Double Agent
"..." Definitely "..." - August 30, 2000 - Chris Jones

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this column are those of the participants and the moderator, and do not necessarily reflect those of the GIA. There is coarse language and potentially offensive material afoot. Human wheels go round and round, while the clock keeps the pace. Don't say we didn't warn you.

There's plenty to be said about today's topic, Crono Trigger. And a lot is said below, both by the readers and myself. (And, by the way, consider just about every letter but the two DQ letters full of CT spoilers.) But reading through the many messages people sent in about the game leads me to one inescapable conclusion:

I need to dust off the SNES one of these days and plug CT in.


Let the unbridled enthusiasm begin...
Agent tat is Double,

Woohoo! Normally I don't write to these letters columns, but there's no way I could keep my mouth shut on this topic.

I'm an RPG fan. I just don't play RPGs. My little brother does, and I watch them. Better than TV. But there are those rare occasions where I am so taken by a game that I actually shove him out of the chair, take up the controller, and start my own file. Chrono Trigger was one of those games. (Plus, I built off of his New Game pluses... makes it a lot easier for me. 8^)

And I played, and I played, and I played (though, notably, I never did bring Crono back... that was on purpose 8^P ). It was the first (and, to date, only) game I've ever actually beaten. This game kept my attention. It was simple. It was different. It was fun.

The characters ROCKED. There wasn't a single really "useless", or even annoying one among them. Ayla kicked butt. Marle didn't take no crap. Lucca was my IDOL. Frog made sacrificing Magus worth the trouble (helllooooo, Glenn!), though Magus was also cool in that villain chic sorta way. Robo was quite noble, and Crono... well, he was the hero. A man of few words and many deeds. You gotta admire that. It was a small cast, I know, but you really did get to know and care about all of them (which brings up a flaw in the sequel-- with such a large cast, it's hard to get truly attached to any of them).

There we just all these little things that made the game SO DAMN COOL. Bekkler's lab. The little poses they struck upon entering the Gate. Playing with clones. The Reptite dungeon music. Dancing (which I wish they coulda put into CC... with characters like Miki and Mojo, that woulda been FUN). Schala (EVERYBODY likes Schala). That one ending where Marle and Lucca rate the guys. Marle smashing through the stained-glass window. That lovely line, "...but why does my tummy hurt so?".

I could go on (and on, and on) with that list. But my point is that it was all those little moments, those details, that, among other things, made Chrono Trigger so cool.

That, and they had character sprites that didn't look like midgets. Hooray!

--Kate Sith

Rather than have various letters bringing up CT's virtues one by one, I figured I'd get them out in the open all at once. And the fact that it got a non-game player (sorta) to actually play a game speaks volumes.

But while I liked Schala the character, Schala the name sounds like the title of a 50's do-wop song. An odd little quirk that marred the game for me ever so slightly.

Just a few words, followed by many more
Why do we love Chrono Trigger? I can tell you in just a few words.

It had heart.

Oh sure, Final Fantasy VI was by far greater in scope, with it's enormous cast, ominious plot twists and grandiouse design. But Chrono Trigger (released a year later, as you remember) was a different animal. In contrast to the overly serious tone of FFVI (despite the scattered comic relief, the latter half of the game grew almost deadly serious), CT wasn't afraid to be goofy, to be off-beat (what was the deal with those cats at Crono's house? or that fortune teller? and how the hell can the Chancellor jump THAT HIGH!?), to be unusual, while at the same time presenting a serious goal and a few dark overtones. It celebrated its cliché, as Nich so eleqouently mentions in his Vault.

Of course, there was the great graphics, the wonderful music, the inspired writing and character design, blah, blah, blah. And the multiple endings. I'll never forget the time I got to the programmer's ending and that rat pulled the fake reset on me; my heart literally stopped for a few seconds!).

-- Justin Toon, who finished Chrono Cross in eleven days

The problem with such accurate analyses is that they give me little to argue with, so I have to attack straw men. Hmm, how about: "Chrono Trigger, while excellent, lacked the high lobster content I expect from all my RPGs."

Whadda ya think, too political?

It's about Time


You want to know why Chrono Trigger was such a great game? I... uhh... acquired a... err... copy of CT.... yes, that sounds good... a little less than a year ago. I'd heard so many great things about it, so I figured I'd put it to the test. As I played it, I found out that the hype was true. It was indeed a great game. I couldn't put my finger on it, but then I figured it out after I beat it. How many times have you ever watched a movie that dealt with time travel and been incredibly disappointed by the lack of continuity with the space-time continuum parts? CT dealt with it in a realistic and believable way. (This was also one of the redeeming points of FFVIII.) Things that you did in the past altered the outcome of the future, such as Fiona's forest, the moon stone, and of course Magus's summoning of Lavos. I think the playful nature of some events made for a nice relief from dark, mythical, and serious RPGs. The characters were all well developed with distinct personalities. The New Game+ option gave the game tons of replay value. The sacrifice of the mute lead character made for an interesting twist. The notion that an incredibly advanced civilization existed before time was recorded was a very good idea. And of course, the spiky-haired lead character paradigm wasn't overused back then!

