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Is Chrono Trigger Concealing Clues About Dragon Quest XII?

Is Chrono Trigger Concealing Clues About Dragon Quest XII?

Me, calm down? No, you calm down! OK, fine – maybe we lifelong RPG fans are a little too excited by the sales pitch for Dragon Quest XII: The Flames Of Fate, Square Enix's mystery-shrouded sequel to the much adored DRAGON QUEST XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age. In a celebratory stream held for the series' 35th anniversary in 2021, legendary creator Yuji Horii described the upcoming title as "Dragon Quest for adults". Cue a mighty furor as the imaginations of millions of Dragon Quest fans the world over whir to life, and in the two years of intervening radio silence since the reveal, that furor has evolved into a wild cacophony of conflicting ideas. What will they do to our precious combat, some say, is it going to be an action game now? What about the cute little slimes? Oh lordy, not the slimes!

dragon quest slimes.0.4

In a statement earlier this year, Horii explained that "the command battles of the past will be completely redesigned", and the hybrid combat model found in 2020's Final Fantasy VII Remake might not be the worst reference point when we start to think about what that means. But what about the overall tone and presentation of the game? There have been one or two dark twists in the series' history — cough cough, looking at you, DQXI Act 2 — but overall, Dragon Quest is undoubtedly best known for its charm and wit, particularly in the whimsical art direction of Dragon Ball’s Akira Toriyama. Perhaps we need to look further back in time for clues to this one — to a mythical period known as 'the mid-nineties' when boybands were rife, and everyone thought "talk to the hand" was a really cool expression. We need to look at none other than CHRONO TRIGGER.

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With Chrono Trigger, we've already seen what can happen when Dragon Quest's staple elements, already well established with five mainline entries by this time, are subject to the direct influence of its cousin Final Fantasy, itself boasting six successful releases. Dubbed the 'Dream Team' by Square, Chrono Trigger was created by five JRPG powerhouses:

  • Yuji Horii (creator of Dragon Quest)
  • Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of Final Fantasy)
  • Nobuo Uematsu (prolific Final Fantasy composer)
  • Kazuhiko Aoki (Final Fantasy IV battle designer)
  • Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball creator & artist)

Now, it is with regret that I make the following shocking assumption: Square's Dream Team will not be reuniting for Dragon Quest XII. But the timeless tour de force they left behind is a great place to dive for hints at what we could reasonably find in Horii's uncharted waters, whenever it is that we finally catch a glimpse of them. Here are the four things that could appear in DQXII, as predicted by Chrono Trigger:

Sci-Fi Fun For All The Family Adults

Since its debut outing in 1986, Dragon Quest has held fast to traditional themes of mediaeval fantasy. But hark! Here comes a very strange beast: it's Horii and Toriyama characters, only this time with a robot buddy, and he pilots a spaceship, and it makes frequent stops in machine-driven, dystopian futurescapes! Final Fantasy VI had already placed Square well on its way to the edgy sci-fi laden aesthetic that would define the franchise for years to come, and Chrono Trigger manages to marry these distinct ideas together both boldly and seamlessly — that's no easy feat!

Perhaps when Dragon Quest XII eventually rolls around, we'll see Horii, Toriyama and the gang tap into this unique presentation once more with the hope of lending their newest endeavour that little bit more...adultiness?


Dangerously Close To Reality

Who would have thought we'd ever see terms like A.D and B.C in the world of fantasy RPGs? Not least in the instance of Chrono Trigger, where the real-world religious entity denoted by these acronyms has absolutely no bearing on the canon of the game. Nevertheless, we do visit the year 65,000,000 B.C., where dinosaurs roam the land and — perhaps inexplicably — a tribe of rudimentary English-speaking humans stand in constant battle against them.

I shall do my very best to avoid outright spoilers about Chrono Trigger's big bad here but suffice to say there are one or two more intriguing — if characteristically and charmingly nonsensical – parallels with the history of Earth as well. It's arguably the escapist nature of fictional worlds that draws many people to the series, but looking at Chrono Trigger does beg the question: could a Dragon Quest game more firmly rooted in real-world history and events work, and would it lead to a more mature adventure for this long-running franchise? Perhaps time will tell.


Going A Little Deeper

Dragon Quest has certainly had its share of reasonably compelling character arcs, though I can't help but feel as though the needle has always bobbed just around the surface — perhaps with Dragon Quest XII, it's time to let it slide all the way in.

Chrono Trigger doesn't quite go to the depths that I'd love to see from The Flames Of Fate, but it does offer up a few characters that resonate surprisingly well, even with a present day audience. You've got Ayla, the primal, prehistoric cavewoman who, as she barks in broken cavewoman English, you would be forgiven for thinking was a bit of a simpleton. Sure, she's recklessly optimistic, her actions leading to unforeseen and unpleasant consequences for the people she cares about; but we soon come into full view of her emotional intelligence and devotion, and it's a stark lesson in failing to see and subsequently undervaluing the latent superpowers of those around us. Have we not all felt guilty of or subject to that, at one time or another?

Then there's Frog — ah, Frog, a personal favourite. He's passionate, he's sensitive, and his failures weigh heavy on him. He has a deep sense of duty but little faith in himself to carry it out. That is, until he's surrounded by those with the inclination to remind him. To put their faith in him.

I could wax for many more paragraphs about the relatability of — and the empathy elicited by – Chrono Trigger's characters, but that's probably best saved for an entirely different article. The point is this: Crono and the gang prove that you can balance complex character development with the idiosyncratic whimsey that Dragon Quest is known for, and this might just be one of the areas in which Square Enix looks to mature the franchise in the next instalment.

frog and crono4

A Twist On Active Time Battles

Chrono Trigger's Active Time Battle combat system is nothing new; it already broke ground some years before when it arrived in Final Fantasy IV. Where Chrono Trigger distinguishes itself is its 'Dual Tech' and 'Triple Tech' combos that can only be executed when two or three party members respectively are ready to take their turn, and these add some nice depth to combat preparation as you decide which composition and combinations of flashy moves will be most helpful to you on the road ahead.

Dragon Quest's combat remains unflinchingly turn-based to this day, though Dragon Quest XI already featured something similar to the aforementioned system in the form of its 'Pep Powers', abilities that could only be executed when the right combination of party members ascended to a heightened state in battle.

This could be a coincidence, or it could be the best sign yet that Horii and his team are looking to Chrono Trigger for a bit of forward momentum. Shifting away from purely turn-based toward an active time system, perhaps with one or two innovations sprinkled on top for good measure, could be the perfect way to usher Dragon Quest XII into a new generation without alienating long-time fans with all-out action combat.

I have no trepidation about this one; the team behind Dragon Quest know well by now what makes their audience tick, and I can't see that mowing down monsters in this new game will be too big a departure from the systems we know and love.


So that's it; a few ways that perhaps this old gem from a bygone age might fire up its time-travelling spaceship once again and predict what lies ahead. If you're looking forward to Dragon Quest XII, a surprise port of Chrono Trigger arrived on Steam in 2018 — and with additional content as well as true 21:9 ultrawide support, it might just be the definitive way to check out a cult classic game while you wait for The Flames of Fate to spark into existence.

Conor McGuigan

Conor McGuigan

Staff Writer

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