Part 17: Not Quite The Final Battle
(Remember when this was a thing I was doing? Crazy, right? I know.)
A few thousand forevers ago, killing Dalton's original Golem makes him default to the fall-back plan of trigonometry -- a slightly more appropriate plan when two-thirds of the royal family is four feet away, but a power that Schala also has and that Dalton was hoping to upstage (this tendency had previously got him into trouble when trying to outshine the performers at Janus' sixth birthday party by making balloon golems, as well as when he tried to one-up a screening of Wegener's 1915 silent opus Der Golem with a thirty-six minute impromptu performance of mime). Yes, the prophet can foretell the future and she runs the machine, but I can summon Golems. Can they summon golems? GOLEMS! Please pay attention to me
Balla', of course, had also attempted to one-up his colleagues by sending away for bogus Ph.Ds from magic diploma mills, though he was regularly ridiculed for his choice of useless studies in Sweet Busta Rhymes, "Being the Guru of Reason", and String Theory. By this point, the degree of preparation allowed by the wallet makes alternate boss strategies largely irrelevant, and the only thing more banal than dragging out these last few points of interest is the 296 hours of video footage showing Balla-Czar bragging about his various achievements to rats. Pretend there was footage regarding the Undersea Palace here. After a thrilling defeat at Lavos' claw-feet-tooth-hands, here's the semi-final anime scene in the game:
This death animation (original sprite version for reference here) is one of the only new scenes I think actually adds anything; the explicit callback to Janus, while kind of in-your-face, creates a nice parallel between the two versions of him we've seen, and the framing of said callback works to allow Alfador more anime screentime than any other non-Magus Zealot, with the back of Schala's hair coming in third. This storyboarding decision on the part of Toriyama yields no complaints.
Once onboard the Blackbird, a Sheba-less party can escape by luring in guards and attacking them before five seconds pass and the ability to do so is lost to the savage winds of needlessly making dungeons more tedious than they have any reason to be. One of the ten thousand portholes in the ductmaze allows us to see Dalton through some Quick Lasers, but nothing else happens and I'm going to talk about something dramatically more interesting instead. I've been dancing around this forever, but let's take a look at what would have happened had we been to the Keeper's Dome the first time we went to the future:
Did anybody not build the Ocean Palace by this point? Perhaps Melchior's line that the palace was "made by neither the Mystics nor humans" was a dig at a crazy ex-colleague who would constantly inflate his self-worth by telling graduate rat students he was the inventor of the moon and most breads. On a similar note, to add a tangent within this tangent, here's a quote I said I would talk about last October regarding the Fiends/Mystics and their role in being talked about by me:
The Wikia posted:
Created by powerful Zeal mages as experiments, most Fiends became servants, guards, and sometimes even jesters to their Enlightened Masters. When Zeal falls, the Fiends scatter. With their dispersal, the ability to cast magic dies in the hands of mankind, leaving the Fiends - now the only beings still able to use magic - with no reason to continue serving their former masters. Over thousands of years, this difference grows into animosity, leading to a war against the race that formally [sic] enslaved them.
I'm experimenting with a way to imbue violent magical power into monstrous chimeras while wearing a three-piece suit and being poilite. I'm going to call them fiends in the obscure sense of the word meaning one who is excessively fond of something, in this case being fond of tirelessly obeying all suggestions and causing no unforeseen difficulties at all. I could use this technology to help the Earthbound ones but it's cold down there and I don't like being cold. I hope they'll serve our kingdom by filling the same role as our pendant doors and juggling balls.
I could juggle GOLEMS!
Dalton, go away.