It was just an enchanting game that looked incredibly advanced on an aging console. I enjoyed it a lot more than FFVIII, which I was playing at the same time.

Oh, and Stockdale could be those stupid Tiger handheld games with the LCD panel and the playable character in six different positions. You know you owned at least one of those crapboxes!

Ed Ruane, wishing he owned a PSX if only for FFIX and CC.

Now this I can speak to: while CT did time travel very well, especially for a game, it's hardly the best treatment of the subject I've ever seen. Just off the top of my head, the Back to the Future trilogy, Time Bandits, and 12 Monkeys made much better use of the subject material, and I won't even go in to all the excellent written sf works that deal with time travel.

But it was an enchanting game, regardless. I'm not sure it can be argued any better.

Is it any wonder I love DQ fans so?
I could gloat about how DQ7 nearly outsold FF9's sales of 2 weeks in it's first 2 days, only being stopped by the fact that stores just plain ran outta copies, but I won't. (Anymore than that) Instead I'll just quickly mock your Japanese correspondant's clueless letter that got me fired up so badly a month ago and go back to playing Chrono Cross. Enjoy!


Just a quick tidbit here: Final Fantasy 9 was indeed at the top of Japanese sales charts for a long, long time. (2 weeks) Then a game called Dragon Quest 7 came along and bumped it down in about 3 days (read: they sold every last copy, all 2 million of them, in the first 2 days). Now that the next 850,000 strong shipment of DQ7 CDs has hit -- and probably been snatched off of -- shelves you can expect good old DQVII to completely blow FF9's sales away.

Says a lot about DQ's Japanese popularity these days, doesn't it?


Mark Cantrell
The Knight in Tarnished Armor
....and a voice echoed on the wind... "I told you so..."

In the endless quest for fairness, I feel compelled to print stuff like this: equal time and all that. However, that doesn't mean I gotta agree with it.

First off, JT knows way more about Japanese gaming than 99% of the "hardcore" gamers who write in. Calling him clueless just speaks volumes about your own lack of understanding. It's also pretty amusing to me that just about everyone I talk to who actually lives in Japan is somewhat lukewarm about the game, whereas the game's biggest boosters seem to be the more-obsessed-than-thou import crowd. That's not a universal statement, but it's close.

Now let's get down to brass tacks. Yes, DQ7 has sold about 3 million copies. It probably will outsell FF9. This should not be a surprise, since the game has been on preorder for damn near 3 years. How many of those orders were made in the initial rush after the game's announcement, and how many of those preorders would have liked to change their minds as the development times drew longer and longer, I can't say. But at this point I think it is pretty clear that anyone who wants a copy of DQ7 has one - it may be number one right now, but it'll sink like a stone soon, I guarantee.

The real proof of the game isn't going to be how many copies it sells (which at this point represent the accumulated good will the game had in the past, not how it's currently seen) but what the reviews look like, and how the next DQ and FF sell comparatively. And that info's not in yet, as much as I'd love to put this debate to rest. Come back when the reviews start coming in, and we'll finish this thing.

So it was good for something
Okay, I have to admit, Mystic Quest left much to be desired. But image if you were a nine-year-old girl and this was your first RPG. Yes, this game actaully managed to do what others considered impossible. It created a new RPG fan, and a girl at that. Surprising, huh?


In fact, this was what FFMQ was supposed to do: be an easier, entry-level RPG for the American audience, which had not embraced FFIV with the fervor that Square had hoped. Generally it gets a lot of flack from gamers, but looking at letters like this I have to wonder how successful it actually might have been.

Yes, it was a real letdown after FFIV (I know it was for me) but looking at the sales numbers, very few other people have a right to feel that way because very few other people actually played FFIV when it came out. On the other hand, lots of people must have played FFMQ, because I got so many letters bitching about it. And looking at the relative Square sales numbers pre-MQ and post-MQ, I have to wonder how many people, how many of you, the audience, are in Malika's position. Indeed, I may owe FFMQ a debt of gratitude, because who knows how many hits this site would be getting if it hadn't come out?

Duckman Alien Madeline Albright?
There are tons of reasons why people love Chrono Trigger - I'm sure this column has already been filled to the brim with them. And yes it rocks most psx rpgs. But it has some infamous flaws.

1) Lavos's final form - brave attempts at describing this atrocity range from "duckman" to "alien ". While the background-cycling and special effects in this last battle were top-notch, a last boss with more intimidating than Madeline Albright would have been nice.

2) $80 sticker price - I was your average pre-teen back when it first came out. There was no way I could afford this gem. I just could garner enough cash to buy a game or two every year. Yeah I tried renting it too, but I rarely was able to get hold of it long enough to get very far at all. I only completed the game by borrowing it from various members of my friends and family. Even now, it commands at least a $60 asking price on ebay. Nothing on SNES has this kind of value. It's almost sick.

3) Missing components - Losing out on the music track "Singing Mountain" didn't really bother me, but for goodness sakes - they took out Schala from the game! This is no Aeris resurrection hoax; I remember reading about this years ago in an interview with one of the Chrono Trigger developers. I can't remember if it was for space considerations or budget problems or rushing the game release, but whatever it was, we'll always know in our hearts that Chrono Trigger was never fully complete.

