Double Agent
No matter when you go, then you were - September 27, 2000 - Chris Jones

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this column are those of the participants and the moderator, and do not necessarily reflect those of the GIA. There is coarse language and potentially offensive material afoot. Someone in the club tonight has stolen my ideas. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Ok, thought I was gonna be able to do a mixed column today, but wasn't able to pull it off - way too many good CC letters, far more than I can print. So one last, long CC session, and then we move on to something else. Cool? Cool. That said:

Full Chrono Cross and Trigger spoilers on all letters below.


Harken unto the Word of Square
First things first: this interview should clear at least a few things for a lot of people

With that out of the way- Chono Cross' "moral standpoint" is fine. It never shoves itself down one's throat, and during the last boss fight, it lets you do something about it and actually beat the game non-violently. It's not a perfectly developed theme, but it is a hell of a lot closer than most games get. A step in the right direction, if you will.


Well, I guess we have to accept that as gospel truth... but what bothers me is that nothing that Kato-san says sounds any more accurate than any of the other hundred theories I've seen about the game thus far. I admit I missed the Harle/Moon links, but other than that, I'm still not any clearer on what everything means when it's all over. At this point I'm not sure what to conclude, except that either the game really got away from the developers, or the translation wasn't all it was cracked up to be and the small details that would have made the whole thing make sense just didn't get over here.

By your own admission, CC's moral standpoint is not fine. The theme of a game is supposed to be the reason everything happens, but CC's felt blatant and pointless. The fact that it wasn't as horrible as a lot of other RPGs still isn't saying much, sorry.

The problem is, Serge is never heard at all...

Chrono Cross, in the final analysis, bored the crap out of me. It was not challenging in the slightest (zero control of character advancement may be good for dummies, but typically makes for a really easy game). I might have been moved to actually care what happened if more than one of the 40ish characters was even remotely interesting, or if the one interesting character (Harle), had more than one worthwhile scene (the brief conversation with Starky).

And I'm supposed to keep playing through, stopping occasionally to beat up Lavos, just to be rewarded with a few more minutes of lame "Kid goes on a power trip" or "Serge lives happily ever with female character 'x'" footage? No... that wouldn't be Sisyphian. Not at all.

All I want out of a game is a mild challenge and characters that inspire some feeling. Any feeling. Chrono Cross did not deliver.

DarkLao, who thinks Serge's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more; and Chrono Cross is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Well, I don't think it was as bad as all that. Serge wasn't the greatest character in the history of RPGs, but he wasn't the worst either - it's hard for him to be much of anything when he has no real personality to speak of. Looking back, I think the game may have made a mistake by shifting away from the interactions between Serge and Kid, because his quests to save her and get his body back were probably among the best parts of the game. It was well worth playing, when all's said and done, but didn't really live up to the years of hype. Only to be expected, I suppose.

I liked the guy, really I did (my threats yesterday not withstanding)
Yay! An excuse to talk about Radical Dreamers! ^_^

1. In Radical Dreamers, Chrono and Marle are dead, but the circumstances of their deaths are not given. Toward the end of the game, Kid tells Serge that her "big sister" (revealed in the following scene to be Lucca) told her to take the Frozen Flame and bury it near the graves of some "childhood friends" and that the Flame, according to Lucca, "should be allowed to rest with them." Chrono and Marle are not mentioned by name, but it's heavily implied that they are the ones Lucca spoke of. (Magus, Schala, Lucca, Frog, Chrono, and Marle all appear or are discussed in the game, but Lucca is the only one whose name is given.)

2. Actually, Radical Dreamers fits in with Chrono Trigger's story fairly well because the plot is kept much simpler than in Chrono Cross. The game takes place in a single night in Lynx's mansion, and the storyline focuses entirely on Kid (who *is* Schala, not a clone, and has a sort of split personality). Unlike CC, RD doesn't attempt to continue CT's main story - it just ties up the loose end about Magus and Schala.


That's really depressing. Don't know what else to say.

Or perhaps I can say this - things might have been better had we gotten Radical Dreamers (an impossibility, I know) to end the Chrono series and had CC be its own game. The potential is there for a memorable standalone title, I think.

The quest for Magus continues
Okay, I know you hate hearing about Magus and all, but hear me out:

I believe that Serge is a descendent of Magus. When Serge was attacked by the panther demon, his screams of pain went out across the flow of time and reached Schala, who's heart was touched or whatever, and that's when the whole thing with Kid/Harle being created started. (Some points could be wrong, I haven't played the game for a few weeks.)

