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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Videogame Memories 11 | Zach Ricks

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I remember “Chrono Trigger.”

SPOILER ALERT. Warning. This is a game that was originally released in the US for the SNES in 1995, again for the original PlayStation in 2001, again for the Nintendo DS in 2008, and yet again in May of 2011 for the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console. It’s had such a long life because it is the greatest game ever created for any platform, period. I’ve owned it in at least three of these iterations. But because it’s only been recently released for one of these platforms, you might be playing it now for the first time. If so, STOP READING OR LISTENING TO THIS NOW. I am deadly serious.

Cool? Okay.

I don’t remember when I picked it up, or where I first started playing it, but I absolutely remember Chrono Trigger. Oh, I bought it because the artwork was cool, and it was a Squaresoft game, and I knew they did good work because I’d already played and enjoyed the heck out of Final Fantasy III. I remember looking at the Akira Toriyama artwork, and thinking “this looks kind of familiar.” (Toriyama was the artist who created DragonBall and DragonBall Z. There is no DragonBall GT. Doesn’t exist. Shared hallucination. Sad story. Anyway...)

Then I took it home and started playing. Oh, sure, there was some kind of a thing about a fair and then there was this blonde girl who wanted to hang out, and I played some fair games and won a life-size replica of myself. And then my friend wanted me to demonstrate her teleporter… which then tore open a hole in space and time and flung the blonde… someplace. And my character stood up and volunteered to go get her back. He had no way of knowing where she’d gone, how to return, anything. He’d known her for maybe an hour. But he was the kind of guy who was willing to go after her anyway. And I was hooked. I was all in. It was fun, but what really sunk its claws into me and kept me coming back for more and more were the characters and their stories. I met a frog who used to be a man. (And once I discovered his real name, he’s never been anything but Glenn to me). I found myself accused of treason and sentenced to death. I defeated a dragon tank. I travelled to the dark and dismal future and found out that I was going to be fighting some sort of WORLD DEVOURING EVIL. I found out my friend blamed herself for the death of her mother, and because the game involved time travel, I got to give her the chance to make it right. I enjoyed every minute of it. Right up until we faced WORLD DEVOURING EVIL for the first time.

And my protagonist refused to run away. And he died for it. Obliterated. Disintegrated. Dead.

And the game kept going...

I remember sitting in a basement, staring at the television set, dealing with the fact that this character that I’d invested so much time and energy into… this character that represented ME in the game world... this character that I loved... was gone. And while I was doing that, I was watching his companions do the same thing – dealing with their grief at the loss of their friend. I’ve never had a game pull me through that kind of emotional experience, and it’s that moment, and what follows it that has made Chrono Trigger my favorite game of all time. Sure, I take a lot of good-natured ribbing for my love of Pokémon, and that’s been a wild and crazy ride for the last twelve years. (Long story. I blame kindergarteners. Darn kindergarteners.)

But Chrono Trigger continues to be an influence on me because the story was so deep and rich. It hit so many themes – loyalty, family, self-sacrifice, regret, love, tragedy… and ultimately, triumph. And don’t get me started on the music. To this day, I cannot hear the opening theme without getting a little emotional.

If you have a chance to play it, I highly recommend it. It’s the greatest game of the 16-bit era, and I dare say it’s my favorite game of any era. (and it’s like 8 bucks on the Wii virtual console. Seriously.)

Zach Ricks is an attorney, writer, and publisher living in Austin Texas with his wife and one daughter. He’s known for his love of science fiction, fantasy, Pokémon and breakfast tacos. He’s also occasionally a big fat crybaby. Find his writing at, and his publishing company at

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