Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Boss Fight Books #2

Chrono Trigger

Rate this book
Last summer, Boss Fight Books gave fans the chance to vote for the game they most want to read a book about, and they chose the epic time travel RPG Chrono Trigger.

Featuring new interviews with translator Ted Woolsey and DS retranslator Tom Slattery, Michael P. Williams's book delves deep into connections between Crono’s world and ours, including Chrono Trigger's take on institutions such as law and religion, how the game's heroes fit and defy genre conventions, and the maddening logical headaches inherent in any good time travel plot.

From the Magus dilemma to the courtroom scene, find out why many consider this game the high point in the entire role-playing genre in this in-depth examination of Chrono Trigger, a ton of fun and a true work of art.

194 pages, Paperback

First published March 25, 2014

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Michael P. Williams

9 books7 followers
Author of Chrono Trigger and research hobbyist. I like ephemera and cookies.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
54 (12%)
4 stars
139 (32%)
3 stars
163 (38%)
2 stars
59 (13%)
1 star
11 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 58 reviews
Profile Image for G. Derek Adams.
Author 3 books72 followers
October 30, 2014
Two stars for squandered potential - three for basic enjoyment and readability, and there were some little scraps of CT lore I didn't know previously.

Let me save you some time - here is every essay in this book in a nutshell:

1. Here's an arguably interesting observation about Chrono Trigger.
2. Here's some surface discussion of the topic and regurgitation of salient plot or game elements.
3. Here's a marginally connected anecdote from the author's life.
4. The observation is validated, but no greater understanding of the text is achieved. No illumination, no depth.

Rinse and repeat.

This has to be every nerd's dream - the opportunity to drop some motherfucking science on Chrono Trigger, to discuss it at length - in a truly scholarly fashion. I guess I just had my hopes up, but this book disappointed me. It's short for starters, and a lot of it's word count is devoted to the aforementioned anecdotes instead of, you know, Chrono Trigger? It would be different if the game really informed these anecdotes, if the game had a more powerful connection to the author's life, but here it just feels like he's reaching for a page count.

Probably most infuriating, the most interesting observations are tossed off as jokes or asides. The author is gay, and makes a couple of references to Frog's sexuality, his relationship with Cyrus, and viewing his arc as a struggle with heternormativity. THAT'S A FASCINATING ESSAY I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE READ.

Also - only one essay about time travel? A weak re-tread of Time Traveler's Immunity... pshaw.

Also also - author never played Chrono Cross. Because when discussing a text it is advised to dismiss later additions.

Maybe I'm just being grumpy, the author seems like a nice person who I would like in real life. This book just disappointed me.
Profile Image for Mike.
51 reviews
April 2, 2014
"Good morning, Chrono!"

Chrono Trigger (the game) is a seminal classic. Arguably, it set the bar higher than any game has been able to for any genre since it's release. Both cutesy yet epic, joyful yet morose, it has stood the test of time. Anyone who has played it understands why this wasn't just another game. It was the Citizen Kane of video games. And while the game was the same for everyone who played it, they all have a unique story behind the experience. What it meant to one player, what emotions it invoked, was a truly personal experience. If you haven't played the game, you likely think I'm overshooting with my description of the gravitas of this game, quickly reminding me "it's just a game." It was/is just a game, but again, I'm not just describing the game itself, I'm describing the experience. I had that experience. I remember it fondly.

Michael P. Williams is among those who took the Chrono Trigger experience. The game has clearly left an indelible mark on him as well, as chronicled (see my word choice there?) in his book that takes the same name as the game. In Chrono Trigger (the book), Williams chooses not to use the pages to simply detail the plot, production and facts about the game as one might expect from a video game retrospective; he breaks different aspects of the game down and reassembles them while retrofitting them with his personal experiences: his thoughts on what they meant to him in 1995, what they mean to him in 2014, and his views on how they provide commentary on society across that span of time.

At times, the author draws from his own adventures as an American living in Japan shortly after the turn of the century to provide insight on how wonky such differences in culture can be. He parallels this to the wonkiness of getting such a massive (at the time) game reformatted for the western world. He again uses his time abroad to draw similarities between that and parts of the actual story contained within the game.

