(This is part of my journey going playing through 1995’s Chrono Trigger. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)
Even as the reptites face their doom, they get the last laugh by summoning (maybe? how?) Lavos from outer space to crash down into the world. Lavos buries itself deep inside, and apparently starts pooping out time gates. Doesn’t make sense to me, Marle, but your explanation is as good as any other.
So from 65,000,000 B.C., our heroes jump through a brand-new gate into the unexplored 12,000 B.C. This is the final era that the game has to offer and is apparently undergoing the ice age that Lavos’ descent triggered a very long time ago.
This is where I’m going to share one of my very few criticisms about this game, which is that 12,000 B.C. — the Kingdom of Zeal — does not fit in with the rest of Chrono Trigger the way the other eras do. Apparently different teams within Square were handed the various eras, and Masato Kato made this one his pet project (which he then expanded into Chrono Cross, for good and bad). So it comes across like another game shoved into the first one, with its own rules and cast of characters and whatnot. It’s not a horrible era, as we’ll explore, but it doesn’t fit in with the history arc the way the others do (very ancient history, medieval history, present time, future history). Anyway, consider my protest lodged, and we shall get back to the playthrough.
This era is divided into two areas: the frozen world below and these lush, magical floating islands above the clouds. Sure, floating islands that weren’t referenced in any other era. Let’s go with it. The inhabitants here say that this is the magic kingdom of Zeal, “where dreams can be made reality.” Disney is obviously about two seconds away from suing this place.
We learn that Queen Zeal has something against the sun and has shut down the sun temple in favor of some other power source. She also has two kids: the magically talented Lady Schala and the broody little Lord Janus.
As an aside, I really love the music for Zeal. It’s a great theme that keeps it bubbly and light.
Everyone here is chatty (if they’re not sleeping) with plenty of backstory about how Queen Zeal made this incredible place of dream-magic. And then a boy comes along to prophecy the death of one of our party members. Thanks for being a buzzkill, dude!
Inside the Zeal palace, the music gets somewhat more ominous. Doesn’t sound as though the queen is a nice lady, so I do what I can to foment rebellion by instructing ladies to grow trees. I’m a rebel!
In the bedchambers, Schala gives Janus what I think is Marle’s pendant — at least, she tells him it’ll keep him safe. It’s apparently made from the same red stone (dreamstone?) as the Mammon Machine. Janus also mentions how the queen isn’t really the queen: “She looks like her, but she’s not the same inside.” He’s a perceptive lad, that one.
Speaking of the Mammon Machine, the Crono Crew uses it to finally power up Marle’s pendant so that it can be used to open all of these mysterious black doors and chests that are tucked around space and time. That’ll come in handy!
The Queen is an utter delight to meet, naturally. Apparently a hooded “prophet” has been advising against us, even though I thought we’d been keeping a pretty low profile in this time period. Alas, this confrontation ends with a golem smackdown and serious jail time.
Fortunately, Schala and Janus decide to break the Crono Crew out against the Queen’s orders, in the hopes that they’ll be able to save Malchior (what, is he in trouble in this time period?).
The bad news is that they’re caught by the prophet. In exchange for Schala’s cooperation with whatever the queen is doing, the prophet spares their lives but forces them back into the time gate and demands that Schala seal it up behind them. For now, at least, the way into this time period is closed.