How Chrono Cross connects to Trigger: What happened to the CT cast and how the games are related
It’s been over twenty years, but Chrono Cross is back. No, we haven’t time traveled - but this time-traveling adventure has received a HD Remaster re-release on modern gaming hardware - which means a whole new generation now get to ask a question we all got used to debating in the nineties: how does Chrono Cross connect to Chrono Trigger?
The answer, somewhat controversially, is that… it does, but not very much. Chrono Cross is absolutely a sequel to Chrono Trigger, and deals with many of the repercussions of that game - but by the same token, the actual core stories of Cross and Trigger are about as related as your average two Final Fantasy games - more a sharing of themes and ideas than anything else.
Back upon its original release, this led to much dislike of Chrono Cross. A lot of people wanted a direct sequel to Chrono Trigger, not this. Over time, the game’s reputation has been re-assessed and adjusted on its own merits - but now, in 2022, many more Chrono Trigger fans are about to discover what sort of sequel this is.
This page aims to help with the transition. In order to answer how Chrono Cross and Chrono Trigger are related, the two main questions we'll cover are when Chrono Cross takes place in relation to Trigger, and what happened to the Chrono Trigger cast. We also discuss how Radical Dreamers fits in, and which you should play first. In answering these questions, much more is also explained. It gets a little complicated - time travel, y’know - but we'll do our best.
We’re also going to try to do so while getting into as little Chrono Cross spoiler territory as possible. Though we will touch on elements of CC throughout, we’ll try to keep things vague. It's impossible to write this page without revealing some things, though - so consider yourself warned. Certain character fates are left open, and your final thoughts will likely depend on your interpretation of the Chrono Cross endings.
Let’s start with one of the most complicated questions. Because Chrono Trigger took place in a number of different time periods across a vast period of time, the answer is really that to some degree, parts of Chrono Cross do take place at the same time as parts of Chrono Trigger - however, it also ultimately takes place in a different world.
This is thanks to the antics of Crono and crew in Chrono Trigger. As players of that game know, the cast are flung forward to a post-apocalyptic 2300 AD, a world destroyed by Lavos. In that future they come across Belthasar, a sage who has built the Epoch, a time machine. The rest of the game is about using Belthasar’s machine to prevent that dark future from ever coming about.
By being successful in their mission, Crono and company create a time paradox of a sort. By stopping Lavos, the dark future 2300 AD never comes to pass, instead seemingly being replaced by a ‘good future’ 2300 AD. There’s additional complications and wrinkles to this introduced in Cross - but for this explanation, that will suffice.
In Chrono Trigger, Belthasar isn’t a native of 2300 AD, but rather was transplanted there from Zeal, an ancient but hugely advanced magical kingdom visited during the course of Trigger’s story. While Crono’s actions change the future of 2300 AD, it doesn’t change the past that Belthasar comes from - which means the events that throw him to 2300 AD still occur. Thus, even in the ‘good’ version of the timeline, Belthasar is still there, and still has the knowledge and genius to create a time machine.
Belthasar, Schala, and Chronopolis
In this new version of the timeline, Belthasar finds himself in a good future 2300 AD with a new mission in mind: he wishes to save Schala, the Princess of Zeal. Schala is arguably the most important character connecting Chrono Trigger and Cross, and despite her small role in Trigger, she’s a huge part of Chrono Cross for reasons we won’t spoil in this article. We will briefly cover some Cross plot points, however:
Belthasar uses his technology to research time travel, creating a huge city-sized laboratory city called Chronopolis. During this time, he also uses an AI called FATE, which is actually connected to the ‘Mother Brain’ AI featured in Robo’s Chrono Trigger side quest.
Through certain events, Chronopolis itself ends up being flung back in time over ten thousand years. It was always there on the world map during the events of Chrono Trigger - it’s just hidden from the eye, something which is explained in Chrono Cross. By keeping Chronopolis hidden, its scientist residents were able to protect the timeline and prevent it from interfering with established events, including those of Chrono Trigger.
Basically, Chronopolis was theoretically there all along in Chrono Trigger, hiding among the huge sea between continents, shielded by fantastical future technology. Some of the residents of Chronopolis do scatter throughout the world, though - meaning some of the characters throughout the world are descendants from future generations who traveled back with Chronopolis.
From here, the events of Chrono Cross unfold. Ultimately, Chrono Cross is a series of complicated events designed by Belthasar and the FATE AI to save Schala - and in the process, all of existence. These manipulations create an entirely different version of the world of Chrono Trigger out of necessity. Or was it the version that always was, but with new facts revealed? Time travel… it’s a wibbly-wobbly mess that'll make you go cross-eyed.
What it all means for how Chrono Trigger & Cross are related
Ultimately, one key theme drives both of these games and defines their connection: time travel is complicated, and changing the past or the future has huge repercussions.
Chrono Cross introduces dimension hopping into the mix on top of time travel, but the point is the same: to demonstrate that even smaller changes have a significant butterfly effect on the rest of the world as you might know it.