What makes this book so engaging, besides being well-written, poignant and humorous, is the fact that it's not just a retelling of the whowhatwherewhenwhy behind Chrono Trigger. If I want that, I can take to the internet and wiki to my heart's content. As I mentioned at the start of this review, Chrono Trigger is an experience. What that experience is will be unique for each player. This book is Williams' experience. It's not my experience, it's not yours. It's his. But getting to read someone else's experience allows me to feel like I'm not alone with the high-regard I keep this Super Nintendo classic. It allows me to see what similarities my experience has with that of the author, and where the differences are.

It encourages readers to look at the things that stay with them over time, whether it's a video game, a movie, another human being, or a really good pastrami on rye they ate while visiting Manhattan. The point I'm trying to make about this book is, video games today are a cultural juggernaut. But in the 1990s, when Williams (and myself, I might add) first began playing Chrono Trigger, video games were kids stuff, nothing to be taken seriously. The author knew then that Chrono Trigger was something BIGGER. It stayed with him, despite the general consensus at the time that it was just a game. This book is simply his telling us that. If it means something to you, cherish it. Even if it might not seem like a big deal to the frog next to you.

I highly recommend this book but warn those who may not be familiar with the video game: if you haven't played it, then a lot of it will surely be lost on you. But then again, if you haven't played it, shame on you!
Profile Image for B.R. Yeager.
Author 7 books524 followers
May 2, 2014
Michael P. Williams’ contribution to the Boss Fight Books series is a remarkably detailed exploration of the classic Squaresoft RPG Chrono Trigger. In analyzing the game’s themes of time, disaster and consequence, Williams successfully weaves together threads from the real world to illustrate how the game has retained its relevance for almost 20 years.

The chapter I found most affecting was “The Day of Lavos,” wherein Williams uses the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the 1995 Tokyo gas attack and the 1945 nuclear assault on Hiroshima to explore the cultural relevance of the Chrono Trigger’s antagonists and apocalyptic futures. The narrative moves seamlessly between providing historical context, a description of play and the author’s personal perspective on the events described. It’s an incredibly moving piece of writing and speaks volumes on the nature of optimism and human resilience. I can only hope there will be more game-related writing of this caliber in the future.

I found Chrono Trigger to be a wonderful example of how the literature surrounding games is evolving. Williams’ book illustrates how video games afford players not only a diversion, but an opportunity to process their real-life experiences. It’s an incredibly entertaining and informative read. Highly recommended.

Profile Image for Caleb Ross.
Author 38 books184 followers
March 12, 2018
Chrono Trigger book review
Click the image above to watch the video review.

I’ve never played Chrono Trigger. But I loved this book. What? How is that possible?

It’s true. I’ve never played Chrono Trigger outside a few short sessions during my youth (all play sessions that involve me are short), but those sessions were so short and so long ago that memories have congealed with every other 16-bit RPG of my youth. Chrono Trigger may as well be Secret of Mana may as well be Final Fantasy VI may as well be Illusion of Gaia.

And I actually believe that it’s the obligation of the reviewer to be familiar with the source material when reviewing a piece of criticism. In other words, I should have played Chrono Trigger before reviewing a book called Chrono Trigger. But I also think it’s a fun exercise to see what I can get from the criticism while being willfully ignorant. So I’m having fun here. I won’t be concerned with how well this book treats its source material.

So, knowing that, how was I able to love this book, and possibly the video game, without much knowledge of the video game?

The short answer to my love of a game I’ve never played is that this book is academic. It’s more academic than any of the other three Boss Fight Books I’ve read and reviewed so far. As the author carries us through the plot of the game, he embraces opportunities to explore things that aren’t unique to this video game.

For example, during an observation about the characters being homogenous in terms of skin color, Williams digs into the history of race representation from both a cultural standpoint and from a technical standpoint. So, both from the perspective of a single-color monorace representing the “default human” and from the perspective that maybe mid-90s software limitations prevented skin color variety (the later perspective is one that the author quickly debunks by reminding us that Earthbound, released one year earlier, contained human characters of different colors, so software can’t be the only limitation here).

