The other day, I started this series off by celebrating Harry Potter, the series of books that made me want to be a writer. Today, I’m switching gears and celebrating one of my favorite childhood video games, Chrono Trigger. This is one of the games that first began my interest in fantasy as a genre.
It’s also, not coincidentally, considered one of the best video games ever made. For those who may not know, Chrono Trigger is a JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) originally developed by Square and release for the Super Nintendo way back in 1995. (For those who might be wondering, I was 5 years old back then.)
When I first played the game, I was probably too young to really get it, but it was still one of my favorite games. It was just so much fun to feel like you were part of this epic story that was unfolding. The game starts innocently enough, with Crono, the main character, going to a festival to celebrate the coming of a new millennium.
But when he bumps into a young woman at the fair and she decides to enjoy the festivities with him, things take a crazy turn. Through a bizarre interaction between magic and technology, the young woman is sent back in time four hundred years. Naturally, Crono follows her, and that starts the adventure.
In all, you visit six different time periods in the game: a prehistoric world where humans and dinosaurs live side by side, a world of magical floating islands and a frozen wasteland below, the middle ages, the present day, the day of the apocalypse, and a post-apocalyptic future. This diversity of settings made Chrono Trigger something new that you hadn’t seen before then. Most fantasy settings up until then, in both books and games, tended to stick to pretty typical medieval-ish settings.
When I first played the game, I didn’t realize just how amazing these settings were. Now, as a fantasy writer myself, I can really appreciate the creativity involved in this. Even more amazing is the fact that the developers managed to tell an epic, complex, and coherent story that spanned all these different time periods.
And the characters were so much fun to spend time with. Even though this was before the age of long cutscenes and spoken dialogue, I felt like I knew these people. From the prehistoric warrior Ayla to the futuristic robot Robo, they were all distinct and interesting, and they were fleshed out with the perfect amount of dialogue.
A lot of people might say you can’t learn anything from video games that you can apply to your writing, but I have to disagree. Games like Chrono Trigger are a big part of what made me a writer, and it still influences my writing to this day. You’ll see my love for time travel, for example, in the final book of World in Chains series. And my main character in that series, Nadia, takes a fair amount of inspiration from Marle, one of the main characters in Chrono Trigger. Some people might scoff at taking inspiration from video games, but there’s still a lot to be learned. And, of course, you have an entire genre based on video games now, LitRPG. I’m toying with the idea of writing one myself, but I need to do some research first.
Regardless of what I do or do not write, Chrono Trigger will always hold a special place in my heart, and in the hearts of many others.
What about you? What fantasy video games have you really enjoyed?