You Have to Save Lucca’s Mom a Different Way in Japanese

75 Comments

There’s a key scene in Chrono Trigger that involves a password, a mother’s name, and the buttons on the game controller.

This scene also comes with two extra translation surprises: the mother’s name was changed during the game’s localization, and language differences might have given English-speaking players an advantage at getting the password right.

The Scene

A side quest in Chrono Trigger involves going back in time to save Lucca’s mother from an accident that left her debilitated. To save her, you need to figure out that the password is her name within a time limit and somehow enter it even though there isn’t a password entry screen.

Clever players quickly realize that you can type the name using the buttons on the controller. Pressing the L Button will input “L” and pressing the X Button will input “X”, for example. Entering the correct password will save Lucca’s mother, but getting it wrong will leave her disabled for the rest of her life.

The Japanese Password

In the original Japanese version, the mother’s name is actually ララ. But wait, how are you supposed to spell that with a Super Famicom controller? There are no buttons on the controller, after all, so what are you supposed to do?

This is where things get interesting. Because there’s no real distinction between the L and R sounds in Japanese, ララ can be written in English letters several different ways, including:

  • LARA
  • LALA
  • RALA
  • RARA

With so many possibilities, how would a Japanese player know which one is right? And which one is right?

It turns out that the correct answer is LALA, so to save Lucca’s mom in the Japanese version of Chrono Trigger, you press the L Button, the A Button, the L Button, and then the A Button.

I’m not really sure how Japanese players were supposed to know which spelling was right, though. Who knows, maybe it was meant to be a 1/4 chance sort of thing even after you figured out the whole “Oh! I gotta type it with the controller!” trick.

The English Password

The mother’s name changed from “Lala” to “Lara” in the English version of Chrono Trigger. I assume it was changed because “Lara” sounds more like a normal name than “Lala”, but I don’t think the translator has ever commented on it.

In any case, changing the mother’s name meant that the game programmers had to change the password to match. So if you play the English release, you’ll have to spell out the name “Lara” by pressing L-A-R-A on the controller.

English-Speaking Players Might’ve Had an Advantage?

As we’ve seen, Japanese players had four potential passwords to choose from. But because the mother’s name is clearly written as “Lara” in the English version of Chrono Trigger, and because those letters map directly to buttons on the controller, there’s no ambiguity about how to spell her name. As a result, it’s possible that English-speaking players failed less often than Japanese-speaking players!

I say “possible” because I don’t think anyone’s researched the topic, and it’s possible that for whatever cultural or educational reasons, “LALA” might be the first spelling to come to most Japanese players’ minds. Since I’m not a native speaker, didn’t learn English in the Japanese school system, etc. I can’t really say.

A Rare Sight

As a translator, this password puzzle almost feels like seeing a rare bird in the wild. In Japanese, the mother’s name is unquestionably meant to be “Lala”, while in English it’s unquestionably “Lara”. It’s actually rare for Japanese-to-English translators to say “unquestionably” when dealing with L/R issues in names. Even official name lists can end up defying expectations:

This password thing is also a neat little localization change that I wasn’t expecting. They didn’t have to change the mom’s name – they could’ve easily left it as “Lala”, which also would’ve saved the programmers time too. I guess the translator just felt that strongly about this scene!

Summary

In English, the password is clearly spelled out: L-A-R-A. In Japanese, the password is different. There are four possible spellings, but only one is correct: L-A-L-A. The other three combinations end in failure. As a result, Japanese players might’ve had a higher failure rate.

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75 Comments
  1. This password is yet another reason to avoid the PS1 version.

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    1. Not really. They just use the triangle button instead of “A”.

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      1. I think they use the O, actually. Maps to LARA if it were an SNES controller, spelling be damned.

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        1. They should have changed her name to Loro. That would have been aces.

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        2. Actually on the psx version its L, triangle, R, triangle. I guess because the triangle button kind of looks like an A?

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          1. No, on the PS1 version, it’s L1, Circle, R1, Circle. There is a chart in the manual that states this as I posted below.

