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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!

Chrono Cross 07: Dragons

Chrono Cross loves imagining dragons! Look at this chonky boy (well, girl)…

She gets her own isle

The most helpful of the dragons, the Water Dragon, is all smiles and rainbows when you need to chill a volcano, but literally shows her teeth when it is time for a throwdown. And the way she “swims” through the air later? Awesome.

Only a volcano?

And speaking of volcanos, this little guy hulks out to join Master Roshi and Tung Fu Rue in the pantheon of dudes that can turn into muscle maniacs on command. This Fire Dragon is never gracious, but remains polite, when he challenges you to a battle.

Such big teeth you have

Meanwhile, this monster rules the quasi-prehistoric “Savage Land” of Chrono Cross, and is not shy about making it clear you are about to be devoured. And why shouldn’t he? Dang thing is built to deal with tyrannosauruses on the reg.

DO NOT PET

Yet the dragon living deep in the Earth is almost… roly poly? This looks like a creature that has never seen the sun (kind of literally, as it is hard to see if she even has eyes), but has spent a good amount of time getting fat on sand monsters. Sister is the size of a building!

Very unfriendly

But there is nothing friend-shaped about the Black Dragon, which dreams nightmares that cross dimensions. Chrono Cross never really does commit to whether or not “black element” is supposed to be “evil” or somehow “gravity”, but the Black Dragon cuts enough of an imposing figure that he cannot be seen as anything other than dangerous.

They did save us once

And conversely, the white Sky Dragon is appropriately divine. In a genre that frequently presents dragons as the exact same creature seven times with slightly different colors or styles even today (looking at you, Elden Ring), Chrono Cross really went the extra mile by making every dragon significantly different.

Sory, Harle

Even if they did have to involve a murder clown.

Even Worse Streams presents Chrono Cross
Night 7

Original Stream Night: May 31, 2022

Recruited this week:

  • Do Masa & Mune count?
  • Leah

Stream Notes:

  • Time to get the Mastermune! Which involves solving dumb puzzles at Viper Manor! A discussion of Final Fantasy 8 and Chrono Cross summons ensue.
  • There is a brief intermission while fighting Solt and Peppor as I run off to do… something. I literally do not remember what happened…
  • Caliscrub arrives as we try to find BEAT and defeat the possessed Dario.
  • And then Ample Vigour shows up. Dario is still standing. I have not accomplished anything yet.
  • In post-stream response to AV’s comments on the subject, my wife has confirmed that the Smurfs and Donald Duck were generally equally popular in Europe around her childhood. I am inclined to believe her.
  • CroakBEAT arrives just as we finish an important conversation about the legend of the few people that can draw duck bills. We still haven’t finished Dario. And now for more about Disco Elysium.
  • When we finally start fighting the Water Dragon, our first Dragon, we talk about crappy Killer Instinct and Mortal Kombat characters. Eat it, Dario.
  • By the time we are fighting the Fire Dragon, the stream is now just about discussing arcade games from the late 90’s
  • As we attempt to get the rock opera going, I defend Battle Arena Toshinden.
  • “Is someone thither?”
  • The concert to end racism leads to the dumbest part of the game: fighting the same lizard creatures over and over again. At least we get some summons going…
  • By the time we are fighting the Earth Dragon, we are discussing the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 film. Jim Carrey is a marvel of CGI technology.
  • We wind up hunting the Green Dragon with Leah, who may or may not be Ayla’s mother? Or daughter? It sucks. Like Sneff.
  • And this stream was a slog. I apologize if you watched it. Moving on!

Next time on Chrono Cross: Robot on Robo violence.

Please don't do that
This is just mean

FGC #633 Sonic CD

Truly, he must go fastThe future ain’t what it used to be.

Here in the present, we are looking at Sonic CD. Sonic CD is the chronological sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog that was released shortly after Sonic the Hedgehog 2. It started its existence as a port of Sonic 2 for the brand-new Sega CD hardware, but evolved during development into something wholly unique in the Sonic the Hedgehog canon. But, as a result of being tied to finnicky hardware and not being rereleased nearly as often as its contemporaries, Sonic CD has become something of the black sheep of the 2-D Sonic family. While some claim Sonic CD is the pinnacle of 16(ish)-bit platformers, many more shuffle Sonic CD into the “don’t bother” pile with the Master System games and Knuckles Chaotix. In short, a lot of professed Sonic fans will tell you not to waste your time.

