SPOILERS FOR CHRONO CROSS!
So, I finished Chrono Cross…sort of. There’s more than one way to beat the final boss, and the way to get the good ending involves using elements in a certain order. It’s a clever idea, but difficult to implement when the Time Devourer keeps using its own elements. It’s also possible to use New Game + to unlock different endings, as in Chrono Trigger. But I think I’ll set it aside for a while. I’m already playing EarthBound, and I want to check out Radical Dreamers. By the way, the last time I played Trigger, on the 3DS, I got stuck at the fight against Masa and Mune. I put it aside for a while, but the next time I tried, I was out of practice with the battle system. I’ll have to get back to that someday.
I already wrote about the earlier part of Cross, and how many playable characters there are. But you can only play as three at a time, one of them being Serge. I did try out many of my recruits, but there were a few I never used at all. And it’s a little annoying having to equip each new party member with enough elements to make them battle-ready. There were some characters I knew I couldn’t get because of the choices I made early on, the one who seems to be a fan favorite being Glenn, who can eventually fight with two different Einlanzers. But I also missed out on Skelly, NeoFio, and Mojo. And while I did hatch Draggy’s egg, he just left and never joined the party. I found something about this happening to another person, but there was no consensus on what happened. It’s possible I misinterpreted the question about whether he should join. That’s also why Hans moved away from my Animal Crossing island. And because there are so many characters, not all of them get much development, and even the ones who do sometimes get it in scenes you can miss. For instance, there’s a whole backstory about Fargo having bad blood with General Viper, and Luccia seeing to the upbringing of his two kids, Nikki and Marcy. I’ve seen it mentioned that, when you meet Leena’s father Miguel, it’s impossible for Leena to be in the party even if you recruited her earlier (which I didn’t). Occasionally, the character limit means other recruited but not active people appearing out of nowhere to advance a plot point, as with the fight against Dario. Radius showed up to warn me about his attack, then did nothing. It seems that characters you aren’t currently using generally just hang around at their homes, or in the case of those who don’t really have one, at Hermit’s Hideaway, then they teleport to you when you need them. I don’t think there’s any in-game explanation of why your active party has to be so small, even though there is one for save points. I found it interesting that there’s a cutscene with a moment between Harle and Starky, without Serge even being present.
You need to recruit Starky, but not until after Harle leaves, so I guess that scene just isn’t there if you don’t get him until later?
Since you can’t really level up except through fighting bosses, some of these battles can be quite difficult. I had to fight the Hydra a few times, and eventually won by equipping some extra yellow elements. Of the dragon battles, the two worst for me were the Green and the Sky (for some reason, some of them are named after colors and others materials), both of whom had access to some really powerful attacks.
There are items you can steal from the dragons that absorb elemental damage, and while I only got two of them, the Black Plate especially made the battle with FATE much easier. I also had to battle Dario several times before winning; there’s a pattern to his attacks that I didn’t figure out on my own. I usually try to play as far as I can through a game without consulting a guide, but after I get to a point where I can’t do something on my own, I tend to keep looking at it even for things I might be able to get through without it. Walkthroughs are addictive.
The plot of Cross proceeds from that of Trigger, but in convoluted ways where the original characters are mostly only mentioned in passing. While you can read the whole story online, I’m going to try to sum it up as best I can, and note when something doesn’t make sense to me. Okay, so, after Crono, Marle, and Lucca stop Lavos from laying waste to the world in 1999, they return to 1000, where Lucca uses her knowledge of future technology to make some advances in her own inventions. Belthasar, the Guru of Reason, still arrives in the twenty-third century, but since Lavos has been killed, he’s able to live longer (much longer, as he’s already an old man and he’s still alive in 2400), build the supercomputer FATE based on the design of Mother Brain (does she even exist in this timeline, or is it based entirely on memories?), and found the Chronopolis Research Institute. He powers this with the Frozen Flame, a strange artifact that turns out to be a piece of Lavos. He presumably doesn’t know this at the time, but considering what a manipulative bastard he is, who knows? An experiment in 2400 causes a Time Crash that sends Chronopolis 10,000 years back in time. Then the planet itself counters this by pulling in Dinopolis, a city from an alternate timeline where dinosaurs never went extinct and the Reptites came up with more ecologically-friendly technology, including their own biological supercomputer, the Dragon God.
