The Super Nintendo was a landmark console for quality Japanese RPG and actions RPGs, and its sole Legend of Zelda series game, A Link to the Past, may have inspired two JRPG classics released a few years later – Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest 6, among others. The third Zelda title saw the introduction of parallel versions of its environment, with the Light World and Dark World. Four years later Square’s Chrono Trigger and Enix’s Dragon Quest 6 both embraced an alternate worlds approach. Chrono Trigger handled this via time travel, and Dragon Quest 6 offered a Real World and a Dream World to explore. Final Fantasy 6 also provided its own take, with the second half of its story taking place in the World of Ruin, following an apocalyptic event.
These ambitious games were not content with adventures in a single world, instead leveraging multiple worlds to expand on puzzles and storytelling opportunities. Though Dragon Quest games are defined by their traditional gameplay, each added twists to the formula, and Dragon Quest 6’s dream world was among the most memorable. Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger are fondly remembered as two of Square’s best RPGs of the era, and the scope of their multiple worlds is a significant part of that legacy. The success of A Link to the Past was likely a factor in the development of these JRPG classics. The 16-bit Zelda game was released in 1991 for the Super Famicom, followed by Final Fantasy 6 in 1994, and both Dragon Quest 6 and Chrono Trigger in 1995.
The notion of expanding games through parallel worlds, or variations on a single world, remains engaging. One gaming generation after A Link to the Past, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night surprised fans with its inverted castle. Horror games have made good use of this over the years, as both Silent Hill and The Medium showcase dual worlds filled with terrors. The fact that several of the most beloved RPGs of the SNES era shared this element is understandable. Beyond the positive reception of A Link to the Past stands the simple fact that two-dimensional games, and storytelling, were evolving within the limits of the available technology.
Zelda’s World of Darkness & Dragon Quest 6’s Dream World Expanded Their Scope
The CD-based consoles that would follow the 16-bit era began to include full-motion video cut scenes, and limited voice acting, adding to immersion. Games like Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest 6 relied on text-based storytelling, like A Link to the Past, but they expanded their scope by taking their stories into multiple worlds. Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest 6 shared many other similarities, but English-territory audiences missed out on these at the time, as Dragon Quest 6 was not officially localized until years later on the Nintendo DS. Both were traditional turn-based JRPGs released in 1995, featuring Akira Toriyama designs, with nearly identical spiky-haired protagonists. Modern retro classic games often feel like 2D Zelda and pay homage to the series, and so did many of the biggest JRPGs of the mid-90s.
The dream world narrative of Enix’s Dragon Quest 6 leans closer to A Link to the Past than Square’s similar 16-bit works, which provided alternate worlds through time travel and disasters. It made use of the differing geography of the Dream World and the Real World, just as players shifted from the World of Light to the World of Darkness to solve puzzles in A Link to the Past. In the real-world players would need to find mundane transportation such as a boat or a caravan, while Dragon Quest 6’s Dream World offered more surreal options, like a flying bed. Actions taken in one world could impact the other, a gameplay convention shared with Chrono Trigger and A Link to the Past.
Beyond offering more world maps to explore, these multiple-worlds narratives gave players an added sense of discovery. Dragon Quest 12 may borrow from past entries in its series, but Dragon Quest 6 likely took at least some inspiration from Zelda. Since the original NES, RPGs and adventure games tasked players with finding keys or vehicles to fully explore a single map. The SNES-era games with multiple worlds encouraged more lateral thinking and offered a greater feeling of accomplishment in many cases. A Link to the Past proved one world is sometimes not enough for a 16-bit classic, a lesson reinforced by Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest 6.