And that is a shame, because Sonic CD is all about time. Superficially, Sonic CD’s plot and setting are based on a magical island where the past, present, and future are a little bit more accessible than elsewhere on Mobius, and this grants the hedgehog and his most hated scientist buddy the opportunity to wage war across different epochs. Most worlds start in a pleasant present, but Sonic can easily travel to the future to see a world where Robotnik has conquered the (little) planet, or zoom back to the past to repel the egg army before it ever got going. And how does one save the world from the past? Well, it requires searching over the whole of the current zone, and finding/destroying two of Eggman’s “traps” (the animal/plant containment unit is understandable, but a projector of Metal Sonic somehow changing the shape of destiny raises questions). And the important part of that? The searching. Whereas general “secrets” have always been a part of the Sonic formula, Sonic CD dedicatedly hides two “essential” secrets in two distinct locations in every zone. This is not a situation wherein you simply push against every wall to find a giant ring transporter or two, this is an open invitation to learn the maps of these zones, and devote yourself to finding their specific minutiae. This is a “gotta go fast” Sonic the Hedgehog title, but the player is also all but told they will be more successful if they take their time.

But all is not lost if you absolutely want to play a Sonic the Hedgehog game like a hyperactive omnivore. There are two routes to the good ending: you can either explore every level and find (/destroy) every collectible, or you can conquer the special stages at the end of each level, and obtain all the Time Stones. Apparently claiming the Time Stones guarantees that Eggman will never find these precious rocks, and this will create the same eternally happy ending for everyone on Little Planet. And regardless of method, how do you know you obtained said happy ending? Well, you will see a happy little message at the end of every zone like so…

GOOD END

And fun fact? I am pretty sure that message triggered some kind of PTSD in my soul.

Mainly because I finally put my library back together after a year (home improvements! Oh boy!), I have been reading some “classic” comics recently. It has been mostly stuff from the 90’s heyday of the immediate aftermath of the likes of Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman setting the funny papers ablaze a few years earlier. And the amusing thing about reading comics from this nebulous 90’s-or-so era? There are always excuses to peek at the far-off future of a few decades down the line, and it is not uncommon for their future to be literally now. 2015 or 2020 seems to be the exact point that a lot of authors of the time settled on for “the future”, and, while it is always fun to mock a random writer’s attempts at guessing the trends of the future (where is my jetpack fuetcha, you monsters?!), there is another pervasive trend in predicting the future: it is bad. And that is okay! Because these are fictional works starring heroes and heroines trying to make the world a better place. It is only natural that they would witness a “bad future” so they can be reminded what they are fighting for and/or against. A good future is bad! It’s boring! A future where your girlfriend has been transformed into a snake monster, and your best friend is missing all the fun appendages gives you something to struggle against. Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only? Keep reading to find out!

Away we goBut there is a bit of an issue with the persistent use of the “bad future” trope. As someone currently living in the revolutionary future of 2022, I can confirm that we never saw half this “bad” coming. There is an international plague, and the biggest reason it spreads is the economy would be really inconvenienced if Sneezin’ Harold didn’t come in today to properly stock the Chex Mix. Our politicians are not necessarily overly corrupt ghouls, but they are almost universally old enough to base their decisions on opinions formed roughly around the fall of disco. And let’s not overlook the fact that an entire generation seems to have been brainwashed by online services initially created for the purpose of distributing silly cat pictures. Which generation am I talking about? Could be a few choices there! And the scary thing about all this? I wouldn’t even call this present-future bad. It’s not like we have to worry about dictators with alien, orange skin ascending to illegitimate power or something. Things can’t be all that bad! Nobody I know has cybernetic arms!

And it kind of scares me that we could be living in the exact bad future we have been warned of by fiction going back the last hundred years… and we just… got used to it? Sonic CD has a clear bad future: it is the future where Dr. Robotnik has conquered the planet. But do the happy little animals that have not been robotocized in that “future” still go about their daily lives? Are they still doing the same things they have always done, just with a few more badniks around? Sonic can save Amy Rose and “beat the game” without ever once creating a good future. Does that mean Sonic is okay with all of this? Just so long as the people close to him are safe, Sonic is totally cool with whatever the future brings? That is very zen of you, you monster.

