Chrono Trigger: Saving Lara

Putting the “pixel” back in “Pixel Theater,” today I’ll look at the Super Nintendo RPG Chrono Trigger, released in 1995. I played this game as a kid back then, and it holds a special place in my heart. Of course, I’m not the only one. With its memorable plot, fantastic musical score, solid gameplay, and impressive (for the time) graphics, Chrono Trigger’s popularity remains even two decades later.

Setting the Stage:

Chrono Trigger, as you could probably guess, revolves around time travel. Usually that’s a recipe for a confusing, muddled narrative, but in this case it works. The game centers around Crono (I still don’t know whether this misspelling was intentional or simply a result of the game only allowing five characters for names).

Along with his companions, including childhood friends Marle and Lucca as well as an anthropomorphic frog (actually a knight under a curse), a robot, and a cavewoman, Crono adventures through time and space to prevent a giant parasitic creature named Lavos from destroying the planet.

Why the destroyer of worlds looks like some sort of crustacean, I don’t know.

The extensive plot is remarkably written and contains countless dramatic moments, including when Crono and friends first travel to the future. There they find a dystopian ruin where what little population remains is dying off and food (as well as hope) is scarce. This, they discover, is what will happen if they don’t put a stop to Lavos in earlier eras.

The Scene:

With the fate of the world on the line, it may seem odd for me to select a relatively small moment to focus on. But I’ve found that sometimes the smaller scenes can be more poignant, perhaps because fighting against planet-destroying creatures may not be all that relatable, while wanting your handicapped mother to walk again is. In fact, this scene resonated with fans so much, it was referenced in the game’s pseudo-sequel, Chrono Cross.

Crono’s friend Lucca, like her father before her, is a scientist (in fact, she was the one who initially invented the time machine, albeit by accident). When she was a child, her mother suffered a terrible accident involving one of her husband’s machine, which cost her the use of her legs.

Sadly, Fountains of Wayne never wrote a song called “Lucca’s Mom.”

After being asked if there is a moment in the past she would like to change, Lucca sneaks off from the rest of the group, entering a time portal that takes her to the time of her mother’s accident. There, Lucca finds a note from her father Taban indicating that the password to stop the machine is his wife’s name.

Only the craftiest of players (or those who looked it up) figured out that the name “Lara” could be entered using the SNES controller’s Left trigger, A button, and Right trigger. Failing to do so did not end the game; it simply meant that the past was not changed.

Check it out (the scene proper begins at roughly 3:30 in this clip, but the stuff before it is good too, as you see the chair-bound Lara and also witness Robo sacrificing 400 years to regrow a forest single-handedly, another great moment):

Again, part of what makes this scene remarkable is how it makes the player emotionally invested even though the stakes are relatively low. Typically in games everything is a matter of life and death, but here the issue at hand is whether or not a character’s mother can walk. She lives either way.

In gameplay terms, success or failure made little difference; stopping the machine simply granted you an item and allowed you to see Lara walking around in the present if you so wished. But I believe the narrative is structured in such a way that you truly care about Lucca and her mother, fictional though they may be.

(For more on the Chrono games, check out the Chronopedia.)


4 Responses to “Chrono Trigger: Saving Lara”

  1. Love love love Chrono Trigger. I played the crap out of it while overseas and it was nice to reconnect with such a seminal game in the history of the SNES. I spent a long, long time with the sequel, Chrono Cross, back when that first came out so it was really cool to see that game’s lineage.

    I did know that Ozzie, Slash, and Flea were from Chrono Trigger, and one of the side-quests takes you back in time to Luca’s house.

    • Fun fact: in the original Japanese, Ozzie, Slash, and Flea were named after condiments (soy sauce, mayonaise, and vinegar) rather than American rock stars.

      I like our version better.

  2. My brother-in-law lent me Chrono Trigger years ago, but I played very little and gave it back. I’ve heard it’s an amazing RPG, so I wish I stuck with it! Maybe I’ll play it again someday.

    I had no idea about that scene, I was tense just watching it! It was also very moving as well, even though I never played it.

    Great post.

  3. I’m a huge fan of this game and an even bigger fan of its sequel. In fact, Chrono Cross has a special place in my heart as the very first RPG I ever played, and I jam out to it’s amazing soundtrack regularly. Lucca remains one of my favorite RPG characters of all time, and I liked that you focused much of this post on that pivotal moment when she has the opportunity to save her mom.

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