Chrono Cross 09: Final Boss(es)

Big ol' tickChrono Cross was always a complicated, labyrinthian mess of a game. From the focused infiltration mission of Viper Manor to the redundant and roach-infested remix of the intrusion a few hours later, Chrono Cross never quite knows when to let sleeping dogs lie. There is a dungeon exploring a vision of the future, another dungeon exploring a different vision of the future, and then we cap things off with a dungeon that is a vision of the future and the past (and a dinosaur). And at least one of those future dungeons (it’s the last one) ends with an epic, dramatic boss battle against a morphing opponent that is clearly intended to be the final boss.

And once you beat it, then you get to fight another, more complicated final boss.

We have not come today to roast Chrono Cross’s significant pacing problems. A gigantic dungeon followed by an arduous boss fight (and six extra boss fights in between) should never be followed by talking to ghost children on a one-screen beach before fighting a threat to the universe than cannot even get enough out of its own way to pull off a unique super attack. “Lavos” reeks of a slapdash final addition to the game, and the presentation of everything surrounding it screams of a universe where a bonus finale tying to Chrono Trigger was foisted in at some producer’s behest. We already fought Lavos, guys! And the fight was a lot more interesting last time! There might have been an alien astronaut in there or something!

But, while the final opponent of Chrono Cross is incredibly lackluster, the method of defeating her is not. The Time Devourer may be conquered one of two ways: beat it senseless, or weaponize the harmony of the planet. If you choose to slice and dice what’s left of Lavos, you will see the “bad ending”, but an ending all the same. However, if you acknowledge this is a hostage situation, and the person you are trying to save is, ya know, worth saving, you will be generously rewarded with a Schala/Kid-focused ending that provides a touch more closure. And wasn’t that the whole point of the adventure? To save Schala? I mean, it kind of came out of left field, but it did all line up…. Kinda…

Look at it goLook, it would be easy to be mad at Chrono Cross for trying to have its cake and eat it too with its complicated “real” fight against a dinosaur computer and then a puzzle fight against the true big bad… but you know what? I can count on one hand the number of JRPGs that, up to this very day, end with a boss fight that requires anything but a high strength stat. Are there interesting, intricate final bosses out there? Of course, but so many still boil down to “hit it harder”. The Time Devourer is something different, and, like the rest of Chrono Cross, that is interesting all by itself.

Even if it did mean that nearly everyone else on the stream never bothered to beat Chrono Cross “the real way” before…

Even Worse Streams presents Chrono Cross
Night 9

Original Stream Night: June 14, 2022

Recruited this week:

  • Technically we recruited Poshul again during New Game+, I guess

Random Notes on the Stream

  • Welcome to the final dungeon! Let’s discuss other PS1 final dungeons… except they’re kind of samey.
  • Ample Vigour joins almost entirely through groaning.
  • Look at me!Hulk Hogan kept the Pastamania Regalia. You cannot convince me otherwise.
  • Consider “I love the idea of incel Dracula” and other Castlevania spinoff concepts.
  • The final fighting boss appears as we discuss the possibility of a very bouncy King of Fighters JRPG.
  • What is the true nature of Lavos? Is it an astronaut that looks like a heart?… Or… something?
  • The redesign of Schala for Chrono Cross is discussed… but we all agree it is terrible.
  • We beat the game! We are playing it again! BEAT is playing Smash Bros again! My Switch told me!
  • Let’s fight Lavos all over again! And discuss how Final Fantasy 6’s Cyan is catfishing a woman from a cave.
  • And that’s it for Chrono Cross…. Kinda!

Next time on Chrono Cross: Let’s take a look back at the roads not taken.

It's her
Maybe we could go to the beach sometime?

Wild Arms 3 Part 22: How Does Your Garden Grow

I ribbon-promise that today is September 26, Abnormal Weather Day. The professor’s abnormal weather ran away from him, because it felt that the professor’s love was too much of a burden. For the sake of the professor’s eternal love for her, abnormal weather returns to Filgaia once every year.

Previously on Wild Arms 3: We met Clive’s family, and resolved to explore the nearby gem mine or Fortune Shrine.


