Chrono Trigger is perhaps the end-all and be-all of RPGs. Created by the “dream team” of Hironobu Sakaguchi, Yuji Horii andAkira Toriyama, with collaborations from various greats like Masato Kato, Kazuhiko Aoki, Yasunori Mitsuda and Nuobu Uematsu, Chrono Trigger was the perfect storm that, even with the merging of both Square and Enix, may never come into fruition again. Its superb balance, branching side-quests, multiple endings, and unique gameplay have stood the test of time, allowing the game to remain one of the most well-loved classics in gaming history.
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One of its biggest strengths, perhaps, is how every character in Chrono Trigger has a great amount of depth and conflict imbued into the games story. While any of these characters can be discussed in detail, one character always stood out as a perennial fan favorite: the chivalrous amphibious knight Frog. But Frog’s story is not a singular one, thanks in part to how Frog is involved in one of the game’s longest-running themes. Knowing how his story ends, it would be impossible to discuss Frog on his own because of close connections he has with the game’s tertiary antagonist, the dark wizard Magus. Frog and Magus were designed to be opposing forces, mirrored foils that closely tie their character arcs together. So it is fitting to cover them both in detail to showcase the expert interweaving the two characters have in the epic tale penned by Horii.
We first meet the two characters both in the middle ages timeline of the game. Frog is an anthropomorphic knight that aids the party in rescuing Marle, who is mistaken for the historical Queen Leene. Magus on the other hand is the Fiendlord, the leader of a group of mystics who are at war with the people of the middle ages responsible for the kidnapping of player character Marle when you first visit the realm.
Both Frog and Magus have an intertwined history with each other that is revealed slowly throughout the game, and both come to complement each other greatly as foils to their respected personalities. The two characters seemed to be opposites when considering in-game roles. Frog acts as a “warrior” archetype, considered one of the strongest physical members of the party. Magus, in contrast, is primarily a magic user, with unique shadow abilities and versatile tech options that classify him closely to a “black mage” archetype seen in many role-playing games.
This dual-relationship between them is essential to both characters’ motivations throughout the game beyond their classes and appearance. Frog was originally a young squire named Glenn, who often questioned his abilities to fight and had a knack for not wishing to be involved in violence. His best friend and idol was a knight named Cyrus, an exceptional swordsman who befriended him when he was a child.
Cyrus and Glenn would go on several journeys together; fighting monsters and recovering the hero amulet from the Frog King being notable exploits. Cyrus would also use the magical power of the beings known as Masa and Mune to form the Masamune sword, a powerful artifact which he planned on using to defeat a new threat in his timeline, the Fiendlord Magus.
Unfortunately, Magus would kill Cyrus in combat. Glenn, in horror as his friend and idol perishes by the hands of magic, ignores Cyrus’ plea for him to run away. Instead, Glenn is transformed into a frog by Magus and sent hurling off a cliff into the stream below. Since that day, Glenn, now known as Frog, has went on a personal crusade against Magus and the fiends to avenge Cyrus for his failure of being afraid.
Magus, in contrast, has a murkier backstory. Originally known as Prince Janus and born in 12,000 B.C in the Kingdom of Zeal, Magus was a prominent mage whose mother and sister were his only family. Janus loved his sister, Schala, but had resentments with his mother, whom he viewed as distant towards her children.
Part of that distance, in the end, was mostly the Queen of Zeal’s ultimate plans: activating the Mammon Machine. The Mammon Machine is a major plot point; a machine created to harvest the power of an alien parasite named Lavos, which crash-landed on the planet in prehistoric times. Much of the strife is how Queen Zeal descends to obsession over the Mammon Machine, putting Janus and Schala in danger when the Machine backfires, transporting Janus, Schala, the Queen, and the three gurus—Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar—in front of Lavos itself, before being thrown through different time loops.
Janus would be sent to the Middle Ages, where he encounters the mystics. The mystics’ leader, Ozzie, saw his potential as a magic user, grooming him to be a powerful mage and eventually the leader of the mystics. Janus then changed his name to Magus, and as the leader of the mystics, he became more resentful of the power of Lavos. For Magus, he swore vengeance against Lavos and obsessed over the fate of his sister Schala, using his newfound position to gather power to defeat the parasite by any means necessary.
Both characters, ultimately, are driven by a desire for revenge. Their actions are effectively mirrored within eachother though this desire, in positive and negative ways. For Magus, the war he begins that spurs action by Cyrus in the middle ages was for his personal quest of vengeance against Lavos. Magus takes a very Machiavellian approach in dealing with Lavos. The war with Queen Leene is to consolidate his own power, thus increasing his chances in surviving a confrontation with the parasite. Magus became obsessed and vindictive in his desires here, committing villainous acts and even obstructing the progress of Crono and the party at times for becoming involved in his plans.
