How a Chrono Trigger Remake Might Affect the CT Novel
By now, just about every active fan of Chrono Trigger has heard the rumor of a potential remake for the Nintendo Switch. This rumor stems from an insider known as Zippo, who has been right about similar rumors in the past. You can read about the original supposed insider leak here. The rumor included the possibility that the remake could be revealed during the June 21st, 2023 Nintendo Direct announcement video (recap here). While the announcement from Nintendo did include some Square Enix titles like Super Mario RPG and Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince, there was nothing about Chrono Trigger. That didn't silence Zippo, however, who doubled down on the rumor, stating on the blog: “Mario fans. Pikman fans. RPG fans. You ate good today. Chrono Trigger fans, don't worry. We will get our day. Let them cook.”
No doubt we'll all be watching the internet to see how this one plays out.
In the meantime, I thought it'd be fun to explore how an actual remake could affect the CT Novel Project (CTNP).
Long-time followers and fans of the project will know that the first full-length novel, Chrono Trigger: The Hero Rising, has been written and made available to dozens of beta readers. (As of this post, beta reading of the novel is closed for an undefined time, pending edits.) As the novel remains unpublished, it is still very possible to make changes where they make sense. But wait…changes? What changes? This is just a remake of the game and not the story…right?
A History of Remakes
It's important to remember that Chrono Trigger has experienced remakes before. While the core story has always been the same, each remake has shaped the telling of that story in various ways. Strictly speaking, the first “remake” was the original translation of the game into English. It can't be forgotten that this game was first and foremost a Japanese property. The game's first release in English for the Super Nintendo was translated and localized by Ted Woolsey, and his work defined the original experience that many of us fans had with this game. At the time, I thought this was the original version of the game, and it was some years later before I realized that several things had actually been changed and even censored. The American localization removed things like references to alcohol (skull-smash, anyone?) and breastfeeding. Most notably, the Woolsey translation gave us Frog's iconic Shakespearean way of speaking. He might have been the only one to speak that way, but really, where would we be without that great first line: “Lower thine guard and thou'rt allowing the enemy in”? (It's not grammatically sound even for this archaic form, but that's for another time….)
Then came the rerelease for Sony PlayStation. This kept the same script translation but added animated cutscenes, which in turn added to the presentation. There's a little over 10 minutes of cutscene content, all of which can be viewed here. And as we look at the novel, even something as seemingly innocuous as this made an impact. I'm hyper-detailed like that. It's in these scenes that we get a glimpse of Crono practicing with his bokuto (or bokken), which is a wooden training sword. That few seconds inspired a whole opening scene in the first chapter of the novel. We also got further glimpses into events following the game, such as the royal wedding, and events that lead into Chrono Cross, like Lucca's discovery of Kid and the fall of Guardia.
Finally came the rerelease for the Nintendo DS in 2008, which brought significant changes in both the gameplay experience and the script itself. The script was retranslated to more closely resemble the original Japanese. A comparison of the DS script against the Chrono Compendium's Retranslation Project reveals this to be true. In fact, for the novel, I added the entire DS script to the Compendium's spreadsheet, which gave me three scripts side-by-side: the SNES, the Japanese retranslation (by the Compendium), and the DS. Plus, we got new important material leading into Chrono Cross, not the least of which showed us Schala and Lavos as the Dream Devourer.
You can see here a screenshot of the DS script added alongside the others, which was used to honor the content of each version as much as reasonably possible in the novel's dialogue.
Thus, every remake or rerelease has had an impact on the CT Novel as well, which brings me to…
The Effect of Remakes on the Novel
If the Chrono novel series ever gets to see official publication, it would memorialize the canon behind the story in a very definitive way. I personally feel that there are merits to each and every way the story of Chrono Trigger has been presented, and each version holds different levels of meaning to different fans. Some see the SNES as the best and love Frog's unique way of speaking. Some consider the DS their go-to because its script is closer to the original Japanese or for other preferences. Which is correct? I say both. That's why I went through the trouble of putting the DS script up against the SNES and Retranslation scripts.
Having these scripts allowed me to make choices about what works best for the novel's dialogue. Sometimes that means choosing one version or the other. Sometimes that means finding a way to use both SNES and DS versions. Sometimes that means some combination of the three. When it comes to Frog…I opted to keep his archaic style and addressed why within the novel itself (essentially a personal choice of Frog's).
So, how would a new remake affect the novel? Well, that truly depends on what they change in the remake. I think the nature of changes can be broken down as follows:
- If the script is modified, this will present a choice similar to what I dealt with between the prior releases. I would look at if the new dialogue can be added entirely, merged with the existing, or if it's best to replace the existing with the new.
- Whether the script is modified or not, enhanced visuals could affect various descriptions in the novel.
- If existing small details are changed, I will do my best to implement details from all versions.
- If large details are changed, such as actual pieces of story canon…well, heaven forbid they do this…but in that case I would do my best to include, in whole or in part, as much as possible of both.
At the end of the day, I would be thrilled to see the Chrono fanbase finally get a new way to experience their favorite RPG via a remake. Hopefully any remake will keep the original story intact.
Heck, hopefully the developers will come to me and ask for details from the CT Novel to implement as ways of enhancing depths of characters and settings. I'm allowed to hope!
Whatever the outcome, I will be ready and eager to ensure the CT Novel best reflects every version of the Chrono Trigger story's presentation all the way up to the point it finally achieves publication.
You can check out the Chrono Trigger Novel Project at www.chronotrigger.com.
Also check out the “Heroes of Time” series published by author Wayne D. Kramer at www.heroesoftime.com.