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But remember Ricardo? No? He was the old man who noted a deep forest by Baskar. And, while Clive’s adoring wife and child gave us clues to plot-relevant locations, I am pretty sure this Ricardo guy is on the level. Did you see his hat? Kaitlyn doesn’t have a hat…


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So we ride! We were already at Jolly Roger at the end of the last update, so we’re pretty close to Baskar.


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You need a horse to jump that chasm by the forest. You can’t just wander over here when you are first visiting Baskar.


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And if you scoot around the perimeter of this forest, you can radar-up what looks like a town. Jackpot! Thanks for the tip, Ricardo!


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The Secret Garden? Let’s Burnett…

FGC #635 Rocket Knight

Let's rocket alongThe Rocket Knight franchise is a great collection of games starring a possum with a jetpack. Did you see the way he dangles on his little tail? Totally adorbs. Unfortunately, these four games contain one of the most confusing naming schemes in the history of gaming. So let us take a quick break to review the games starring Sparkster, and delineate which games appeared when and where. This will simultaneously be informative and note how many games contain giant robots (it’s all of them).

Rocket Knight Adventures
1993
Sega Genesis
The Original

This is so coolIf there is a reason there is a “Rocket Knight” franchise in any tangible way, it is because of this game. And not just because this is the one that started it all! Rocket Knight Adventures is clearly a labor of love by a team that not only was interested in what was next for gaming in 1993, but also Konami’s illuminous past.

As an obvious example of Sparkster showcasing what was contemporary in gaming, we have how this awesome possum moves. This little dude is all about speed, and, complete with a jetpack perpetually tied to his back, Sparky is ready to literally fly through levels. But, while much of the level design is built around seeing how far you can get this rocket knight to ricochet around the world, it is not all simply spin-dashing to a brighter future. This knight and his projectile-blade recalls the combat of Mega Man X, and giant, mechanical bosses would be right at home in any Maverick lineup.

Oh, and there’s a minecart stage. You do not get anymore 16-bit than a minecart stage.

But there are also homages to the past of gaming littered across this (then) modern title. For one thing, one of the shoot ‘em up stages straight up includes a pig piloting a Gradius big core. It isn’t remotely subtle! And there are some some more understated “old school” bits tossed around Sparkster’s world, too. It is clear that this game was created by people that were beholden to the glorious arcade past of Konami (or they, ya know, worked there. Could go either way).

Regardless of the reason, Rocket Knight Adventures perfectly balances the contemporary (animal mascot platformers that gotta go fast) with the (oftentimes difficult) past of Rocket Knight’s ancestors. And, couple this with a few amazing gimmick levels (did I mention the giant robot rocking and socking boss?), and Rocket Knight Adventures is a sight to behold.

Sparkster
1994
Super Nintendo
The Port

Play the hitsIn America, the only Rocket Knight title to ever launch on a Nintendo console is simply “Sparkster”. In Japan, it goes by the longer title, “Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2”. So which is it? A parallel game on an entirely difference videogame system, or a sequel that hopped between platforms? The answer is… confusing.

In a lot of ways, this game feels like an example of the 16-bit mainstay of a game appearing in two totally different versions across two systems. Much like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, this initially looks like two Konami games both playing to their system’s respective strengths. Sparkster seems to showcase a more expressive rodent that moves at a faster clip (yes, Virginia, the SNES was capable of its own kind of blast processing), but entirely drops “hardware tricks” like the Genesis reflection lava cave. The graphics are entirely different, and seem to be deliberately adapted for the different color palette and more integrated HUD. And the plot is much the same (for a 16-bit game), with wolves in place of pigs, and Axel Gear still on the side of the devils.

But then there are bits that seem to paint this as a deliberate sequel. The shoot ‘em up sections have now changed from Gradius-style 2-D horizontal shupping to a top-down, 1942-esque vertical affair. We have lost our giant robot boss fight, but replaced it with a stage full of ridable giant robot ostriches. This satisfies our robot quotient and supplicates the need for a minecart. And, if you really need some giant robots, plenty are offered as all-new, all-different bosses. Sparkster does feel like an improvement over its predecessor in a lot of ways, but not all of those upgrades cannot simply be attributed to moving between systems.

