Chrono Trigger is a 1995 role-playing video game developed and published by Square. It was originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System as the first game in the Chrono series. The game’s development team included three designers that Square dubbed the “Dream Team”: Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of Square’s successful Final Fantasy series; Yuji Horii, a freelance designer and creator of Enix’s popular Dragon Quest series; and Akira Toriyama, character designer of Dragon Quest and author of the Dragon Ball manga series. In addition, Kazuhiko Aoki produced the game, Masato Kato wrote most of the story, while composer Yasunori Mitsuda wrote most of the soundtrack before falling ill and deferring the remaining tracks to Final Fantasy series composer Nobuo Uematsu. The game’s story follows a group of adventurers who travel through time to prevent a global catastrophe.
Chrono Trigger was a critical and commercial success upon release, and is frequently cited as one of the greatest video games of all time. Nintendo Power magazine described aspects of the game as revolutionary, including its multiple endings, plot-related side-quests focusing on character development, unique battle system, and detailed graphics. Chrono Trigger was the third best-selling game of 1995 in Japan, and shipped 2.65 million copies worldwide by March 2003.
Square released a ported version by Tose in Japan for the PlayStation in 1999, which was later repackaged with a Final Fantasy IV port as Final Fantasy Chronicles (2001) for the North American market. A slightly enhanced Chrono Trigger, again ported by Tose, was released for the Nintendo DS in North America and Japan in 2008, and PAL regions in 2009. The Nintendo DS version sold 790,000 copies by March 2009, after about a year of sales. The game has also been ported to i-mode, the Virtual Console, the PlayStation Network, iOS, Android, and Microsoft Windows.
Chrono Trigger features standard role-playing video game gameplay. The player controls the protagonist and his companions in the game’s two-dimensional world, consisting of various forests, cities, and dungeons. Navigation occurs via an overworld map, depicting the landscape from a scaled-down overhead view. Areas such as forests, cities, and similar places are depicted as more realistic scaled-down maps, in which players can converse with locals to procure items and services, solve puzzles and challenges, or encounter enemies. Chrono Trigger’s gameplay deviates from that of traditional Japanese RPGs in that, rather than appearing in random encounters, many enemies are openly visible on field maps or lie in wait to ambush the party. Contact with enemies on a field map initiates a battle that occurs directly on the map rather than on a separate battle screen.
Players and enemies may use physical or magical attacks to wound targets during battle, and players may use items to heal or protect themselves. Each character and enemy has a certain number of hit points; successful attacks reduce that character’s hit points, which can be restored with potions and spells. When a playable character loses all hit points, they faint; if all the player’s characters fall in battle, the game ends and must be restored from a previously saved chapter, except in specific storyline-related battles that allow or force the player to lose. Between battles, a player can equip their characters with weapons, armor, helmets, and accessories that provide special effects (such as increased attack power or defense against magic), and various consumable items can be used both in and out of battles. Items and equipment can be purchased in shops or found on field maps, often in treasure chests. By exploring new areas and fighting enemies, players progress through Chrono Trigger’s story.
Chrono Trigger uses an “Active Time Battle” system—a recurring element of Square’s Final Fantasy game series designed by Hiroyuki Ito for Final Fantasy IV—named “Active Time Battle 2.0”. Each character can take action in battle once a personal timer dependent on the character’s speed statistic counts to zero. Magic and special physical techniques are handled through a system called “Techs”. Techs deplete a character’s magic points (a numerical meter similar to hit points), and often have special areas of effect; some spells damage huddled monsters, while others can harm enemies spread in a line. Enemies often change positions during battle, creating opportunities for tactical Tech use. A unique feature of Chrono Trigger’s Tech system is that numerous cooperative techniques exist. Each character receives eight personal Techs which can be used in conjunction with others’ to create Double and Triple Techs for greater effect. For instance, Crono’s sword-spinning Cyclone Tech can be combined with Lucca’s Flame Toss to create Flame Whirl. When characters with compatible Techs have enough magic points available to perform their techniques, the game automatically displays the combo as an option.
Chrono Trigger features several other distinct gameplay traits, including time travel. Players have access to seven eras of the game world’s history, and past actions affect future events. Throughout history, players find new allies, complete side quests, and search for keynote villains. Time travel is accomplished via portals and pillars of light called “time gates”, as well as a time machine named Epoch. The game contains twelve unique endings (thirteen in DS, iOS and Android versions); the ending the player receives depends on when and how they reach and complete the game’s final battle. Chrono Trigger DS features a new ending that can be accessed from the End of Time upon completion of the final extra dungeon and optional final boss. Chrono Trigger also introduces a New Game Plus option; after completing the game, the player may begin a new game with the same character levels, techniques, and equipment, excluding money, with which they ended the previous playthrough. However, certain items central to the storyline are removed and must be found again, such as the sword Masamune. Square has employed the New Game Plus concept in later games including Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy XV among others.