Get Chrono Crossed: Part #5: I Present The Craziest Plot Twist In Video Games: "Baby, Daughter, Clone" [SPOILER WARNING]

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Part 26: Let's Discuss The OTHER/REAL Reason Why This Game Exists

Oh, right! We need to talk about this shit!
Oh, right! We need to talk about this shit!

Way back when I first debuted this retrospective, I spent some time talking about Radical Dreamers and how it influenced the development of Chrono Cross. There's no denying how Chrono Cross is a "soft reboot" of Radical Dreamers but with a "consolized" budget. However, it would be wrong to suggest that Radical Dreamers is the only factor in why Chrono Cross has a story as messy and convoluted as it does. In a handful of interviews during the most recent anniversary of Chrono Cross, Masato Kato, the game's director, shared some vital enlightenment into why the ending of Chrono Cross is what it is and what was the intended "heart" of the game. As Kato has put it, you have to go back to the release of Chrono Trigger to understand the inspiration for making Chrono Cross. It is worth noting how Episode 317 of the Retronauts podcast covered this topic extensively (https://retronauts.com/article/1583/retronauts-episode-317-chrono-cross). Regardless, Kato was under the impression that with the excessive number of alternate endings, his Chrono Trigger writing team had "covered all of their bases." They reviewed Chrono Trigger's script for weeks to ensure no unaddressed plot holes or unresolved story threads got through the final cut. They thought they had done their job, but then they got a call from the Nintendo Power Line.

Who could have seen this one coming>
Who could have seen this one coming>

As a representative from the Power Line put it bluntly, moments after the game's release, people began calling the tip line asking what had happened to Schala after the fall of the Kingdom of Zeal. Hundreds of people were inundating the tip line, asking if they had missed a hidden Easter Egg where they could find Schala and bring her to Magus. When Kato confirmed the calls were indeed authentic, and people felt this plotline had been left unresolved, he began to feel as if he had failed. Even after countless peer review sessions, he had missed something, and fans immediately picked up on it within days. This sense of frustration would be something Kato would hold on to for years. While the rest of the production, writing, and direction staff moved on with the feeling Chrono Trigger was a monumental accomplishment, Kato couldn't help but feel like there was unresolved business to attend to in the game. So, he started pestering higher-ups at Squaresoft to make a follow-up to Chrono Trigger, and eventually, Squaresoft complied. Unfortunately, his original go, Radical Dreamers, was saddled with a satellite peripheral that not more than 100,000 people had access to at any time. And so, Kato continued to pester and advocate for a "proper" follow-up to Chrono Trigger.

I'm not going to lie to you and say none of this story is apocryphal. However, I do know I want to believe this story. I want to live in a world where fans calling into the Nintendo Power Line caused the lead writer of Chrono Trigger to develop a grudge against one of their best works. A grudge, mind you, that guided two highly flawed attempts to address an unresolved question that most wouldn't even give the time of day. But when you reach the end of Chrono Cross, there is no doubt that Schala is the "key" to why its events unfold the way they do. What baffles me, and we will discuss this in-depth shortly, is why Kato decided to withhold her presence in Chrono Cross until the butt-end of the game's story. This incontrovertible fact leads me to believe the project ran out of development time and was rushed to meet a deadline. Otherwise, there is no justification for the game communicating its raison d'etre minutes before its final boss. That's especially the case when you consider the first half of the game had a concert about the importance of being tolerant.

Fuck it, let Kato have a third try at making a sequel to Chrono Trigger!
Fuck it, let Kato have a third try at making a sequel to Chrono Trigger!

Oddly enough, the Square-Enix of today seems to have leaned into this part of Chrono Cross' ridiculous lore. Look no further than the Nintendo DS release of Chrono Trigger and consider the game's secret super boss. For most who play the DS release of Chrono Trigger, the game goes off without a hitch. However, Kato, still feeling like there was unresolved business, rejoined the Square-Enix team to add a handful of new levels to the DS port. These new dungeons and enemy encounters made the connection between Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross far more explicit. One of these levels, the "Darkness At The End Of Time," is straight up the final level in Chrono Cross, and the battle that takes place there is but a preamble to the final boss in Chrono Cross. Furthermore, Chrono Trigger DS' new optional dungeons even foreshadow the underpinning of Chrono Cross through its use of Schala. As we discover, following the destruction of the Kingdom of Zeal, Schala fused with Lavos to form the larval Dream Devourer. Schala's brother, Janus/Magus, even attempts to rescue her but to no avail and is sent away by Schala, who proclaims the Dream Devourer is not his battle to fight.

Part 27: Terra Tower SUCKS A LOT OF SHIT!

When we last left off, Serge and company recently picked up the Chrono Cross element and were preparing to summit Terra Tower. At the top of the monolithic superstructure is a dragon god who is lording over the Frozen Flame. This dragon god is moving to use the Frozen Flame to destroy humanity and usher in a new "epoch" led by dinosaurs and dragons. Serge is the only person capable of stopping this from happening because his soul is attuned to the Frozen Flame, which can grant whoever wields it a wish. If none of this makes sense, please consult the last episode of this series. If, however, you have completed this step and are still confused, you are not alone. Nonetheless, Terra Tower is a tall structure with no steps or elevator. If your party hopes to hack away at the dragon god, they will need to achieve flight. In a classic Squaresoft game, this would be where Chrono Cross unlocks your airship. However, this is far from being a routine Squaresoft romp.

