Obsidian to Develop a Chrono Trigger Sequel?

Some days, you see a bit of news that makes you think, Wow, that’s awesome. And other days you see news that makes you throw up a little in your mouth.

Well, yesterday’s news that Obsidian was in talks to develop a Chrono Trigger sequel? It made me do both.

And you know what? When you think about it, it’s not the worst idea in the world. Well, yes it is. But hear me out (and considering the internet’s vehement negative reaction, I doubt many people will), mostly because Squenix hasn’t said anything about it and it would take Dungeon Siege 3 becoming the best selling game ever for this to happen. So this is all idle speculation.

Feargus Urquhart, one of Obsidian’s head honchos and man involved in both the original Fallouts, was the one who brought this rumor to light with Siliconera, in a this is the game we’d like to make, if you gave us any of your licenses, oh great Square Enix! And it’s not far fetched: Square wants to get into the development of western games, as evidenced by the MMOs and the recently released Nier, so it’s not an absurd conversation.

On how it would work, Nathan Chapman, also fine fellow with Obsidian, said, I think we’re going with Chrono Trigger because it has elements of a Western RPG. It’s more open, it’s still mostly linear, but there are parts you can explore more. There are lots of differences, like you can beat Lavos at different parts of the game and you get different endings based on that. There are obvious answers like dialogue trees and all of that good stuff. The seeds are there for that kind of development. This probably makes it sound a lot more likely than it is.

An Obsidian developed Chrono game (let’s just call it Chrono Break) would be interesting for a lot of reasons. There are two directions it could go in: it could be a western RPG with a Japanese aesthetic, or it could be a monstrosity like Sonic: The Dark Brotherhood, with which Bioware took the good bits of Western RPGs, threw them out, and made a generic, awful JRPG. Let’s assume they went the former direction.

Of course, it would be difficult to make a direct sequel to Chrono Trigger, least of all because it already has one: Chrono Cross, which produced a hilarious and convoluted present in the Chrono universe*. However, let’s assume Obsidian could work that out. That’s the one element I have faith in them in: their plots have always been fantastic (until they run out of money, at least).

But how would they do it? I’d envision something like a giant cross between Chrono Cross and Dragon Age, where you get into encounters (top down, like Dragon Age) and you slot your character’s moves in terms of percentages**. You can choose to have your party members be controlled by computer (with use of gambits err tactics, like Dragon Age), with the option to override via a pause, or be manually controlled, and playing the game like a turn based battle system, everyone acting their moves simultaneously.

But that’s just idle musing. The real meat would be a western RPG in a JRPG setting.

I have to admit, I’ve had that idea before. You take the dominant aesthetic of the JRPG (the anime-inspired world, feminine males with big swords, scantily clad females, the whole kit and caboodle) and transfer it to a western RPG. Instead of yes/no conversation loops, you had actual interaction, similar to Mass Effect or Alpha Protocol: sure, you were playing a character, but you could control how he reacted to situations or people.

Personally, that’s why I like JRPGs. Because I like anime. The settings, and the overblown stories, really get me. The gameplay’s nice, but I like the games which play more western: games where you have a large degree of customization options, where you can create your own party. The original Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy III were among my favorites, because you could create your party. Others like V and VI*** and especially VIII, allowed you to really go all out and make your static party members interesting. Even recently, Breath of Death VII (available for a piddly dollar on Xbox Live! I’m a tool of the anti-corporation!) is interesting to me because it offers level up paths and options, instead of just static go to the next town, buy the best weapons, grind your levels game progression. And I understand a lot of people like that linear progression, but it’s something that could be played around with.

I think a lot of the fan reaction to news that someone might, maybe do something to change their beloved Chrono Trigger is hilarious (as someone who has played Chrono Trigger more than you, to the point where I could probably draw or explain most of the areas, encounter specific, to you from memory). Chrono Cross changed everything. The third game in the series, Radical Dreamers, wasn’t even an RPG. I mean, I’m not sure I’d be excited if this were a thing that is happening. But I’m glad that someone at Square Enix is considering different ways to do things, and considering offering up their most open ended license to make it happen. And the thought of an anime-inspired Western RPG is truly an exciting concept.

I mean, none of this happens. Any sort of Chrono sequel is a bigger pipe dream than Mother 3 being released in the States. But you know what? A man can dream. A man can dream.

*As perhaps the world’s biggest lover of Chrono Cross, even I don’t know what the fuck happened in that game, and I’ve beaten it *three* times.

**The irony of Chrono Cross is that it is basically the same battle system as Final Fantasy XIII: you have 7 stamina points, and pick attacks that use different amounts of this. Then it regenerates, at a rate different per character. And you know what? It was elegant, and it was tactical, and combine that with the field effect mechanic, and it was one of my favorite not ATB battle systems ever.

***Final Fantasy VI is interesting because there’s a lot of customization options that I think a lot of people miss, because it’s never mentioned and there’s no tutorial for it. Sure, you can teach people spells, which is kind of customizable, but my first couple times through I completely missed that Espers also offered static on level up stat boosts. Which lets you do a lot of interesting stuff, especially when you realize that a lot of character’s moves are magic based and balanced for low magic (Sabin, especially; Bum Rush is magic based, and balanced to be powerful with his usual 20-30 magic. If his magic is 50…)