono and company do their best to put a stop to this, but Queen Zeal banishes them from the kingdom and locks the time gate which had allowed them to get there in the first place. Crono is not about to let this stop him, however, and after finding a time machine in 2300 AD, the heroes are able to return to Zeal for round two.
Second time around, things seem to be going better. Crono and party are able to make their way down to where the Mammon Machine is located, but they do not get there in time. Lavos is awakened, and the battle against him begins.
Okay, battle is a little too kind. This turns out to be more of a slaughter. Even if you have taken a fair amount of time leveling up your characters, you have no chance against Lavos. He is way too powerful, and he soon reduces your party to nothing. As the player, all you can do is wonder just where things are going, as it quickly becomes apparent this is a fight you are not ready to face.
That’s when it happens. Crono steps forward to attack Lavos. Lavos hits him with a powerful blast…
And Crono is vaporized.
The rest of the heroes are transported away from the battle, but it is too late to save the one who has been the constant in the game so far. As the player, you are just left with one question.
What Do I Do Now?
For those of you who never played Chrono Trigger back on the SNES, it may be a little hard to describe just how hard this event hits you as a player. This was several years before Final Fantasy VII, so Square had not developed the reputation for killing off its characters. On top of that, this was not just a main character dead; it was THE main charater dead. As a gamer, you found yourself wondering if you had maybe done somehing wrong, until the game’s narative makes it clear this was supposed to happen this way. The only thing I can compare with it is the nuke sequemce in Call of Duty 4, and even that does not quite work as in that game you have been playing as two separate characters before that event.
As the game continues, you find yourself back at the End of Time, where you find out all may not be lost. Through the use of a device called a time egg (or chrono trigger, as the better localized DS version refers to it), you should be able to replace Crono at the moment of his death with a stand in replica. The only trick is finding one.
The Game is Forever Changed
While the emotional impact of losing the game’s hero and getting him back is a major turning point in Chrono Trigger’s storyline, the impact on the gameplay itself cannot be overlooked. One of the things that really set the game apart was its tech: a combination of special attacks and magic each character could use. As a group of characters gained experience together, they would unlock tech attacks which were used in combination with each other, allowing two or all three characters to combine forces in devastating attacks.
So why do I mention this when discussing the importance of Crono’s “death?” Remember how I mentioned you have to have him in your party before this occurs? Afterward, you can have any of your three heroes in the party. This allows you to open up a whole new group of triple techs which were not available when you had to have Crono in the party, including Dark Eternal, the most devastating multi-enemy attack in the game. You can also level up the rest of the characters to match Crono’s level, which ended up higher than the others since you always had him in combat. Basically, this one event changes the game completely, as even after you rescue Crono, you are not restricted by having to keep him in your active party.
There are many reasons why Chrono Trigger is considered one of the best RPGs ever released on the SNES. Still, as I mentioned earlier, nothing that happens in the game resonates with fans quite as much as the death and subsequent rescue of the silent hero. This turning point is another example of why we game.