Chrono Trigger; a Perfect Guide to Foreshadowing

Chrono Trigger; a Perfect Guide to Foreshadowing

Last year, a group of my favorite youtubers hosted a twenty-seven hour stream of Chrono Trigger to celebrate the game’s twentieth anniversary. Since it’s my husband’s favorite game, we both camped out as long as we could. Alas, we both needed to sleep at some point. Though my husband knows Chrono Trigger better than the original strategy guide, that stream was my first experience with the game. I couldn’t help marveling at the way the story handles foreshadowing. This past summer, my husband decided to share another play-through of the game with me and I used that opportunity to analyze the story from a more knowledgeable perspective.

If you struggle to incorporate foreshadowing in your stories, play this game (or watch a play-through)!

Start Simple
Chrono Trigger’s brilliance comes from starting with a simple idea; one day at the millennial fair, a young boy named Crono runs into a young woman named Marle. The two of them head off to visit Crono’s friend, Lucca, and see her newest invention; a teleport pad. But when Marle jumps onto the teleport pad, the pendant she wears glows strangely and she disappears through an unexpected portal. This launches a journey that will take the three friends from the dawn of human civilization to the end of the world and back again.

And it all starts with one simple, critical plot component: Marel’s pendant!

Hide Important Details in Plain Sight
Chrono Trigger hides many of its late-game plot elements in plain sight. You can receive a critical plot item within the first thirty minutes of the game, if you have the time and patience to fiddle with earning the fair prizes. Several of these items affect the outcome of the game; for instance, winning the cat food prevents Crono’s cat from leaping through the time portal at the end of the game. But I digress.

As it turns out, the time portal whisks Marle four hundred years into the past. She looks so much like that period’s missing queen, the locals take her to the castle and call off their search. Unfortunately, this causes Marle to disappear from time all together, since she turns out to be the current queen’s descendant. (Oops!) With the help of a warrior Frog, Crono and Lucca put things right and return with Marle to the present. But when Marle feuds with her father over his treatment of Crono, the three friends once again flee through time. This time to the far future where the world has been destroyed by a being called Lavos.

If you’ve never played this game, you might wonder why any of this is relevant. Well, everything I just mentioned foreshadows something which happens later in the game.

Bring a Series of Seemingly Random Events Together
Crono and his friends quickly realize they’ve heard the name ‘Lavos’ before. In their time period, monsters worship the great Magus who opposed humans during a war four hundred years before. Magus created Lavos to fight the humans (though it wasn’t enough to win the monsters the war). Armed with this knowledge, the friends return to the past and seek the help of their froggy friend to confront Magus and stop his creation of Lavos. Before Frog can help our heroes, he needs to repair his damaged sword, Masamune.

Repairing the swords requires Crono and his friends to make ample use of their ability to travel through time, including a journey to 10,000BC to collect a red stone from a warrior chieftain who spends her time fighting intelligent reptiles. With the Masamune repaired, Frog agrees to join the party, but not before he confronts his past.

Use Backstory to Influence Current Events
Frog’s past is deeply entangled with Magus. As it turned out, Frog was once a human boy, friend of the human kingdom’s greatest hero. When the two of them confronted the mage, Magus killed Frog’s friend and turned him into a frog. It’s only after he makes peace with this part of his past that he’s able to lead Crono and his friends to Magus’s lair; a dungeon fit for the end of a game. But it’s only after the group confronts Magus that the plot really starts.

It seems Magus didn’t create Lavos at all; he only summoned him. After the disastrous confrontation, Crono and his friends are dragged back into 10,000BC where they watch Lavos fall out of the sky, bury himself deep in the earth, and begin feeding on the planet’s power. Passing through the time portal created by his fall, the friends find themselves in a strange ice age, ruled by a kingdom of powerful mages. The queen’s daughter, Schala, uses a pendant shockingly similar to Marle’s to interact with a device called the Mammon Machine, which her mother built to harvest the power of Lavos. Schala strikes a delicate balance between trying to save her brother Janus, and the rest of her kingdom, from her mother’s ambitions while still fulfilling her duties.

As the story winds back on itself, all these elements come together. Magus wasn’t trying to kill the humans but, rather, kill Lavos to save his sister Schala from an unknown fate. Marel’s pendant, which once belonged to Schala, allows Crono and his friends to access sealed areas in each time period which would otherwise prevent them from defeating Lavos. A seemingly random series of events forms a spectacular and unexpected whole when all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled (and I have left a great many pieces out of this explanation). The game even foreshadows its own new game plus feature by indicating you may be able to defeat Lavos much earlier in the game (though if you try on your first play-through, you’ll obviously fail).

The game is worth experiencing at least once since it is arguably one of the best classic RPGs ever produced and its a perfect example of how to weave a great story (so long as you don’t mind the leveling in between).

In conclusion, use these tips to apply epic foreshadowing to your writing:
-Start simple. Use a series of reveals and twists to build interest and details
-Hide important objects or details in plain sight; wait until the perfect time to reveal their full significance
-A series of events can start out feeling random as long as you bring them together eventually
-Revisit a place or an object to learn or reveal more about it
-Use characters’ backstory to influence and reveal details about current events
-Have the whole picture in mind when you start so you can sprinkle breadcrumbs throughout the work
-Realize your reader is probably going to return to your story a second time to pick up on the details they missed and include extra tidbits for them to spot

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