This chapter, called “Straight? White? Male?” can actually be read as a stand-alone essay; the context of Chrono Trigger isn’t important. Rather, Chrono Trigger is a catalyst. And while this sort of commentary could veer into a simple critique on sexism and race–a critique that’s important, of course–it doesn’t. It instead gives us additional context; an aesthetic commonly called “nationalitylessness” which is an attempt to remove the “cultural odor” of Japan from international products. I’m not going to attempt to explain this idea here as I will surely misspeak on it. Michael P. Williams lived and taught in Japan, so just know that he handles this potential difficult conversation with the appropriate respectfulness.

Throughout the book, the author repeats this technique of using the game as a jumping off point to discuss larger issues. Another great example is the chapter titled “Neuga, Ziena, Zieber, Zom” which talks about the difficulties with translating games. He also talks a bit about strategy guides not being given enough credit as companions to the game, at least here in the US. An entire chapter is dedicated to this. Again, not something unique to Chrono Trigger, but something very interesting and worth learning about.

At first, I felt out of place when reading Chrono Trigger. I was honestly a bit disappointed because I wasn’t given the same humor or self reflection that I’d come to love about the Metal Gear Solid, Shadow of the Colossus, and Earthbound books. But then I fell into what this book is doing. Simply put: it’s teaching. I discovered that I like learning something non-game related with video games as the impetus to that knowledge. School would have been way more fun if I learned about inertia by way of Sonic the Hedgehog or if Street Fighter II was used to teach me automotive repair…that last one didn’t make sense.
Profile Image for Bryan House.
525 reviews8 followers
April 12, 2022
I have played Chrono Trigger for the SNES. I absolutely ADORED it. What an extremely pleasurable and memorable experience. I spent ungodly hours exploring every nook and cranny, and becoming SEVERLY emotionally attached to its world and characters.

I very much enjoyed this book and a reexperincing of the world of Chrono Trigger.

That being said, this book is stinky farts.

We get a few fun tidbits tucked away in the STRANGEST reading experience. Instead of talking about, idk, the the games creation, let's speculate on the gender of the monsters featured. Why. Why you do this?

It made me laugh out loud multiple times. I just couldn't help but to laugh at how bizzarely off topic the book gets. I understand and adore personal experiences related to video games - go off! The issue is that the core of the book makes me feel the author thinks Chrono Trigger is very "meh".

For a better experience, youtube any Chrono Trigger retrospective.

After finishing this book I youtubed Chrono Trigger and the first video that popped up had more information about chrono trigger in its first 2 minutes than the entirety of this book.

Still... I liked the book? Idk. Don't trust my opinions.

What set me off is the closing of the story

"Chrono Trigger is a static game. Once we discover all the secrets, experience all the endings, there's little else to do before it becomes repetitive... but how many times can we play Chrono Trigger before we move on? There are more games than this, and countless more adventures that lie outside of chunky gray cartridges."

To me that says "In closing, it's just a video game, go outside."

So disrespectful! LOL
Profile Image for Brian.
648 reviews79 followers
October 21, 2015
By this point, I have a much better idea of what the Boss Fight Books series is about. They're not in-depth critical analyses of the games they're covering, they're autobiographical accounts of the author's life and how they connect to the game they're writing about with some musings about and history of the game sprinkled in, so how much I like one of these books usually depends on how interest I am in the author's life and how much I like the game. And here, Chrono Trigger is my favorite JRPG and, like me, the author spent time teaching in Japan, so there's two great points for me to dig in to right there. I admit, at the beginning when he was describing the title screen and the pendulum swinging in, I could hear the music in my head and I got a little misty-eyed.