With Serge just being some random kid, I don't see how Schala would've gotten his "message" and gone through so much to save him. If he was Magus, on the otherhand, I could see why she'd want to save him. And also, when Kid reads the letter from Lucca, and Lucca says something like, "And maybe he's right there with you now, and if so, hello Janus!", I thought she might've been referring to Serge, but now that I've heard that the letter was in Radical Dreamers too, an was probably just thrown in for continuities sake, that theory doesn't make any sense. Oh well.

In any case, this is what I think. Sound reasonable?

Nope, sorry man. I'm pretty sure the letter was in Radical Dreamers, but Magus really was a character in that game, and really was standing beside Kid when she read it. This time around, it's just a confusing red herring. And why wouldn't Schala want to save Serge, since he offered her a chance to save herself? Works for me.

The panther thing and Serge drowning did NOT happen at the same time. When Serge was attacked by the panther there was only one world. It happened 14 years before Chrono Cross took place. After Serge, his father, and Migual made it to Chronopolis, they came in contact with FATE and the Frozen Flame (thats how Serge became the Chrono Trigger). Even though Serge and Wazuki left, FATE had already tampered with Wazuki's being. He didn't give in to FATE's controll until sometime later. That's when he became Lynx. You see? FATE made Wazuki look like the panther because Serge would fear one after the bite. If they had drowned instead then what would have been the point of Lynx's appearance?

Now, the worlds didn't split into two until 4 years later when Serge drowns on the beach in his home village. That's why there are two Lynx. One died with the Dragoons in his search for the Frozen Flame (if memory serves you can make out his body at the one part in the game when you see the transparent Dragoons in Chronopolis), and the Another world version persued Serge. Hope that helps!

Chris Mishima

Ok, I was wrong, I admit. Makes sense, so I'll say no more.

Emphasis on the lunatic
The Story line to Chrono Cross makes perfect sense ::takes deep breath from Lunar map , contiunes to play chuchu rocket ::

lunatic soul

CCR scares me - just the game itself, not even considering the commercial. That is all.

Buy it because someone says we said so!
Yo, I was just checking my EGM, and it seems the GIA was quoted in the huge 2-page ad for Grandia 2. Congrats, y'all.

Even though Grandia became tedious and boring somewhere around disk 2, I am looking forward to Grandia 2 in a major way...

--Brad G.

I don't know anything about this, but it wouldn't surprise me. We rock, end of story. I don't know why my responses to the last couple of letters have been so short, it just happened that way. Moving on.

True Romance
Hey Chris!

Personally, I found Chrono Cross to excel in all the ways an epic RPG should, and I thought it did a great job of remaining faithful to Chrono Trigger. No the game was not perfect, but the good FAR outweighs the bad.

That having been said, I do have one gripe about the ending and I'm quite sure that I'm in the minority on this. Square seems to have this penchant recently for creating trite romance between two (or more) characters who, in all honesty, do not seem to have a substantial basis for their "love". The whole "I will find you, somehow" bit between Kid and Serge at the end implied that they had, to whatever degree, romantic feelings for one another. I did not see any basis for this in the game. Yes, Serge seemed deeply affected by meeting Kid. He seemed genuinely angry when she was stabbed by Lynx, and he seemed sad after she tried to attack him on Hermit's hideaway. However, these feelings seemed to be those of concern for a friend, and do not convince me that he had romantic feelings for her. While the fact that Schala was touched by Serge's cries of agony could have been a good basis for a convincing development of a romantic relationship, Kid did not succeed in taking sympathy for Serge to love for Serge. In fact, I thought Harle showed more of a romantic affection for Serge than Kid did. Thus, that aspect of the ending seemed really pretentious to me.

Perhaps this bothered me so much because the ludicrously shallow romantic relationships of FF7 and FF8 still give me nightmares. While the ending of CC did not detract from my overall respect for the game, it just pushed one of my buttons, and consequently left a bad taste in my mouth.

Lastly, although I am not a proponent of the "Guile is Magus" argument, I must say that I wouldn't mind if he were to make an appearance in a future Chrono title. I do agree that he falls under the painfully stereotypical "long-haired badass" category. However, to his credit, he became obsessed with finding his sister, rather than becoming obsessed with "mummy" like certain other long-haired characters. Mother-fixation in male characters SEVERELY disturbs me.

OK, I'll shut up now.

Take it easy


Romance is damn tough to do in any medium, and that's doubly true of RPGs. It's been my experience that love happens a million different ways for a million different people, so it's no wonder what seems believable to one person doesn't to others.