I bet those of you who like this game have forgotten about this part!
I bet those of you who like this game have forgotten about this part!

I want to clarify how little the game actively preempts you before enacting the following sequence of events. All you know at this point is that you need some flying craft to reach the top of Terra Tower, and because Serge's society has yet to master flight, this is no easy task. So, I want you, dear reader, to predict the member of your party that is the "key" to reaching your goal. I won't rush you, so take your time. Are you ready for the answer? Be aware; unlike the Final Fantasy franchise, there is no grizzled war veteran that once captained an airship during an oft-forgotten war. Oh, and by the way, it's Starky. When you reach the bottom of the ocean after approaching a glowing spot, your diminutive alien companion discovers their spaceship and offers to use its engine on Serge's boat to help everyone get to the entrance of Terra Tower. What ensues here is a schlocky inspirational set-piece that pines for the bicycle flying scene from E.T. It is completely tonally anachronistic from the rest of the game, and it does nothing to prepare you for the tower. I guess there's a nice moment when Kid and Serge muse over the fact they have reached the end of their adventure, but even that goes painfully longer than it should. I will say it was funny when Kid and Serge attempted to have a genuine heart-to-heart, and Starky ruined the scene when he loudly asked, "Why were we born?"

Fucking what the fuck?
Fucking what the fuck?

Also, Terra Tower fucking sucks ass. It's the worst goddamn dungeon in the game, and it's not even a contest. The first issue is a problem admittedly encountered throughout the entirety of Chrono Cross, and it is the difficulty of differentiating foreground and background environmental textures. Terra Tower makes this issue even worse due to the twisting ropes and red tree trunks you have to navigate to reach the lower portions of the dungeon. When you are spiraling through the main room in the tower, it's easy to lose your perspective and line of sight. Additionally, this is one of those JRPG dungeons wherein you'll need to backtrack and revisit levels after flipping switches or collecting items. It is an absolute chore to play, and it is made worse due to the myriad of enemy encounters and boss battles. Your walking paths here are narrow enough that you can no longer avoid random goons. Worse, many of these battles last far longer than usual due to everything having a ridiculous amount of health points. I get some of this is expected out of Terra Tower being the last "real" dungeon in the game, but as someone who did not enjoy Chrono Cross when it played at its normal pace, I found no part of this level pleasant.

ALL OF THIS SHIT CAN FUCK RIGHT OFF!

A majority of the bosses here aren't that hard, as most of them are elementally themed. For example, at the tower's entrance, you encounter a yellow android, and predictably it can absorb yellow magic but is susceptible to green magic. However, as I mentioned in the previous episode, once you unlock the Diminish and Magnify abilities, you don't need to play these sorts of magic-based bosses as intended. As Diminish halves all elemental damage, popping it off and relying on your physical attacks, especially if you did the Masamune quest, is the way to go from this point forward. Nevertheless, I have to return to the issue of the level design in Terra Tower. It's the same labyrinthine dungeon design seen in the Temple of the Ancients in Final Fantasy VII, but worse. At least with the Temple of the Ancients, there were respits in the form of minigames and puzzles. Yes, those minigames and puzzles are awful, but at least they provided breaks from an endless stream of monotonous combat. You don't have that here, and I again have to ask, if I can't actively dodge real-world instanced enemies, what is the fucking point in using the mechanic? Why not use a random encounter system instead of teasing me with the prospect of evading and avoiding combat?

Part 28: What About The Dragons?

Many people commented in the last episode that they enjoyed my attempt to make sense of Chrono Cross' story. However, this blog will push me to my limits. As to be expected, we have more than one lore dump to mull over at Terra Tower. The first comes when you reach the bottom of the dungeon and encounter a massive statue. The statute proclaims it was once human but has since become part of the tower. It also reviews much of what you already know about the dragons and how they connect back to Chrono Trigger. It relays that the dragons are an advanced race descending from the Reptites in Chrono Trigger and view humanity as a foe. It also reminds Serge that humanity's evolution from primates was thanks to its exposure to Lavos, a point I think Chrono Trigger sufficiently hammered home years ago. Your characters move on and eventually discover a part of the tower that looks precisely like Viper Manor. Here you find Belthasar, who enthusiastically greets Serge and subjects him to ANOTHER lore dump.

Reason? Sir, this is Chrono Cross! We have been absent of
Reason? Sir, this is Chrono Cross! We have been absent of "reason" for hours!

