Chrono Trigger: Zabie Door

I keep seeing it mentioned that an experienced player can reach the ending of Chrono Trigger while skipping most of the content. I think of Myst as the extreme of this sort of thing: there, you can basically just skip straight to the ending if you know the combination to Atrus’s hidey-hole. Unless Chrono Trigger has some really non-obvious actions in the opening areas, it doesn’t look like it takes things quite that far. The first few chapters carefully shepherd the player through a set sequence of towns and dungeons, with no real power to skip ahead. It’s easy to overestimate your freedom on the first pass, because the game goes to some length to make the environment look explorable, but if you go too far off the rails, you just find there’s nothing to do out there before you hit the correct plot points. That phase of the game pretty much ends when you reach the portal hub at the End of Time, though. A lot of RPGs — JRPGs in particular, but not exclusively — seem to have a structure like this, starting linear and then fanning out at a certain point.

But just before gaining this more complete freedom, back in the ruins of the domed cities of the future, there’s a section with an obvious opportunity to skip ahead in a small way. It’s possible for the same reason that it’s possible in Myst: combination locks. There’s a “Zabie ultra high-security door”, which prompts you for a security code when used. On the consoles, the code is a sequence of buttons on your controller; iOS substitutes a translucent overlay with colored buttons. Now, the combination can be found at the end of a sequence of fights and obstacles in another room of the same dungeon, but if you already know the combination, you can skip that. And even if you don’t, there are hints right there on the door.

In the SNES version, the name “Zabie” was a hint: the combination is XABY. Ah, but this only works if you have buttons labeled A, B, X, and Y. The iOS version doesn’t. For that matter, the Playstation version doesn’t, and they didn’t change it to a “Trianglexcirclesquare ultra high security door” there. I don’t remember if there was an alternate hint for the Playstation version, but there definitely is on iOS: pressing buttons at random yields two different tones depending on whether you’re following the sequence correctly or not.

Now, this is not the first combination lock in the game. You had to go through another locked door to reach this point. But there, the game refused to even let you even try to enter a combination until you knew what it was, which reinforces the point that you were expected to at least try guessing at the Zabie door. Not only that, but the first door is kind of a tutorial for the business of the two tones, or at least it was for me. By the time I got back to the door after receiving the combination, I had forgotten the exact sequence, and had to make a few tries before getting it right. So by the time I hit the Zabie door, I knew exactly how to read the beeps.

In short, the whole “ultra high-security” business is something of a joke: the game takes pains to make the combination guessable. Whether you actually want to skip the section leading up to the combination is questionable: there’s loot and XP to be got by doing things the hard way, loot and XP which I personally went back and got after guessing my way through the Zabie door. In fact, there’s a lot of places where a skilled player can sneak past patrolling monsters, despite the fact that it’s ultimately kind of counterproductive to do so. I could see some point to avoiding encounters on the way to a boss fight if it weren’t for the fact that every boss fight is immediately preceded by a save point where you can rest up to full health and mana; as it is, avoiding fights or fleeing them seems like a kind of optional challenge, a way of showing off that you’ve mastered the mechanics enough that you can beat the game’s few unavoidable encounters without leveling up first.

1 Comment so far

  1. Mark on 30 Sep 2012

    The skippability of early content partly refers to the way most of the activities in 1000 AD are optional, the way all but a few dungeons’ combat encounters can be evaded by walking past the trigger zones, and, most importantly, these rot13-encoded spoilers:

    Nsgre orngvat gur tnzr, lbh haybpx Arj Tnzr +, juvpu crezvgf lbh gb fgneg n arj tnzr va juvpu nyy punenpgref’ yriryf naq vairagbel ner oebhtug va sebz n fnir svyr yngre va gur tnzr. Jvgu guvf vapernfrq fgeratgu, rarzl rapbhagref naq obffrf ner gevivny naq dhvpxyl qvfcngpurq.

    Nqqvgvbanyyl, nf fbba nf lbh ernpu gur Raq bs Gvzr, lbh ner noyr gb fxvc qverpgyl gb gur svany obff. Va Arj Tnzr +, lbh pna tb gb gung cbvag sebz gur evtug-unaq gryrcbq va gur fdhner, nf jryy. Puebab Gevttre unf fbzrguvat yvxr n qbmra qvssrerag raqvatf, qvssreragvngrq ol gur zrnaf gur cynlre hfrf gb ernpu gur svany obff naq gurve cebterff guebhtu gur cybg ng gur gvzr gurl pubbfr gb qb fb.

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