The Let's Play Archive

Chrono Trigger

by Quovak

Part 20: Endings

It always amazes me that New Game Plus has yet to become a standard feature in games. Obviously, there are some -- the Metroidvania genre leaps to mind -- where the mechanic would ruin the point, and there are those with no increase in moveset or abilities where one has no reason to exist. The increasingly thousands of games with interwoven RPG elements and upgrade mechanics, though? In my mind, at least, no excuse.

Something I mentioned way back in the OP is that Chrono Trigger, unadjusted for nostalgia or the time it was made, is more complex, intricate, and well-designed than 9/10ths of RPGs since. While that's undoubtedly praise for its design, it's also in part an indictment of what gaming hasn't done in its wake. An undercurrent to this LP, if one that's often forgotten when dealing with battles and cats, is that Chrono Trigger is far from the perfect display of perfection I commonly hold it to be. Improvement, or at least keeping up, should have long been a goal of its ilk.

It's fair and understandable that JRPGs didn't instantly try to keep pace. CT was a swan song to the Super Nintendo and pushed games in that style to the edge; when the genre moved into 3D, it sensibly took a step back from those games so as to properly polish a new form of software design. Somehow, however, we never quite found our way back, hence $35 million PS3 epics designed like they're still PS1 games.

New Game Plus is a striking example of widespread stagnation at work. As Resident Evil 4 showed us, even a minimal effort reset of event flags does wonders for lasting appeal, and, if you plan to go further (obligatory LP subforum mention of Nier), it's a powerful tool to work far beyond the surface of a game.

Here, New Game Plus, allowing for a dozen different endings, is half-baked and filled with cut corners. Character balance, shaky before, is fully abandoned to die, and a few endings' weaknesses hint that the number was marketing rather than depth. None of that matters, and, in lieu of the feature's widespread adoption, it's hard not to admire what CT achieved. All told, this is still the most fun I can have in a JRPG:

(I'm not being facetious; I honestly think this should be in almost every game.)

One thing to note about this system is that you don't have to start from a cleared game; if you've ever finished the Black Omen on the cartridge, you can start from any save at any time. An alternate LLG strategy suggests starting a game, collecting the forest's sole Power Tab, transferring to New Game Plus so that Crono has 1 higher strength, grabbing the same tab again, and repeating the process so all characters get max strength without any real work. Needless to say, this process had far too much absence of tedium to really be a LLG, and I wisely chose not to partake. Here are some ends to a game:

1. Beyond Time

Ending 1 is most commonly seen your first playthrough, and is found besting Lavos after Crono's brought back from the dead. There are a few variations on this ending, some of which (like the number of cats being chased, or Glenn not transforming if Magus is spared) are obvious. This ending all on its own would be hugely impressive, due to the multiple ways the last fights can play out. While I won't show this off in great detail (having shown it in video last time), a few points regarding the ending are worthy of note:

Lara, for example, can be found dancing had we saved her from curing her scurvy back in old times. If she doesn't become have been saved, Taban carries her to a fountain for a front row seat to watch dancers and girls at LegsFest: A Festival of Women Using Legs. The two of them divorce within the year.

Recruiting Magus yields this line, which, combined with the infamous speech about needing help fast, firmly marks Schala as kind of near-crucial, perhaps. The PS1 release added one FMV with no in-game equivalent to pretend to foreshadow some answers, and I'm probably all five of the people patient determined great stubborn enough to have seen it on disc. On the DS, it's moved to the system's new ending, which impressively tries to foreshadow a ten-year-old game and doesn't succeed. We still have a few other endings to get through, so more on all that in a bit.

Much of this doesn't really make sense; the future Doan comes from no longer will one day exist, but he and the rest of them clearly were summoned after the future was saved from before what our present past selves had will do. There's a case to be made that Robo should will be long-paradoxed also then now, but the real question comes from Doan's continued eventual state. There's always a chance that the domes will would save them just fine and that humans will ruined ourselves, which would will be a cause of some egg on my current past face.

I maintain that my writing is utterly absent of flaws.