At the same time, other art forms have figured out ways around this limitation: movies can just put two attractive people up on screen and the audience buys it because either they're half in love with the actors/actresses themselves and transfer the feeling to the characters (Titanic, anyone?) or because they've been trained to know that the beautiful people always fall in madly in love. Books can give us internal thoughts and feelings, so even the strangest of relationships make sense in context. But most games so far lack film's visual power and literature's detail, so RPGs are doubly screwed. When we do look back at successful RPG love stories, we're usually thinking of things with high levels of melodrama (FF6) but as the audience grows more mature, the same tricks don't work anymore.

It's here as much as anything that Serge's silence and the game's branching hurt things. If Serge was able to make some long speech about how he had to go save Kid, that would be one thing, but as it is Serge has the option to refuse to have anything to do with Kid at multiple points... and yet the game will still revolve around him saving the girl. FF8 may not have been believable for you (I personally didn't have any problems with it) but at least Squall did get to say something about Rinoa's importance to him, sooner or later.

Xenogears Survivors Group, meets Wednesday 8-10pm
After surviving Evangelion, Xenogears, Serial Experiments Lain, and Chrono Cross (and the X-Files to some extent) I've come to a conclusion regarding this somewhat new genre of 'weird stuff happens, figure it out'. Most of the time, the writer(s) are just making this stuff up as they go along and trying to cover their ass by explaining it later.

Of these four examples, Lain is the only one with real depth. For Chrono Cross specifically, I liked it early on, but as soon as it got into the Bizarre Plot Twist Zone, it got awkward and pretentious.

And those who say these stories have deeper meaning need to think about what the deeper meaning really is. Evangelion for example. The deeper meaning is 'You have to take the good with the bad'. Sure, it's true, but you could have learned that from Sailor Moon just as easily. (And had more fun. And still heard the voices of Megumi Ogata and Kotono Mitsuishi.)

But the ultimate failure of CC, in my mind, is the lack of a good villain. Lynx was cool but he was just the generic bad guy. It was never explained why he was evil. So he was a computer, sort of. So he was your father, sort of. So what? Lame character. Harle was far more interesting, but she was pretty much thrown away. CC:"She's a dragon." Me:"And?" CC:"....."

Good game, though. ;)


PS Was Kid's accent supposed to be Australian or Cockney? It's the combination of "Oi!" and "Bugger!" that particularly baffles me.

I think Kid was supposed to be "Generic Non-American English Accent" (or GNAEA) and that's about as close as we'll ever get to the truth, I think.

You've hit the little plastic mole on the head with one of those big rubber mallets, as far as I'm concerned. (That's a good thing, by the way.) If I may be so bold, the best, deepest stories aren't going to be about bizarre stuff followed by even more bizarre explanations, they're going to be about human experiences that are immediately accessible to the audience. That's not to say that the experiences can't be bizarre, or that the audience shouldn't be able to find much deeper meanings and complexities when they stop to examine the experiences, but if I'm spending the whole time wondering "why are they doing this?" and "what's the freakin' point of all that?" then the narrative has failed on the most basic level. In other words, let the story tell itself, and the rest will follow.

The game was real, but this column is fantasy
Two gripes about the ending:

1- The last battle was a letdown. The Time Devourer's animation was limited to a little sway and occasional flapping of its rear appendages, and it had no unique attacks. The field was was ugly. Worst of all, it was pretty much silent. No end boss music. Rrgh. Is this avant garde? Meaningful? Traditionally, end boss music has been some of the best in Square's games. To not have any at all didn't work for me.

2- The "good" ending. We can inseminate our own worlds? Inseminate? I don't like those connotations. Aside from that, I get the idea that I'm supposed to believe that the game is real now. We see Schala in a lot of here-and-now situations, including her holding the astral amulet in a Japanese crosswalk. This game is fantasy. To tack on a "By the way, it's all REAL!!!" there at the end is hokey.


Agreed about the ending - I kept thinking how interesting it was that this Japanese girl was wandering around Tokyo in a bad blonde wig with an ugly piece of jewelry. Probably not what I should have been getting out of the denouement.

It's bastard. Get the spelling right.
Hello Chris, you basterd.

For all of you saying the story wasn't structured right, or that you're in the dark about major plot points until way late in the game, remember just this one tiny thing. It's just a video game people! Not that I'm trying to get into that whole "video game = art" debate but I think most of us would agree that rpgs are still not at the level of most novels or published works in the ways of storytelling or even grammer. So why down play a game so much for doing what only very few games (MGS, Xenogears, and maybe Vagrant Story are the ones I can think of) have pulled off?