For the most part, I think I have nailed summarizing the story of Chrono Cross. However, Belthasar's speech in Terra Tower is an incomprehensible garbled mess. At first, Belthasar merely reviews events from Chrono Trigger related to the fall of the Kingdom of Zeal. Still, Belthasar emphasizes his words whenever he repeats Schala's or Lavos' names. He mentions that even before Crono defeated Lavos, the destruction of Zeal created a dimensional vortex. This vortex stranded him in the future and sent Schala into a void where she fused with Lavos to form a trans-dimensional monster. Belthasar was also in charge of "Project Kid," but we learn more about that later. We discover Belthasar, while stuck in the future, made a Neo-Epoch, a time-traveling vehicle many of you recall from Chrono Trigger. He used this vehicle to go back to Serge's time to direct him in his quest for the Frozen Flame, hoping this would free Schala. That's right, Belthasar had a motherfucking Neo-Epoch all this time and is just now commenting about it! I need to mull over this point for a bit. If Belthasar had a time-traveling device, why has he been letting Serge fuck about on El Nido? Why not just give Serge the Neo-Epoch and help him recruit a team of heroes to rescue Schala? Speaking of which, how does saving Schala relate to Serge being the source of the Apocalypse? Will rescuing her stop the end of the world, or is Belthasar being a selfish prick who doesn't give a shit about that and just wants to save Schala?

To add insult to injury, Belthasar didn't even use the Neo-Epoch properly. Instead of using it to go to the moment of the Time Crash, which fucked up the entire research facility at Chronopolis and killed hundreds, if not thousands of people, he decided to travel to the opening events of the game and check up on how FATE's schemes were doing. As the silent protagonist we all know and love, Serge lets Belthasar's misuse of advanced technology, which could have helped his adventure immensely, slide entirely. Belthasar then turns his attention to Terra Tower and says it is the former castle of Azala, the leader of the Reptites in Chrono Trigger. He confirms, YET AGAIN, the Dragonians exist in a different timeline and constantly want to "reset" the Keystone Dimension to mimic their own. What is a bit of a shock is when Belthasar mentions that Dinopolis was drawn into El Nido about ten thousand years ago and waged war against Chronopolis. Chronopolis was victorious and, with the help of FATE, sealed away Terra Tower and split apart the Dragon God.

THE FUCK YOU SAY?! WHY DIDN'T YOU START WITH THAT WHEN WE FIRST MET?!
THE FUCK YOU SAY?! WHY DIDN'T YOU START WITH THAT WHEN WE FIRST MET?!

But, what's the deal with the Sea of Eden, you might ask? Well, initially, El Nido was a giant ocean until Chronopolis defeated the Dragon God. With the dragons in check, Chronopolis and FATE created the world Serge presently resides in, and upon saying this, Belthasar uses this as an opportunity to chastise Serge for destroying FATE. Because, as we all know, defeating a tyrannical supercomputer that refused to give humanity free will is always a bad idea. The next part of this conversation, wherein Belthasar expands the lore for the Dragon God, is complete technobabble. Belthasar's speech during this bit reminded me of the scene in The Matrix Reloaded when Neo meets the Architect. Maybe if I were to spend an hour, I could figure out what the fuck this spiel means, but fuck it, I value my time:

"A living accumulation of the planet's energy! Originally it was a biological machine used to control the powers of nature in the future society of the Reptites. In order to control the natural energy itself, FATE divided the one Dragon God entity up into 6 weaker plasma life-forms... Then scattered them across the land and sealed them away. Their dragon-like appearances are just pseudo-guises... Temporary forms they take so that they can appear in this dimension."

The war between dragons and Chronopolis being told through still images is WILD!
The war between dragons and Chronopolis being told through still images is WILD!

If any of that makes sense, feel free to drop a comment, but I'm not fucking around with that. No matter, Belthasar confirms that Harle was indeed a dragon and that Serge's next course of action is to off the Dragon God. Oh, and then the ghosts of the characters of Chrono Trigger appear, but for some reason, they are all children. The only purpose of this scene is for Lucca to remind Serge how important the Chrono Cross element is, but she provides fuck all in terms of telling him how to use it. Which reminds me, we have to talk about the single most frustrating level in this game! Moments before you decide to tackle the Dragon God, you enter a room full of different colored crystals. Each crystal represents one of the schools of magic found in Chrono Cross, and they chime away while providing a rather pleasant tune. What pisses me off is how the order in which the colors ring out isnot the correct order for beating the final boss. The game does present the right order eventually. The elevator leading up to the Dragon God chimes away its colored crystals correctly, but that's far more missable than a dedicated level!

THIS SHIT IS COMPLETELY UNFORGIVEABLE!
THIS SHIT IS COMPLETELY UNFORGIVEABLE!

Speaking of which, the Dragon God boss feels like a complete afterthought, given the game's priorities are meant for a subsequent battle. The dragon monster introduces itself as the Time Devourer and is a rather generic multiphase boss. Each phase takes place in a different environment where the Time Devourer represents one of the seven dragon gods. It starts by inflicting white magic before shifting to yellow and finally to black. It's a clever design decision I would have a far easier time reconciling if it didn't take forever to deal with and utilized its magic in the order needed to beat the final boss! WHICH, BY THE WAY, THE CORRECT FUCKING ORDER IS YELLOW, RED, GREEN, BLUE, BLACK, THEN WHITE, AND THIS BOSS GOES IN A DIFFERENT ORDER! Likewise, the Time Devourer doesn't add a lot to the story besides the battle playing like a slugfest. It simply reminds Serge that the Dragonians are strongly attuned to nature and consider themselves better equipped to treat the planet with proper care. And you know what? It's a fair point. Nonetheless, it goes down for the count, and I guess that's a victory for humanity.