As a sidenote to my sidenote, the late "revelation" that Marle is everyone's descendant does not, in fact, show that divining DNA with your eyes is itself an inherited trait. More likely (since the same would hold true given pure random sampling of any past sex-having humans, and who would contest the result?), preparing for this involved asking said humans "Want to leave behind all that you love and hold dear and have heard of a girl named Marle? I am trustworthy in all possible ways and also a great future king". The overlap of those who agreed and who'd helped out a team with a frog was remarkably close to 1:1.

Now, if the Epoch's intact (Lavos having been fought through the Omen or bucket, that is), Crono's mother would run after kittens and we'd start on more travels through time. If the Epoch is ruined, however, a completely new ending is used, along with new credits. Guardia, woefully misunderstand the principle behind how balloons work, decides to do what he was almost imprisoned for and cast away great royal artifacts because upkeep for old things is hard. Updating "lead interesting lives" to "maybe not fight I suppose", the new bell promptly reneges on its promise and Lucca starts summoning flames. Helium would first be discovered in 800 years.

To recap, Square made two unique Mode 7 credits for mutually exclusive takes on just one of twelve endings, all so a humorous coda could work with a different optional setpiece in one of the three late-game methods to fight their new game's final boss.

This ending can't be achieved if you also unlock New Game Plus; the Epoch won't break after leaving the mid-Lavos dungeon (the shell having already shattered from fighting post-Queen). In other words, this is an ending specifically for players who won't see the rest of the endings, and thus wouldn't notice a slight bit of fudging to allow just one set of credits being used. Name one major game in the last 15 years that would do this; I'll let you know Chrono Trigger DS doesn't count.

2. Reunion

Apart from that alternate coda, your ending is solely a function of what progress you've made when you win; the bucket allows you to fight the end battle whenever you choose, and on NG+ yet another way opens if you want to be done even sooner. It's not always clear when you've unlocked a new ending, and the windows for some are comically impossible to find, but in general an ending right after a setpiece (a plot-crucial boss fight, etc) will show you some kind of something that vaguely relates. Reunion is one of two other endings you may see on your first go, and occurs if you finish Lavos having never brought Jes Cro Felix back to life. Why yes, I am using that awkward and terrible gimmick; there are only just under a dozen finales to go.

Let's go back in time and save Felix!
'Tis necessary that I return and protect Queen Leene.
Don't you care?
This really is the last we will see of each other.
Come on!
Kino wait for me.

It's a fate we can't escape. Someday we will all pass away. Mia……

Reunion being a suitable name for an ending where everyone leaves, the team members say their goodbyes as the portals (for some reason) close. While I guess you are able to say it's the Entity, I'm not one for endings where everything neatly wraps up because ~it's the end~, not because of what actually changed. Having them vanish reminds me they're only a gameplay mechanic and now their whole purpose is "done", and seems artificial right next to a source of full healing, a streetlight in time-space, a bucket to five seconds pre-final boss, and a god who will help you assuming you walk around rooms. They really should pay more respect to my tenuously-suspended disbelief.

They've all... Have they all left? I forgot to give them this... ...Oh well...

After this, seeking to constructively manage her grief, Mia heads off to her friend's favorite fair to evade concerned remarks from his family and listen to girls sing checks. The rest of our team, having been away for an ungodly hour at most, are so wracked with previously unmentioned guilt that they now hang around at this fairground, doing the same. Collecting them all yields this:

Heh heh, I tinkered with the Telepod.
And made it into a time machine?

I don't think you were paying much attention during this game.

In contrast to what I said above, the Reunion is actually getting together after a terrible couple of minutes being apart; as has been well established, the portals are relative time gates, taking you back to a set amount of time before the moment you passed through it "now". Speaking of well established principles of mechanics, the whole team, including, yes, Gaspar, will travel to the future at once. Gates having shut, my fan-version of this involves Gasps ever gloating "I told you" for eons as everyone lives out their lives in a timeless abyss.

… blah, blah, blah... etc, etc, etc... etc, etc, etc... etc, etc, etc... ... You got that?
You mean we can get Crono back?
Yes, that's possible.
Th, that's why you're all here?

Why don't you stay here with your dad?
Don't worry! I'll bring the idiot back!

Well, so much for Conservation of Time.
Eh, that was never more than a gameplay convention's excuse. Oh by the way, Quovak?

