Replay Value: Chrono Trigger — A wild side quest appears! (Part 3)
The real treasure was the friends we made along the way
Welcome to Replay Value! In collaboration with Daniel Dockery, this four part miniseries (read part one) explores one of the most consequential games I covered in my book, Fight, Magic, Items: The History of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and the Rise of Japanese RPGs in the West: Chrono Trigger!
Replay Value is a cross-newsletter series hosted by Daniel and myself where we’re each replaying a childhood favourite—Chrono Trigger and Pokemon Yellow, respectively—and asking each other pointed questions along the way. For the next four Fridays, you’ll track our progress in the game and get an inside track on just why we love these games so much. Head on over to Daniel’s terrific newsletter, Daniel Dockery's Many Words, to check out his progress on Pokemon Yellow for the Game Boy. And consider checking out his amazing book, Monster Kids: How Pokémon Taught a Generation to Catch Them All, which is a great companion to Fight, Magic, Items.
Replay Value: Chrono Trigger — *coming December 1*
It’s time for siiiiiiiide quests!
It’s the final countdown! In this instalment of Replay Value, I’m tackling Chrono Trigger’s open-ended back half, which is loaded with side quests that flesh out the world, its characters, and the core party members. I obviously have to recruit Magus (I never have the guts to face him down to avenge Frog), who’s an absolute powerhouse and just an all around interesting anti-hero (especially with the context we gain from Chrono Cross and Radical Dreamers), and I enjoy running through the Black Omen across multiple time periods and loading up on great gear and items. It’s a fun time in the game to just explore the world, find little nooks and crannies and really power up your team with new gear.
My favourite side quest is probably the Rainbow Shell because of the way it lets you revisit old locations in a new context. Giant’s Claw is cool, and who doesn’t love seeing that court room again? And that moment when Marle crashes through the stained glass because she’s locked out of her father’s trial? Plus, it grants you Crono’s best sword, the best piece of female armour, and one of the best accessories in the game. Amazing.
Q&A with Daniel Dockery
Daniel Dockery: As you replay Chrono Trigger, what style do you take: Check everything and investigate every nook and cranny? Play casually? Speed run?
Aidan Moher: I generally go for full New Game + playthroughs and try to hit all the major check boxes along the way—side quests, grab another set of the best armour, etc. I’m definitely not at speed runner level, but I can power through it—as I’m doing with this playthrough—in about 9-11 hours depending on how much I’m messing around, character levels, etc.
But, other times I’ll pick it up for a couple of hours and peck away at one of the funny optional endings (like the one where the reptites are never destroyed, so everyone in 1000AD is a dinosaur) or, on new hardware, I’ll do a fresh playthrough from start to finish and spend a lot of time stealing megaexlixirs, prism gear, tabs, etc. to set myself up nicely for future New Game + playthroughs.
So, um, yes, I do all of those!
DD: What's your fave Chrono Trigger boss and why?
Aidan Moher: It’s silly, but I’m really partial to the very final Lavos fight. I just felt so clever as a kid when I figured out that the main foe wasn’t the central figure, but actually the small, unassuming “bit” on the right. Chrono Trigger’s full of so many great little details like this, and more than a few multi-part boss fights, where you’ve gotta take out, like, Queen Zeal’s hands first, so twisting the formula right at the very end is just a lot of fun. Plus, the music and Lavos’s cry of defeat is seared into my brain.
I also have fond memories of the first time I beat that battle with just Crono at the very beginning of the New Game + run. When Lucca asks you to demonstrate the teleportation pad, you can run over to the other pad and access the final fight with just the hero. It’s a blast to push Crono’s offense-only skillset against such a strong foe. Hope you brought elixirs!
DD: Have you ever recommended Chrono Trigger to someone? Tell us a story, Aidan. How did they like it?
Aidan Moher: Funny story, actually.
So, there I was, just minding my own business, enjoying the piece and quiet with a few of my new pals, when a distraught princess and a tearful inventor—who I’d only recently met, let me remind you—appeared through one of the time gates.
“Hey, where’s that healthy looking kid with the radical haircut?” I asked, concerned.
Their beloved friend, a quiet chap named Crono, had sacrificed himself to save them from the intergalactic parasite, Lavos, and, naturally, they wanted to revive him. What’s the point of time travel if you can’t save your buddy, right?
So, I did what any good sage would: I recommended they get a Chrono Trigger. In fact, I had one on hand, and just gave it to them. (You don’t want to know where they come from.) “Let us call that the Chrono Trigger,” I said. I love when they say the name of the movie in the movie, you know? “It is pure potential.”
Even the inventor was looking at me funny, so I gave it to ‘em straight. “By unleashing a specific course of events,” I said, “it can have a powerful effect on time. Ask the one who made the Epoch, your Wings of Time, how to hatch it... Like any egg, it represents a possibility... It may or may not...hatch. But the Chrono Trigger gives you the potential to get your friend back... The egg will have an effect equal to the effort you put into your search. No more, and no less. Don't forget that. As long as you keep Crono in your heart, the day you are dreaming of shall arrive...”
Turned out pretty good, I’d say.
Oh, you mean the game? No. Can’t say I have.
DD: A Chrono Trigger remake will be discussed until the end of time. If they DID remake Chrono Trigger against all odds, what would you like to see changed? Added? Removed?
Aidan Moher: Ah, man. Daniel. The perfect Chrono Trigger remake it just releasing it on modern consoles. It’s the type of game that I genuinely don’t think would benefit from a remake. It’s not like Trials of Mana or Final Fantasy VII, where' there’s some janky combat mechanics or early-generation tech that’s holding it back. Those games benefit from having their best parts lifted into a modern experience. Chrono Trigger, on the other hand, is just a genuinely polished and still enjoyable experience exactly as is. I suppose you could add some frames of animation to Crono’s run? Maybe resample the soundtrack to use uncompressed sources? But this stuff is all just improving around the edges.
I could see myself getting excited for a HD-2D remake—but it’d have to be similar to Live A Live, where the game is almost essentially the same, just with a nice fresh coat of paint. But even that feels unnecessary. Just bring the Steam version to modern consoles, ship it with a great CRT filter, and you’re cookin’.
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