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      2. The password is the least of the American PS1 version’s problems.

        The PS1 version is just a SNES ROM and an emulator. No perks whatsoever, besides the 10 minutes of FMV cutscenes you could check the DS version for (the definitive version, save for some BGM tracks altered and shitty Chrono Cross subplots shoehorned in as optional material).
        While the JP release runs alright with the occasional slowdown, the (one with slightly altered text) US release couldn’t fit all of that in the RAM and thus horrible slowdowns and loading times EVERY TIME you open a MENU. It’s the stuff of nightmares.
        AVOID the (non-Japanese, original) PS1 version in all of its forms, either PS1 or PSP/PS3/PS4/Vita PSN.

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        1. Chrono Trigger on PlayStation never seemed that slow to me. Though to be fair, I usually played it on a PlayStation 2 or 3 with the Disc Speed option turned to fast, which might help a great deal.

          As for the password issue, see my post below.

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        2. Yeah, the DS version’s music was awful. Especially how they changed Boss Battle 2.

          At least “Chrono Trigger” still sounds nice. Though I’d rather have had the original than arranged version in the intro.

          Just why does the PS1 version screw up so much? I’ve seen it before, and I’m astonished that they let that pass through quality assurance or whatever it’s called.

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          1. The music isn’t everything wrong, either…some of the sound effects were messed up. Ice 2 only sounds right in the original SNES version, for example. Delightful stereo crackly noise that got dumbed down to a thud in later releases.

            I wish we could just get a new definitive version that runs flawlessly like the SNES version but has the improved translation and extra bits from DS. Sadly, Squenix has been getting worse at retro updates of late, so I SERIOUSLY doubt that’ll ever happen.

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            1. “Unofficial means” would be the solution.
              You know that both Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy VI didn’t get complete Multi-5 translations until the iOS port (or Advance for VI)?
              French folks ported back the French iOS script for SoM (incidentally, it was a direct accurate translation from Japanese) and hacked it in the (terribly translated at the time) SNES ROM, also removing the graphical censorship (but not restoring the much better title screen from the JP SD2)
              Spanish folks restored a similar Spanish translation from Chrono Trigger iOS to the DS version.
              Oh, and an English re-translation from the JP script exists as well for the original SNES Chrono Trigger.
              Final Fantasy V/VI have various hacks to:
              * Re-translate the JP SNES ROM, hacking in some advancements from the GBA ports (bug fixes, run button)
              * Inserts the US/PAL GBA translation into the SNES ROM
              * Inserts the US SNES ROM translation into the US/PAL GBA, fixing the technical flaws (palette, sound) in the GBA version as well

              You could try getting into rom-hacking yourself and try inserting the DS English script into the SNES US roms… well, not as hard as it sounds since it has a bunch of script editing tools available 😛
              Chrono Trigger SNES does already have a retranslation patch based on the JP SNES version btw/

              Keep in mind that due to… questionable legality, these patches are not as widely spread as one might expect, and hunting them down can be a hassle sometimes.
              Good luck!

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              1. Yeah, I’ve heard of that retranslation myself. It seems to be about as close as humanly possible to the JP script, but… Hope you don’t mind Japanese honorifics in your text.

                The retranslation, though, also shows that it is possible to be a bit too close to the original text. The Japanese script sounds outright silly when translated to English, sometimes.

                I didn’t know that they reverse ported FF6’s GBA translation to the SNES version, though. I thought everyone hated that script.

                Though, on the subject of ports, FF6 Advance’s music was awful, too… I guess SE isn’t so great at recreating SNES music on anything.

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                1. I think it was actually TOSE that ported the SNES FF V and VI and WSC FF I&II and IV to the GBA. They tend to refuse to take credit for anything other than the Starfy games, since the share the copyright with Nintendo.

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        3. Why does everyone hate Chrono Cross so much?