Other than that, the endings are mostly the same as they would be if he were alive, and I pluralize endings since this also has multiple ways it can go: Glenn can appear as a human, prompting Jenna's "Why didn't you tell us you were a dish?", and a non-destroyed Epoch removes that last telepod scene. Alas, Mia alone does not get her Mode 7 credits, though she does get to visit an expertly detailed void. You could argue that this is one more variation on the "true" ending rather than an alternate end to the game, except that the rerelease added a list, and it's not.

3. Memory Lane

If we power up the pendant but don't follow Schala through the door literally two rooms away, our dedication to fighting Lavos every waking second is awarded with a tongue-in-cheek finish; we're locked out as soon as we're thrown out of Zeal (which, again, happens five seconds later assuming you normally play).

But things were just starting to get interesting!
Well, come on folks, let's do the "ending" thing.
ROLL THE CREDITS! But first, let's remember all the fun things we did!
Okay! Let the ultimate slide show begin!
First, let's see a close up of Leene Square!

This lane of memories is, as its alternate title would tell you, a slideshow, this first slide a closeup of Leene Square on a moonless night showing (closely) Steel Runner, who is earnestly stabbing the black. His strange lack of ankle covering shows his Achilles' Heel, that being his terribly unbalanced posture, while his indigo ponytail shows off his anime flair. Jenna and Mia discuss:

I've never understood why anyone would want to run for 3 hours at a stretch...
Forget that! Can you imagine what the inside of that armor must smell like?
What a lovely thought, Jenna. Let's get on with the show, OKAY?!
Next let's visit Guardia Castle, your home.

The "take a shot" line is referring to Jenna knocking out guard(s) with the Zonker, an event for which Mia was absent and which ended with us chased by dozens of guards who were not taken out by the Zonker. The Chrono Compendium renders this line "He's the only one you didn't use your blast pistol on, right? His name's Peter. But he's a woman.", which not only carries some now-banal implications placed right after Mia's casual objectification, but lends an air of desperation to hir attempts at attracting flirtation by planking or doing the worm. Things continue like this for some time.

Our heroines, failing to learn from their history, doom the court to yet worse jurisprudence.

Yeah, thanks PRINCESS. I'll take that under advisement!!

Jenna misunderstands when to capitalize words as I wonder if we're still in Leene Square.

Try again when you learn to RIDE.

The DS version gives her the line "I don't know about a guy who's greatest talent is being fast…", which a nonzero number of fanfics have likely reviewed.

He IS pretty handsome, though...
But WHERE does he buy his clothes?
Hey, did you hear? He plucks his eyebrows!
You've GOT to be joking! But...he's still a hunk!

Aw, he's just a flake.
Probably has a dozen girlfriends.
Actually, I see him as more of an intellectual!

Total Neanderthal! Throw him a bone!
But he's honest. That's kind of attractive.
He walks like a DUCK!!
Well, he'll never hurt anyone.
He's really very gentle, isn't he?

Mia forgets that Kino in fact stole our gate key, stranding us in prehistoric times, because our presence made whatever I named Ayla stop giving him perfect attention for maybe a day. Clearly as upset as I am about their weak memories for CT trivia, Cro-Feli-Nox-Whoever bursts in to deliver a speech for the age:

So, we got a little carried away!
Where do you want to go next?!
Some place fun!!
How about into the "now" ?!
Now, as in the present?
Okay! Back to the present!

It's weird.

4. The Oath

If Lavos is killed after recruiting the frog-looking frog character with a sword, this short ending exists to fulfill the oath made to Square's marketing team to provide lots of endings for their game. The unique sleeping Crono sprite, despite the fact that Crono's slept numerous times in the game, is by far the most interesting part. As such, with all deliberate speed:

My apologies, Jenna...
It's not your fault. We're the one's who created weapons... Man, that fool sleeps a lot. We should make him help us!

Let him sleep. He fought long and hard.
Phew...all right.

We Wizards and humans have brought about our own ruin... Except for you and I, this world is populated by cretins... The one who wins this battle... ...will rule the world... No, make that RULE THE FUTURE...
So that's the story… But who cares. But there is some merit to fighting you! ...
Hmmmm... You have the Masamune... Let's see if you know how to use it... If you're prepared for the void!