Frog, in contrast, is shown as a chivalrous character. He feels strongly about honor and justice but has many self-doubts about his own abilities. Most of this stems from his feelings of regret for Cyrus’ death. Frog felt that he let his friend down at the hands of Magus, prompting his personal quest for revenge. Much of his character is one of solitary penance, purposefully pushing back against others whom he would call allies out of fear of losing them in his fight against Magus.
Frog is, in effect, just like Magus in motivation, but differs in the means to achieve vengeance; although, there are moments where Frog comes close to becoming Magus. One of the quests in the game is the reconstruction of the Masamune sword, the only weapon that could defeat Magus in combat. Because the sword’s power is only accessible by its true wielder, Frog, the party attempts to persuade Frog to join them on their quest to stop Magus. He at first reluctantly agrees, still doubtful of his own prowess.
Yet when the player returns to the secret spot where Magus plans to summon Lavos, Frog, in a great oath of bravado and a massive swing of his sword, swears his oath to kill Magus for Cyrus and himself, and wield the Masamune with true valor. He then takes the sword and cleaves a mountain in half, revealing the entrance to where Magus’ lair is hiding in one of the game’s most iconic moments.
The true test, ultimately, comes from the “death” of the titular character Crono. The death of Crono is one of the climatic moments of the game, killed by Lavos during the ancient kingdom period after Magus attempts to interfere with the original summoning of the creature by the Mammon Machine. The survivors are rescued by Schala, who uses the last of her power to transport Magus, Frog, and the remainder of the party through time, giving them a chance to destroy Lavos once and for all.
Magus, brooding and disillusioned at his failure to kill Lavos, is found one last time by the party. He mocks them for their failures, for the death of Crono, and the party is given a choice to fight him in battle or leave him to his fate. If Frog is in the party, the scene takes another dimension, where the player can choose to duel Magus with only Frog or ultimately have Frog realize that his quest for revenge is pointless.
The canonical choice is Frog and the party sparing Magus, and for good reason as it brings closure to the growth of Frog as a character. Magus was already complex and vindictive due to his desires, a trait that will never change within him. His desires to find Schala consume him; even at the game’s best ending it is the only thing he desires to do after Lavos is defeated. For Frog, the choice to spare Magus comes at a realization of his own character growth; he avoids becoming the mirror of Magus in every way, letting his desire for vengeance consume him.
Magus does prove to show some compassion, even if Frog engages him in a final battle here. It is Magus who gives the party the information it needs to revive Crono, and with him in the party he provides some further backstory with the mystics in the medieval period if he joins the party. Magus is still singular in his purpose, a cold and dispassionate character compared to the rest of the party, but once again following a Machiavellian approach. Allying with his enemies, realizing that this is his best bet in defeating Lavos, is why he joins the party. Ultimately, there is no true redemption for Magus unlike Frog, but for Magus it is too late to be redeemed.
His obsession even goes beyond reason. The DS version of Chrono Trigger added a new feature, the secret boss the Dream Devourer, where Magus sees his future is ultimately one of success at killing Lavos. Magus confronts a version of himself, but learns that Schala, regardless of what happens, has been consumed by the Dream Devourer. After the fight, Schala warns the alternate Magus that he cannot save her, and just wishes for him to live a better life, a fate Magus refuses by destroying his own memories of the entire encounter. This shows how far Magus has fallen; the obsession has consumed him, making him commit evil acts and push away others to a distant point for his own goals. Magus becomes sympathetic, a character that is loathed for his villainy, but one that characters, and the player, takes pity on for his justifications and failings.
It is, in effect, what Frog could have become in Chrono Trigger. The multiple endings of Chrono Trigger offered numerous possibilities as to the climax of the game, occurring depending on which part of the story you do kill Lavos. One of the most prominent alternate endings is quite dark, seeing Frog storm a massive castle populated by the mystics, fighting his way to Magus and preparing for a final duel. Frog here is fully consumed by vengeance, an alternate ending that shows where his character could have gone. The winner is undetermined, just a figure with a cloak a silhouette behind the light of the moon in the darkened sky.
Both characters are archetypes found in most fiction, the rivals of good and evil with personal motivations that are down similar paths. The textbook definition of a character foil. This is a cliché, of course, but it stands out thanks to the muscular writing by Horii and his team. Frog becomes iconic for his path of redemption after tragedy, while Magus becomes sympathetic for his descent to villainy. It is the mark of smart writing that gives Frog and Magus a story intertwined with each other’s fates, ultimately giving players a strong narrative undercurrent in what is already a well-written, well thought out game.
For Chrono Trigger, Frog and Magus are just scratching the surface of the complex relationships found in the game. From Marle and Crono’s relationship to the regrets of the three prophets, it is a game rich with characters and narrative excellence that to this day allows it to be regarded as one of the best games ever made. The tale of Frog and Magus is perhaps the most complex to tell, but it is also the clearest example of the caliber of writing and depth of characterization found in the game.
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