I have no idea where they found evidence for that theory, but I'll let it go; it's no stranger than my interpretation of Lavos as Holy Ghost, the Entity as Father, and Gato as the Son who allows himself to be attacked by humanity amid an offer of salvation, setting up a predictable joke about Chrono Cross' comparable comprehensibility and segueing into the actual point of this tangent: more or less that. I would put more effort into these transitions but I'm increasingly
Traveling to Zeal ties everything in this game into a nice and tidy bow; by the time the Ocean Palace disaster happens, we realize that nearly every subplot was a part of something bigger and are granted a holistic view of how the characters interrelate. Schala, however, is the single in-universe loose end; after establishing herself as an ally and one of the single most important figures to the plot as a whole, she abruptly disappears and motivates a quarter of the cast in her absence. Remember the amulet Magus dropped when he died?
Because of Schala's disappearance, Magus rises to power in 600 AD, seeking a position from which to avenge her and possibly bring her back. From there, she's indirectly responsible for Piers' transformation, the Queen's disappearance and Mia's subsequent time paradoxing, and the Fiend/Human tensions that continue into the present day. It's because he hopes to find her that Balthazar builds a time machine, it's her pendant having been Mammon-enhanced that distorts time when we're first at the fair, and it's her awkward position as a servant to two masters (that's an intellectual biblical reference; you can just call me Sergius Paulus to Ted Woolsey's Elymas. What?) at the core of the tensions during the most pivotal time in the game. Half of the characters are motivated, if indirectly, by her presence and subsequent lack thereof, and yet we're never given a clear answer ourselves. Schala proved so enigmatic, in fact, that Chrono Cross was written in large part to
Speaking of Magus
It's possible to choose not to fight him, making a Magus recruitment marginally less hidden than the design tip that getting an optional character is not supposed to be easier than the default. We can rename Magus, of course, and the nepotism involved in Ozzie and his adopted son appointing each other to military command, his appreciation of fine and needlessly-imposing architecture, questionable rumors that he had dispatched his own generals, and a father named Jofré Llançol i Escrivà (though Zeal's husband spelled it with a Y) suggests an ideal namesake of Alexander von Humbolt, the most interesting name I could think of at the time.
Also, I'm kind of a dick.
Owing to his romanticized nature, Alex is in love with appearances such as flying while being largely uninterested in concrete accomplishments like actually being able to fly. Indeed, Chrono Trigger sadly neglected to use the character to his full potential, or in fact put any effort into his logically working at all. For the first of a number of examples, thank you probably-gendered NPC. I will be sure to examine this posthaste.
You know, guys, we're still
The common justification for all this is that, in a day before widespread caricature sketching, few people would know who the mysterious enemy commander resembled and thus would have no reason to react. This would be a more convincing defense had the queen not been imprisoned in a hideout containing a giant statue of him a leisurely stroll from the castle grounds, but a number of perfectly reasonable explanations exist, including:
1. Prosopagnosia. Alex, lacking defining features beyond looking like the physical manifestation of Death, is unidentifiable to someone used to picking out details such as Felix's hair, Sheba's large
2. Politeness. Unlike his eventual successor, Guardia XXI was taught to tread lightly and give possible friendships the benefit of the doubt. While this occasionally got him in trouble, such as accepting that girls from the forest were probably his wife or failing to speak up when a monster attempted to force its way into his chancellor's hat, it was worth it for the smiles on his subjects' warm faces as they came to him to complain about not having food.
3. Inbreeding. Guardia was not very bright.
Alex is a bit underpowered compared to his boss fights, having suddenly forgotten Dark Matter and reduced his will to live by 90(.249)%, but he's still a solid addition to the party who's generally worth using when you don't mind being annoyed by the above. Of course, while it was his suggestion, we probably shouldn't take him to save Felix. Imagine how tormenting it would be for him to see Schala in that position, while a frozen and living Alex both lie powerless to prevent her cruelly unknowable fate.
Let's talk about this back on the Banal.
