Chrono Trigger Story, Explained

Chrono Trigger gameplay

Chrono Trigger Story, Explained

Nearly 30 years later, Chrono Trigger stands as one of the most important and iconic JRPGs from Square’s creative and commercial peak. The game’s existence is a miracle in and of itself, with two competing companies coming together to form a “Dream Team” and sharing a goal of producing the best RPG ever made. As it turns out, the collaborative efforts of Final Fantasy‘s Hironobu Sakaguchi and Dragon Quest‘s Yuji Horii (along with incredible artwork and design from Akira Toriyama and an unforgettable score by Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu) would be successful, leaving the SNES with a fitting swan song to its place as the home of the JRPG subgenre’s “Golden Era”. Ultimately, though, it’s the Chrono Trigger story that keeps fans coming back time and again.

The narrative of Chrono Trigger incorporates time travel in a meaningful way where the players’ actions have lasting impact, which helps to definitively set it apart from other RPGs of the era. Additionally, the various choices that the player makes throughout the course of the main adventure have a decisive impact on the game’s conclusion, with multiple endings possible that branch from the various paths players can take. Still, the heart of Chrono Trigger is its main story and incredible cast of likeable characters, who come together to tell a tale of friendship, hope, and a willingness to fight for a better tomorrow.

The Millennial Fair and A Chance Encounter

Chrono Trigger gameplay

The Chrono Trigger story begins on the morning of the Millennial Fair, a celebration of the Kingdom of Guardia’s 1000th year of existence and victory over the evil fiendlord Magus. After being woken up by his mother, young Crono ventures to the fair for a day of fun when a chance encounter changes the course of history. While en route to his best friend Lucca’s demonstration of her new invention, Crono bumps into a young girl attending the fair. After helping her to her feet, she notices that her special pendant is missing, which Crono retrieves and returns to her. The girl introduces herself as Marle, and both she and Crono decide to enjoy the fair together.

After spending some time perusing the Millennial Fair and all of its attractions, Marle and Crono head to Lucca’s demonstration, where she proudly shows off her new invention — a teleportation device. Crono proceeds to try out the invention first, wowing the audience when he successfully jumps through space and time to reappear on the corresponding teleporter. Marle decides that she wants to try the invention as well, promptly stepping up to be the second person on the teleporter after Crono’s successful trip. However, the teleporter mysteriously reacts to Marle’s pendant, inadvertently opening up a portal that quickly sweeps up Marle and then closes, leaving her pendant behind. Without hesitation, Crono steps up and grabs the pendant to go after her, prompting Lucca to reassure Crono that she’ll find a way to the both of them.

400 Years in the Past to The Trial

Chrono Trigger gameplay

After Crono ventures through the portal, he finds himself in a forest and is immediately under attack from fiends. Not long after exiting the forest, Crono realizes that he is still in Guardia, only he’s 400 years in the past. Heading to the castle seeking answers, Crono gets an audience with Queen Leene, only to realize that it’s actually Marle assuming her identity. Marle explains to Crono that Queen Leene is missing, but then suddenly Marle begins to vanish from reality right before Crono’s eyes. Lucca’s arrival shortly after is perfectly timed, allowing her to explain to Crono that Marle is actually Princess Nadia from their era and if something happens to Queen Leene, she will cease to exist.

Lucca and Crono enter the nearby cathedral to try and find Queen Leene and are quickly under attack by fiends, but thankfully a humanoid frog knight comes to the rescue. Simply going by the name “Frog”, the brave knight accompanies Crono and Lucca, with the trio successfully stopping the fiend Yakra and rescuring Queen Leene. With Leene safely back at Castle Guardia, Frog takes his leave while Crono and Lucca return to the site of Marle’s disappearance from the timestream. She reappears, thanking Crono and Lucca and divulging her true identity to the two of them. Lucca reveals that she has reverse-engineered the time portals that led them to the past and made a Time Key, which the trio then use to return to the present.

Back in the present, Crono is accused of kidnapping Princess Nadia, and despite her pleas to the contrary is put on trial. Lucca and Marle successfully reunite with Crono after his jailbreak, and the three of them escape Guardia through another time gate without any idea where it leads.

