Chrono Trigger: Guilty until proven guilty

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

As if they never left, Lucca, Crono, and Marle return to 1000 A.D. at the fairgrounds. Lucca’s a bit disturbed as to why the time gate appeared in the first place and heads home to do research on it while Crono escorts Marle back to the palace.

This… does not go well.

Upon arriving at the palace, the 1000 A.D. Chancellor, flush with a full sense of justice (thanks to the events of 600 A.D.), orders Crono beaten and arrested for the kidnapping of the princess. Marle is incensed, but nothing to be done — Crono is put on trial for his great crime.

The trial is perhaps the most talked about part of Chrono Trigger, mostly because it’s one of those huge shared experiences that impacted most players in the same way (assuming that they went into this blind on their first playthrough). A lengthy cutscene plays out, during which the prosecution and the defense attempt to establish whether or not Crono is the kidnapping type. This means a lot of character witnesses — all from the Millennial Fair from a couple of hours ago. I think players were stunned to realize that a set of six choices (actions and dialog) were recorded and used during the trial to shine a light on Crono’s character. Chances are that, assuming you went into the game blind, you probably made the “wrong” choice and had to rewatch those bits during the trial.

It’s just such a great scene, even if you can’t do much of anything in it. And, yes, you can be declared innocent, although the ultimate fate is the same — the Chancellor uses his influence to order Crono’s impending execution. I think the only real difference, other than a roleplaying one, is that you get some extra pots in your cell if you convince a lot of jurors that Crono is innocent.

Locked in his cell without any outside support — but, strangely enough, still fully equipped with his trademark katana — Crono has to figure out a way to get out before his execution day. Or just sit around until he’s killed. Seriously, that’s an actual choice you can make. And it’s actually better to wait, because then you get another party member sooner rather than later.

Just as Crono is about to get his head sliced off, Lucca shows up with a new ray gun and zaps the guards before freeing her friend. Way to go, Lucca! I love her character, she’s brainy AND gutsy. That’s a good combo. What follows is a nail-biting jail break (which is a thinly disguised dungeon crawl with a much better theme than most).

Marry me, Lucca. You’re too awesome for worlds.

Standing between the duo and freedom is, naturally, a giant steampunk dragon tank. On top of a bridge. Was it built for just this place or did they have to lug it up stairs? I think we are owed some explanation. In any case, this boss fight is pretty simple as long as the head is destroyed first (as it heals everything else).

There are so many great sprite animations in Chrono Trigger. I love this one of Crono delivering the final blow to a short-circuiting tank. His hair sticks up and goes wavy and he’s just as cool as Lucca in this moment.

Another great animation moment: The Chancellor and two guards come in and then hover in midair as the dragon tank explodes and plummets. The three grab on to each other and form this quivering person bridge that Crono and Lucca use to flee. Marle defies her father, the king, and joins the two as they attempt to make their escape. Unfortunately, the pursuing guards corner them in a dead-end glade of the forest.

Fortunately, there’s a time gate there.

Anywhere’s better than here, Mighty Lucca. Let’s roll our dice and take our chances with another time jump!

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