Part 29: Baby, Daughter, Clone

This dude sure seems like an afterthought in the grand scheme of things!
This dude sure seems like an afterthought in the grand scheme of things!

After the Time Devourer is defeated, Belthasar returns to spew out a bunch of hot nonsense. He reveals that Serge fought an illusion as the original Dragon God was eliminated by the "real" Time Devourer ages ago. Oh, and he also states the Frozen Flame is a goddamn piece of Lavos! Furthermore, if someone connects themselves with the Frozen Flame, they effectively link themselves with Lavos. That seems like it should have been a more significant plot point, but the game moves on as if it's no big deal. Then the Frozen Flame itself begins to speak to the entire party. Despite being a piece of Lavos, it politely asks Serge to "go to the place where time divided and weave the threads of time together again" before disappearing into the ether. Was that Lavos speaking or a different omnipotent force? The game never tells, but one thing is for certain. The item of our attention for the past thirty goddamn hours disappears with nary a care.

Luckily, Belthasar clarifies the situation and explains that Serge will need to defeat the "Devourer of Time," which is entirely different from the "Time Devourer." You see, the "Devourer of Time" is the monstrosity created when Schala and Lavos fused in a temporal vortex, whereas the "Time Devourer" is just the ultimate form of the Dragon God. Belthasar provides Serge with a Time Egg to assist in his final battle, which makes no fucking sense whatsoever. As some of you may recall, the Time Egg in Chrono Trigger allowed the party to revive Crono after Lavos killed him during the Ocean Palace Incident. In Chrono Cross, the Time Egg is a teleportation device and the only way to access the void in which the Devourer of Time resides. Belthasar disappears, and the Terra Tower begins to collapse. After your party beats a hasty retreat, your team deduces that Opassa Beach is where you need to go next. After shifting dimensions at the coastline, you encounter the ghostly forms of Lucca, Marle, and Crono. And before you ask, yes, Crono does speak in this game.

Wow... y'all are really running with Schala being the center of the universe.
Wow... y'all are really running with Schala being the center of the universe.

I have to be honest right now. Chrono Cross is one of those games where I can honestly say I have genuinely no idea what's going on. I will do my best to paraphrase everything the ghost children tell you here, but it is a fucking trainwreck through and through. Let's start things off with some easy shit. Crono asks if Serge has the Chrono Cross, and if you do, he says it is the key to "healing the dimensions." He also reveals that Lynx was Serge's father, and Serge will have to live with the guilt of murdering his dad for the rest of his life. THAT'S RIGHT! FATE FOUND A WAY TO TURN SERGE'S FATHER INTO A FURRY, AND SERGE KILLED HIS FATHER WITHOUT KNOWING IT! Trust me, this is the "easiest" part of the Opassa Beach lore dump to digest. Talking to Lucca, for example, certainly doesn't simplify things. Instead, Lucca reveals that the "start" of Serge's journey happened when the Kingdom of Zeal fell. In particular, when Schala became stuck in a dimensional vortex and fused with the soul of Lavos after Crono defeated it.

lolwut?
lolwut?

What does any of this have to do with Serge? Well, the Schala x Lavos abomination heard Serge's cries of pain after being attacked by a panther many years ago. Schala, able to overpower the influence of Lavos temporarily, created the storm that sent Serge's father to Chronopolis. Moreover, to make sure Serge does not die at the hands of FATE, Schala transported a version of herself into the past to monitor Serge. The game leaves it ambiguous whether the magnetic storm that causes FATE to malfunction was on purpose or incidental. What is certain is that a part of Schala was stomping around El Nido while Serge was at death's door. You might be wondering how that is possible if Schala is trapped in a temporal vortex. Well, it turns out Belthasar has been holding back on you once again as he found a way to clone Schala. This clone is called Schala's "baby daughter-clone," and that clone is none other than Kid. Yup, Kid is a goddamn clone of Schala! That's an actual plot point that the game presents you with a straight face.

How? I just... what?
How? I just... what?

I don't feel adequately equipped to understand the words "baby," "daughter," and "clone" when they are together in a single sentence. However, if Kid has been Schala's clone all along, I have a lot of questions. Principally, fuck the Frozen Flame! Have Kid Thanos finger snap the two dimensions back together and wish Schala free! If she has somehow managed to be the baby, daughter, AND clone of Schala, then she must be some all-powerful being that has attained godhood! Unfortunately, we discover the reality of "Project Kid." Kid is Schala's baby daughter-clone sent into the modern world to prevent Serge from dying. All of this is possible because Schala temporarily resisted Lavos before virgin birthing a baby that she gave her pendant to before dropping her at Lucca's orphanage. What is confusing to me is how Lucca suggests that at some point, Kid was tasked with traveling back in time to save a young Serge from dying.