Regardless of how it was created, Sparkster is still an amazing experience. It does not feel quite as artisanal as its prequel/portmate, but it is still one of the best platforming games on the Super Nintendo. And that’s pretty amazing, considering this is the same system that hosted Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit!

Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2
1994
Sega Genesis
The Real Sequel

I do not care for sandOkay, maybe the Super Nintendo game is supposed to be a port of this Sparkster title. Whatever! Sparky is back on the Sega Genesis here, and we have another game that is immediately evidently unique and different from the previous two. Much of the same gameplay is carried forward (rocketing around, spinning when allowed, firing endless sword beams), but there are a number of innovations across the title. Not all of them are strictly upgrades, though…

Look, your mileage may vary on whether or not you see an improvement here, but Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2 gets pretty close to going full collectathon. Whereas previous Rocket Knight titles locked their best endings behind difficulty levels (old school!), now you are going to have to find a hidden sword in each stage (and never skip the intro level) if you want to see “Golden Sparkster” conquer this latest threat. And, while the powered up yellow possum is highly reminiscent of Super Sonic, this is a much less useful hyper mode, as it is impossible to obtain before the absolute final battle. Couple this with some sprawling stages that require a lot more exploration than previous titles (and, by “exploration”, we mean “it is entirely possible you will get lost going up and down the same stupid pipes in that same stupid airship stage”), and it seems like the directors of Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2 wanted more than another straightforward action game. Unfortunately, when “straightforward action game” is the reason you’re playing the game in the first place…

But this is still a great game! The final boss fight includes one of the greatest gimmicks that has ever existed in an action game (you and the main villain “swap brains”), and, while it may not immediately lend itself to other climaxes, it is surprising and a curious way to play the game. Similarly, the giant robot boss fight of the first Sparkster has now been expanded to a giant robot level, and I cannot be the only person that was begging for such a thing after getting a taste of it in the first title. And, again, this is still a Sparkster game, so even when you are stuck trying to find the right way out of a pyramid, it is fun to play. Sparkster still sparks around… just he might be better suited to his earlier adventures.

Rocket Knight
2010
Xbox 360 / Playstation 3
The Modern Remake

Do not touchAfter a little over fifteen years, Sparkster returned to us via a downloadable title created by Konami fans that were now firmly established on Konami’s payroll. Rocket Knight is a very different animal from its forebears (well, still a possum), as the “charging” system for causing this knight to rocket around has been dramatically altered. The ABC rule of “always be charging” has now been forsaken for something slightly less active, and it does create a slightly more leisurely feel. However, once you get past that change, this is definitely Rocket Knight like you remember it, with enough ricocheting to make a Hanna-Barbera rabbit blush. And new innovations like projectile reflection or drilling add just enough new gameplay variety to make your average wolf/pig encounter more remarkable than in the 16-bit days.

Unfortunately, some of those innovations just make you long for what may have been. Rocket Knight feels like the definition of a 2010 videogame download title (“Xbox Live Arcade Title”). It is amazing! But it is quick! There are basically four worlds here, and a whole quarter of that count is given over to a few stages that are very much glorified tutorials. By the time we are hitting the interesting stuff (like an icy world that freezes your jetpack or a thrilling escape from an exploding factory), we are already practically done. While Rocket Knight seems to be about the same length as its predecessors, it still feels like it ends just when it was getting exciting.

Oh, and there are plenty of giant robots to fight, but not a single one that you get to ride. I could take that giant pig-bot out for a spin, but noooooo…

But one way or another, this is the end of the Rocket Knight franchise. Will we ever see that possum ever again? Maybe! But at least he flew away on a high note that left us wanting more.

Even if we still need a guide to determine which game was which..

