Corridors of Time Part 1: Peaceful Days

The Millennial Fair (1000 A.D.)

Our story begins like so many others do, with our hero fast asleep. Crono, having been up late as a result of his excitement for today’s festivities, is roused by his mother as she opens the curtains in his bedroom and chides him for over-sleeping. What’s all of the fuss about? Today is the first day of the Millennial Fair, a year-long celebration commemorating the one-thousandth year since the founding of the kingdom of Guardia. A thousand years is pretty impressive for a kingdom to last, you’re approaching Roman Empire numbers at that point. On top of that, this world’s calendar is based on the kingdom’s founding so it seems that a celebration is well deserved. Crono’s mom makes sure that he is out of bed and reminds him to behave himself (which will turn out to be excellent advice) before heading downstairs.

Crono as a character is your typical mute protagonist. Despite his distinctive look, he really doesn’t have much personality beyond his heroic tendencies allowing him to be proxy for the player. Also typical of videogame heroes, Crono doesn’t have a complete set of parents. Crono appears to live with his mother and cat, with no father in sight. In fact, I’m not sure if his father is ever referred to at all. I don’t know if there is an official explanation as to why Crono’s father is MIA, but my personal “head cannon” was that Crono’s father died when he was young, either in battle or something similar, and this prompts him to take up swordsmanship in an effort to become the home’s protector. This also served as a source of his previously mentioned heroic tendencies.

After heading downstairs, Crono’s mother meets him and reminds him to check out his friend Lucca’s demonstration of her new invention while he’s at the fair. She hands him some spending money and he’s on his way.

Crono lives in the town of Truce which is presumably the capital of Guardia given its proximity to the castle and the fact that the fair is taking place in the square north of town. If you play RPGs like I do, there’s no way that you’re going to go straight to where you know you’re supposed to go and instead you’re going to have a look around town. A logical first stop is going to be the neighbor’s house. A quick conversation with the young woman next door reveals some juicy lore. She tells Crono that the current king is the 33rd monarch of Guardia, meaning that rulers average about 30 years in their reign. Again, pretty impressive. Guardia, if nothing else, seems to be a exceptionally stable and well administered kingdom. The woman also wonders out loud how the king ever gets any actual work done given what a handful his daughter is. Apparently, the princess has a reputation for being a bit of a rebel and not getting along with her father too well.

The next stop on the tour around Truce is the local inn. At the inn Crono learns that the town has been rightfully abuzz due to the upcoming fair. A conversation with one of the patrons who hasn’t left for the fair yet reveals that the area has been suffering an unusually high number of earthquakes recently. Surely, it’s not a big deal. Near the inn lays the Mayor’s house which is bustling with activity. The Mayor has an affinity for adventures so he’s set up his manor as a resource for travelers. This serves as the game’s “Tutorial House”. The NPCs here will give Crono explanations and demonstrations on many of the game’s systems including saving, how weapons and armor work, information about status ailments, techs (your characters’ abilities and magic skills), and basic battle mechanics. After talking to everyone and looting the place of the items and money the Mayor left for travelers, any self-respecting adventurer is going to head to the local market. Unfortunately, the owners have closed the shop so they can attend to a booth at the fair so for the time being, there’s nothing to be done.

One last quick stop is right outside town to the south at Lucca’s house. Like the market, nothing much is going on here either. The house itself is a mess with machinery and various notes, books, and components strewn about.  If you go upstairs, you can talk to Lucca’s mother, Lara, who informs you that Lucca and her father are already at the fairgrounds setting up for their big demonstration. There is more that you can do, you can take the ferry or walk across Zenan Bridge to the south and explore town of Porre, or Crono can head into the forest surrounding Guardia castle and hone his fighting skills against the local fauna. There will be plenty of time for that later though. For now, it’s time to join in the festivities at Leene Square.