IS MY BRAIN COLLAPSING IN ON ITSELF?!
IS MY BRAIN COLLAPSING IN ON ITSELF?!

So, why does Kid have no recollection of this event? This tidbit seems like a weird thing for Kid to never bring up until now. Also, Kid somehow saved Serge from dying in the past as an adult but also grew up at Lucca's orphanage while still a child. Furthermore, as revealed during the Masamune questline, Serge found a way to time travel to the razing of Kid's orphanage and was the person who single-handedly saved her life. Yet, somehow she still didn't recognize Serge when they first met at Cape Howl. How the fuck does that work? Moreover, saving Serge appears to be the source for the two alternate dimensions of El Nido, a fact we have been told countless times prior. However, Lucca explains these two timelines present two differing dimensions. The first involves a dimension where Serge lives and the Day of Lavos happens. The second, wherein Serge is dead, presents a world where Chronopolis still exists. In the timeline where the "Home World" exists, Lavos is somehow reborn and destroys the world, which turns the Sea of Eden into the Dead Sea.

Oh, and the whole point behind Belthasar's many schemes and even Chronopolis finding its way to the continent of El Nido is so Serge could be at this exact position with the Chrono Cross in tow to free Schala. That's why everything in Chrono Cross exists. It's so Serge can get to a teleport point on a beach and use a special ability to free a one-off Chrono Trigger character you probably didn't even remember existed. Chronopolis, the Time Crash, Project Kid, and the battle between FATE and the Dragon Gods? All of that shit has been in service of freeing Schala. To make matters worse, Marle reveals that Serge has reset the current timeline to where Crono, Marle, and Lucca don't exist! THAT'S RIGHT! ALL OF THE CHARACTERS FROM CHRONO TRIGGER YOU KNOW AND LOVE ARE FUCKING DEAD! THEY FUCKING FRIDGE SOME OF THE MOST BELOVED CHARACTERS IN VIDEO GAME HISTORY!

THE MOTHERFUCKING BRASS BALLS ON THIS GAME!
THE MOTHERFUCKING BRASS BALLS ON THIS GAME!

You know what? Fuck it! I'm just going to bullet point all of this shit, and if you think I missed something, you can let me know! Here's what we know about how the world of Chrono Cross exists:

    • Princess Schala fused with Lavos after the Kingdom of Zeal blows up and has been stuck in a temporal vortex for a long time.
    • Schala heard Serge's cries of agony, and that's what convinced her she finally had a chance to break away from Lavos.
    • Schala cloned herself, or maybe it was Belthasar, and used a magnetic storm to fuck up FATE which murders thousands of people on Chronopolis.
    • FATE corrupted Serge's father and turned him into Lynx.
    • The Dragons are an evolved version of the Reptites from Chrono Trigger. The Reptites also exist in a different timeline.
    • Schala's clone is Kid and somehow saved Serge from downing or dying from panther poison in the Home World.
    • Kid can time travel but has forgotten how to do that and even forgot she time-traveled to save Serge.
    • Kid grew up at Lucca's orphanage and forgot she was Schala's "baby daughter-clone."
    • The Frozen Flame is a piece of Lavos and unleashes the wrath of Lavos should its influence take over anyone who holds it.
    • The Frozen Flame can grant wishes.
    • The Time Egg is no longer a device that revives people and instead teleports people to voids in space to save princesses.
    • Crono, Lucca, and Marle are dead and/or ghosts.
    • Belthasar had a bunch of advanced technology that made the story possible and could have played a more direct role in ensuring nothing wrong happened.
    • Serge being dead was the "correct" timeline, but that's passed us, and we need to save Schala.

Alright, I think that's everything! Let's talk about this bullshit final boss battle!

Part 30: The Last Boss Is Bullshit!

This point is a bit of a tangent, but where the fuck is Magus in all of this? Why isn't he in Chrono Cross? Schala is his SISTER! Shouldn't he be tagging along with Belthasar's schemes and helping Kid and Serge? I understand the DS port of Chrono Trigger features a line where Schala tells Magus to live his best life without her, but when has that ever stopped a video game character? Nonetheless, when it comes to beating the Time Devourer in Chrono Cross, there are multiple leaps of logic you need to make to get the game's "best" ending. As hinted at during the previous episode, simply getting the necessary materials to make any of this possible is a Byzantine nightmare. Creating the Chrono Cross element is no laughing matter, and knowing when to use it is never adequately communicated to the player at any point. In fact, if you attempt to "practice" casting the Chrono Cross element after filling Serge's meter, nothing happens. The only time when it can be activated is during this boss battle.

THIS BOSS BATTLE SUCKS SHIT!
THIS BOSS BATTLE SUCKS SHIT!