FGC #635 Rocket Knight

  • A bit chilly hereSystem: Xbox 360 to start, with Playstation 3 and PC following shortly thereafter. Full disclosure: this whole article was inspired by purchasing an Xbox Series X, and discovering to my delight that Rocket Knight was fully backwards compatible and waiting for me on the new system.
  • Number of players: One of these days that princess is going to have to suit up and be player two. Until then, we are sticking with one rocket knight.
  • Favorite Level: I cannot emphasize enough how the gimmick of the ice level freezing Sparkster’s rocket pack makes for simultaneously new/exciting gameplay and makes perfect, in-plot sense. A miraculous combination of gameplay and setting. Really makes me beg for a universe where this title had a little room to stretch its legs.
  • Favorite Boss: I generally do not like the final boss, as it spends way too much of its existence in something of an invincible/unhittable state. That said, he is a giant, golden pig robot… so I kind of have a hard time getting mad at the guy.
  • Shoot ‘em Up: Rocket Knight returns to the 2-D, horizontal scrolling shoot ‘em up levels of the original adventure. However, it would not be incorrect to state that these levels are much more robust than anything that appeared back in the 90’s, and flying around with this possum leads to some of the best experiences in the game. So what I’m saying is can we finally get a modern Gradius from the same team? Please?
  • Pow powGotta Collect ‘Em All: Rocket Knight now has collectathon elements, as a ranking on each level is based on finding every last gem and doodad throughout the level. A number of these items are “normal”, and would be found easily through traditional level traversal. Unfortunately, there seem to be a couple in every stage that require some dedicated searching or jump-blast coordination, and… Can we not? Can we just have fun zooming around, and not worrying if a 1-Up is hidden in that little alcove over there? This was the worst part of Rocket Knight Adventures 2…
  • Goggle Bob Fact: Like Mega Man 9, this is one of the first titles I bought as “digital only”, and did not simply wait for a physical release like I had for every other title. It seems appropriate that it used to require “modern update on retro franchise” to get me to go outside my comfort zone.
  • Did you know? Rocket Knight was a free “games with gold” title for Xbox in November of 2021, eleven years after its release. So if you were waiting for a “sale” for over a decade, have I got a deal for you! That expired!
  • Would I play again: Probably… albeit in another few years. Even with all the baubles to collect, there isn’t much to this game. It is there, it is fun, and then it ends. I have no great drive to immediately return… but I know it will happen eventually. Thus is the magnetic pull of such an excellent possum.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Conker’s Bad Fur Day for the Nintendo 64! We’re going from the squeaky clean knight to the belligerent squirrel. Please look forward to it!

Zzzzzap

Chrono Cross 08: FATE

Face your FATEIn the end, the resolution of the story of Serge, Lynx, and the Frozen Flame is a bit of a letdown. Lynx reveals that he has been the supercomputer FATE all along, and they have arranged this elaborate plan all so Serge could… open a door. And, while it has been pointed out multiple times on the stream that this plan could have been revised to be more effective (Lynx is secretly Serge’s father mutated into the thing that Serge most fears… but wouldn’t Serge be more cooperative if he was just asked to open a door by his beloved and lost father?), it is a plausible excuse for FATE making some of their more implausible moves across the plot. Need to bodyswap a teenage boy because you can’t find a decent locksmith? Sure! At least it gives the game an excuse to shuffle the supporting characters for six hours…

But while FATE’s whole stupid plan is the stupidest of the stupid, the origin of FATE? Now that is some good stuff.

FATE is a tragedy wholly caused by the events of Chrono Trigger. In one timeline, the enterprising teens of Guardia fired up a computer terminal in some ruins, and discovered the whole of the planet had been destroyed in 1999 by a gigantic space bug. As a result of seeing this catastrophe, they then traveled through thousands of years of history, and, ultimately, destroyed the Lavos creature before it could literally rain destruction from the heavens. This created a new future where, apparently, some spikey thing popped out of the planet, three teenagers crashed a UFO into it, and then everything involved just disappeared. And that would raise some questions, right? First and foremost: what the hell happened? What was that thing? Who were those people? Nobody would be walking around 2000 AD thinking, “Wow, so glad we are not living in an apocalypse right now.” They would all be thinking, “Wait, I’m sorry? Was there a kaiju causing earthquakes for the last thousand years? Could we look into that?”