A Desolate Future

Chrono Trigger gameplay

The trio find themselves once again in a different era, only this time they are in a much more technologically advanced location. After realizing that they’re in the distant future of Guardia, the heroes try to make their way toward civilization, eventually running across the ramshackle remnants of humanity taking refuge within a bio-dome. In the depths of the dome, Crono, Lucca, and Marle discover the horrific truth behind the state of the future. In 1999 AD, a terrible calamity befalls the world when a being known as Lavos emerges from beneath the earth’s surface to rain destruction down on the planet. Realizing that the future they are in is the post-apocalypse, the party finds themselves determined to find a way to alter the course of history.

Before Crono and his friends can try to stop the Day of Lavos from ever occurring, they first need to locate a working time gate that can transport them out of the future. The trio track down the presence of time gate in a far off dome, requiring them to brave the post-apocalyptic landscape and eventually make their way through a derelict robot factory. Within the factory, they come across a broken-down robot that Lucca fixes up, who then joins the party and helps them reach the time gate. After hopping into the time gate, the party find themselves in an area outside of all space and time, with a friendly face there ready to greet them.

Returning to the Present, the Dreamstone, and Shaping History

Chrono Trigger artwork

The party arrives at the End of Time where they meet Gaspar, who informs them that they have a unique opportunity to thwart Lavos’ destruction of the planet. With this knowledge in tow, Crono and his friends set off back toward the present, where they need to meet up with one of Gaspar’s colleagues Melchior. Having met Melchior at the Millennia Fair, Crono heads to his house on the conintent south of Truce. Here, they inform him that they have been in contact with Gaspar and are in need of a means to stop Lavos. Melchior has only one lead — that it is the fiendlord Magus who supposedly summoned Lavos in 600AD.

The party travels back to the past, reuniting with Frog and informing them of their need to stop Magus. Regrettably, Frog informs them that the quest is for naught, as the Masamune is the only blade capable of harming Magus and it’s broken. After rejoining the party, Frog and Crono head to the top of the Denadoro Mountains where they are able to acquire the broken blade that goes with Frog’s hilt to reforge the Masamune. However, they have no means of mending the blade, forcing them to head to Melchior for assistance.

Melchior sets the party on the path of finding Dreamstone to reforge the Masamune, informing them that the last known existence of the material was during prehistory. Crono and his friends arrive in 65,000,000 BC, and here they find that humanity is in the midst of a conflict for control of the planet with the Reptites. They acquire the Dreamstone, but also vanquish the Reptite leader right as they witness Lavos’ arrival on the planet from outer space.

Reforging the Masamune and Confronting Magus

Chrono Trigger gameplay

With the Dreamstone and both parts of the broken Masamune, the party heads back to the present where they meet with Melchior to reforge the blade. With the Masamune in their possession, Crono, Frog, and one other party member head back to 600AD to stop Magus on the evening of his summoning of Lavos. After climbing the treacherous heights of his castle and stopping his three fiend lieutenants, the party finally faces off against Magus in battle. After a long and arduous fight, Crono and his friends are victorious, but they realize too late that they are fighting the wrong enemy.

As it turns out, Magus’ attempts to summon Lavos were to kill the creature while it was still in a weakened state, and the party’s interference ruins the opportunity for Magus to see his plan to fruition. The resulting time disruption from having interrupted the summoning sends Magus and the party back in time, seeing them arrive in a primitive and desolate version of the planet in the midst of a terrible ice age. Making their way to a nearby building, the adventurers enter a teleportation device and are whisked away to a land of magic.

The Kingdom of Zeal and Crono’s Sacrifice

Chrono Trigger gameplay

Despite the primitive and desolate landscape on the surface, the magical Kingdom of Zeal thrives in the skies above. Zeal is a utopia harnessing the twin powers of technology and magic, which is made possible thanks to the kingdom’s use of something called the Mammon Machine. What most people in Zeal are unaware of is that the Mammon Machine is a device harnessing the power of Lavos, strengthening the people as a result but also feeding Lavos and helping him grow in power as well.