I'll skip a bit to the end first and say that while there were a lot of moments in Chrono Trigger that I liked, probably my favorite part came when Williams made the claim that Chrono Trigger doesn't need time travel. And you know...he makes a pretty good case. There's almost no effort spent exploring the consequences of time travel affecting the future or the past, and the one moment when the game does cover it--Leene's kidnapping and Marle's disappearance--it doesn't make any sense. Marle vanishes before anything has actually happened to Leene, since the party recovers her unharmed, so why did anything happen to Marle? And the chests in the forest ruins require you to wait to loot them in 1000 AD rather than 600 AD so you can get the more powerful items inside, but after that you can go back to 600 AD and loot them again without affecting the items from 1000 AD. You could have multiple worlds in a solar system or multiple parallel dimensions just as well and take pretty much the same story as Chrono Trigger does.

I also liked the point that Magus is the only character in the party who actually has a personal stake in stopping Lavos, and he's also the only optional character. His sister is gone, his mother was corrupted, and his entirely civilization was destroyed by their reliance on Lavos for mystical power. Lavos essentially ruined his life. Meanwhile, everyone else except Robo lives and dies centuries (or eons, in Ayla's case) before Lavos awakens and its existence has no effect on them. Ayla will be affected by the ice age, but there's no chance to prevent Lavos from arriving. And Robo fights even though if the party wins, the future will change and he will probably never exist.

The ending shows that he still does, but I wonder if they threw that in later on. Apparently Horii Yūji's original plan for Chrono Trigger was that when Lavos kills Crono, Crono would stay dead. I probably would have hated that the first time I played the game, but nowadays I think it would have made the game a lot better. Crono sacrifices himself, Marle becomes the main character afterward, and she and her companions continue on with his work and eventually win. But even time travel can't solve everything. It would be a great mirror of the game over screen that anyone who's played the game has burned into their memory:

But it was not to be.

There's a good interview with Ted Woolsey in here too, that explains some of the changes that he made to the script when he was translating, as well as the pressure and technical constraints he was under. I knew that Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar's Japanese names didn't have nearly the same cultural resonance, but I didn't realize that the fantastically-named Mammon Machine was just 魔人機 ("demon machine") in Japanese. And like the author, I too was confused by the "naga bromide" found in Manoria Cathedral.

I mentioned teaching in Japan, and while that does feature into Chrono Trigger it's not really a major point. I remember it being important twice. The first is comparing Guardia's travesty of a justice system with the Japanese legal system, which has a 99% conviction rate (and if you think they just happen to arrest everyone who's guilty, well...), and the second is about the homogeneity of the humans in Chrono Trigger. Most of them look very similar and all of them have the same skin tone, and mostly the same hair tones, other than the Laruba in prehistory and the Enlightened in Antiquity. Williams compares it to standing on stage at his school's entrance ceremony and looking out onto the sea of black-haired people and realizing that he was obviously the outsider, and compares the humans of Chrono Trigger to the fiends, who have a huge variety of shapes and apparently species but all get along fine. It's not quite humans are the real enemy, but it's an interesting point.

Also, I appreciated the point about Lucca not being part of a love triangle. I hadn't thought about it before, but that's right. Marle is obviously interested in Crono, and while Crono's role as the silent protagonist can make Marle's interest seem weird or creepy sometimes, at least they don't throw in a hackneyed fight-over-the-boy subplot. Instead, Lucca congratulates Crono for finding a "cutie." A+

There's quite a bit more in here, and while a lot of it is relatively shallow--ideas that are thrown out, mulled over for a few paragraphs, then discarded for the next one--I really enjoyed reading it. Some of that is what I brought to the text, admittedly. It's not as well written as ZZT, but I like the game it's about a lot better.
Profile Image for Cristhian.
Author 2 books44 followers
October 21, 2020
Mi secundaria :')
Personalmente soy más fan de The Secret of Mana o Super Mario RPG pero Chrono Trigger tenía un carisma que ninguno otro tuvo. Eso y sus múltiples finales era magia, esa magia que sólo era posible a 16 bits.

