But… the future refused to change
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a part of the soundtrack, a gameplay mechanic, a line of dialogue, or anything else about the game that is particularly noteworthy and/or awesome.
This series will no doubt contain spoilers for the games being discussed, so keep that in mind if you plan on playing the game for the first time.
This entry is all about Chrono Trigger. Feel free to share some of your own favorite things about the game in the comments!
It’s not easy being green
I absolutely love when games give us unconventional heroes. Chrono Trigger is full of them; apart from the three main protagonists, the party also recruits a humanoid frog, a robot, a cave woman, and even a villainous mage. But let’s face it, the best character by far has got to be Frog.
Frog is a very mysterious character at first. He sort of appears out of nowhere to help Crono and Lucca out of a jam, and doesn’t really explain who he is, where he came from, or why he is a bipedal talking frog. But the party just sort of accepts this strange fellow and welcomes him into their midst without question. He is really good with a sword, after all!
Later, it’s revealed that Frog’s real name is actually Glenn, and he used to be a human before Magus killed his friend Cyrus and transformed him into an amphibian. He has since dedicated his life to tracking down and defeating Magus to get revenge for the death of Cyrus, and probably to try and get his old body back as well.
Frog is just all around cool, though. I love everything about him: his triumphant theme song, his victory animation where he flexes his surprisingly huge muscles, his fancy Old English accent, the way he hops around instead of walking, and simply the basic fact that he’s a walking, talking frog wearing clothes and wielding a large sword. He’s just the greatest!
Moral dilemmas at the Millennial Fair
Chrono Trigger is one of those games that makes the player very aware of their actions. Almost as soon as the game begins, the player is being judged, even when they’re just trying to enjoy a lighthearted festival. Of course, they won’t be aware of this until later on.
At a certain point during Crono’s adventure, he is apprehended by the chancellor of Guardia Castle for allegedly kidnapping the princess, Marle, and is swiftly put on trial. As the trial progresses, the player may quickly become overcome with dread when they realize their seemingly simple gameplay choices are in question. Remember that man’s lunch you stole at the fair? Or the girl with the lost cat who you failed to help? Or the moment you bumped into Marle and then went to pick up the pendant she dropped? The player may not have thought much about these things at the time, but now these simple actions are being used as evidence against their character in a life or death situation.
Now, in reality the choices don’t actually affect much. Crono will still be thrown in prison and given the death penalty whether or not he’s found guilty. Of course, I had no idea of this at the time. I figured I had completely screwed myself over by stealing lunches and grabbing dropped pendants, and I was starting to feel really bad about the way I had been playing. I was so used to being able to do whatever I wanted in games, without repercussion. Going into other people’s houses and smashing all their pots? No problem! Taking money and items from their cabinets without their consent? Go right ahead! But now, in Chrono Trigger, I’m suddenly being judged, and I look like a complete jerk.
Later, Crono finds out that the chancellor is, in fact, a fake and that the trial was a set-up. But even so, it still got me to think twice about every action I took in Chrono Trigger from that point on. You never know when some seemingly insignificant choice could have major consequences!
Yearnings of the wind
Chrono Trigger has an excellent soundtrack in general, but there’s one song in particular that I love more than the rest.
“Wind Scene” plays on the overworld map in 600 AD. I’m honestly not entirely sure what it is about this song that makes me love it so much, but hearing it always leaves me feeling peaceful and happy. Whenever I play Chrono Trigger, as soon as I get to the Middle Ages, I just sit around on the overworld and listen to this song play on a loop. It’s just so lovely and mystical, I can’t get enough of it.
A few other songs come close, including the heroic “Frog’s Theme” and the mysterious “Schala’s Theme” (which was bizarrely sampled in a rap song by Wiz Khalifa… anyone remember that?), but “Wind Scene” is my comfort song. It never fails to lift my spirits.
All life begins with Nu and ends with Nu
If Chrono Trigger had a mascot, it would probably be the Nu. Nus are odd, round creatures found throughout the game. They exist in all eras, from 65,000,000 BC all the way up to 2300 AD. They can be merchants, enemies, assistants, and regular old NPCs.
But what exactly is a Nu, anyway? The one found in 2300 AD is actually a robot built by Belthasar, programmed with his memories and left in charge of the time-traveling ship, the Epoch. So are all of the Nus robots? It’s not really clear, although some of the other Nus the player can come across behave more like living creatures than machines.
One example is my very favorite Nu. He can be found walking around the Zeal Palace, behaving very strangely and sidling sideways across a platform. He politely asks Crono to scratch his back for him. After a nice, satisfying scratch, a message pops up which says, “You discovered the Nu’s scratch-point!” while a little victory tune plays (Oh good, I’ve been wondering where their scratch-point was the entire game!). This doesn’t actually do anything significant, but it’s still pretty much the best NPC interaction I’ve ever had. God I love those Nus!
This is the first time I’ve featured a sound effect as a noteworthy Experience Points memory, but this one definitely deserves praise. The sound of Lavos screaming is something that has stuck firmly in my mind whenever I think about Chrono Trigger.
