It’s no secret that my love for SFF books is matched by my love for golden age Japanese RPGs. They’ve inspired a generation of SFF writers, myself chief among them, and provided thousands of hours of entertainment over my life. Over the past two-ish years, I’ve started writing more about JRPGs, taking inspiration from writers like Jeremy Parish, Kat Bailey, Chris Kohler, and Nadia Oxford. “Timeless: A History of Chrono Trigger” is particularly special to me, and one of the most exhaustive and detailed pieces I’ve ever written.
Chrono Trigger is my favourite game of all time. Few things across any medium have brought me as much joy as the 1995 Super Nintendo JRPG. To celebrate its 25th anniversary, I’ve written a deep dive history into Chrono Trigger’s origins, development, impact, and legacy. The result is “Timeless: A History of Chrono Trigger,” on Insert Cartridge, and I couldn’t be more proud of how it turned out.
This is my magnum opus as a fan writer. It’s an exploration of my greatest source of inspiration, and a profile of the designers, artists, programmers, and planners who made it all happen.
To get you started, I thought I’d share a few excerpts from the piece. Enjoy!
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.
“We were really naive…”
“We got all fired up about it,” said Horii, a time travel story-fanatic who never missed an episode of classic television series Time Tunnel. “Normally you’d think things would have ended there, that we wouldn’t have been so excited…”
“That’s right,” agreed Sakaguchi, “we were really enthusiastic about it. Just talking about it was really exciting. However, once we decided we were going to do it for sure, we spent a year or a year and a half thinking about all the difficulties we’d encounter.
“We had almost given up when we received word from the producer, Mr. Aoki.
“He said ‘No, if you’re going to talk like that, please ask me. I definitely want to help make it happen.’”
Crono, Lucca, and Marle could sit pretty in 1000 AD and live a good life. Lucca could keep inventing things far beyond the technological level of the period. Marle could thrive as a restless princess. Crono could, uh, hit the gym? Point is, nothing would change for them if they chose to stay at home. They live during a time of peace and prosperity. Life is good and remains good — idyllic, even — for the next 999 years. However, Marle’s altruism fuels their motivation, and they pursue Lavos not for personal benefit, but for the genuine greater good of humanity. While each member of Chrono Trigger’s small but diverse cast has their own story and motivations, the greater story is one of fighting for community. Crono, Marle, and Lucca create the plot of Chrono Trigger with their actions, instead of being dragged along by forces larger than themselves, as is so common in JRPGs.
I’ve been wanting to write this piece for years, as an accompaniment for my retrospective on Final Fantasy VI, and I’m feeling a lot of wistful relief that it’s finally done. Whether you’re a longtime Chrono Trigger fan, a casual dabbler in Japanese RPGs and retro games, or just curious about creative history, there’s a rich story here to discover.
Please give it a read—and if you enjoy it, consider sharing it with your friends and family, or on Reddit, Twitter, etc. Since I self-published this, it’s going to need a grassroots effort when it comes to exposure and visibility.