In the end, a mysterious Frog-shaped caped figure who is almost undoubtedly a frog poses triumphantly before a moon that's also an egg. While he's proud of his accomplishments ending the war and managing to get himself up there, he is also somewhat worried about the pronounced chance of death and the unexpected costs of upkeep for his new molten iron rooms. Time to see an ending that's actually good:

5. People of the Times

People of the Times can be seen shortly after the fight with Nizbel I, and it's easy to mistakenly view it as purely non-sequitur. This ending brings us back to Voidland for a parade of some people from times, such as these characters, who are not people, though they are in fact from times.

Also not people, these characters are at least 33.3% unnamed and, given our new timeline, not fully guaranteed to be from times.

Gaspar is here twice, both times being a person, and with his new outfits and cane representing his stylish end of times.

These "people" had names, but their normal names are boring so I'll redub Green Ambler "Keisuke Matuhara" and the kitten I'll christen "Event Plan". Either cosplayers or in some way people from a time, they and the others all pale in comparison to the most timely person of all:

Yes, by far my favorite time-person, Note features prominently in these games and my fanfic, an excerpt from which is below:

My fanfic!!!!1!1!!!1 posted:

Marle who was called Mia was in rapture at the sight of the beautiful note. The note in its glory spake unto the heavens "...", for it was but a note, but inscribed upon it was the letter "Dear Reginald, kindly buy some eggs". This moved Marle/ia beyond her great tears, and she leapt to the air shouting "At last!" The note's caress was lovely and their passion licentious. She asked the note "Why?" and it answered "...", for it was but a note. Their flames of spirit flowed through timeless skies"
(I'm not too satisfied with the departure from my regular style, though. It might be a bit underwrought.)

This timely and personable finish is the ending you get between finding the Dreamstone and the ending of the human-mystic war, assuming that fight doesn't weigh on us Square due to having to go unresolved. This is the ending we would have received had that fake final battle actually gone according to plan. Square iswasn't stupid, and we've seen how much effort they've gone through to make all these ending scenes work. This is the gamut of endings from logical exits: two show our time travel quest as unfinished, one is a humorous aside that loops back to where we came in, and one is slideshow of notes and poor characters that tries to inflate Gaspar's worth.

Well then, what else?

6. What the Prophet Seeks

For this ending, we take on Lavos right as we enter 12000 BC, having fought who I think is still Magus at this point and besting Azala for good.

What What The Prophet Seeks shows is a role reversal, where we cheer for the success of a former villain while our once-heroes act as NPCs. The game as a whole has been built around conflicts in perspective, but we're now pushed to wonder even further with regards to Zeal, Dalton, Azala, Mother Brain, etc. What sides of their stories haven't we seen, and how could that impact our view, given that the sides our enthusiasm takes between the main characters and their enemy appears to be based solely on how much of each side we seen? To what extent, for that matter, are characters "main"? Why do we care about red-haired not-Goku more than, say, Janus and Schala, and why them over Funguy and Harle? In an alternate timeline, an alternate model of thinking, who else could our heroes be? Nizbel/Azala? Alfador? Zeal? The Note?

7. Dino Age

Dino Age, attained during our second trip to prehistory, further repudiates our status as heroes (about 1:1 with "main characters", often assumed). We, and the sprites that we play as, are not even greater than Reptites, who would have attained the same level of civilization and easily could have forged "heroes" of time all their own. Seeing this perspective has us question our motives even more. We opposed Lavos because it threatened a society in pursuit of its evolutionary goals, yet we destroyed one ourselves, for nearly identical reasons, along our way.

Notably, we also recall the ever-unresolved tension between man and fiend. This ending, seen after battling with Magus but having left Azala on her throne, necessitates having already toppled an army due, in large part, to inertia. We have no way of knowing the proximate cause of the war, which likely doesn't leave the humans free of blame, and the narrative of noble men versus evil and fiendish… fiends was known to be a falsehood well before we offered our help. As What The Prophet Seeks suggested, our narratives rest on perspective; alas, said narrative, shown to be equivocal and tenebrous at best, is rarely something we can shuffle off. Looking at a foreign fair, we now become the introduction's mystics, strangers in a world where, in some small consolation, the Reptites still have fun tastes in balloons.

Cultural relativism bugs Azala too.