Granted, that doesn't mean you shouldn't complain about it. I had the feeling ever since Chronopolis that the story, though I could make sence of it all on some level, just wasn't crafted well enough. But than again FF1 - FF8, Chrono Trigger, Wild Arms, Suikoden, the Phantasy Star series, and countless others had something wrong with them in the ways of plot and character devlopment in some way or another. So what I'm saying is, yes, the game has a fault in the story telling department. But should we shun such a great game for that? No! On one level you have to realize that the game is very complex, dealing with time and dimention travel. On the other hand, this is still just a video game, not War and Peace.

~Dr. Uzuki, who's a little miffed that I wrote one big long letter regarding many different plot points and was never printed. So watch, he prints this tiny letter...

You've got some solid points, but I'll do my usual lazy dodge and let the next letter answer for me.

Reaction 4: Destroy PSX in disgust

There are three reactions you have at an RPG's climax in plot:

1) What the hell??!

2) Aaaaaah....I get it.

3) I wonder if......?

Chrono Cross was definitely a #1. The climax of the game was handled very poorly, they reveal Lynx's true identity and talk about Schala without dropping any hints earlier in the game. These things just "happen" without proper foreshadowing. If you want a complex plot, you need that stuff in spades. A good example of a well-executed #2 reaction would be everyone's favorite, Xenogears. The point when the player realized ON HIS/HER OWN just what the heck the opening cinema had to do with the rest of the game. FF7 would be #3.

If someone else uses that idiotic "Read a book instead" excuse for a bad plot, I think my head will explode. Why are we belittling our hobby? Is it too much to ask for a team of skilled/well-paid writers to come up with a plot that is fun and entertaining? At this point, Square has raised the bar to a height where nothing less than perfection will do. So I want perfection, or at least something very close. Not only has Square cheated me out of 50% of the reason why I buy their games in the first place, they've also disappointed me by denying what they've given since FF7. A good, well thought-out, and entertaining storyline. CC simply does not measure up.

-Red Raven, who then ran to the nearest fire extinguisher

I have to agree with Dr. Uzuki that we can't demand that all our games have great plots, characterization, etc, but at the same time I agree with you that it's something that we should be able to request. No, gaming is not literature in terms of depth or meaning, but it has the potential to be. This won't be happening any time soon, and if Square can keep putting out games like CC I'll buy them, and I'll be reasonably content with them, and I expect the same goes for many of you.

But I think and hope it's gonna happen someday - hell, I hope that somebody reading this column will be able to strain a little wisdom out of this mess and someday become the Tolstoy or Shakespeare or Twain of games. The game they made would have as little to do with Xenogears as Xenogears does with Pac Man, but there's no reason it can't happen. And in the meantime, we sit, and we bitch, and we hope, and we wait.

Works for me.

One last sanity check
The name "Serge" is French and is pronounced "Serj" with a short e. One syllable. Actually, if you say "Surge" with a French accent, you'd get very close to the correct pronunciation of his name.

And all this complaining about Chrono Cross is really getting me down. I think the gameplay innovations and the obvious mastery of what the Playstation can do (did you _ever_ notice loading times in this game? I didn't) far outweighed any plot problems. The whole silent hero routine was pulled off much better than in Chrono Trigger. Serge says things all the time, they're just not put in text boxes. Crono did the same, but it was much less obvious (which made me dislike Crono).

I can say without question that Crono Cross is the best RPG I've played on the Playstation game console, just as I can say without question that Final Fantasy 4 is the best RPG I've played on the SNES game console and Destiny of an Emperor is the best RPG I've played on the NES game console. Of course, Final Fantasy 9 hasn't made it my way yet...

-- Nick Ware

Chrono Cross is not the best PSX RPG I've ever played - it's not even the best so far this year. (That would be Vagrant Story.) And it didn't live up to the hype surrounding it... but that may not have been possible. In the end it was a good maybe a great game, and I've probably hurt it by deconstructing it more than I should have. But when all is said and done, it was worth my money, it was worth my time, and I'm looking forward to the next game from the development team. That's about all you can expect, in the end.

Closing Comments:

Ok, I am officially sick of talking about Chrono Cross. No more. It's even possible that I'm sick of Square, so I think my next RPG (once I'm done playing all the RPGs I didn't have time to finish this summer) may not be PE2, but a downpayment on Ogre Battle 64. An N64 RPG, now there's something you don't see every day...

At any rate, for tomorrow I'd like to pick up on something that got skipped over during the site's vacation. What's your take on these Congressional hearings about violent games marketed to minors? Some of you are minors, some of you recently were - do you feel you were marketed to? If Joe Camel was rightfully nailed to the wall for marketing to kids, what should be done to Square or Id? Enlighten me. Adios for now.

-Chris Jones, also was wrong about Draggy being a dinosaur

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