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          1. I won’t speak for “everyone,” but I hated it because it was terrible. The script alternates between dry as death and jammed with puns and hi-larious accents, the battle system is ten tons of pointless micromanagement, Toriyama’s lively art design from Trigger is gone and replaced with bland graphics with the “pastel” dial set to 7, and need we even talk about the crap way they shoehorn Lavos into the game for no real reason? Surely I don’t need to mention the awful “trick” to the Lavos fight.

            Hell, they even managed to mess up the controls, and it’s not often I get to ding a turn-based RPG for play control.

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            1. Sorry but I don’t agree with you. I found the story compelling and quite interesting myself. The good ending made me really think about the possible “what ifs” in life.

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              1. The good ending made me think about going to Media Play to ask for my $50 back.

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                1. Guys, opinions on what’s considered good or not vary between people.

                  Which is why Let think its story is great, but Darien doesn’t.

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                  1. I only asked because I just don’t get the irrational hatred CC seems to receive. Regardless of whether or not it took a dump on CT’s story and aspects, the game went on to be a bestseller and even got the “Greatest Hits” label. That many gamers can’t all hate it, right?

          2. I don’t remember exactly why everyone dislikes it, but I remember a few things that I didn’t like when I played it, forever ago.

            The story. Considering Chrono Cross seems to have killed the entire CT cast, and the story itself made no sense in the last bit of the story, that one’s a given.

            The combat system is slightly overly complicated with the elements, instead of simply magic like CT. The element field or whatever only made it worse.

            Really stupid, but the battle music is awful.

            There are way, way, way too many characters for them to get any actual storyline, so every character in the game reacts roughly the same way to everything.

            The final boss just doesn’t tie into Trigger very well. And the “puzzle” was stupid and absurd.

            The game really is barely related to Chrono Trigger at all. Only a couple of plot threads that actually went unfinished in CT were solved in Trigger. About the only thing CC does is kill everyone that lived in the original game and tell us that Guardia fell.

            Now, if it hadn’t been a direct sequel to Chrono Trigger, it would’ve been okay, if not amazing, in my book. Given that it’s only attachment to CT happens to be killing CT’s entire main cast and really doesn’t continue the storyline at all, like you’d expect a sequel to, it’s really only a Chrono game in name only.

            Now, it isn’t “bad” per se. It just didn’t meet my expectations for a Chrono Trigger sequel. I don’t hate it, I’m just disappointed.

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            1. “Were solved in Cross”. My bad.

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            2. I’ve heard it described as a good game, but a terrible sequel, which I agree with. I hear Radical Dreams is basically the inverse of that, but I wouldn’t know.

              Though, just a clarification on some of the spoilers…

              The only characters confirmed dead are Lucca (“MIA”) and Robo (implied to be the Prometheus Circuit the party briefly meets). Although, with the “good ending” of the game, it’s easily possible that it actually didn’t happen and that these were ultimately alternate versions of these characters. The “Fall of Guardia” event was really something added to the PSX/DS versions of Chrono Trigger, and I guess it was probably supposed to connect to the prospective plot of Chrono Break – all we get in Chrono Cross is that someone once mentions in passing that Guardia is not what it used to be.

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              1. These days people consider Cross to be a spiritual sequel rather than a direct one.

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            3. Chrono Cross is more of a reimagining of the satelite, japanese only game, Radical Dreamers for the snes. Serge, Kidd and a familiar CT friend storm through Snake Mansion looking for the crystal that Kidd keeps looking for in CC. (Kind of derping on the name at the moment.) There is music from the game that makes it into Chrono Cross, including the battle music, Kidd’s theme, and a couple other familiar songs. (Wish the final battle music from RD had made it too.) But the game is a text adventure.

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              1. MagillionDarkness

                That whole Viper Mansion core scenario was repackaged as an early part of the Chrono Cross plot, but they’re really quite different when you get down to it. There’s an easter egg in Chrono Cross where an excerpt of Serge’s diary from Radical Dreamers is viewable on a computer monitor, with the note that there may be other realities out there. So I think the running theory is that Chrono Cross happened after the 100% Chrono Trigger ending, and Radical Dreamers is a “what-if” that’s not part of the main timeline. It makes sense when the Time Egg appears in Radical Dreamers, and apparently Lucca and the gang weren’t able to revive Crono with it (makes sense that Marle dreamed it in that particular ending – how else does Death Peak exist in the changed future if it’s supposed to be atop Lavos’ shell, anyway?).