Este libro es un pequeño ensayo al amor que existe en cada uno de sus sprites.
Profile Image for Travis Riddle.
Author 10 books322 followers
May 6, 2019
An alright look at the game. My favorite chapter was the one on its translation, interviewing the two main English translators the game has had, and their process in doing so. Would have liked to see more critical analysis of the game's design and themes and information about its creation.
Profile Image for Rafael Maragni.
47 reviews
June 21, 2020
Profile Image for Ken.
141 reviews16 followers
April 6, 2018
This book isn't just better than its intolerably terrible predecessor, EarthBound , but is a satisfying read in its own right. The author dissects the Super NES and DS classic Chrono Trigger: the ethnic and religious identities of the game's characters, the synergy of their magics, the logic of the game's time travel, and the challenges of translation (as represented by original interviews with Ted Woolsey and Tom Slattery). Williams relates the game to his own life, but only when necessary and relevant, keeping this from being a dull memoir. Since the book is written first and foremost by a gamer, not an academic, the text is accessible, though it sometimes leads to superficial observations: counting the number of humans in Crono's world is an interesting mental exercise, but I don't know that it leads to any significant findings about the population. Still, I enjoyed reading about a game I haven't played in nearly twenty years; it left me wanting to dust off my original cartridge and become a time traveller once again.
Profile Image for Eric Mesa.
696 reviews17 followers
November 7, 2014
This book is exactly what I hoped it would be. It is a deconstruction and reconstruction of the plot; it is an examination of what made the game so special. And it is a chunk of the author's autobiography.

Unlike the author, and perhaps unlike most Chrono Trigger players, this was my first Square RPG. My brothers and I saw it in a used game sale bin at our local game rental shop. Attracted by Toriyama's art more than anything else, we bought it for about $20 by combining all our allowances. It is no over exaggeration to say that purchase changed our lives. We had no idea such a game could exist.

This book also has a great chapter with an interview with the two translators. It was amazing, but also sad because it revealed that many of the references I loved like the names of the wise men were added by Woolsley.

If you played Chrono Trigger in the 90s you must buy this book.
Profile Image for Dan Berends.
14 reviews1 follower
June 2, 2014
I have to say I enjoyed this book more as it was more about about the topic of the book then the EarthBound book. I liked the information and the author's perspective on the many different parts of Chrono Trigger (especially his breakdown of the issues with time traveling.) All and all I would definitely recommend this book to those that even have the slightest interest in Chrono Trigger.
Profile Image for Joshua Novalis.
78 reviews1 follower
January 2, 2019
When my oldest brother left for college, he left at home his SNES and a small collection of games for it. Super Metroid. Donkey Kong Country. Mario Kart. Super Mario World. And, of course, Chrono Trigger. While all of these games certainly got their share of attention, nothing captured 6-year-old me so completely as the latter.

Looking at my life trajectory since then, I can honestly say Chrono Trigger played an irreplaceable role in making me the person I am today. It ignited and stoked the fires of my imagination, priming me for many more years of science fiction and fantasy, time travel, airships, JRPGs, character-driven stories, and an unhealthy obsession with the musical artistry of Yasunori Mitsuda, Nobuo Uematsu, and others. This game wasn’t just a part of my childhood; it was my childhood, purified and distilled into one cultural artifact.

All that to say: there’s no way I could give this book a fair review, without my love for the game spilling over at every moment. Nevertheless, I can comfortably say that Michael P. Williams did a commendable job of capturing so many of the reasons Chrono Trigger is an enduring classic to this day. Williams covers the many joys experienced upon discovering the game and diving into its world. Chapters on the difficulties of translating the game into English, the various genre-bending worlds found within the game, the inherent paradoxes of time travel stories, as well as others, are fun to read and well-researched, and clearly come from someone who loves the game as much as I do.

If I had one complaint, it would be that some chapters felt rather unstructured and aimless. The chapter on representations of gender and race in the game was a fantastic idea, but it felt unclear in its thesis or direction, opting instead to work through each woman in the game one-by-one and decide if it was a fair and healthy representation of a female character. I would have loved to see a piece of criticism more grounded in the narrative thrust of the game.

However, for any fan of Chrono Trigger, it’s a worthy trip through the many beautiful aspects of the game they know and love. Greatly recommended!
196 reviews2 followers
May 24, 2019
Call it 4.5 stars.