Further, at its core, Chrono Cross explicitly deals with one minor hanging plot thread from Trigger: what, exactly, became of Schala. In fact, despite the games being largely disconnected from each other, that hanging plot thread is one of the core plot points of Chrono Cross.
Beyond that, the characters of Chrono Trigger and most of its locations have little bearing on the core story of Chrono Cross. They’re around the edges of this story, but none really play what you'd call a typical, major role.
Chrono Trigger and its characters are, in a way, responsible for all of the major conflicts, but Chrono Cross is more interested in how the new characters handle them than who caused things to be this way.
One thing you might’ve noticed reading the above is that there’s no mention of any characters from Chrono Trigger except for two relatively minor bit-players - Belthasar and Schala. But what happened to the characters you really know and love?
Well, er - once again, it’s complicated, often sad, and depends on which timeline or dimension you’re looking at. However, we can give some concrete information on what happened to them all after the events of Chrono Trigger based on some of the information presented in Cross and Radical Dreamers.
We’ve separated it into headers for certain key Chrono Trigger characters:
What happened to Crono, Marle, and the Kingdom of Guardia?
While not in the SNES original, the added anime ending sequence to Chrono Trigger on PS1 and later versions depicts Crono and Marle getting married. This pins Crono and Marle as the eventual King and Queen of the Kingdom of Guardia, given Marle is the princess during the events of the game.
Chrono Cross reveals that over time, the nation of Porre - a small, non-threatening location during Trigger - becomes a powerful enemy and later an empire in its own right. Ultimately, Chrono Cross refers to Porre attacking Guardia, leading to its fall as a kingdom. Chrono Cross leaves much unsaid, but we do know for certain that the Kingdom fell.
In fact, the Chrono Trigger crew are partially responsible for Porre’s rise in this manner, as the nation is led by Dalton - a minor enemy defeated in Chrono Trigger who ends up cast back in time. He then seeks revenge on Crono and company by raising an army in Porre to destroy Guardia. Porre's army is so powerful that they've even made an active presence in an attempt to colonize El Nido.
A lot of this isn’t clear in the SNES original, but dialogue was added to Chrono Trigger’s DS version making this much clearer, where Dalton’s last words are a threat to “raise the greatest army the world has ever seen in Porre, and use it to wipe your pitiful little kingdom off the map!”
What we don’t know within this is what happened to Crono and Marle. Logic would dictate that they likely died in the fall of the Kingdom, and Chrono Trigger & Cross story writer & co-director Masato Kato has suggested that they would have both been directly involved in the fall.
While Guardia does fall to Porre, it’s clear that it is not obliterated entirely; it is mentioned in the present tense, as if it still exists, by multiple characters in Chrono Cross. However, it’s not possible to visit the kingdom since Serge's journey is locked in El Nido. Porre, likewise, still exists.
Did Guardia fall only for Crono and Marle to escape and then later stabilize the Kingdom once more? Are they alive or dead? That’s for you to consider and decide. Either way, they do not appear in Chrono Cross… at least, not in flesh and blood.
At two points in Chrono Cross, players can find ghosts that are of Crono, Marle, and Lucca - but in the form of children, rather than their adult selves as seen in Trigger. Conversing with them yields interesting story tidbits - but it’s not entirely clear if these are real ghosts - meaning the trio are dead - or if this is some other manifestation of a now-dead future.
What happened to Lucca?
Of all the Chrono Trigger cast, Lucca is the one with the largest role to play in Chrono Cross. This also makes her difficult to talk about without getting into spoilers, so we’ll keep it brief.
After Trigger, she continues on her path as an inventor and scientist. She is instrumental in creating a key object to the story of Chrono Cross. As depicted in the anime ending scenes first introduced in the PlayStation 1 version of Chrono Trigger, Lucca discovers a mysterious child in the forest: this is Kid, from Chrono Cross.
What is clear is that despite her laboratory’s proximity to Guardia, Lucca survives the fall of the nation, and later even works with Porre’s scientists. She also starts an Orphanage, where Kid and several other children are raised.
She also seemed to be researching the butterfly effect, perhaps as a result of the fall of Guardia? Regardless of when she began this research, it's clear that the events of Chrono Trigger had her worried about the consequences of her time traveling adventures.
Through various events in Chrono Cross, it appears Lucca could be dead or alive, much as with Crono and Marle. There's evidence to imply both, but the important part is that the vagueness of her fate is enough to be a motivation for Kid.
Lucca seems to have felt immense worry and guilt over the repercussions of their adventures on the Epoch, and seems to have had a particularly hard time of things. Numerous events take place where she might have perished - and she doesn’t have a present-day flesh-and-blood role in Chrono Cross.
Her true fate remains uncertain, though even if you believe the evidence shows she dies during Chrono Cross, depending on how you perceive certain events in the game, she could end up revived via timeline and dimension-altering shenanigans.
As with Crono and Marle, Lucca appears as a ghost child twice during Chrono Cross, though the exact meaning and nature of this is left for the player to decide.
What happened to Ayla & Frog?