8. The Legendary Hero

Say we barely fought the war at all, getting through the bridge but then retreating when we heard of Tata's heroism and ending the game then and there (well, 1399 years later and probably in a slightly different place, but close enough). The Legendary Hero as a title is suitably ironic, both for what it shows and what it doesn't. The character who's named Glenn and is a frog, the wearer of that epithet, does not appear. Instead what we see are even further signs that what we think we understand about this world may not be as straightforward as we'd like.

Despite the whole game resting on a promise of "saving the future", only this ending gives a glimpse of what that future holds. Even then, the focus is not on humans, those Legendary Heroes whose victories were honored by the fair and bell this meeting place recalls.

Nor, for that matter, does it concern our main "Legendary Heroes" at all. Tata, whose only claim to leading Guardia's army was picking up a misplaced crest, is given center stage. The "Hero" that the title pretends to suggest is 17, shown at the beginning as inactive and largely unprepared. Glenn, because his ultimate Masamune resets in power due to the needs of the plot, is shown in New Game Plus as by far the least effective member of the team. We have to, and in fact are made, to ask: what difference does Tata being the "Hero" make?

Boring explanation: Magus' fiends can and do and mimic moderately important NPCs.

Fun explanation: Crono and friends now relive the exhilarating glory days of youth by conquering kingdoms and then fighting over that chair.

Trusting Magus and ignoring Heckran's lead ensures a future we could never imagine. In another world we could be the enemies. Why not grant Tata the name "Hero"? The medal was earned by Cyrus. We construct narratives to place ourselves as victors and care not for the consequences when those narratives fall away. Magus, perhaps, was a true Legendary Hero, and we have merely taken his place.

After several steps towards falling out of relevance, we now flip sides completely to be villains. As before, it's difficult to sever us from Magus; emotionally refusing to accept the world, both he and we doom whole societies and escalate ourselves to rewrite history in order that our vanity's fulfilled. Both of us refuse to let a hedgehog conquer man, and in the process offer it no need to.

9. Good Night

What if we had utterly refused to let ourselves take part? We learn of the destruction of the future and, as soon as we arrive at timelines' end, prevent it. We allow humanity to dictate its own path, free only in the knowledge that an undoing will not come from without. We leave the course of history to itself…

This is the true ending. It is the entire conflict. It is drawing a comparison: We already know that Lavos is junk DNA and we all merely apes. The conflict is utterly arbitrary; we have destroyed a civilization as Lavos would destroy our own. We fancy ourselves victory's creators. Light of the universe. There is no just and loving God, only unfalsifiable, ever trapping Entity. We are not His creations. We are not alone in the universe. Evolution serves no purpose but for Lavos, who cares not enough even to antagonize. Our conflicts with e.g. fiends are for nothing; all is wiped out and soon forgotten. All we do by besting Lavos is extending the date forward to when we have no more enemy and re-destroy ourselves. The fiends were not fiends. The robots? Our creation. In searching for an Other we try to turn away from introspection, which only leads to infinite despair. Camus? Sartre? They are not characters in this game. Established modes of thought are useless. The Wise Men, gurus of the universe and life, are not wise. No-one is privileged. The leaders are corrupt; we live in anarchy and only pretend we do not. We have mastered the elements and yet many go hungry, unable to eat jerky or survive. The world is in disrepair and will fall back into such. What is the result of our victory, and our choice to let the world turn its way? A Nu and Frog will try and fail to sleep.

But how can we know knowledge? Why have we bested Lavos? Have we? Will we destroy ourselves in turn?
I am tired.

This is their debate.

Back and forth tug of memories. A Frog and Nu. Spekkio. The End is only this. This is the fate of our world. Lavos? Mere distraction. What is unsaid?

This Nu and Frog are us. We have done nothing more. We have pushed and pulled against the paper tigers we have made, receding from the vast expanse of void. Hiding is easy. We retreat to fantasies. We play Chrono Trigger for all of its endings.

Chrono Trigger is -- appears -- easy. There is a villain and a hero. There is time and an arrow of progress. The bad receive justice from the good. That is not Life, which every cycle in our long Samsara has us see. Life is a Nu and Frog, beginning and the end of Lords of War, with Kilwala-Yeti what a (normally leveled) party first sees.