Chronopolis won the war against Dinopolis, and FATE created the artificial El Nido Archipelago, with Records of Fate (which serve as save points in the game) to allow it to monitor things and make sure history continues in a while that allows it to be created in the future, right down to influencing people’s minds so they won’t leave the archipelago for the mainland, sort of a Truman Show kind of thing.
El Nido is populated by the facility employees with their memories removed, and by the Dragonians who survived the war. FATE splits the Dragon God (or what’s left of it) into six entities, and these dragons are revered by the population. I saw a wiki entry saying that the demi-humans are descendants of human and Dragonian ancestors, but then why do they have human features combined with those of (other) mammals, fish, amphibians, and insects, not just reptiles? And what are the odds of that mating even being possible? Then again, we ARE dealing with a planet that has some kind of consciousness. Mermaids and fairies are considered demi-humans in this world, and people just assume Lynx is, even though he’s technically not. I guess, if Frog were to visit El Nido, they’d think the same of him. I’m not sure what dwarves are in this setting, other than hypocritical.
Millennia later, a boy named Serge is attacked by a panther demon, and for some reason Schala, the lost Princess of Zeal whose whereabouts were one of the main loose ends from Trigger, is able to hear his cries from beyond time, where she’s partially merged with Lavos. Serge’s father Wazuki and his friend Miguel try to find a cure for the injured boy, and Schala creates a storm that allows them to enter the Sea of Eden and Chronopolis, where the Frozen Flame heals Serge and makes him its arbiter, making it impossible for anyone else to access it. FATE gradually turns Wazuki into Lynx, an incarnation of itself that looks feline because of Serge’s fear of big cats. Several years later, he tries to drown his own son, and the timeline splits into one where Serge lives and one where he dies. Or maybe this split happened back during the original run-in with FATE; it’s a little ambiguous. It’s also in this time period that Schala creates a clone of herself, Kid, who is brought up by Lucca until Lynx burns down her house.
He’s trying to get her to undo the Prometheus Lock installed to prevent FATE from going haywire, based on Robo’s programming, although how this got into a machine 1300 years later isn’t clear. Did Belthasar use an existing program Lucca developed, or was there time travel involved? And why does Schala seem to have a particular affinity for this time period? It kind of makes sense once the Flame bonds with Serge, as it has some ability to communicate with Lavos, but the panther incident was before that. Maybe it’s because it’s when the people who originally defeated Lavos are still alive, but that’s just a guess. The influence of the Flame means that, in the timeline where Serge lives, Lavos will once again be able to destroy the world in the future. I’m not sure how, but what I’ve read suggests that Serge is fated to merge with the Time Devourer, although I don’t know where that information comes from. The whole thing turns out to be a gambit by Belthasar to rescue Schala…which I didn’t do, but that does happen in the good ending. Of course, since none of your characters even know Schala (except maybe Guile, and even then he doesn’t remember), it kind of loses its significance. I’ve seen indications that Belthasar planned the Time Crash and the war with Dinopolis, but how would he have any idea what would happen if a supercomputer went back in time? Maybe he’s just really good at improvising, and indifferent to collateral damage. I feel that, even though Trigger takes place in several different time periods, it’s still a fairly simple story. Cross just has the two alternate worlds, but it’s insanely complicated, and a lot of necessary exposition has little context. I think I’ve seen mentions that it explores the consequences of time travel, but defeating Lavos is still presented as a good thing; it’s just that they miss a piece. I kind of think it would make more sense if the Flame broke off Lavos in the future, but what I’ve read says it was how the alien parasite made contact with people in the distant past. That would mean there were actually two Flames in existence during the El Nido period, although nobody knew where one of them was. Lavos would also still be hibernating, but apparently unable to affect anything except through the Flame. While Lavos seems more calculating here than in Trigger, its main goal is still survival. And it’s probably been influenced somewhat by being merged with both a human and a draconic bio-computer.