Chrono Trigger’s two past-dwelling party members both return to their own times at the end of that game. While plot points of Chrono Cross do encompass their times, it’s not in any meaningful way - their remaining lives remain untouched. However, their archetypes inspired two party members of Chrono Cross.
Ayla ultimately remains in the past and her offspring down the ages become the royal line of Guardia. She has no direct input in Cross, but another prehistoric girl named Leah is found by Serge in Gaea's Navel when finishing the Six Dragons quest. It seems she fell through a time portal in the distant past at some point. While never confirmed, could this somehow be the result of the Chrono Trigger cast's meddling?
Frog, meanwhile, lives out the rest of his time as a knight of Guardia, and is long gone by Crono’s time, leave alone that of Cross. It’s unclear if he ever canonically reverts to human form or not. While not directly related, his namesake, Glenn, features many references to Frog, such as the ability to X-Strike with the protagonist.
There is a suggestion that the two might have time traveled again after the events of Trigger, as drawings by the children of Lucca’s orphanage suggest the entire Trigger crew visited that location and met the kids - but regardless, they ultimately return to their own times and live out their lives.
What happened to Robo?
At the end of Chrono Trigger, Robo returns to his native time - which is 2300 AD. He ultimately meets Belthasar, and off-screen before the game begins Robo actually plays a significant role in the formulation of the plan that the events of Chrono Cross depict unfolding.
Robo can actually be found in Chrono Cross, too. At a point in the game you’ll learn of the Prometheus Circuit. This circuit is Robo; he gives up his body and his life in order to be integrated into Chronopolis. As the circuit, his actions help to save the world - though, ultimately, he is terminated, and is gone forever - though depending on how Chrono Cross ends, he could be restored.
What happened to Magus?
This one is a bit more complicated. In the original Chrono Trigger, Magus’ fate is left extremely unclear, but the Nintendo DS version of the game reveals that Magus is also out to save Schala, and he departs Chrono Trigger on that mission.
In Radical Dreamers, the Satellaview sound novel that serves as a sort of blueprint for what would one day be Chrono Cross, Magus plays a key role in that story under the guise of ‘Magil’.
Beyond this, Magus was originally planned to appear in Chrono Cross as another mysterious magician, Guile - but ultimately, the developers decided to not do this. Guile is his own character instead. Magus is nowhere to be found in Chrono Cross, and though he is mentioned in a letter Lucca writes to Kid, his fate is otherwise unknown. That previously mentioned DS ending implies that Magus has lost his memory, so maybe the door for him to be Guile could be open? That's up for interpretation.
Non-Party Chrono Trigger Characters
Beyond the party members, a bunch of side characters big and small from Chrono Trigger have some roles to play & fates revealed in Chrono Cross:
- Belthasar & Schala: Key players in the story of Chrono Cross. The description of how the games connect above describes their roles in as spoiler-free a way as possible.
- Gato: Gato, the cute robot you can practice fighting on in the early stages of Chrono Trigger, meets a grizzly end. Gato lives with Lucca, and when the orphanage is destroyed, Gato burns until it shuts down.
- Mother Brain: Featured in Robo’s side quest in Chrono Trigger, the Mother Brain circuit ultimately becomes a key part of the plot of Chrono Cross, as it is eventually used in the creation of FATE.
- Johnny: Street racing Johnny has a cameo in Chrono Cross; you can see his corpse in the Dead Sea area. His fate outside of this specific timeline is unknown.
- Ozzie, Slash, & Flea: The Mystical Knights from Trigger return in Cross; you can fight them at the Bend of Time, a hidden area accessible by sailing to it from the world map.
- Masa & Mune: The mysterious duo that combined into making Frog's ultimate weapons return, albeit in a corrupted state. It's never revealed how this happens, but by the time of Chrono Cross they've already ruined several lives. Once restored via a complicated questline, this becomes Serge's ultimate weapon. Not to mention, the twins also have crucial importance in Cross' plot.
With the connection between Chrono Cross and Chrono Trigger explained, that leaves one final question: that of Radical Dreamers, the visual novel sequel that was previously a rare Japan-only affair but was revived and translated for the West in Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition. How does that fit in?
Well, the answer is... it's an alternate reality, and it also is a sequel to Chrono Trigger, featuring a couple of the characters that went on to appear in Chrono Cross, plus one major Chrono Trigger character whose fate is much more explicit in that particular story.
Behind-the-scenes, what happened is that Radical Dreamers was developed, and in the process of that development it provided inspiration to key staff for what Chrono Cross would be. So in some way, it's a prototypical version of Chrono Cross. Ultimately, Chrono Cross rendered it 'non-canon', as it depicts events that directly contradict that game. However, in a world with multiple parallel universes and dimensions, any story or timeline could be made valid with a wave of a hand - and a new ending in The Radical Dreamers Edition might even be winking towards that.
If you want advice on which to play first, Chrono Cross or Radical Dreamers, our advice is not to worry too much about it. Radical Dreamers is quite a short experience, however - so why not use our Radical Dreamers walkthrough to blast through it, and play them in release order?
Play Radical Dreamers first, then Chrono Cross after, to experience it just as Japanese fans did back in the day.