These ends are not a sequence. Every time, we start back at the fair. The princess has vanished half a dozen times. The same mistakes are made again and again. Every time we best the beast we're merely sent again to the start, stronger yes but each time less than from the time before.

What are we looking for? Perhaps an ending where the world is simple -- no question marks from Doan in tattered clothes, no glimpses of perspective not our own. Every time, we try to find escape, an ending which despite our greatest wishes never comes. Instead, we just recede farther away.

Sleep is death, and yet we are deprived of respite evermore.

10. The Successor of Guardia

In New Game Plus, the right pod is another warp to Lavos.

To see this ending, you will have replayed dozens of times, constantly hearing the message grow more and more clear. This is a meta journey through the recesses into which you crawl. This is a call from your mind to Wake Up. Why have you played this game countless times? What have we spent years, one May 18th through another, ever chasing? The game is about running in circles. You constantly create villains for yourself to fight, fall into the same mistakes re: Magus, &c. You become stronger but never wiser. In the grand tradition of Life Force or Final Fight, the medium becomes the message. Is Sisyphus happy? Is he free or has he Never Been (free, that is)? Can we finish our quest soon enough that reality never intrudes? Make the same mistakes forever then retreat into a world where mistakes are not known long enough to make?

The Successor of Guardia, with its medieval video of a medieval wedding slideshow, throws all of this back in our face(s). We cannot hide; the truth will be dragged into view and projected for all to see. Our superiority is a sham. We've seen that the royal line has no superiority; far from God-ordained, they're descendent from mere apes, and far from genetically pure, they're the same as all except Johnny and that one caveman playing the drums. DNA played such a role in our motivation for besting Lavos, but here it's shown to be a sham of an excuse; Nadia is just as much an amalgam as the Spacehog was, up to and including her disguise. She is used and latched onto by many only to be dragged down by association, with her pendant explicitly a symbol of Lavos' hold. She hides behind a shell of cheer as Lavos hid behind his rock, and, now that we have torn the shell off Lavos, Nadia finds the shell torn off of her, as she realizes her lack of superiority over the creature she led the charge against. Recall that Glenn, no knight, is shown in New Game Plus to be far lesser even than the three of our once-thought-heroes who now watch.

(Also, he is very clearly licking her breasts and could probably eat her head; I don't intend for that to be a euphemism but it probably is.)

The princess sees herself as Leene. Was Leene. This is her and her existence. DNA is meaningless. She is Lavos, absorbing DNA and primed to rule the world. She sleeps beneath a shell until, absorbing all, she can revenge. What the endings tell us is that there will never be an end. The time at which we kill the hedgehog never mattered, as the villain was no hedgehog but ourselves. New "heroes" will be made and seek an end, and when it never comes the cycle will repeat itself anew. We are all space hedgehogs, and we are all the legendary heroes who become them, and the notes.

It's pretty neat. I'm also glad they used a bunch of different fonts to write "The End".

11. The Unknown Past

Beating it some other time unlocks The Unknown Past, the last of the normal endings we'll see. In this, a past is unknown despite a great many scenes being shown; perhaps we'll never know a past in which that armoire joke was funny, or perhaps Square allotted five minutes to making this end. As I said, I feel this setup really could have been improved upon, and I still can't fathom why it hasn't been one-upped in other games.

Seriously Square, this is just padding. Come on, you're better than this.

So yes, Chrono Trigger follows the Kirby Superstar numbering strategy where something is counted towards "Endings" if it has more in common with an ending than a pool of bleach. There's one more in the DS version, but the truest SNES one still hasn't been seen. Most likely the first you'll ever witness, this sets the tone of the game, and its "series", more than anything else ever could:

12. The Apocalypse

This terribly pixelated map (which, yes, is the third unique Mode 7 map Square made for this) shows painfully simple geometry pointing from gradient space. This horror of UI design causes the director to fall to his knees as he professionally directs them to go into the cataclysm and hope the falling death needles land off to their side. Attempting in vain to eat his terminal, the Director ushers in the not-really-ending of mankind.

And there we go. Other than the aforementioned DS ending, which will come next time, that's every ending in the game.

All of them.

Them all.

Each one.

Every ending.

There aren't any endings that aren't there.

That was a complete list.

Of all of them.

All of the endings.

Them all.