Posted in Retro Gaming

Chrono Trigger: Back to the future

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1995’s Chrono Trigger. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Currently stuck in the past, Crono and Lucca race to find the kidnapped Queen Leene and thereby save their friend (and her descendant) Marle, aka Princess Nadia. There isn’t a lot of places to look, and from some of the suspicious remarks about the kingdom’s Chancellor, the local cathedral seems an ideal place to go.

As an aside, I’m struck by just how many different musical themes this game throws at you in the first hour or so. The total soundtrack was pretty big for the day — 64 tracks covering 2 hours and 39 minutes of music. It helped that many of them were total earworms, and even the ones that weren’t, like the hallowed sound of the cathedral, were perfect in setting an appropriate mood.

Investigation of the cathedral reveals Queen Leene’s hairpin on the floor, which means that the jig is up. The nuns reveal themselves to be naga, and a fight is on — but happily, a giant humanoid frog leaps in to help. His name is, naturally, Frog, and he is a knight of the realm sworn to protect Leene. Lucca’s a bit freaked out, but she goes with it because we need a third party member and why not? Frog’s kind of awesome.

Secret passages in the cathedral lead to chambers of the Fiendlord’s army, all hanging about like they’re not a stone’s throw away from the castle. It’s about this time that Chrono Trigger’s combat system gets more fun, as the game introduces dual and triple techs. Basically, these allow two or three characters to combine abilities for powerful attacks or buffs. Lucca and Chrono have a nasty Fire Whirl attack that can wipe out an entire crowd if timed right.

This is one of my favorite bits in the game — there’s a break room for monsters who are snacking before they have to put back on their human disguises and get back to work. I always wonder what enemy mobs do during their downtime. One of the monsters says that Yakra, whoever that is, imprisoned the real Chancellor, took his place, and has been infiltrating the palace to bring down the kingdom.

Speaking of the Fiendlord, the monsters even have a shrine to the guy — Magus the Great — and they sing to him. It’s silly and charming, and I definitely feel bad killing all of them. Seems like their hearts are in a good place, even if they kidnap and eat people.

Eventually the party arrives at a chamber with the fake Chancellor and the real Queen. Yakra throws off his disguise and the game’s first boss battle commences. Thanks to Frog and Crono’s X-Strike dual tech, it’s a cinch.

With the queen and the real chancellor rescued, all looks to be good, aside from this slightly ominous reference to making the justice system stricter. I’m sure that’ll have noooo impact on the future, no sirree. Frog feels disgraced that he allowed the queen to get kidnapped in the first place, so he heads of to brood (Frog is a big brooder). Marle reappears, as her ancestors have been protected. It kind of feels like the end of a very short game — or the end of an extended tutorial.

The question of how to get back to their own time proved to be much simpler than driving a DeLorean through a lightning storm. Lucca managed to stabilize a time gate, allowing permanent passage between the two eras from now on. With that, our intrepid heroes head back to the future and a peaceful resolution.

NEXT: No peaceful resolution for you!

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