This is just the second Boss Fight Books entry that I've read (SMB2 was the first). It is hard to compare and contrast the books in this series, and I don't think one should even try. I think one should consider them independent stories, which might take any form at all.

This one is hard to characterize. The author sort of analyzes the game, perhaps how a literature scholar would analyze a classic novel (but not to so much depth). If that makes the book sound boring or academic, I don't mean that--it's a quick, lively, entertaining read laden with nostalgia and with just a touch of deep thought. We don't go over the plot--this book is for people who've played the game or are otherwise familiar with its characters, story, and mechanics. It's for people who want to spend a little more time thinking about the game and what it means.

So much of what the author says just sort of absorbed into 13-year-old me and 20-year-old me as I was playing and replaying this game growing up. What I mean is, I didn't *think* about the themes or what the story might be saying (whether the game creators meant to say it or not), but the media we consume touch and shape us without our noticing. This can be a good or a bad thing--there are good (friendship, courage, justice) and bad (fighting, greed, implicit sexism) themes in anything. It's good to think it through sometimes. The author takes us back in time and shows us a little of what we learned along the way.

The ending of this book, like many of the games I played in my teens and 20s, made me well up with emotion. You think about what you've been through, you've come to the end, and the end of anything is always saturated with emotion. Sometimes, you just don't want it to end; you want more. But that's all there is, so you reflect and move on.
Profile Image for Glen Engel-Cox.
Author 4 books51 followers
February 6, 2023
I never played this game, either. Williams covers it here in enough detail that I don’t feel the urge to do so, although I do appreciate his extensive rumination on the subject of nostalgia, the physics of time travel, an exegesis on the subject of so-called strategy guides, and an insight into the challenges of translating video games, especially those steeped in a cultural riffs. The latter is probably the most useful aspect of this book for those who aren’t interested in analyzing video game plots, as it underscores some of the real dangers still inherent in machine translation. This really resonates with me at this moment as I write this in the middle of a ten-week stay in Fukuoka, Japan where I’m having to rely heavily on computer translation and discovering that there are many, many ways for it to break down. For example, you don’t think about how the names and descriptions of food often lack information about the ingredients, the actual flavor, the method of cooking, or even whether it is served hot or cold. And while it seems every restaurant in the world has a caesar salad, it’s always a little different wherever you are due to local tastes. (The caesar salad is the one western dish I would eat in Japan; otherwise, I’m sticking to sushi and the other regional specialties.)
Profile Image for Logan.
1,296 reviews34 followers
August 2, 2019
After a mildly interesting synopsis of the game's story, the author launches headlong into a lengthy discussion of the ratio of genders, the gender inequality represented in the world (out of seven heroes, only three are female, gasp), and speculations on the sexual orientation of each hero and villain (and his own gay-ness). What?! And it's not just a few pages either, it's about a quarter of the book. Who wants to listen to a random person's irrelevant opinions and musings? They aren't even done well.

Lucca is criticized as being the stereotypical "science girl", unattractive but smart. Marle is criticized as being the stereotypical "princess girl" who is attractive and feminine and perhaps emotional (but she does carry a crossbow for crying out loud) and Ayla is criticized for being stereotypical "caveman girl" who is only interested in sex and drinking. Well I don't know what you were looking for dude but the game was fine just the way it is and I don't care about your complaints about 60% of the world's NPCs being male, and probably straight ones at that. Don't you have anything better to offer?

Even if some of it was tongue in cheek (maybe) it was awful. Just awful. At least the interviews with the translators were included because the rest is worthless.
Profile Image for Frank Kool.
93 reviews8 followers
November 30, 2018
Let's get the bad out of the way so we can end on a positive note, shall we? BFB#2: Chrono Trigger is rather short and contains its fair share of name-dropping and pretentious phrases (i.e.: needless jargon stacking such as "a Schrödinger Catch-22" to describe the time travel paradox). The author also takes the forefront a bit too much, with (often dull) autobiographical snippets thrown around in every chapter.

