Exactly 20 years ago today, one of the best – I would argue, the best – video game(s) of all time was released: Chrono Trigger. This Gamastura article from 2012 gives a lot of fantastic insights into the game’s complex, modular story.
From Mass Effect to Skyrim, modern RPGs go to great lengths to merge linear, carefully crafted narrative with dynamic, emergent gameplay. Hundreds of thousands of man-hours are poured into these incredibly complex works, all in the effort to create a believable, cohesive story while giving players a sense of freedom in the way they play their game. The results of these efforts have been best-loved play experiences video games have offered.
But the goal of marrying linear narrative to dynamic gameplay is not out of reach for developers that don’t have the resources to create such complex systems. No game shows this better than the classic RPG Chrono Trigger. Crafted by Square’s “Dream Team” of RPG developers, Chrono Trigger balances developer control with player freedom using carefully-designed mechanics and a modular approach to narrative.
Chrono Trigger is something special, something one-of-a-kind that cannot be replicated. You see its influence in so many games today, and even on its own, despite its age, it can still hold itself up very well next to all the Quadruple Turbo HD Mega Graphics games of today. While Marle (or Nadia in the Japanese version) is my favourite character, it’s hard to deny that as far as storyarcs go, Glenn’s story is the most heartbreaking and emotional story ever told in 16 bits – and beyond (well – almost beyond).