History and Features of the Chrono Trigger SNES Release

The History

"Passing through a variety of eras
from the past, present, and future, it is a story
of a fight against monumental evil.”
- Announcer from Chrono Trigger V-Jump preview video (1994)

Having anticipated a late 1994 release date, Square co. (also branded as Squaresoft in North America) and Chrono Trigger's “Dream Team”  comprised of the famed Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of Final Fantasy), Yuji Horii (creator of Dragon Quest), and Akira Toriyama (creator of Dragon Ball) decided to push back the game to the following year.1 Prior to this release, early alpha versions of the game were shown at the 1994 and 1995 Japanese magazine V-Jump festivals and, subsequently, a beta version of Chrono Trigger was released to magazine subscribers and video game reviewers.2 Within each cartridge it is reported that “three save-games allowed further exploration beyond programmed stop points,” which, when reached, would begin to play an ending foreshadowing the final release of Chrono Trigger.3 A collection of holographic cards depicting Akira Toriyama's artwork and scenes from the beta versions were released as well. A full list and interpretation of the cards are available via the Chrono Compendium website. 

Following this publicity, three Satellaview specials were released on July 31, 1995 that were entitled: “Character Library,” “Jet Bike Special,” and “Music Library.” “Character Library” (which revealed information about characters and monsters) and “Music Library” (which allowed players the ability to listen to any and all songs from the game) would later become part of the “Extras” mode featured on the PlayStation (PS) re-release for both Japan and North America (see PlayStation Re-release). “Jet Bike Special,” on the other hand, is a mini-game in which you race against Johnny (a robot from 2300 A.D.) in two different modes  one that allows the use of a boost feature, and the other without such an advantage. This special, in particular, is a direct replica of an in-game Chrono Trigger level.

These early depictions of story and gameplay footage excited fans at the time and now serve the purpose of providing significant commentary on the developmental history of Chrono Trigger
 which has been analyzed in detail on the Chrono Compendium.
Chrono Trigger began its legacy in Japan on March 11, 1995 on the Super Famicom and later the North American version of the console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) on August 22 that same year. Although the two systems are identical in hardware specifications, discrepancies between the two releases are noticeable even at this early date  however the North American release isn't considered a re-release itself. In this instance, unique changes between localizations play a part in differentiation (see SNES Findings).

The following year, at the 1996 Japanese V-Jump Festival, Production I. G broadcasted Dimensional Adventure Numa Monjar  a 16-minute promotional original video animation (OVA) that took place the night before the events of Chrono Trigger and featured side characters from the game, including Nu, Mamo, Gonzalez, and Johnny. The brief comical short was never released commercially, and so, remains a rare artifact in it of itself.
In the future, a port of Chrono Trigger would be featured in 2011 on the Wii download service "Virtual Console," first being released in Japan on April 26, in North America on May 16, and lastly in Europe on May 20. An exact replica of the original (albeit fundamentally distinct due to a change in hardware and the ability to create save-states), this port reflects the immense success the SNES video game garnered since its humble beginnings.



Design distinctions between both Super Famicom and SNES systems affected outward appearances of the consoles, game cartridges, and controllers, in the end, creating separate playing experiences and regionally locking the Super Famicom and the SNES to their locales. It is also noted that the North American version lacked art for the game's ending as well as hosted various translation discrepancies, along with various omissions enforced by Nintendo of America, including references to breastfeeding, consumption of alcohol, bisexuality and religion (see SNES Censorship).

Differences in character depiction are fascinating as well (see SNES Character Names and Personalities). Most notably, Frog (a prominent anthropomorphic character) is removed from his original Japanese characterization, which was serious and informal in tone
 whereas the North American translation imbued Frog with an Elizabethan English dialect stereotypical of a knight; Robo, (a robotic companion) along with other androids found in the Chrono Trigger universe, all communicate in imperfect Japanese (with instances of katakana depicting these irregularities); Ayla (a prominent cave woman) uses a dubbed down form of speech in both localizations, however in Japan she has an exclusive nickname for the protagonist Crono called Cro; and Magus is Maou in Japan (which translates to “Demon King”).

Most of these alterations are attributed to translator Ted Woolsey, who was asked to localize Chrono Trigger within a thirty day time period.4 Lacking the contemporary setup of a dedicated localization team, Woolsey had to rely upon marketing materials
 that were, in some cases, incomplete.4 Memory constraints also hampered the process, in the end, leading Woolsey to rethink an entire plot without actually changing any of the parameters that govern how the plot has implications on the rest of the game.5

"So, inevitably,
some depth is lost in the translation
from Japanese to English.”
- Ted Woolsey Super Play Magazine interview (1994)

Works Cited:

[1] V-Jump, ed. (1995). Chrono Trigger: The Perfect (Translation). Shueisha. p. 290.

[2] "Chrono Trigger Prerelease." Chrono Compendium. Chrono Compendium, n.d. Web. 06 Aug. 2015.

[3]"Prerelease Cartridge (CTP)." Chrono Compendium. Chrono Compendium, n.d. Web. 06 Aug. 2015.

[4] Woolsey, Ted. "Ted Woolsey Interview: Episode 16." Interview by Chris Johnston and Greg. Player One Podcast. Player One Podcast, 02 Feb. 2007. Web. 19 July 2015.

[5] Woolsey, Ted. "Woolsey Interview." Interview by Neil West. Super Play Magazine Sept. 1994: Chrono Compendium. Web. 6 Aug. 2015.

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