In Part 3 of our Chrono Trigger playthrough, writers April-Lyn Caouette and James Roberts and editor-in-chief Drew Dixon all feel a little weary of the character’s blind optimism and speculate as to what might be driving their delusion. This portion of our Chrono Chronicles series covers the first foray into the future as well as the first half of the hero’s quest in 600 A.D. Read our previous entries here and here.
Let me start by saying that everyone’s eternal optimism and “can do” attitude is really grating on my nerves. It was charming at first, but after what they’ve seen I’d expect a little more solemnity. Even Marle’s breakdown at witnessing the destruction of the world was brief and almost immediately replaced by her naive and arrogant suggestion that they simply change the past and thereby save the entire world from certain doom.
But little by little this attitude seems to be changing as the characters experience life outside the safe little bubble of Guardia. For me the most heartbreaking scene in the game so far is when Robo is rejected by his brother-robots for being “defective”, and then proceeds to loyally defend them even as they beat him nearly to death. Pretty grim stuff, and truly heroic behavior considering our culture’s attitude towards betrayal is generally more along the lines of “treat others as they treat you”.
Then, of course. there is the guest appearance of everyone’s favorite Frog, who is depressed and reclusive after his failure to protect Queen Leene. Our heroes attempt to convince him to fight, but to no avail. His confidence in himself is shattered. The stilted conversational style that is common in games of the era actually serves here to reinforce his brokenness and the frustration I can imagine my band of travelers is feeling as they try to communicate with him.
Honestly, however, “brokenness” is what I find missing among the characters of Chrono Trigger. None of them have ever faced true difficulty, and this is the very thing that shapes us the most in our lives. Not our triumphs and our joys, but our sorrows and our struggles. The times when we have to fight to find hope and purpose. So far Marle, Lucca, and Crono are reacting in ways that are completely foreign to me – they seem to have no fear, no anxiety, no real sense of consequences or despair. Will this change? Or will they simply keep up the sunny outlook? I’m looking forward to seeing if and how this plays out in their journey going forward.
April, it is interesting to me that the characters are grating on you now, I felt the same way in our previous post but strangely in this last portion of the game, I actually found myself feeling sorry for them. I feel this way because I think I may have some insight into why the game’s characters are so blindly optimistic–most of Chrono Trigger‘s characters have serious family issues.
Earlier in this series, we discussed Marle’s issues with her father, so I won’t repeat those, but it seems Crono has equally troubling issues. Crono’s father is no where to be found and his relationship with his mother is awkward. If you return to Crono’s house after having stayed countless nights in hotels in shelters in numerous eras of human history, Crono’s mom says, “Chrono! I was so worried! I heard you were going to executed!” When I guide Crono to turn and leave, she doesn’t protest or ask where I am going. She doesn’t question his motives, his fears, or the futility of trying to change the past.
When I drop by Lucca’s house, things aren’t much better. Lucca may be the most likable and well adjusted character in the game, but her parents do not have a healthy relationship and she knows it. After a long time away from present-day Gaurdia, I stop by her house with Lucca in my party. Lucca’s mother, Lara greets us, saying, “All Lucca and Taban care about is their stupid toys!” She feels neglected, so much so that she is willing to shed the blame for her emotional estrangement from her husband on her teenage daughter. Taban seems totally unaware of Lara’s feelings. On my way out of their house, Taban turns to Lara and says, “Here are our earnings from the fair,” Lara responds with, “You are so thoughtful!”. Part of me wants to tell Taban that he has been lied to but I wonder how Lucca would respond.
Later in the game, I travel to 600 A.D. and meet Tata, the young boy who found the “Hero’s Medal” and told everyone that he was the promised hero who would turn the tide of the war and save Gaurdia. When I talk to first talk to Tata’s father, he is beaming with pride at having raise the hero. The minute Tata admits to having lied about being the hero, his father blows up with anger and frustration. Tata is crushed, realizing his father’s love for him is conditional.
So to your point about the character’s never having experienced difficulty, I think I would differ, if only slightly. I think they have experienced diffculty, in fact, it is all around them but their method of coping is to live in denial–something that I certainly relate to as thirty-one year old father looking back on his teen years.
The teen years are a time of volatile emotional development and I think that we see that pretty clearly in Chrono Trigger‘s characters. They are surrounded with family dysfunction and their response is to fabricate a reality of their own–one that is less grounded but more manageable. I didn’t expect to sympathize with CT‘s characters and like you when I first started playing, I found their optimism annoying and I attributed it to CT being a product of a very young medium. I agree that CT‘s characters desperately need to grow up and acknowledge the brokeness around them, the more I play, however, the more I find their denial tragic.
In this section of the game I finally got that story element that I was craving from the beginning, but I’m not entirely sure I was satisfied by it. I’d also agree with April-Lyn that the optimism of the party was really starting to irk me in this part of the game, specifically with Marle.
The standout moment for me in this section was in the future, searching for one of the fathers from one of the domes who had gone to find supplies for his family, only to find he had died and the supplies had decayed to uselessness. It seemed like the seed that he had saved was little consolation for the suffering of his wife and son who would have to struggle on without him and the supplies he had promised them. The seed would probably help out many generations down the line, but it did very little for them in that moment. Also, Did you guys notice that the survivors in the future all had Crono’s hairstyle? Or am I just imagining things?
The most important story moment from this section of the game was getting to see the catastrophe that had ravaged the world. For me it felt like it had no real affect on the silent Crono. This is an event that happens hundreds of years in his future, and yet Marle is asking me to save the world from what looked like the ground opening up and spewing fire everywhere. What am I supposed to do about that? Stand over the chasm and tip water inside? Why can’t I just take the party home? I think maybe in my childhood I would have been right there with Marle, ready to jump into the unknown to save the day. As an adult I just don’t feel like that’s a viable option.
Later down the line I learned that there is a genuine possibility of stopping “The Day of Lavos” by removing the pesky Magus who is responsible, but I feel like this information came a little too late. It seemed like blind luck that I even went into the past and found that out. Again though I can’t help but wonder what affect toying with all these past events is going to have on the present. So far the game hasn’t really displayed much consequence when it comes to time traveling, aside from the mishap with Marle at the very beginning. All I know right now though is that my good friend Frog needs the Masamune to bring him out of his slump and into the fight.