I played trumpetBah! I’m overanalyzing a game about a hedgehog trying to stop a robot hedgehog from kidnapping a pink hedgehog. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Sonic CD was never intended as a social commentary on the world that would exist three decades after its release. These are just the musings of a writer that has experience an unusual amount of trauma in the last few years (and months and weeks and days). Things feel bad, and you are now reading these anxieties given written flesh and marginally viable metaphors. No badniks are currently littering the streets.

But there is something we can learn from Sonic CD. Sonic might not have to create good futures, but he can, and it just takes a little effort. Maybe it is through careful exploration, maybe through conquering special stages, but Sonic does have the ability to change the course of history. And we do, too. Are we living in a bad future? Maybe. But there is still more future ahead of us, and we can change that. Bad things have happened. Horrible decisions have been made. But it is not all over yet, and we can still put in the effort, and fish out whatever Time Stones are going to fix the mess.

You can make a good future (at least in zone 2).

FGC #633 Sonic CD

  • Here we go!System: Would you believe this was initially available on the Sega CD? It’s true! It seems there was also a standalone port on Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PC around 2011, and it was part of the Sonic Gems Collection on Playstation 2 and Gamecube. It most recently was available as part of the Sonic Origins compilation on Playstation 4/5, Xbox X/S, and Nintendo Switch (no slash).
  • Number of players: If there is a two player racing mode or something here, we are not acknowledging it.
  • Port O Call: As you have likely guessed, most screenshots in this article are from the Sonic Origins version of Sonic CD. What has changed from the original release? I have no idea! I mean, it is widescreen, there is no such thing as “lives”, there is the “drop dash”, you can retry special stages repeatedly; we all know those changes are in there. But the little things? Other than the fact that they dropped Sonic’s “I’m out of here” voice, I have no clue about the little things that have been changed. Let’s assume the fact that I played this a lot more intently than the Sonic Gems version is a simple matter of the ergonomics of the Nintendo Switch, and not because they made sweeping changes.
  • Favorite Boss: The Egg Conveyer is a deadly treadmill meant to trap Sonic in an endless loop of running… but the weakness of the Egg Conveyer is the very treadmill Sonic will inevitably run upon. So, basically, Robotnik built a machine that is weak to its own purpose. This is why you always fail, Ivo.
  • Favorite Zone: Stardust Speedway joins Sonic the Hedgehog’s Star Light Zone as another star-themed zone that is my absolute favorite. And, hey, I dislike Tidal Tempest as much as Labyrinth Zone! This really should have been the “first” sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog!
  • Goggle Bob Fact: I played through Sonic CD once before, but apparently it did not stick in my mind, as I totally forgot Sonic Mania’s Metallic Madness first appeared as the final zone of Sonic CD. I thought the shrink ray and “tetris spikes” were original to Mania!
  • Watch it, Buddy: In honor of the release of Sonic Origins, BEAT was going to play Sonic 3 & Knuckles on the stream. But he get held up for a week, so I was forced to play Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) instead. I am not going to play that again for the FGC, so here is the stream:

    Please enjoy watching how long it takes for me to get a ball in a hole.
  • Did you know? Every bad future theme on the Japanese soundtrack has lyrics/singing except Tidal Tempest. I do not know why bad futures gets vocal tracks, and what Tidal Tempest did to avoid such a fate, but here we are.
  • Would I play again: Count me as someone who finds Sonic CD to be more of a forgotten gem than a stain on Sonic’s good name. That said, I would still probably play one of the Sega Genesis CD-less titles first. Maybe I will get to this one again on its inevitable next rerelease.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Martial Champion! Never heard of it? I’m not surprised! Come back next week, and learn something new! Please look forward to it!

Look out!

Chrono Cross 06: The Dead Sea

My poor rival!Chrono Cross’s Dead Sea is maybe the single best set piece on the Playstation.

After hours of Chrono Cross barely acknowledging that Chrono Trigger ever happened, here we are with the most Chrono Triggerest of locations. It is the future! It is 2300 AD (give or take a century), but now presented in glorious high definition (or whatever counted as HD in 2000). And there is Johnny the Robot Biker! Dead and smashed! Or a monitor recounting the Day of Lavos! Or Leene’s Bell, stuck in a perpetual twilight as the world collapses around that focal point! And the Chrono Kids! Crono! Lucca! Marle! They are bouncing around, and only marginally implying that their “real” counterparts have died within the last twenty years! Don’t be so morose, Chrono Trigger fans, we only ever find out one of them is confirmed dead!

