Chrono Trigger: Prophet's Guile
The year 2007 has been crowned with the release of Chrono Trigger: Prophet's Guile, a short but detailed ROM hack from Kajar Laboratories illustrating the events of Magus's rise to prophethood in Zeal and steps towards staging his shot at revenge in the Ocean Palace. The release is momentous; it is the first new complete, storied ROM hack in Chrono fandom, and a decisive victory for a community which has had too few ROM hackers and too many ambitious dreams. That can all change, though, as Prophet's Guile is showing. Warning - For reasons unknown at this time, SNES9x freezes during a certain part, so you'll have to play it with ZSNES.
Interview with the Developers
Step inside the development process as illuminated by these developer comments. To start playing immediately, download the patch here (.7z). Don't miss the included soundtrack!
Nightmare975 spearheaded the interviewing process. To start things off, we'll join Chrono'99, Guru of Reason of the Chrono Compendium and the driving force behind programming, directing, and completing the game.
1. Why did you want to work on this hack?
I always wanted to create a fangame of sorts, but I never managed to write a decent story on my own due to a lack of imagination, or at least self-confidence... or maybe just laziness. That's why I joined the Crimson Echoes project, since it already had a large plot draft to work with. When I read Zeality's plot outline for Prophet's Guile, I was excited in the same way. It described all the events of the game in details from the beginning to the end. I had never written a complete plot outline, and there was a really nice one right here at disposal, so I jumped on the opportunity to code it.
2. What have you done in this hack?
I coded the events, mainly. I also did some maps, a bit of graphic hacking, and altered the monster stats.
3. Any difficulties you experienced why making it?
Magus was supposed to wear his Prophet hood during the whole game. From the start we decided that he would remove it during battles, since otherwise this would have required too much graphic hacking. Various tricks were considered to have the player control the Prophet sprite outside of battles, but all possibilities required at least a bit of sprite assembly hacking. We eventually decided that it wasn't really worth the effort, given the short nature of the game and its "quick development" philosophy. In the final version, Magus wears his hood only during some cutscenes. The other difficulties were very minor because the project was well-planned from the start and we had a clear idea of what we could and couldn't do with the CT engine.
4. Could you give a bit of a teaser of Crimson Echoes?
The project was resumed in October, and it's now 25% complete. The plot is huge and blends the creative styles of many different people. The game intends to fill the gap between Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross, but one of its main purpose is to further develop the overarching themes of the series rather than simply involving the old party in a new adventure. I don't want to give away anything precise since it would spoil the surprises, but I can say we're expanding the Chrono themes of "hope" and "dreams" with the notions of "reconciling differences" and "personal attachment". Finally, while Prophet's Guile isn't meant to be a direct prequel to Crimson Echoes, it does allude to an event in the past which will have huge repercussions in the latter game.
5. What are your thoughts on the ROM hacking community in general at this point?
Well, apart from the Compendium's forums, I'm not much in contact with the ROM hacking scene. I just hope Prophet's Guile will lead more people to try their hand at hacking Chrono Trigger. Before the release of Temporal Flux, I had never actually hacked anything. Temporal Flux makes things really easy once you've familiarized yourself with the program, but I have the feeling that many people don't realize this because there's a lack of documentation. I encourage people to open Prophet's Guile in TF to see how events were coded, and to ask questions in the forums if they want to start using TF.
Next up is ZeaLitY, who wrote the plot and dialogue, and created the project in January 2007 with the intent of releasing it soon after (though problems and real life difficulty hijacked that plan).
1. Why did you want to make this hack?
Temporal Flux was released in 2004, and since then, we've had a couple demos and one Colosseum. Even if it'd only be two chapters long, I wanted to release a new story of some kind after a quick development phase to stir interest in hacking and also get fans interested again. I've also long thought about some kind of hack featuring Magus, and filling in a blank in the adventure of Chrono Trigger seemed like a natural idea. After all, Magus's reaction to finding his home again is character development that shouldn't be omitted from the Chrono experience.
2. When did you come up with the idea about Magus in Zeal before Crono arrived?
In line with wanting to renew interest, Magus is one of, if not the most charismatic character in the series, even as an "optional" character. It was enchanting imagining what Magus would have thought and done upon finding out that he'd return to his old era and home after thirty years in utter darkness among vindictive peoples. On top of this story, Zeal already exists in the game's code, making development relatively easy with a few expansions and a couple custom maps here and there. For me and several others, Zeal was the point at which Chrono Trigger became legendary in our minds, and to visit there again with a real purpose and something absolutely anchored to Chrono Trigger canon sounds too good to pass up.