Still, the biggest hurdle in this book for me was the chapter titled "Straight? White? Male?", which is just as obnoxious as you'd expect. Filled with political buzz-words and passive-aggressive phrases like "Now there's nothing wrong with that, but...", it follows the SJW race/gender critique of "damned if you do, damned if you don't". Example: Marle needing to be rescued earns the game a scolding for using the "damsel in distress" trope, but no such complaints are made when Marle returns the favor by bringing Chrono back from the dead. Marle being attractive and nurturing is a stereotype, but when we get to the plain-looking Lucca or the assertive Ayla, the author digresses into a bit about unwomanly female representation in media.
Moreover, for all its complaints about "white privilege", only two of the seven playable characters are white males and both of them are expendable (as reviving Chrono and recruiting Magus are optional).

Alright, on to the good stuff. First of all, Williams knows his stuff and has gone to great lengths to re-explore the game before writing this book. The writing style is very pleasant and makes for easy reading (like most Boss Fight Books, you can blaze through it in a single afternoon). There's even a hint of scientism to this book, as Williams reveals that he went through the game making notes on the appearances of every single NCP (which is a total of 425 in case you were wondering).

Much like the plot of the game itself, the book goes back and forth between separate parts of game and skillfully interlinks the content with our world. These game/real world comparisons often take place along the lines of culture, history, and language. Williams' in-depth knowledge of Japan can give you new insights into a game you thought you already knew. For example: I fondly remember lengthy analyses of christian undertones in Chrono Trigger, so it was simultaneously refreshing and disheartening to learn that many of the religious references were not present in the original Japanese text. Sacrifices had to be made to bridge the cultural gap between Japan and the West, and it is these discrepancies which Williams uses to teach us a thing or two about the Zeitgeist from which Chrono Trigger arose.

All in all, the book is a neat exploration of a timeless (no pun intended) classic which will give even hardcore fans new material to ponder about.
Profile Image for Nick.
40 reviews
July 26, 2018
Finally read a full book in 2018. Only 8 months in. Hokey smokes. But this was a good one to let me reacquaint myself with my inconsistent fondness for reading. I found myself wanting to read so much more about the monomyth in relation to these party members and how all of these characters intersect with different cultures (religion, LGBTQ, feminism, etc). My only gripe is that I wanted it to go deeper. Williams gets just deep enough to give me a taste for it but has to move on to keep the book's pace going. The history and information about the developers was fine. Give me more on that Frog queerness angle, though (was Queen Leene a beard?). Is the craving for more enough for me to dive into the fan-driven meditations/internet conspiracies on these subjects? Not really. Fans are crazy. I'd just take another volume of this, please: thought-out addresses on some of the things the analytical mind wonders about while mindlessly pulverizing Reptites or wandering dystopian junkyards.
Profile Image for Chris Daviduik.
29 reviews1 follower
July 13, 2017
I do not understand who the target audience of this book is. As a longtime fan of the game, this book provides little value or anything new. Out of a book of 173 pages there are about 20 that are interesting.

If you've played Chrono Trigger before, this book is unnecessary as it is primarily a summary of the entire game infused with unnecessary musings by the author. If you haven't played the game, just go play it and avoid this book.

The few pages that I found worth reading were just interviews with two of the people that have translated the game, to snes and ds respectively.

This book is the equivalent of taking a game you already know and love, and listening to an annoying acquaintance rattle on about _their_ experiences and opinions that you are either already aware of, or don't care about.

I don't wish to be mean, but this book was truly disappointing.
Profile Image for Bill.
528 reviews11 followers
October 23, 2021
I thoroughly enjoyed this exploration and reflection on Chrono Trigger, even though this book does try to be many things at once. The author intersperses their own experiences playing the game (upon release and years later), examines translations and localization for North America, analyzes the strategy guides and support materials, and does a few deep dives into things like the non-diverse demographics of the game characters. And it's a pretty short book!