                Though, another thing that gets tossed around a lot is that Gil from Radical Dreamers is supposedly Magus, who found a way to the present and is keeping an eye on Kidd, which was apparently clarified by Masato Kato. The problem is that this isn’t really that evident in the game itself – in fact, a lot of the “New Game +” routes pretty much contradict that idea. I think what was going to happen was that the original storyline for Chrono Cross called for a new version of Gil to be explicitly rewritten with Magus’s history merged into his backstory, but the concept was axed due to the huge party roster and another character altogether called Guile took his place. Although a lot of fans think that Magus’s possible fate in the added DS ending explains that he could be Guile all along. Oh convolution!

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            4. I found it to be one of the most beautiful games I ever played during Summer of 2000. It made me really think about the struggle of humanity and the paths we set for ourselves. The music was beautiful (Another World map music made me want to cry so much) and the presentation was amazing.

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              1. Beyond basic battle system elements and the use of the time travel element, it feels too disconnected and tone dissonant from Chrono Trigger. I think it’s a good game marred by the forced fanfiction-y connections to the SNES game (much like I think the DS port of the original is tarnished by the forced “connections” and retcons to make it fit the Chrono Cross “canon”).

                The essence of the original is pretty much lost, which is unsurprising (Squaresoft’s management disbanded the original dream team and even vetoed repeatedly Sakaguchi’s pleas for a sequel by that same team, no attempts to get Horii back on board -and that team was pretty much the reason for everything that made Chrono Trigger stand out from Final Fantasy (6), from the battle mechanics down to the lighthearted/serious plot balance and pacing).
                What happened was that they had someone else do a “sequel” to close Schala’s subplot as a really low-budget text adventure, then got the Xeno/FF8 team (that eventually became Monolith Soft) to work on Cross … without the essence or team freedom of the original. They had to somehow shoehorn the whole original cast, then since they didn’t fit they had to be killed, all of them (even Johnny :P), lots of optional party members (just merely trying to one-up the original at the detriment of proper caracterization for each one: even the original couldn’t fit as much as they wanted to for the existing reduced cast!) then alternate universes and a massive retconning at the end to clean all of the mess.
                It’s still a good game that shines among all of the forced connections rammed in by the management to its detriment (and notably the Xeno’s team hands tied by the existing, highly incompatible setting). It deserved to be its own IP, or a spin-off to the Chrono series much like Final Fantasy 9 (originally) or 4 Heroes of Light (cartoony, old-school, more fantasy-like) were spin-offs of the gritty mainline FF from 8 onwards.

                And it hurts so much that Squaresoft first killed whatever greatness could come from a line of direct Chrono Trigger sequels/spiritual sequels in a fantasy (not emo futuristic sci-fi) setting.
                Then tying down the freedom of the Chrono Cross devs and forcing unnatural connections to the original on them, then killing off that second mainline of Chrono games (cancelling the planned Cross sequel).

                I loved both games.
                I also loved the traiwreck that was Blue Dragon and its final A-RPG “sequel” on the DS, only for the Chrono Trigger vibes at times (even though the plot wasn’t really as focused or polished as it could have been). Sakaushi (as Mistwalker) and Toriyama were involved.

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                1. Where did you learn all this? It’s intriguing.

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                  1. Sakagushi told the Chrono Trigger 2 anecdote (as in, the direct sequel while they were still in the SNES era) in an interview just one day before I wrote my post. Wanted it to have a sequel and potentially a series with the same dream team but the management denied him. Repeatedly. That is, until he got more power within the company.

                    Well, for the rest, we know that he announced back in 2001 a sequel to Chrono Cross after its success
                    … and then Squaresoft fired him after the Advent Children disaster (then he went on to establish Mistwalker, behind Blue Dragon and yes they said outright they wanted to reuse some unfulfilled concepts from the original Chrono game) and something died in them that day when the shareholders put their yes-man and talent escaped left and right to Brownie Brown (Nintendo) and AlphaDream (Nintendo) among others.