So, here you have a sparkly rainbow-colored trinket that seems to be the "key" to beating the final boss in this game. A boss, mind you, the game has, at best, had the common courtesy to reveal to you during its last hour. If you decide to play Chrono Cross, I strongly advise you to drop all pretense and look up the answer of how to get the "best ending." Like a fool, the first go I had at the final boss was a disaster. As I whittled away at its health, I popped off the Chrono Cross element after Serge built up his meter. Nothing happened. Twenty or so minutes went down the goddamn drain just like that. Frustrated to no end, I had a friend who had completed Chrono Cross explain to me what I needed to do. As they did, I wanted to eat out my eyeballs. Had I not reached out to them, my next course of action would have been to beat the boss like every final boss in a JRPG. I prepared my characters for this slog as any typical video game player would. I prepped my party composition and equipped each to the teeth to be sufficiently outfitted for whatever cheap bullshit the game had in store for me. It turns out, if you defeat the Time Devourer by lowering its HP to zero, you get the BAD ENDING! Schala just dies, and everyone in the final cutscene acts sad. There's no opportunity for you to use the Chrono Cross move as it explodes.

In the bad ending, you kill the monster and Schala, and as Serge and Kid stand in a black void, the game smash cuts to black before displaying the words "fin." Yeah, that's honestly all you get! What, pray tell, do you need to do to get the game's "good" ending? First, you need to remember the order the colored crystals on Terra Tower chimed in, but not the set of crystals that played "incorrectly." I feel it is important to remind all of you that this happened well over an hour ago. During the lore dump with the characters of Chrono Trigger, one suggests music and the elements of the world are "the key." However, whatever the fuck that means is anyone's guess! To the game's credit, the battle with the Time Devourer has a unique UI feature that displays the color of whatever spells have been cast during the fight. Using this tracker, you can more easily map what spells your characters have cast as the battle progresses, which leads us to the "solution" of this final encounter. To unlock the "good ending," you need to choose spells in a specific order based on their color and then have Serge use the Chrono Cross element at the end. That order is YELLOW, RED, GREEN, BLUE, BLACK, AND THEN WHITE! It goes without saying, the solution to this "puzzle" is complete horseshit.

JUST AWFUL!
JUST AWFUL!

I think I have moaned and complained about how this is impossible to figure out organically enough. Game design like this all but confirms that old-school developers expected players to buy game guides. Otherwise, what other justification could there be for this kind of dogshit? However, even if you know the order of the colors, two parts of the Time Devourer's boss design rear their ugly head. First, it is essential to have characters loaded with a cornucopia of low-tier magic commands because those will likely be the spells you use to burn through this sequence. However, because items, even healing items, have an associated color class, it is next to impossible to heal without messing everything up. If you lose a character in battle because the only revive command is white, you're better off running away from the fight, resurrecting them out of combat, and then trying again from scratch.

Second, when you reach the end of the order and need Serge to cast the Chrono Cross ability, it is not guaranteed that he'll have enough meter to use it! As is often the case, you might need to spend a turn wailing away with physical attacks and hoping the Time Devourer doesn't counter anything you do. That was an issue for me, and it led to me sitting on my hands a whole bunch and praying the Time Devourer wouldn't counter Serge with some cheap bullshit like Meteor. Finally, Serge is the only person who can perform this spell. That means if he dies during the battle, you might as well give up and run away. It is worth mentioning; this boss isn't easy. This fucker is still a traditional Squaresoft final boss! It has a ton of spells that do percentage damage, and it can also inflict every possible status effect under the moon. Which, AGAIN, you can't deal with because you are STUCK needing to cast specific spells in a precise order. Here you are playing this game like a Drakengard-ass musical number, and it hits you just as hard as any other boss in the game!

I honestly did get Drakengard vibes from Chrono Cross's final boss.
I honestly did get Drakengard vibes from Chrono Cross's final boss.

Part 31: THEY MADE A MOVIE THAT ONLY PLAYS DURING THE CREDITS!

Who the fuck are you?
Who the fuck are you?

Right off the bat, who the fuck is this girl? This isn't what Schala looks like in Chrono Trigger! The Schala in Chrono Cross looks like a little girl, but in Chrono Trigger, she's an adult capable of managing the internal affairs of a kingdom. That all aside, the final cutscene that plays during the ending is weapons-grade insanity. First, when Schala breaks free from her crystal prison inside the Time Devourer, she rattles off about humanity always in a struggle to destroy life. She's finally free after living inside a monster for hundreds of years, and all she wants to talk to you about is the human condition. At no point does she ask where Magus might be or if any of her friends are still alive. Instead, she wants to talk about the concept of dialectical thinking. Seriously, her first paragraph of text is all about understanding one another better so we can avoid wars.

The second part of Schala's lecture involves her telling the player to fuck the planet! Or maybe she just wants me to fuck in general? During this cutscene, she refers to planets as "eggs" and then calls all of those who live on planets "spermatozoa." She then ponders why humans raise children and rattles on like someone who has read "The Selfish Gene" for the first time. She asks the player to think if there is something greater at work when we have kids. She coldly calls human life "short" and then goes off a Nietzsche-esque rant. I never thought the word "inseminate" would be used in a SquareSoft game, but here we are. I am a truly blessed person. This timeline is the best. What more needs to be said?

