Timeless: A History of Chrono Trigger
How a Super Nintendo JRPG developed by a Dream Team of creators is still finding new fans 25 years later
Nobody likes to throw up at school.
But even if I could travel back in time to that fateful morning in early 1996, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I arrived at school groggy-eyed from staying up all night slugging coffee and working on Chrono Trigger fanfic. (Don’t ask me why a 12 year old was allowed to drink coffee all night, ask my parents.) My grade seven teacher had told us to create a sequel to Madeleine L’Engle’s classic fantasy novel, A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Given that series’s multiverse milieu, it was a perfect opportunity to swiftly tilt myself onto Chrono Trigger’s unnamed planet.
My story took place after the events of the classic Super Nintendo Japanese RPG’s best ending, and featured L’Engle’s characters teaming up with Chrono Trigger’s hero and anti-hero, Crono and Magus, in their search for Schala, the lost princess of Zeal.
I handed the assignment over to Ms. Matthews with pride and aplomb, exited stage left to the bathroom, and promptly threw up my breakfast.
It was a perfect day.
Chrono Trigger meant more to me than pretty much anything in those days. I’d discovered J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels the summer before, was devouring Terry Brooks’s Shannara series, and avidly playing Magic: The Gathering, but it was Chrono Trigger and its rival sibling Final Fantasy VI that turned my interest in fantasy books and games into a full blown obsession.
Like a combination of Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger distilled everything that made the 16-bit console generation so beloved by its growing audience of JRPG fans, and so revered by gamers today. The genre would undergo a massive transformation after the release of Final Fantasy VII on the Sony PlayStation a couple of years later, marking Chrono Trigger as one of the last examples of console RPGs in the style popularized by the earlier Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games. It…