                    The fabled sequel, “Chrono Break” according to a logo, was cancelled not long afterwards. A SQEX rep teased that they would consider a third* game (again) back in 2009 if the DS port sold well. What happened in 2010 was Europe finally getting the game localized for those languages.. as an DRM-riddled iOS port that loads chunks of games (of course we’re talking here about the company that did a year before the same for the imode cell-phone reskin of Star Ocean Blue Sphere, and managed to put microtransactions in the Virtual Console release of a frigging SNES rom (RS2))

                    Aaaand before I realized it my post turned yet again into a rant.
                    I need to take those things less seriously 😛

                    */ not counting Radical Dreamers

                  2. GH, it wasn’t Advent Children, it was The Spirits Within that led to Sakaguchi no longer working for Square/Square Enix.

                2. Well that’s certainly interesting. It seems other than Chrono Break’s cancellation, I didn’t about any of this. And they put microtransactions in Romancing SaGa 2? Wow.

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                  1. *didn’t know (this site needs an edit feature)

    2. The PS1 manual actually has a note in the controller info specifically for this part of the game (though of course they don’t spoil that part).

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  2. The Playstation version complicates this issue dramatically. Which L? Which R? Where’s the A button?

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  3. Oh, thanks for answering! The name change is pretty interesting, though it’s still an odd puzzle. The 1/4 chance thing might be true, since games trelied on trial and error a bit.

    Japanese players could probably use walkthroughs to find out, though. It’s neat how the localisation made things clearer.

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  4. From what I read elsewhere, it seems this particular bit confused Japanese players back in the day a lot.

    Intentional 1/4 chance for dramatic effect?
    Devious plot to sell more strategy guides?
    Innocuous oversight?
    Who knows.

    This game is a gold mine. Especially if you scrap under the surface or compare it to both the Japanese version and the Sample version.

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  5. I can see how this would be very confusing to Japanese players. This moment right here would be the definition of Guide Dang It.

    I’m mildly amused that the English script decided to rename her Lara and change the password. I would half expect them to have left it Lala to save the extra effort, but instead they went the extra mile for who’s essentially a minor character. That’s pretty awesome, I would say.

    Oh, and I think the PS version had it as L1, Circle, R1, Circle, but I’m not sure.

    Then Chrono Cross had it as L1, Triangle, R1, Triangle. Just to mess with us, I guess.

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  6. I think most people just accidentally hit “A” the first time anyway, expecting some kind of input interface to pop up.

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  7. While it’s a sample size of one, I remember asking my Japanese friend how to say “ラ” if you couldn’t say it correctly, as the exact sound doesn’t really exist in English. I guess the best way to describe it is if you say “la” while flicking your teeth with your tongue. It would sound to you like you’re saying “da”.

    Anyway, she said it’s easier to understand someone saying “la” as opposed to “ra”.

    Also there’s the whole ‘la-li-lu-le-lo’ thing in Metal Gear.

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  8. I can’t remember too well but do you only get one chance or do you have a time limit? If the latter I think you would have a chance to retry?

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    1. It’s been a long time since I didn’t put it in correctly but I’m pretty sure it’s on a time limit and you can retry but you don’t have that much time.

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  9. Huh. That seems unnecessarily confusing. In the DS version it’s still Lara despite the fact that it is overall a much more accurate translation.

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    1. Is it? I thought it was a lot like the Final Fantasy VI translation – most minor names were changed for accuracy, but the bulk of the script itself was more of a rewrite than a retranslation.

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      1. I’m pretty sure everything was retranslated. Not 100%, but I am pretty sure.

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        1. Some things were retranslated (such as Chupon –> Tyhpon, Doom Gaze –> Deathgaze), but things like Cyan instead of Cayenne (which was due to the text character limit, same with Crono being called Crono and not Chrono in the DS port of his game) and Ultros instead of Orthros were kept. Not to mention Cyan still speaketh the same way, unlike Frog in the DS version of CT.