It’s a truly terrifying noise; a high-pitched, bloodcurdling roar which lasts just a bit longer than one might expect. It’s got this otherworldly quality to it, and it definitely does the job of making Lavos seem like a frightening, formidable foe.
In terms of classic villainous sound effects, I’d put Lavos’s scream just about at the top of the list, well above Kefka’s laugh, Sinistar’s evil taunting, and even the horrifying ambient noises of Giygas. It’s a scream that says, “I will destroy you and everything you love,” and that’s exactly what he’ll do should Crono and friends fail in their mission.
The kingdom in the clouds
The world of Chrono Trigger is relatively small compared to most RPGs, but the game makes up for that by having the player explore through several unique eras, each with its own distinct theme and alterations to the world. Starting in the present day, players can travel all the way back to prehistoric times in a land roaming with dinosaurs and cavemen, and up through the ages to the future world, a desolate wasteland of machinery and food shortages.
But the most intriguing time period is the Age of Antiquity in 12,000 BC. When Crono and the gang first arrive in Antiquity, the world appears to be even worse off than the post-apocalyptic future. It’s essentially an Ice Age, with a powerful blizzard covering everything with snow and ice and only a few scattered caves are present for shelter. That is until the party comes across a strange building known as the Skyway, which teleports them up into the clouds to the floating island kingdom of Zeal.
Zeal is a kingdom created by magic as a way to escape the harsh winter climate. Only the Enlightened Ones, people who can use magic, are allowed in the kingdom, with normal folk cast away to live on the frozen continent underneath. Not only is Zeal a beautiful place, bright and sunny with a waterfall flowing down into the eternal blizzard below, but it’s also full of secrets and strange occurrences. The kingdom is home to many strange individuals, books overflowing with magical power, and all sorts of neat stuff (not to mention an excellent theme song). A few buildings even have hidden passages which can only be found by players clever enough to solve a certain riddle.
I bet it would be really fun to live in a place like Zeal, even though many of its denizens are rather snobbish, and in some cases, total assholes (I’m looking at you, Dalton!). Luckily, there are other much nicer people like Schala and Janus to balance out the snobbery. I’ll just chill with them instead.
The nature of machinery
Chrono Trigger has a ton of lengthy, rewarding side quests, my favorite of which begins in the Middle Ages (and actually turns out to be two side quests in one!). A woman named Fiona lives in a barren desert wasteland, which used to be a thriving forest before enemies appeared and destroyed it. After defeating the fiend lurking in the desert, the party returns to Fiona, who is eager to start planting trees to restore the forest.
Unfortunately, Fiona fears it will take ages to plant enough trees for the forest to return to its former glory. She certainly would not be able to finish the task in her lifetime, as it could take centuries. Overhearing this, the party’s mechanical friend, Robo, kindly offers his services to help Fiona plant trees. Robo bids farewell to Crono and friends, and tells them to look for him in the future. Outside in the desert, Robo can be seen working diligently by plowing the land, sowing seeds, and even acting as a scarecrow (adorable!).
400 years later, the party arrives to find a huge, lush forest in place of the desert. In the center of the forest is a shrine dedicated to its robotic creator. Lucca reactivates Robo, who is pleased to see everyone again after hundreds of years, and proposes a party to celebrate their reunion.
During their celebratory campfire in the forest, a second side quest begins. A casual remark from Marle leaves Lucca dwelling on her memories. Late at night, after everyone else has fallen asleep, Lucca steps out to open up a portal back to a moment from her past. It’s a deeply personal, tragic moment where Lucca’s mother gets caught in a machine, resulting in an injury that leaves her paralyzed. A young Lucca, powerless, must stand by and watch it all happen.
But this time, future Lucca can intervene! Well, possibly. If the player is very quick and careful, there is a password to discover which can shut off the machine, saving Lucca’s mother from a life without walking. This is actually very difficult to do correctly, though, so most players will unfortunately fail, leaving Lucca to watch her mother’s accident all over again.
Afterwards, Lucca returns to the present to find Robo waiting for her. If the past remains unchanged, the two have a touching conversation where Robo offers to donate his legs to Lucca’s mother so she can walk again. Now, this may sound cold of me, but I actually prefer to leave the past as is and not rescue Lucca’s mother, just because the cutscene between Lucca and Robo afterwards is so much better. It shows a funny, caring side of Robo where he offers to help make Lucca happier, and Lucca calls him a friend which he seems to be pleasantly surprised by. It’s such a heartwarming exchange, even though it comes at a cost.
Past Experience Points
.01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
.02: Shadow of the Colossus
.05: Demon’s Souls
.06: No More Heroes
.07: Paper Mario
.08: Persona 4
.09: Final Fantasy IX
.10: Mega Man Legends
.11: Rayman Origins
.12: Metal Slug 3
.13: Animal Crossing
.14: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
.15: Super Mario Sunshine
.16: Final Fantasy VII