Final Fantasy IV, Secret of Mana, and Chrono Trigger Had a Connection


I’ve been slowly trying to gather as much info about the re-introduced rumor of a Final Fantasy IV for the Famicom (see here) by picking up old Japanese gaming magazines and doing tons of Internet sleuthing.

While doing some more searching, I recently came upon an interesting interview from a few years back, when Final Fantasy III was being remade for the Nintendo DS. It’s a really long interview and it’s all in Japanese, but if you’re interested, check it out here! The part that really interests me is where Hiromichi Tanaka discusses some of FFIV’s early development:

From FFI and on, we would always look at the previous games for things we felt could have been better. FFI had an orthodox design, while II featured a narrative story plus a brand new growth system that didn’t use experience points. FFIII had jobs you could switch between while you fought, the ability to cast multi-target spells, and other such gameplay tempo improvements, as well as more fully-refined experience and battle systems.

After we finished FFIII, we started FFIV with the idea of a slightly more action-based, dynamic overworld rather than keep combat as a completely separate thing. But, at some point, it wound up not being IV anymore… Instead, it was eventually released as “Seiken Densetsu 2” (Secret of Mana), but during development it was actually referred to as “Chrono Trigger”. (laugh)

At the time, just after FFIII, we were working with Mr. Toriyama on a game with a seamless, side-view system. A CD-ROM attachment for the Super Famicom was scheduled to be released, you see. So we had this enormous game planned out for the CD-ROM attachment, but ultimately we were never able to release it.

So we had the Chrono Trigger project changed to a new game, and this other game we had been working on was condensed down into Seiken Densetsu 2. Because of this, Seiken 2 always felt like a sequel to FFIII to me.

I’m sure this is old news to a lot of hardcore Square fans, but I’d never heard any of this before! I do remember hearing that Seiken Densetsu 2/Secret of Mana had been designed for the CD attachment and that lots of stuff had to be scrapped, but this is the first I’ve heard it connected to the other Square games I loved from back in the day 😀

If anyone can share more info or if anyone has old Japanese gaming magazines from the early 90s, please let me know! I’m trying to gather as many of them as I can, since they’re so full of cool info, but they’re really expensive to import from Japan one by one 😐

If you liked this, check out press start to translate, my book about the time I Google-translated Final Fantasy IV. It includes the worst/most hilarious translation mistakes, all while explaining why Google's A.I. made such terrible choices. (free preview PDF)
  1. That’s pretty interesting. From what I’ve heard, this sort of thing is more common than one would expect. Another example of this is when Capcom was developing Resident Evil 4. They were originally developing Resident Evil 4 to be a drastically different beat-em-up style game, but decided that the differences were too great to allow the game to be called Resident Evil. Thus, the Devil May Cry series was born. Kind of ironic considering that Resident Evil 4 still ended up being drastically different.

    1. The air comboing in Devil May Cry was also designed off a bug in one of the early development versions of Onimusha.

      1. Another Devil May Cry production quirk was the “guns keeping enemies afloat” also started out as a programming bug in the Resident Evil game they were working on.

        I guess it just became the Capcom way after they accidentally created a combo system in Street Fighter.

  2. You know that little magic tree in Chrono trigger In Zeal when you can tell that guy to plant it or not? I always thought that was the Manager Tree. What does the Japanese version say about that?

    1. And, eighteen months later, I finally figure out what on earth the “Manager Tree” is: an autocorrect gaffe. Merry Christmas from the future!

  3. That explains a lot about Seiken 2. After all, if you replace the mana seeds with crystals, the mana fortress with the Giant of Bab-Il, and Thanatos with Golbez, you basically have FFIV.

    I would like to know what the original plan for Chrono Trigger was, though. It sounds like that would have been a very interesting game to play.

  4. I’m kind of curious how the hell they planned to get those to run on the Famicom.

  5. nihiloEXmateria

    Ironic then that Seiken Densetsu 1 which was unrelated to Final Fantasy was turned into a FF spin-off in America, while Seiken Densetsu 2, which was originally going to be a Final Fantasy game, was turned into a stand-alone game in America.

    Oh and that “CD-ROM attachment for the Super Famicom” that they are talking about; Nintendo outsourced the work on it to Sony, and when plans fell through Sony turned it into the PSX, which is why the original PlayStation Controller is essentially a SNES controller with more shoulder buttons.

    1. Seiken Densetsu 1 wasn’t “unrelated” to Final Fantasy. The game was called Final Fantasy Gaiden Seiken Densetsu in Japan. It’s always had its roots as an FF spin-off, even in Japan.

      1. “Seiken Densetsu 1” was the second Seiken Densetsu project though. The first one was actually titled “Seiken Densetsu: The Emergence of Excalibur” and had nothing to do with either Final Fantasy or the “Seiken Densetsu 1” we eventually got. This first project was abandoned early on.

        1. See, I thought you were referencing the Seiken Densetsu that was actually released.

  6. Not a Japanese magazine but I recently made a quick translation of a retrospective on Secret of Mana that appeared in a Swedish magazine seven years ago, where the developers mention this connection between the titles as well, posted here:,10102.0.html

  7. I remember reading something smilar in a game oddity page; it was stated how Chrono and Marle looked like Randi and Purim from Secret of Mana, or viceversa.