But the Dead Sea is more than a simple Chrono Trigger reference. The future of 2300 AD was always supposed to be a recognizably ruined future, but could not be fully realized back in the 16-bit days. Now we have a world much like ours, but existing in a state of ruin and decay incited by a gigantic space bug. The “Tower of Geddon” is no mere dungeon, but a mundane mall haphazardly merged with other assorted debris from the area. And while dungeon malls are definitely something that happens in other JRPGs, it just serves to reinforce that this is the potential “bad future” not just for Crono and Serge’s worlds, but also our own. Fighting the ghosts of beauty contestants would only be possible in a universe that grew from something much like our present, and the Dead Sea runs with this concept to its natural, creepy culmination. Even if you never touched a second of Chrono Trigger, the Dead Sea will touch you, because you live in the world that it caricatures.

And, brother, an entire ocean that lost all its kinetic energy at once? Nobody needs to explain why that is rad as hell.

He is not CronoEven beyond all of this, the Dead Sea culminates with one of the most memorable boss fights in the game. After the “training wheels” of fighting a giant, angry ghost back on the Isle of the Damned, Miguel makes the scene to cap off the whole Dead Sea sequence. He is a white elemental opponent at a time when most of your party (or at least Serge) is vulnerable, and he utilizes some of the most powerful attacks available at this point. So he is likely to trash your party while wearing a fishing hat. Miguel has the significant plot importance of being your father’s pal and your girlfriend’s dad, and he has been augmented by a malevolent supercomputer from another dimension… but he is still absolutely just a dude. A dude that is going to kick your ass while sad music plays. It makes an impression.

So kudos to the Dead Sea of Chrono Cross, the indisputably best sequence in the game.

A shame it is all followed by a forgettable roach, tonally absurd Hell’s Cook, and friggen’ Grobyc…

Even Worse Streams presents Chrono Cross
Night 6

Original Stream Night: May 24, 2022

Recruited this week:

  • Zoah
  • Orcha
  • Grobyc
  • Riddel
  • Viper
  • Fargo
  • Marcy
  • Karsh

Random Notes on the Stream:

  • Tonight we are joined by special guest Deptford, who draws amazing comics and loves Chrono Cross… maybe not in that order.
  • We are in the elephant graveyard from the Lion King for the purpose of… fighting Cervantes from Soulcalibur.
  • “The secret to life is to age all at once and then stabilize.”
  • Yes, twenty years ago, I spoiled myself on the Chrono Cross “Dead Sea”. Yes, it was written in ascii text.
  • “Individual moments are great” – Deptford
  • Looks like a hot dayWe will always wonder who is not at Funguy’s level, and was cut from the final roster of Chrono Cross. Also marvel as BEAT accidentally invents Turnip, “the radish dude”.
  • Ample Vigour shows up around the same time as Lavos makes the scene.
  • This leads to a discussion about podcasts and April Fool’s Day pranks on podcasts.
  • If you want to see Xenosaga’s haunted mall, here you go.
  • “Is there a textual reason the Chrono Trigger heroes are little kids?” “Nope!”
  • “Grab on, sons of man.” “But there is a rabbit girl and a mushroom.”
  • We are going to have to play Spec Ops: The Line at some point. We will never play Ninja Gaiden 3 (not that one).
  • Never change your forum and/or twitter avatar or I will forget who you are.
  • Darkwing84 is the hero we all need (also: Caliscrub appears)
  • Just a little spiceHell Chef inspires Hell Costanza here. If it is ever used again, you heard it here first.
  • “Roachester is back baby it’s good now awoo wolf noises.”
  • Let us once again sing the praises of Ninja Baseball Batman. Never Three Dirty Dwarves.
  • There is just no end to the Viper Manor Part 2 boss gauntlet while we talk about great moments in auditing.
  • Way too many people join the party all at once. See that list above. Good luck choosing two.
  • Starky and Harle have a conversation as we close out the night.

Next time on Chrono Cross: Drag on, dragoons.

I love these guys.  Sorta.