(This is part of my journey going playing through 1995’s Chrono Trigger. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)
Important Note: Back in 2018, I started a new Retro Gaming series to cover Chrono Trigger. Unfortunately, I had to abort this after one article as Steam’s version kept crashing on me, thereby making the game unplayable. I looked at it recently and it seems more stable, so I’m going to give it another go. Please read Part 1 of this series before proceeding.
With most of the fun of the Millennial Fair enjoyed, Marle and Crono head to the far square to meet Crono’s friend Lucca. She’s an inventor (as you can tell by the big glasses and penchant for smashing things with wrenches) who’s created a teleportation device. Crono agrees to test it first for the crowd’s delight, but when Marle steps onto the pad, her necklace interferes and… she vanishes into a glowing blue hole. Oops.
I get chills from this part, just because I know now how this is all kicking a grand adventure into high gear. And while it may *seem* like a horrible accident, it ends up being the event that makes it possible to save the world.
Crono grabs the pendant that Marle left behind and vows — in his trademark silent fashion — to go after her. Lucca and her father activate the machine again and Crono vanishes into the void… only to be dumped out into a strange wilderness populated by easy-to-defeat mobs. I love the combat in this game. It’s quick, satisfying, and so well animated. And Crono’s cyclone attack is a terrific AOE strike when the enemies bunch up together.
Out onto the game map, it’s a case of similar-yet-different. It’s obviously the same continent, but the Millennial Fair is gone, gloomy clouds coast by, and — most importantly — there’s a different soundtrack. Ah, this soundtrack. Could listen to it for hours. Anyway, it’s up to Crono to figure out where (and when!) he is and rescue Marle if he can. That’s a good start to the game, with a twist that keeps the player on the edge of his or her seat right from the get-go.
Well, that’s one question answered at least. Somehow, the combination of Lucca’s invention and Marle’s pendant created a hole in time that sent Crono back from 1000 A.D. to 600 A.D. He’s now 400 years in the past, but in the same world and on the same continent. In a nice touch, the overworld map changes its legend from “?” to “600 A.D.” once I talked to someone who gave me the date.
It’s kind of my tradition to spend some time grinding up a few levels in Guardia Forest here, especially when I get another party member (soon). It’s perfect for that: Lots of good consumables drop, plenty of enemies to fight, and there’s a Shelter (a full MP/HP restore) that you can loot every time you head in here.
At Guardia Castle, Crono is held up for looking as though he might belong to a member of the Fiendlord’s army (whoever that is), but the queen shows up to — oddly — vouch for him. Turns out that this is actually Marle, posing as Queen Leene of 600 A.D. The two look pretty much identical, and Marle is only able to step into her shoes because the real queen is missing.
Just as Crono catches up with Marle in the castle to try to unravel this mystery, Marle starts glowing and disappears (again). I don’t know how many times a man is required to jump through space and time to rescue disappearing princesses, but I draw the line at three. Just putting that out there.
Fortunately, Lucca appears (thanks to some adjustments to her machine, which is now serving as a time portal maker of sorts) and offers up some explanations of what’s going on. That’s a good thing, because we’re heading into our first time paradox, and it was probably very important for the game’s writers to walk players step by step through it. In short, Marle is royalty in 1000 A.D., descended from Queen Leene. And because Leene is about to get killed in 600 A.D., Marle is erased just like Marty McFly’s family was in the photo he carried to the school dance. It was a movie. You probably didn’t see it. So Crono’s (and Lucca’s) mission is clear: Rescue Leene to preserve the time line and get Marle back.
And grind a few more levels. It’s always fun to be overpowered!