Behold the genieCenturies pass, and technology progresses. By 2300 AD, mankind has gained the scientific knowledge to look back to the past in all new ways. They find a shard of Lavos, the Frozen Flame, and grow more fascinated by the now-absent Lavos. Aided by Balthasar, a genius transported from an ancient society that was much more intimately familiar with Lavos, they create Chronopolis, a massive facility meant to study what the heck happened three centuries (and 65 million years) earlier.

Chronopolis made a number of mistakes that would never have occurred if Crono and crew were consulted more directly. Researching Lavos? You know that is going to end poorly. Transforming Mother Brain into the FATE supercomputer? Not the route you would take if you knew that another timeline saw Mother Brain literally eating people. And, while apparently Lucca was on hand in some capacity to offer installing Robo as a conscience circuit… well… Nobody ever thought Lucca was the most moral of the Crono kids. She was a heroine, yes, but one with an instant proclivity toward evil laughs. Poor decisions were made in the management of Chronopolis, and, by 2400 AD, the inevitable “Time Crash” screwed up all of history but good.

And it never would have happened if Crono just went ahead and kept his left-handed ass back in 1000 AD. The death of Lucca by Lynx, the dragon-FATE war, and even possibly the militarization of Porre all would have never occurred if our “heroes” never fought to save the world. If Crono had not saved the future, he would have saved his present.

So kudos to Chrono Cross for weaving such a poignant tragedy. The actual machinations of FATE may have been laborious and convoluted, but how we got FATE back in 1020 AD is a catastrophe worth noting.

(Even if the fun parts of the tragedy get rewritten two dungeons later by Balthasar claiming everything was “according to plan” to free Schala from the Time Devourer. But I read comics! I know a hasty retcon meant to justify a final boss when I see one!)

Even Worse Streams presents Chrono Cross
Night 8

Original Stream Night: June 7, 2022

Recruited this week:

  • Steena
  • Draggy
  • (Everyone that previously left the party, except Kid)
  • Turnip
  • Miki
  • Orlha
  • Kid (for the final time)
  • Mel


Random Notes on the Stream:

  • Fanboymaster doesn’t think we can finish the game this week. He’s right!
  • BEAT was afraid my tweet-based mentions of FATE meant we were going to do “The cooking game again”. He might have enjoyed that more…
  • Ample Vigour arrives as we beat the last dragon, perhaps with the power of the Glow.
  • “Everybody loves Lou Bega!” “Nobody loves Lou Bega, that’s why I’m doing this!”
  • There is always time to discuss cut Kingdom Hearts Jungle Stages while we fight evil Serge/Lynx.
  • There is debate on the nature of “evolution” in the Chrono Cross universe as Serge is reborn as an extremely smug baby (with no nipples).
  • Caliscrub stops by after we recruit random nonsense like Turnip and Miki
  • Toma fucked a mermaid. But that is okay. Oh, and we are at the Dead Sea/Sea of Eden now.
  • Let’s discuss Segagaga as we get to FATE HQ.
  • Oh! The El Nido Map. I love that thing! Is Gaia’s Navel the Giant’s Claw from Chrono Trigger?
  • Radical Dreamers is hiding on a terminal in another universe. Magil is confirmed separate from Guile in an actual game where Magil appears. Yay for translation mysteries finally being solved.
  • Lynx is FATE! Gasp! May as well discuss Cammy wearing pants.
  • Consider this foreshadowing for a Portal 2 stream as we talk about the reason FATE killed Robo.
  • Sonic Generations features the Time Devourer… meaning it is the sequel to Chrono Cross.
  • Love youEnjoy going back to the past to save Kid and confirm Gato and Lucca are dead! Which death is more upsetting?
  • “So did they make this game to shit on Chrono Trigger?” – Pooch
  • Talkin’ bout Dragon Quest 7 tragedies in the middle of a burning building. This is likely how I will die.
  • Okay! Kid is back! And we got a letter from Lucca meant to make us feel worse.
  • And we create the Chrono Cross! While talking about JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure!
  • And we conclude with the tragedy of Banjo-Tooie while we secure Starky’s ship and fly to the final dungeon.

Next time on Chrono Cross: The end! Update nine of ten!

My nips!