Other versions of this scene play if you bring Mia or Jenna, with Mia's taking precedence if you bring both. Chrono Cross and the post-SNES content continue to use this as evidence that Mia and Felix have a love interest subplot, while Jenna's more platonic kneeling helps Felix cope with his post-death amnesia as she reminds him again of the centerpiece of this game. Her subsequent clarification "It's is about traveling through time and some space, moreso now that we the time machine, but mostly time, in order to save the world, first having become involved with royal business and then helping bring down an enemy kingdom, and gathering a team to stop this creature that if not stopped will destroy the world, and you get cats" was edited by Ted Woolsey due to space.
You dummy! You wouldn't believe what we had to go through for you! You mess up again...
Back at the End of Time, Gaspar is indeed made an honorary team member in that he is allowed to stay at the End of Time and do nothing at all. Felix is no longer required to be in our party either, but the Rainbow and Luminaire make him incredibly useful and the sidequests aren't radically different depending on who's taken where. Two major things that we didn't do before:
All of the three-party setups without Alex and two of them with can learn Triple Techs, but five of these must be unlocked by finding stones in the later half of the game:
Mia, Jenna, and Alex (Marle/Lucca/Magus) learn one with the Black Rock, found through the books back in Kajar.
Jenna, Garet, and Alex (Lucca/Robo/Magus) learn one with the Blue Rock, found in the buried Tyrano Lair.
Mia, Jenna, and Sheba (Marle/Robo/Ayla) learn one with the White Rock, found in the Black Omen.
And the other two are learned with a guide. Here in Laruba Village, this recently-spawned Nu will change the names of our party members and give us the Silver Rock, teaching Spin Strike to Sheba (Ayla), Garet (Robo), and Piers (Frog. Come on, guys, let me have my fun). For the next one
All the way back near the top of Denadoro, a samurai bird throws brooches at us in a moving piece of Anti-Capitalist performance art and stone-wasting. If placed in the front of the party with the upgraded Masamune equipped, Piers opts not to let this garish display of jewelry-tossing stand and suddenly learns a Triple Tech instead.
Saying that we avenged Cyrus no seriously guys allows Piers to re-examine his humanity in the place where he was initially transformed, catching this with his hands rather than his tongue and finally understanding why he was never picked first in magic lacrosse. Unfortunately, his avoidance of concussions lost some of its impact () due to the sorcerer with form-altering powers currently being three feet away, and because Alex was always the real party member who wanted to be a catcher of things thrown awry. There is no indication in game that these Tech Stones exist or how many there are.
The nerve! Deserting your fellow Mystics to serve these humans! You're a traitor! You're not our King! Why did you desert us?
Oh great Ozzie, stand back, and let ME take care of these cretins.
The second thing to show off is the return to Sir Oswald's fort. No longer living under his roof, the "Fuck you dad" sidequest offers Alex a chance of catharsis from years of Ozzie pressuring him to compete in evil soccer games, disapproving of dating women with piercings and who weren't giant monstrous snakes, never letting him have a puppy because he hadn't taken good enough care of his sentient rock, and the other ravages of existence in a 600 AD lifestyle such as typhus.
Unfortunately, Alex's abreaction takes the form of two lines of dialogue and the events of the encounter staying largely the same. Like many other events in his life, he would later describe the experience as "sad".
Thankfully, while Alex had always attracted recruits with his anti-human poetry, Ozzie's alternate strategies of bake sales and hiding on an otherwise uninhabited isle proved less effective in carrying on the legacy of his "son". Both sides being rather equivalently impotent, the rest of the dungeon is continually uneventful save for this exchange at the end:
Alex! You lied when you said you wanted to create a world of evil! You used me!
Oh, how dreadful. Say, can you hear that? It's the sound of the Reaper... The past is dead. It was all just a dream
Which segues well into the final thing worth showing off -- Alex's most ridiculous and thread title-inspiring line in the game:
Listen Alex, I'm proud of you for being able to tiptoe glide, but go back to updating your Livejournal while you lean on more things. Let's go back to the good party again; I'm not going to talk to you when your comebacks are this out of whack.