Brining a whole new meaning to
Brining a whole new meaning to "Mother Earth."

Honestly, I think the issue here is with the translation. I get the spirit of what the game is trying to accomplish in championing the player to cherish their life and do the best they can with their limited time. But the execution of these honest feelings is weird. Also, and this is a minor point, but Schala isn't human. Her lecture about the great and wonderful things in store for humanity makes it seem like she's a human herself. However, as most of you probably remember, in Chrono Trigger, she's a member of the "Enlightened" race of people that lived during the time of Antiquity. Back to the topic at hand, Chrono Cross tries to tie together all of its plot threads in the laziest way possible. Schala announces that Serge has managed to merge both dimensions and will forget about his adventure shortly. This is not the first time Squaresoft has ended a game of theirs this way, but I have always hated this sort of conclusion. In the case of Chrono Cross, there are so many unaddressed plot points that suddenly get swept under the rug as if they did not exist. It is incredibly frustrating, and things don't get better when you discover the only characters you can say "goodbye" to are the ones who were in your party during the final boss.

Someone read Malthus one too many times.
Someone read Malthus one too many times.

If you ever wanted a real sign that the people behind this game had no comprehension of what made Chrono Trigger the iconic classic it is considered to this day, look no further than this ending. With Chrono Trigger, you have a final opportunity to talk with NPCs and party members one last time before you bid them adieu. It's a melancholic scene but also one of the game's most empowering moments. With Chrono Cross, you are faced with the prospect of characters like Poshul, Starky, or Funguy spouting off inconsequential one-liners as your final Parthian Shot. Yes, there's a final scene where Kid chimes in about needing to chase her destiny, and with this "good ending," there's a moment where Leena wakes Serge on the beach where everything started. But there's something shitty about Sneff and Zoah being the characters that could be your last hurrah with Chrono Cross. Speaking of the "Good Ending," all it amounts to is a final scene where a dress-clad Kid turns to the camera and smiles, heavily implying that she has "merged" with Schala and the two of them will go on to live their life how they see fit. And this is not editorializing on my part. If you complete the game having unlocked the "true ending," a movie plays during the credits, which further hammers this point.

I watched this entire movie with my mouth agape. At first, I thought the credits were dolling out the usual compilation of cutscenes from the rest of the game. However, most of what you watch is wholly original and involves a young blonde-haired girl walking through the streets of modern-day Japan. While this is happening, you'll start to notice that this is NOT animated and instead an actual film featuring live-action actors. That's right; they paid an actual film company to shoot what amounts to maybe five minutes of useable footage. It's simply bananas. The madmen and women at Square made a movie that only plays during the final credits if, AND ONLY IF, the player gets a secret ending. Late 90s era Squaresoft was an otherworldly company that was really going for it. Fucking "bravo," I tell you!

I would be remiss not to mention the other "secret" endings when you play the game's New Game+ mode. I tested it out briefly, but it was way too fiddly and tedious for my tastes. Again, this is something I think Chrono Trigger executes perfectly, and Chrono Cross manages to bungle due to its love for convoluted bullshit. Needing to burn through hours of content so I can see Starky's alien race take over the world isn't worth it, in my opinion. I enjoyed the ending where the dinosaurs come back and get their revenge on humanity, but I wasn't exactly jumping for joy when I had to replay the first three hours of the game to watch what was ostensibly a joke ending. The only secret ending worth seeking out is the one where Serge succumbs to Lavos' temptations and merges his soul with the Frozen Flame. It hints that there was a more significant relationship between Serge and the Time Devourer and did more to fill in the gaps of how Serge relates to Chrono Trigger than the main story ever did during its forty fucking hour playtime. However, 95% of these secret endings are entirely pointless in the grand scheme of things and not worth the time investment of taking the Time Egg and using it at different parts of the main game.

No Caption Provided

Chrono Cross Postmortem (Should You Play This Game?)

There is no game quite like Chrono Cross out there. No game will ever match the technical and narrative ambition of Chrono Cross in my book. Chrono Cross was given the monstrous task of following one of the most beloved and well-liked JRPGs ever made. Whether you think it handles that mission well says a lot about your ability to forgive its many faults while it provides an utterly unique experience. If you approach games seeking sleek mechanics and rewarding sub-systems, this is not the game for you. I would by no stretch of the word say I enjoyed playing Chrono Cross. The magical slot system was too fiddly for my tastes, and the inventory management made my head explode. Likewise, the combat was way too slow for me and lacked the brilliant strategy of its predecessor. Finally, so many sub-mechanics feel undercooked or come across as afterthoughts in the grand scheme of things.