3. Why the name? Any special reason behind "Prophet's Guile"?
There's an obvious Guile reference in there. It's a shame that more people don't know about the Magil character Magus becomes in Radical Dreamers and was set to be in Chrono Cross...before his characterization was removed due to difficulty representing it among a sea of characters. Magil is completely awesome; he's Magus after the darkness has mostly passed. It's all reflected in that Serge quote from Radical Dreamers in the hack. Guile, despite not having a backstory, is close in his gentlemanly mannerisms and refined, mysterious charm. This guy is a prince of Zeal, and after thirty years as a prince of darkness, he really fills those regal shoes by looking human again and becoming an interesting, intrepid person. Guile probably has a little more sense of humor than the Magil of Radical Dreamers, but the behavior is mostly similar. Magus's trip to Zeal is really the genesis of his change away from the Mystic disguise he's worn to acquire power. He sees Schala and his home again, and though it's all ultimately lost a second time, and takes away the will to defeat Lavos with Crono's group and depart through time in search for his sister, believing she is alive. His previous mission of vengeance fulfilled, he's now doing something positive.
One of my greatest hopes for a new Chrono game is that Kato will say "yeah, we had to keep him out of Cross but now...introducing, Magil!" And hopefully the Radical Dreamers bookend quotes will provoke a little thought about Magil and interest in Radical Dreamers, too. Along with other wonderful touches like the Cerulean Lake (a godly job by Chrono'99 on that one), the quotes and art give Prophet's Guile a feeling of polished grandeur.
4. Finally, was there a challenge in writing dialogue?
A) There are no new characters here. B) The featured characters are shown during or before their appearances in Chrono Trigger. C) There's no drastic development here. These three points mean that at the very least, I could emulate the style of the original Chrono Trigger dialogue; at the most, I could engineer memorable lines and expand on their patterns of speech. So it wasn't like having to reinvent the wheel or deal with very difficult situations; I had a great example to follow with Woolsey's characterization, and it was fun writing for the villainy of Dalton and Queen Zeal. On the other hand, having such a big template to work with and follow meant that I'd better not mess it up or write bad, cheesy lines. The only thing which got away from me was a tendency to use "do not" or "cannot" in place of "don't", "can't", or that sort of thing. It's dramatic enough for the Prophet, but not for joe blow Lasher or casual conversation among the royals.
And now, we'll switch gears to the music department by covering JCE3000GT and Vehek. JCE is blazing a trail as we speak with SPC hacking, and Vehek is a vigilant resident of the Compendium forums. Starting with JCE:
1. How easy were the FF6 songs and the RS3 song to translate to Chrono Trigger? Was there a trial and error process of instrument selection?
Importing Final Fantasy 6's SPC sequences/songs was rather easy actually, only a few modifications to the actual sequence needed to be done--but of course since I am a musician it was reletively easy for me. Picking the instruments used in this particular mod was a bit time consuming because I really wanted the right sound since it is a xmas mod. Importing Romancing SaGa 3 and Final Fantasy 6 tunes was a bit tedious in terms of getting the instruments at the right octaves due to some of Chrono Trigger's instrument samples being recorded an octave or two higher than Final Fantasy 6's. Most notably was the Strings. Romancing SaGa 3 was a bit more of an animal--as it is a newer core than Chrono Trigger. Some sequences needed a bit of TLC to get sounding right. Otherwise, since the SPC cores for these and a few other Square games were relitively similar it was an overall easy process.
2. So Chrono Trigger and a few other games use a common SPC core? When was this Square SPC core first developed?
I'd say that this SPC core originated from Romancing SaGa 2 which was released in Dec. 1993. Final Fantasy 6 (released April 1994) saw a significant evolution with more commands and routines being added to make ths songs sound more complex. Then in March 1995 Chrono Trigger again evolved the SPC core adding yet more commands, and later in November 1995 Romancing SaGa 3 again slightly evolved the SPC core. The last games to be released with this SPC core under a few final revisions were from the Satellaview online Super Famicom system in 1996. Those games were, Dynami Tracer, Radical Dreamers, and Treasure Conflix.
3. What are your thoughts on the future of the ROM and SPC hacking?
I am excited about the prospect of future SPC and music in general being modified in older games to give them even more of a new flavor. I've recently semi-documented Final Fantasy IV and Mystic Quest, something I've always wanted to do. Having more things for the "rom hacker" to change in their projects the better. i've even coded an quaint Visual Basic application that aids the rom hacker when they import new songs between those games mentioned in this interview by allowing the user to easily edit what instrument samples are used in the songs in question. I orginally coded this program to help me edit the samples on the songs I was importing for Pandora's Box and my own projects.
Continuing with Vehek...
1. Originally, Final Confrontation was slated to be used for the Dalton confrontation. What prevented this?
For Final Confrontation, it was because, as mentioned by JCE, Radical Dreamers has a later SPC core than Chrono Trigger. Those differences caused some off-syncness (most noticeable at the beginning) when copying songs directly. I tried using the same fix I used on the other RD song I imported and the RS3 song I imported, but that caused a bunch of obviously wrong notes to appear. With the "deadline", there wasn't enough time to try to figure out what other differences in the SPC cores were causing problems. Plus, I didn't know what most of the instruments used in the song were.
2. What exciting possibility in ROM hacking do you most look forward to?
Hmmm, I don't really know. I guess I look forward to (or hope to see) stuff like better music importing (including importing your own compositions, though I'm not a musician), and modifying things like Mode7. Well, I'm kind of lost on my opinions on this.
