Chrono Trigger
Image: Square Enix

Chrono Trigger is still missing in action on Nintendo Switch. Suspiciously so, really. But people said the same thing about Super Mario RPG, and then bam: Nintendo dropped a remake on us. Fans have been asking for a Chrono Trigger remake for decades at this point, so now more than ever, with so many other revivals from Square like Dragon Quest, Live A Live, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, and more, it just feels like it’s the right moment.

But with multiple ways to remake this game that many herald as one of the greatest of all time, how exactly should Square remake Chrono Trigger?

2D Or Not 2D, That Is The Question

The original release of Chrono Trigger still holds up to this day. Sure, it doesn’t look quite as fancy as Octopath Traveler or some of the other HD-2D releases of recent years, but it’s still easily one of the most beautiful games of its generation. Thanks in large part to the vibrant and colorful artwork of the late, great Akira Toriyama, sprites are easily readable and contain a lot of variety in their animation. But with so many other games of its era receiving the remake treatment lately, it feels inevitable that Chrono Trigger’s time back in the spotlight is coming up soon.

There's the DS version, of course, and the game received a recently updated release on Steam and smartphones that added some minor quality-of-life enhancements, widescreen support, an art gallery, and more, but still remains extremely faithful to the original. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, sure, but the more time passes from its initial release back in 1995, the more it seems like they might be able to shine this diamond even more.

With a style as iconic as Chrono Trigger’s 16-bit sprite work on the Super Nintendo, many fans have said that a faithful yet enhanced HD-2D treatment is absolutely the way to go. When playing the Live A Live remake on Nintendo Switch, it was hard not to think the same. The games even have similar thematic parallels, both with grand, sweeping stories spanning multiple eras, so we found ourselves often thinking about how cool it would be to experience the adventures of Chrono, Frog, Ayla, and the rest of the gang in the exact same game engine.

It would be tough to complain if it turned out like this

HD-2D would be the safest route, no question there. The environments and character designs could be even more detailed, and they could also incorporate some more modern elements in there like advanced lighting techniques and a little bit of 3D trickery in the 2D-ness of it all.

It’s very easy to imagine, especially after seeing the trailer for Dragon Quest III HD-2D, which also showcases original artwork from Akira Toriyama. But maybe it’s a little… too easy to imagine? Maybe the choice is too obvious?

I could see a case for a straightforward HD-2D remake being underwhelming for a game that consistently ranks so highly in many people’s top games of all time. Dedicated fans have already made an impressive mock-up of the game in HD-2D via Unreal Engine 5, and yes, it looks gorgeous– but now it already sort of exists. A remake of a game with a legacy and reputation like Chrono Trigger really should go above and beyond base level expectations. Chrono Trigger on SNES showcased the pinnacle of 2D visuals at the time, so why not give a remake the chance to do the same thing but with 3D?

A Journey Across Space, Time, And A New Dimension

Square’s recent Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is a massive overhaul of the original release, and fleshes out the familiar world of that game beyond fans’ wildest expectations. In short, it’s a remake that utilizes just about every tool of modern game development at its disposal. Still, we don’t necessarily even want or expect that from a potential Chrono Trigger remake. The game should be big, sure, but honestly we’d be completely fine if they used the world and graphics of Dragon Quest XI as a blueprint instead.

Similar to our experience playing the Live A Live remake, we couldn’t help but feel the same way at times when playing Dragon Quest XI on Switch. Seeing Akira Toriyama’s wacky monster designs bounce around that big open map in 3D had us imagining a scenario where Chrono Trigger was reimagined just the same.

Before then, we only ever wanted a faithful 2D remake of the game– if we ever even got one at all. We didn’t necessarily even want one back then, but new opportunities started to take shape in our head as we saw more and more remakes with tastefully overhauled visuals and added quality-of-life enhancements we didn’t even know we needed.

Dragon Quest XI’s world map is large, but refined. It’s not necessarily open-world, but it’s not totally restrictive either. It’s the near-perfect compromise for bringing an older game into a newer graphical engine while retaining its identity within established parameters. If you add too much to a remake, it can be easy for players to see some of that as “fluff” or “filler.” And, when it comes to remaking a finely tuned 2D game in a more open 3D engine, that is a potential risk that you run.

Chrono Trigger
Image: Square Enix

If Square Enix remakes Chrono Trigger in 3D, even with an open 3D map like in Dragon Quest XI, it's going to have to add some extra details. Older games are designed specifically with the initial restrictions and hardware limitations. Simply bringing over what we love and remember into a newer, bigger graphical engine is bound to disappoint people because it runs the risk of seeming like a big empty void dotted with familiar landmarks, especially when compared to the tighter world design of the original. But if the team just transfers over the old game into a 3D engine with no new additions, it’s likely going to seem glaringly smaller in comparison to other games on the market today.

When you tweak the finer details of a game that many hold near and dear to their hearts, those details are going to be inspected under a microscope and judged a lot more harshly. However, when we imagine exploring the distant future, prehistory, and the other various time periods of Chrono Trigger in a vibrant, colorful 3D engine, along with some exhilarating attack animations, victory poses, and thrilling CG-animated cutscenes, it sounds far too good to pass up, if executed correctly.

Will The Future Refuse To Change?

Unfortunately, it’s just not possible to please everyone. No matter what route Square may take, if it chooses to do so at all, some subsection of the fanbase will feel let down.

But, for a game as beloved as Chrono Trigger, perhaps both options could work: HD-2D and a full-on 3D remake. Even though it would take extra manpower, Square would end up letting down fewer fans, and then would no doubt charge full price for both versions. It’s a win for everyone! Kind of.

Or how about something like this?

Trials of Mana got something a few years back — a port as part of a compilation in 2019, then a full-on 3D remake in 2020. Perhaps simply giving fans a way to experience the original, while also providing a fresh 3D remake that retains the charm and whimsy of the SNES version.

Or how about a clever combination of the two, like the 3DS (and Japan-only) version of Dragon Quest XI, which featured sections in both 3D on the top screen and top-down 2D on the bottom (see above)? Designing the whole game in this fashion and not neutering the potential of either 'version' would be a serious design challenge, but there's no game more deserving of the effort. Even if Square did two entirely separate games, we couldn't resist trying both flavors to see how they stack up against each other. Hopefully, there would also be some sort of discount for a package deal for people like us.

At the end of the day, whether Square Enix decides to remake the game in HD-2D, 3D, a combination, or not at all, we always have the original version to go back and play. No matter what the case, it would still be nice if it was brought to Nintendo Switch Online so more people could have easy access to it.

Which flavour of remake would you prefer if Square Enix decided to bring back Chrono Trigger? Let us know in the poll and comments.

What style of remake treatment would you like to see Chrono Trigger get?