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  10. Sort of an interesting story — the first time I played through Chrono Trigger I swapped the Y and A buttons in the controls and couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get this to work. I was always mad at the game. Didn’t see Lara with legs until later playthroughs.

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  11. Bag of Magic Food

    Hmm, is “Lala” the first spelling to come to mind? I know that The Adventures of Lolo, a subseries of the Eggerland series made for localization first, uses the spellings “Lolo” and “Lala” (for the characters that came to be known as “Lololo” and “Lalala” in the Kirby series), but the Japan-only FamiCom Disk System and Windows games printed their names as “Roro” and “Rara” instead.

    I wonder if they should have used “Rolo” and “Lara”.

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  12. Chrono Trigger actually has a lot of interesting quirks in the Japanese version that didn’t make it into any of the translations. Another one is character “nicknames”, which are just shortened versions of what the player inputs for their names. Chrono himself is referred to by most of the party simply as クロ (Chro) instead of his full name if you use the default name of クロノ (Chrono). If you named him something else (like, say, トマト), party members would call him the first two characters of that (in that case, トマ).

    Another nice touch that sadly doesn’t make it into any translation is Marle’s real name. It’s not Nadia, it’s (whatever you inputted)dia. So if she’s called マール (Marle), her princess name is マールディア (Marledia). If you named her something else (like セラ), she’ll be called (that)dia instead (セラディア in that case). It’s a pretty cool feature, all things considered.

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    1. There are two slots for Crono’s name – the normal one, and the shortened cave-speak variant by Ayla. The English script does indeed call Crono’s alternate name correctly matching the Japanese version, but after struggling with the name generator routine they rewrote it so that it just displays the same normal name.

      A Finnish fan-translation actually took the incomplete fragments for Cro/Marledia’s names programming and successfully implemented a functional version for how affectionate nicknames would sound in Finnish, but they had to include 5 different routines for each case depending on the length, vowels and final letter.
      That’s certainly something far beyond what Woosley could suggest in a deadline of 30 days. (Chrono Trigger’s DTE compression scheme was also really inefficient.. still better than Secret of Mana where they implemented one but didn’t allow him to use it forcing him to trim text a LOT.)

      And that’s not really new: Cyan’s bushido techs in Final Fantasy VI could be renamed in fancy ways in the Japanese version but they removed it in the US version despite amounting to menu rearranging work they were used to since forever to fit in English translations (example: battle menus)… the data is still there though. Then again Final Fantasy VI had a pretty chaotic development (bugs, useless stats, rushed US translation, censorship, PAL translations finished by NoE then scrapped)…

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      1. I am well aware of FF3US’s and CTUS’s various oddities, believe me. At one point I was even considering doing a new localization of Chrono Trigger, in fact. That was a long, long time ago…

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      2. Reminds me of how, in one of the towns in Dragon Quest IV, everyone calls your hero by just the first few characters of their name. Not sure how this worked in the Japanese version.

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    2. This is very interesting. I didn’t know I could *stil* learn something about Chrono Trigger. Thank you for sharing this.

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    3. Aw, that’s disappointing. We could’ve had fun with that, naming her things like “Ry” and “Mysi”. But at least players of the Japanese version could name her リ and ミシ, respectively, so that’s a plus for them.

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  13. Oh my, I was *just* wondering about this and then I remembered that I hadn’t visited this site in awhile, so I clicked here and lo and behold, the answer to my question! Thanks for reading my mind a week in advance! 🙂

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  14. Well, that explains why I failed to input the right password when I was playing through Chrono Trigger in Japanese

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  15. There is another instance of this sort of thing in Chrono Trigger, but that was not very well translated.
    In on of the first dungeon in the 2300 AD period, you need to input a password to deactivate the “Zabie defense system” and the password is inputed by pressing X,A,B and Y.
    I guess in Japanese the letters and the name are closer than Zabie and XABY are.

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    1. I honestly have no idea what youre talking about.

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