Things are more "complicated" if you seek out compelling narratives in your video games. Don't get me wrong; I was fully entertained by the sheer brass balls of Chrono Cross at times. Even its zanier ideas and moments are likely going to stick with me for years to come, and that is no small feat. But HOT DAMN does this game take its sweet ass time to get even remotely interesting. For example, the underlying core theme of the game only reveals itself in its last three hours! The game's first disc is fine, but I would struggle to tell you my favorite parts from it. And to be honest, I found the game's attempts at connecting itself to its predecessor more often hilarious rather than earnestly dramatic, which was NOT the intent. By that token, the game is an awful failure. However, I struggle to call its story a failure, the exact reason why I resist calling Final Fantasy VIII's story a failure. Sure, it's rough and bananas at times, but that is part of what makes it even remotely appealing.

I still think they should make an HD Remaster for this game.
I still think they should make an HD Remaster for this game.

It's safe to say I don't consider Chrono Cross a "perfect" game. Maybe as you read my recollections of this maddening game, you feel inspired to pick it up yourself. To that end, I applaud you. It's taxing at times but also gratifying. As I said earlier, you're never going to play something that comes close to what it provides. To the handful of you who played Chrono Cross many years ago and used this series to rekindle a nostalgic part of your childhood or gaming upbringing, I want to be clear about my overbearing grousing. I might have had difficulty parsing out some of Chrono Cross's design decisions and mechanics, but that should never take away from how you remember this game. That said, I would challenge you to give the game a whirl when you have the time, as I think there might be parts of it you have forgotten or overlooked.

But what the fuck do I know? Give it a shot or not! You're your own person and can make your own decisions that empower you in your daily quest to get by on this timeline of ours. I trust you to make an informed decision even if you do not trust yourself. And it is on that hopefully inspirational note that I announce my next closed reading blog series will be a "quickie" two-parter on Final Fantasy XIII-2. Or what I consider to be the most misunderstood and over-hated Final Fantasy game ever made. Yeah, I bet you weren't expecting me to say I like Serah and her time-traveling companion, Noel! But until next time, peace!

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swthompson

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This game is really truly bananas. Thanks for the write-ups. I found them fascinating, in a "I don't want to play this but I'm glad I know now" sort of way.

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personz

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I think you got Magus mixed up with Dalton.

Either that or I have been Mandela effected.....

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ZombiePie

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#3 ZombiePie  Staff

@personz said:

I think you got Magus mixed up with Dalton.

Either that or I have been Mandela effected.....

AW FUCK! YOU'RE RIGHT! Janus/Magus is Schala's brother. Which makes his abscene even more bizarre as he's a party member in Chrono Trigger!

Unless you are a monster.

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ALLTheDinos

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@zombiepie: There was speculation that Guile is actually Janus/Magus, but I think that’s entirely based on him having purple hair. If you pick him (and thus miss out on all of Nikki’s storyline), there is absolutely no payoff in scenes with Kid. Granted, I’ve never beaten Lavos with Guile in my party, so I can’t say for certain there’s no dialogue in that final sign-off.

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noobsauce

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Great read. This whole coverage of Crono Cross somehow feels perfectly encapsulated by a quote from Starky: why were we born?

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personz

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@zombiepie: I'm just glad I wasn't Mandela'd

This whole write up has been a joy to read. Fantastic work.

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ArbitraryWater

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#7 ArbitraryWater  Online

Baby Daughter Clone

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jeremyf

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@zombiepie: See, I wanted to say something, but I don't understand even 1% of the Chrono Cross storyline and I wasn't sure if there was some secret Dalton lore I was unaware of.

If you made this mistake, how can we trust ANYTHING in the blog series?!?!

...Just kidding. I really enjoyed the vicarious insanity. Thank you for work.

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Manburger

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Holy diver, what a trip! Thank you for taking us along on this vision quest. A truly enjoyable read, consistently chortle-worthy; fabulous work!

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Broshmosh

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This was all really great. Thanks for taking the time to write this. I fell off of this game about 8 hours in and don't have the heart to pick it back up.

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CommodoreGroovy

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A good read as always. I've tried this game once, due to its relation to the great Chrono Trigger. I got several hours in and was pretty bored, confused, and ended up falling off the wagon. I did read end up reading the lore and a cliff notes version of the game's narrative and uh... was still pretty confused. Thanks to you (and parts of a playthrough I watched), I more or less understand what this game is now and what they were going for. Still... WTF?!

I can understand wanting to take a sequel into a different direction than the original, but that's a risky move for such a beloved game. You better be damned sure you plan something worthwhile and well thought out before moving a series down such a stark path. Unfortunately, they did neither, and that's how we got Chrono Cross!

The whole Schera angle you offered, about the justification for this game to really just be an explanation to her missing whereabouts after Chrono Trigger, seems spot on, and it's really just such a bizarre thing for Kato to latch on, to go on to base an entire game's plot upon. Well, thinking about it, I guess if it was executed in a better way, maybe it wouldn't seem so outlandish, I dunno.

Now that I got the justifications and excuses for how and why this game IS what IS, I gotta say this game really is crap. Not only for the reasons you listed, but for the way it tarnishes my view of the original, of Chrono Trigger. The more I learn, the more it's as if someone is making me watch as they suck all the love and joy out of Chrono Trigger's spirit, while calling me naïve, and pretentiously babbling on about the human condition and the consequences of time travel.

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