I can see how the author's personal narratives could jar some readers, and a few were a little cringy -- especially comparisons of game elements to actual disasters and Japanese culture. For me, though, this all fits -- a good overview of the game for people who aren't familiar with it, and a nostalgic trip for those of us who played it at key times in our lives.
Profile Image for Spiegel.
27 reviews1 follower
December 30, 2021
This was not at all what I expected. There was a lot of philosophizing over various aspects of the game, personal anecdotes, and cultural comparisons, but all presented using the highest caliber words in the author's arsenal. Like he really, really wanted us to know how much smarter he is than everyone else in the room. I really enjoyed some of the social context, development insights, and especially the translator interviews. Many of the critiques felt hollow at best or contrived out of nowhere just to have content about how poorly the game characterizes this thing or that.

I plan to give another Boss Fight Book or two a try, but despite being about one of my favorite games, this one mostly missed the mark for me. I guess it's because, truly, more than half of the book felt like it wasn't about the game at all.
11 reviews
July 14, 2020
This book does a bit too much philosophically meandering about for my taste. It could be that I want something different from these books than what the author intended to give. I want more history of the game and the development process it went through, not quite so much of the inner monologue of the author's current life. That is interesting, and the final chapter is satisfyingly poignant, but I want it to be the set dressing on the main course of history, not the other way around.

The book is well written though, with prose that does a good job of sinking the reader into the nostalgic moments.
Profile Image for Max. Speicher.
6 reviews
January 4, 2021
In contrast to other boss fight books I've read so far, Michael P. Williams approaches this story about (or rather, analysis of) Chrono Trigger—widely considered as one of the best RPGs and one of the best SNES games—from a language and translation perspective. Having lived as an English teacher in Japan, he explains the cultural differences that influenced the time-travel-based games translations. Parts of the last few chapters can even be considered philiosophical ("The fate of our world is always dependent on now, and even this ever-present now will someday run out of time."). Since there are plenty of spoilers about different possible endings, I strongly recommend playing the actual game first (available for Android and iOS).
9 reviews1 follower
August 12, 2018
Overall, I liked the book. It gave a decent in depth analysis of what is probably one of the greatest JRPGs of all time.

What I didn't like at all was the blatant SJW agenda pushing that went on at times. With using terms such as 'white privilege', and one chapter dedicated entirely to the race and gender ideology, the book suddenly went off track from discussing a video game and started being very cringey.

Profile Image for Geovanny  Gavilanes.
6 reviews1 follower
February 21, 2021
Williams abre varias puertas al mundo de Chrono Trigger conectando varias historias y eventos personales con situaciones dentro del juego. El autor hace una reseña de varios actos dentro del juego de forma "cronológica" (:P). Un par de cuestiones acerca del final que me dejaron pensando son las posibles paradojas temporales dentro del juego y el uso de las trampas como forma de -ganar-. Lectura rápida recomendada apenas se complete el juego.
Profile Image for Joel.
103 reviews5 followers
March 19, 2021
I really wanted to like this book. Chrono Trigger is one of the "classic" games that I have a lot of respect for, but never had the chance to play when it came out. I'm currently in the middle of my forth play-through and was hoping that this book would add more depth and understanding to the game.

I did learn some from the book, but not as much as I'd hope. Most of the insight was observational and not, as I hoped, from in-depth research or interviews with the creators of the game.
Profile Image for Sharon.
461 reviews29 followers
November 25, 2017
Some good analysis of storytelling, gender roles, and other literary things in Chrono Trigger. My favorite part was the interviews with the SNES and Nintendo DS translators for the North American releases. I feel like most of this book could be distilled into one or two magazine feature articles though.
Profile Image for Wesley and Fernie.
312 reviews1 follower
March 1, 2019
While this book contains some interesting tidbits about the various translations and some interesting parallels to natural/manmade disasters in our real world (Y2K, specifically), a lot of this book felt like it was just a long series of Kotaku articles strung together. Not really recommended unless you really enjoy Chrono Trigger and devour everything about it.
Profile Image for Caitlin.
66 reviews2 followers
April 22, 2019
Made me think about CT in a new light in a variety of ways. Not what I expected but glad I read it! I appreciate the way the author tied his experiences, general world events, and the lore of CT together. Thought-provoking especially after some years since playing it. 4/5 mainly because some sections felt weaker than others, but I overall would recommend it!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 58 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.