The first two people that the party meets in Zeal are the Queen’s children, Princess Schala and her younger brother Prince Janus. While Janus is quiet and reserved, Schala is warm, kind, and caring, and she immediately finds herself feeling a strange connection to Crono and his friends. When the party learns the truth behind Zeal’s providence, they try to destroy the Mammon Machine. This results in their arrest and imprisonment on the Blackbird, a massive flying jet built by one of the three Gurus of Zeal, Belthasar.

After escaping the Blackbird and meeting the other two Gurus, Melchior and Gaspar, the party heads to the Ocean Palace to confront Queen Zeal and successfully destroy the Mammon Machine. The Queen’s advisor reveals themselves to be Magus in disguise, who is again trying to kill Lavos while the creature lies dormant. Realizing the treachery afoot, the Queen summons Lavos, who then unleashes a massive blast of energy intent on killing the party. Crono, in a moment of self-sacrifice, shields the rest of the party and takes the full brunt of the blast.

The Time Egg

Chrono Trigger gameplay

The immediate moments following Crono’s sacrifice see the three Gurus of Zeal disappear, as well as Schala and Janus (who the party realize is actually Magus). The Ocean Palace rises from the depths and takes to the skies, with the Queen of Zeal now at the height of her power and complely mad. The party is utterly despondent and directionless following Crono’s death, but Magus offers to form an alliance and steps in as the de-facto leader for the time being. After heading to the End of Time and talking with Gaspar, he leads the party to Belthasar’s workshop in the future, telling them of the two inventions that await them there.

One of the inventions is a flying time machine, the Epoch, which Belthasar would build for the party after being cast into the future from the moment of Crono’s death and Lavos’ ascension. In addition to the Epoch, Belthasar gifts the party with a device he calls the Time Egg, or a “Chrono Trigger”. Using this device, the party can travel to one specific moment in time and change its outcome, though there are some considerations to be made for doing so. They can neither add nor remove anything from the timestream, meaning if they are to save Crono they have to find an exact double.

With the clone doll that Crono and Marle win from the Millennial Fair in their possession, the party travels to the summit of Death Peak and activates the Time Egg. Substituting the clone doll for the actual Crono at the moment of his sacrifice, the party rescues the hero and reunites the party to take on Lavos and save the future.

The Final Assault on Lavos to Change the Future

Chrono Trigger gameplay

From here, players have several different choices for how they go about confronting Lavos. Depending on which era of the timeline they challenge the creature, the fight will either be incredibly hard or much more manageable. Additionally, the time period that the party is in when they challenge Lavos will have a direct impact on the ending of the game, as will the choice to confront Lavos directly through a time gate or to conquer the Ocean Palace and face him at its core.

Regardless of how the party challenges Lavos, the climax to the Chrono Trigger story sees the party challenge the evil alien parasite in a battle for the earth’s future. After initially defeating its frightening exterior shell, the party ventures inside to challenge the machine underneath. After defeating this second phase, the final, true form of Lavos reveals itself. A small and sickly alien being, the real Lavos challenges the party in one final attempt to see its plans for feeding on the planet come to fruition. And, with the power of hope on their side, the party emerges victorious. By defeating Lavos, Crono and his friends ensure that the future is one that is wide open.

Various Endings

Chrono Trigger gameplay

There are several factors that contribute to the various possible endings in Chrono Trigger, and some of these endings are more cheerful than others. The developers have an ending that they consider to be the one true “canon” ending to the game, but the other various endings can be achieved by making certain decisions or choosing to fight Lavos in a specific era after completing or avoiding certain side quests.

In terms of the original SNES release of the game, there are 12 different endings, with the first ending having 5 different variations depending on which side quests the player completes. The official “canon” ending of the game is this first ending, in which every member of the party returns to their respective timelines except for Robo, who stays in the present to live with Lucca. In this ending, everyone essentially lives “happily ever after”, though there are some interesting changes to the different scenes that play out during the ending sequence depending on which side quests players complete.

Ultimately, the true ending of the Chrono Trigger story is one that inspires hope. By banding together with friends and being willing to fight for a better tomorrow, the hero of the story ensures that the planet has a bright future ahead of it.

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