This year marks the 20th anniversary of Squaresoft’s Chrono Trigger, widely regarded as one of the best Japanese RPGs of the 16-bit generation, if not of all time. Developed by a “dream team” pairing of Hironobu Sakaguchi (Final Fantasy) and Yuji Horii (Dragon Quest), it broke the mold of RPG game design of the time.
Strangely enough, my memories of Chrono Trigger are less about the game, itself, and more about the experience of actually buying it, but it is one of my fonder gaming memories. I remember the previews of it in Nintendo Power magazine hyping it up as “a gem — polished, brilliant and beautifully presented,” and that “it belongs in every game library.” But I needed little convincing as I had already been thoroughly blown away by “Final Fantasy III” (aka Final Fantasy VI), and I was ready for another game of that caliber.
Unfortunately, I didn’t live in an area where it was easy to buy video games, and this was before you could just hop on the internet and have games sent to you. Rather, I had to wait until we took a trip to a neighboring town where I could buy games at a department store or a Toys R Us. It was excruciating to read about games in Nintendo Power, and then never be sure if I’d ever be able to actually find them. Still, I suppose there was a certain “thrill of the chase” back then.
It must have been shortly after the game had been released when it so happened that my mother planned on taking my brother to see Cats (the musical) in a neighboring city. She asked if I would be interested in seeing it too, and I figured why not. At the very least, I’d be able to swing by Toys R Us and get a chance at finding Chrono Trigger.
And that’s exactly what happened. I remember being in Toys R Us, looking over their wall of laminated placards, hoping to see the box art for Chrono Trigger. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, back in the ’90s, the video game section of Toys R Us was essentially a bunch of plastic cards with box art on them hanging on the wall. If you wanted to buy the game, there were these little pouches filled with tickets beneath the cards, and you would take a ticket to the cash register, pay for the game, and then go to a little cage in the corner of the store where a guy would give you the actual game. It sounds a little convoluted to describe it, but believe me, it was awesome, and I think stores should go back to selling video games this way. It sure beats the hell out of rummaging through a GameStop.
Anyway, I looked over the wall of placards, and… I didn’t see Chrono Trigger. Disappointing, to be sure, but there were never guarantees. But maybe I just looked too fast the first time. So I took a second, more careful look, and there it was! Somehow, the muted tones of the box art didn’t quite stand out among the other more colorful box arts around it. I was ecstatic as I grabbed the ticket, literally jumping for joy and exclaiming “YES!” in a fairly loud voice. Another kid down the aisle gave me kind of a strange look, but I didn’t care. I got my prize!
The only problem: this was before we went to see Cats. That meant I had to sit through a two-and-a-half hour musical, knowing that Chrono Trigger was waiting out in the car. Strangely, I didn’t actually mind that much. I think I was just happy that I actually got the game. Plus, how often did I get to see a stage play? It made for an exciting day all around. After all, I’m still remembering it fondly 20 years later.
The game, itself, did not disappoint. Admittedly, I never quite grew to love it as much as Final Fantasy VI, but I still played the heck out of it.
On a side note, it’s kind of interesting that the collaboration between the creators of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest happened before the Squaresoft/Enix merger, and nothing like that ever happened after.
Anyway, maybe it’s not really that much of a story, but it’s what comes to mind when I think of the game. Twenty years later, that’s my Chrono Trigger memory. My…
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was… Oh, sorry! 😉
EDIT: I originally had written that it was the game’s 25th anniversary, but it’s only the 20th. I guess I really haven’t been thinking clearly lately. Post has been corrected.