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How Chrono Trigger Stalled Final Fantasy 7 Development

Before becoming a runaway success and selling over 13.9 million copies, "Final Fantasy 7" struggled through multiple iterations and development phases. Following "Final Fantasy 6," Square tried three different times to create a follow-up. As detailed by Polygon, the entry started life as a 2D, direct sequel designed for the Super Famicom. After the first attempt derailed, the company looked into transitioning the franchise to 3D. The team tested the waters with a demo for the Nintendo 64, but later abandoned this to develop for the PlayStation. This move transformed the "Final Fantasy" series forever and strained Square's relationship with Nintendo.

Had production not stalled during the initial bid to create "Final Fantasy 7," the iconic game (and Square's future) may have turned out quite differently. The publisher had a much smaller team working on "FF7" in the early stages than it did for "Final Fantasy 6." Around the same time, the company began to try out riskier partnerships and styles. One of these gambles led to the JRPG "Chrono Trigger." Though it went on to experience its own prosperity, "Chrono Trigger" effectively killed Square's original 2D "Final Fantasy 7" project. So, what happened?

Square went all in on Chrono Trigger

Square assembled a "Dream Team" to serve as the driving force for "Chrono Trigger" that featured key individuals from the "Final Fantasy," "Dragon Quest," and "Dragon Ball" series (via Insert Cartridge). The project had a grand scope from the beginning.

"We decided that we wanted to create something together," "Final Fantasy" creator Hironobu Sakaguchi said in reference to a decision made during a trip to the United States with Yūji Horii and Akira Toriyama, the creators of "Dragon Quest" and "Dragon Ball," respectively. "Something that no one had done before." Sakaguchi further shared that the trio invested between 12 to 18 months just contemplating the roadblocks they might hit during development.

When production finally started, Square committed at least 40 developers to the project — a much higher number than games typically received. "Chrono Trigger," which started as a new entry in the "Secret of Mana" series, also went through multiple iterations. Thanks to its massive size and scope, the team had ballooned to around 200 people by the time the title launched — a total that included the developers who worked on the first version of "Final Fantasy 7" slated for the Super Famicom. 

"But at that time Chrono Trigger's development was in dire straits, so all the team members switched over to help with Chrono Trigger ... and that's as far as it went," director Yoshinori Kitase explained (via Polygon). Though the team did not return to its original concept for "FF7," one of the characters served as the prototype for protagonist Cloud Strife.