Finally, we'll hear from FaustWolf, who helped with graphic hacking. He customized CuteLucca's Magus art to fit in the menu and also laboriously transferred in the ending art by Julie Dillon.
1. What's your take on CT hacking during this short break from working on Chrono Cross's models?
The break from Cross hacking ended up being much longer than I anticipated because there was a fair learning curve involved -- the art insertion project for Prophet's Guile was actually my introduction to SNES hacking. That a relative newbie was able to do this shows just how easy it is (with some time and lots of patience) to alter Chrono Trigger to one's liking. Geiger's Temporal Flux is extremely user-friendly and the Compendium is a treasure trove of guides that can quickly bring inexperienced hackers up to speed. Most important, however, was the support I received from more experienced CT hackers -- drawing on the knowledge Vehek, Chrono'99, and Zeality previously accumulated made this project way less masochistic than it might have been otherwise :) But the successful insertion of CuteLucca's and Julie Dillon's artwork has given me an extraordinary sense of accomplishment, and I hope others will come up with their own awesome CT modification projects -- I could easily see environments from Seiken Densetsu III being imported into Chrono Trigger in the future, for example.
2. Can you provide a run-down of what you did to incorporate the art?
First off, I invite Prophet's Guile players to view CuteLucca's and Julie Dillon's beautiful artwork in their full glory -- the artists would probably cringe to see their work reduced to the standards of SNES graphics:
Dark Matter, by CuteLucca:
Magus, by Julie Dillon:
So when Chrono'99 and Zeality began discussing a revision for Magus' portrait and the insertion of ending artwork a la the Japanese version of Chrono Trigger, I just knew these had to find their way into the hack. The great challenge was presented by the fact that the fanarts are presented in JPEGs, which have a bit depth of 24bpp and a color range of 16 million. Thus Ms. Dillon's art has 29,952 colors. Dark Matter weighs in at 61,097 colors!
Chrono Trigger, by contrast, can handle images that have a bit depth of 4bpp, for a color range of 16 maximally. What's more, some of those colors are alpha channels, i.e., transparencies. So there's really only 15 colors for the portraits, and 14 to 15 colors in the location palettes (some apparently have multiple alpha channels).
Enter palette reduction: the art of making a picture that has tens of thousands of colors in its native state not appear to suck when it uses only 15 or so. And it truly is an art -- you could let the computer do it for you, but look what happens to Magus' face in that case:
A human can pay better tribute to CuteLucca's artwork by reducing the palette gradually, checking the impact on the art at each step. I won't go into too much detail, but basically manual palette reduction involves melding all the shades of black into one black, all the shades of blue into two or so shades of blue, etc. etc., until you've met the technical requirements of SNES graphics without sacrificing too much quality.
For the Dark Matter portrait, I was able to get by with Zeality's portrait alteration guide. Julie Dillon's artwork was a whole different ballgame. Chrono'99 and Vehek informed me that we could get up to 100 or so colors in the in-game ending art by splitting the artwork up into seven sections, each with its own palette (up to seven palettes are used per location in Chrono Trigger). Seven rounds of palette reduction later, I inserted Ms. Dillon's artwork over the graphics packets used in the court room area via Temporal Flux. I must say, Geiger has really given us full control over Chrono Trigger's environments -- especially since his program handles the decompression and recompression, which is normally what prevents hackers from viewing the game's graphics intelligibly in TileMolester and other graphics editors.
I'd also like to thank Justin3009 for reviewing the final in-game arts and suggesting corrections. I have absolutely no art training whatsoever (all I have to my credit are some simple sprite edits), so it was great help getting second opinions from an experienced spriter.
That covers it! Though the lightning-pace of development envisioned in January 2007 was ultimately deferred, the project was finished in December thanks to a similar effort spearheaded by Chrono'99 and supported by several others. It's not too hard to hack simple scenes and map beautiful places when it comes down to it, so give editing Chrono Trigger a try if you'd like to make something new and become a community leader. Check out the links in the sidebar to the modification pages and Temporal Flux downloads, and have fun!
Q. I'm having trouble with a boss or enemy!
A. Since it's a short hack, Prophet's Guile's battle strategy lies in knowing which elemental attack in Magus's arsenal to use. Also, be sure to open treasure chests where you find them for consumables, as there are no shops.
Q. The person I'm supposed to protect keeps dying in the mini game!
A. Take a strong, decisive lead. You might even have to throw yourself into harm's way before the person does.
Q. Where do I go after that mini game?
A. If you explored the area near Zeal Palace earlier, you would have found the Cerulean Lake. Take Magus there to reflect.
Enjoy the game, everyone! If you'd like to start ROM hacking and making your own scenes and Chrono Trigger fan games, check out these links:
- Modification Encyclopedia
- Geiger's Crypt (get Temporal Flux, the CT editor, there)
- Kajar Laboratories Forum, where you can ask questions
From: Completed Modifications