4) I would say something else, but it somewhat relates to Chrono Cross, so until you get your CRT, I'll keep my mouth (er, fingers) shut.


Some good points here. Boss design is fairly subjective (I liked Lavos better than Ex-Death, for example) and every work of art ever made has some sort of gap between what the creator wanted to do, and what the finished product actually ended up as. Thanks for keeping quiet about CC.

But the $80 sticker price actually brings back warm fuzzy memories for me, and I'll tell you why. *Warning! Warning! Nostalgia alert! Evacuate this letter immediately! Evacuate...* I think we can dispense with that, thank you very much.

Crono Trigger came out Fall, 1995. I was just going in to my sophomore year, and had decided I was doing well enough with my grades to bring my SNES to school with me. I had an academic scholarship for the semester, not a lot of money but hopefully enough for me not to lean on my parents. And one fateful Saturday, I headed out to the mall to buy some new clothes. I still stuck my head into Babbage's occasionally, less because I was going to buy a new game (which I didn't have time for) than because I wanted inhale the forbidden scent of SNES games. But then I saw Square had a new RPG out, which from the box screenshots looked about as interesting as FFVI. Within minutes the game was in my hand and nearly 90 of my precious dollars (Austin has a very high sales tax) were in Babbage's cash register. Never did get around to getting new jeans that semester, but never regretted it either. It's all about priorities.
He's talking about DQ7.
NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! Why must one suffer to get their hands on thou mother name RPG?????? It is like asking Bill Clinton why he would score with an ugly woman named monica! They already made a law in Japan saying that a Dragon Quest game can be sold ONLY on a holiday or a weekend. They should have givin' a baseball bat to anyone who pre-ordered the game!!! But seriously, This is just rediculous, just like tickle me elmo. Or when those stupid cabbage patch kids dolls first came out in the early 80's. Numerous people were badly injured because one wanted to buy a stupid doll. Then again, we are talking about Dragon Quest here. At least in America we don't have to stand in long lines even if we pre-order a copy of a game. And game's cost less here also (Who would pay $79.99 for a playstation game if your not ordering from NCS?). I would feel soooo pissed if I had to wait in line and pay $79.99 for a game on CD, just to have it stolen a couple of blocks from home. I think my point is made.

Ian M. Cowell

If anything I'd argue that this is an indication of just how popular DQ7 really is: I remember seeing stories about at least 20 kids getting beaten up and robbed of their Pokemon cards over here in the US. In comparison, one or two assaults aren't nearly as big a deal, even considering that it's the relatively polite Japanese we're talking about.

Still, you're right about needing a baseball bat with a copy of the game. Or better yet, they could go the Working Designs route and give away a fully functional mystic broadsword as a packing bonus. I'd definitely buy a copy for that.

SNES to the max
Hi Chris,

Chrono Trigger, in my opinion, showed what Square could do when it knew everything about the Super Nintendo. After releasing a few games on it, the knew exactly what the SNES was capable of, and built a game that used every bit that they could squeeze out of 16.

Playing it now, I can see why it is still regarded as a masterpiece. The graphics, while being 2 dimensional, are beautiful due to the use of varied colors. The music all have their place in the game, there seems to be a piece of music created for ever scene, every mood. The story, while having the same "save the world" plot that most RPGs have, was unique enough with it's time travel concept that it was et apart from other games. The sheer number of branches that the story takes are all well thought out and cleverly done. The fact that there was more then one way to beat the game (the first time through) was unique also, most games now a days offer one way to solve a puzzle, or one way to go along with the story.

The battle system was a twist of old and new, using the Active Time Battle that Square had been using for a few games then, but adding the use of Dual and Triple Techs: combination attacks from 2 or 3 different characters.

The characters were a draw to the game also, no two characters were a like. Each character had their own plot arc, and their attacks were different from other characters in the game. Frog was a squire who had lost his knight, and was out for revenge. Robo was a robot who couldn't remember who or what he was before he was deactivated. When Robo finds out, he freaks out. Each character had their own theme music, something that was usually only for the main character.

Chrono Trigger was, and is, unique when it comes to games these days. It had a wonderful translation, which kept the "spirit" of a fun adventure when everything was going well, and the dark feeling of doom when everything went wrong. It was ahead of it's time, and I thank Square for making a game that is truly a gem that, while being a little old and technically dated by what can be done, it still a shining to this day.


I'd disagree with the "ahead of it's time" statement: the spirit you describe is something that should be in every RPG, not just modern ones. The fact is that at some level, Crono Trigger hacked in to something very close to the perfect RPG, and everything else that follows from here on out is gonna be living in its shadow.

Closing Comments:

Well, I'm pleased to announce that after a delay of over a week and a half, the movers are delivering my shipment as I write this. Will everything arrive undamaged? Will I be playing Chrono Cross at this time tomorrow? Who knows? Just send me whatever you like and I'll fill you in on the details in 24 hours. Later.

-Chris Jones, feeling the Dual Shock in his hands already.

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