Corridors of Time: Introduction

ChronoTriggerLogo

Welcome to what I hope will be a fun look through what many consider a seminal classic in videogames, Chrono Trigger. The purpose of this blog series will be for me to play through the game once again, record what happens, recount my thoughts, and share some memories while doing so. Similar in a lot of ways to a “let’s play” but in a written format since I tend to think that I’m better at writing down my thoughts as opposed to speaking off the cuff like I would have to do if I was doing an actual let’s play or streaming it live. Before we get into it however, some history:

Chrono Trigger was developed and published by Square Enix (then SquareSoft) lead by a “Dream Team” of Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of the Final Fantasy series), Yuji Horii (creator of the Dragon Quest series), and famed manga artist Akira Toriyama (creator of Dragon Ball and artist for the Dragon Quest series). Chrono Trigger was originally released for the Super Famicom on March 11th, 1995 in Japan and received its North American release on August 22nd 1995 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Upon its release, Chrono Trigger was both a commercial and  critical success and is widely considered to be on the of the best JRPGs (Japanese made role-playing game)  if not one of the best games of all time. Personally, I think it’s a masterpiece and it’s my all-time favorite videogame.

My history with Chrono Trigger began on March 21, 1996 when I received it as my present for my 14th birthday. At that time, my experience with RPGs was pretty limited. The first RPG that I ever played was Final Fantasy II (or IV depending on which numbering convention you prefer) for the SNES a couple of years prior. One of our neighbors at the time was into videogames as well and highly recommended that I give it a try.  Naturally I did and I was completely dumbfounded.

Unfortunately, I don’t mean that as praise.

Don’t get me wrong, Final Fantasy II is and was a very worthwhile game, but 12-year-old me found it to be completely impenetrable. All of the games I had played were platformers, adventure games, fighting, and other arcade-style action games. Up to that point, the closest thing to an RPG that I had played was Star Tropics, and I never got anywhere close to finishing it. Sure, Star Tropics had dialogue, equipment, dungeons, an overworld, and something resembling a leveling system but nothing near the scope and depth of even the original Final Fantasy. I didn’t know anything about stats, different types of equipment, levels, classes, random battles, elemental weaknesses, etc. And don’t even get me started on controlling a five character party in a turn-based battle system. Obviously, I never got to the point where I had a full party, but needless to say, it was utterly overwhelming to me at the time.

It wasn’t until about a year later when one of my friends got their hands on Final Fantasy III (VI) that I finally started to learn the mysterious ways of the JRPG. After many hours over a few weekends watching him go through another masterpiece of the genre, I finally started to wrap my head around how all the various systems worked. I became so enamored with it, that I asked for it and got it for Christmas that year.

I don’t actually have any memories regarding Chrono Trigger before I got it, so I couldn’t tell you how I originally heard about it or what about it prompted me to ask for it for my birthday. Keep in mind, this was during the Dark Ages before the internet. It’s a pretty safe assumption that I read about it in Nintendo Power and was attracted to the art style and the fact that it was  a SquareSoft game since I was still riding high playing Final Fantasy III. However it happened, I got the game and haven’t looked back since.

So hopefully you’ll join me and we can experience Chrono Trigger together.

Who Cares What the Media Says About Gamers?

A common refrain about the media in America is that our media has  a “liberal bias.” This has been debunked several times of course, the largest “news” network in the U.S. is basically the Republican Party’s media arm after all, but the media definitely does have a strong bias:

Laziness.

The American media is lazy, and it hates nuance. That’s why you’ll get a network like CNN spending weeks endlessly talking and speculating about a missing Malaysian airliner until the next big obvious thing comes along.

It’s in the midst of this laziness and hatred of nuance that gamers once again find themselves in relation to the media narrative of the #gamergate consumer revolt. There’s been a lot of wailing and rending of garments over the coverage that #gamerate has gotten in the media with outlets like MSNBC, The Guardian, and numerous online outlets regurgitating the narrative spoon fed to them by the people who despise gamers the most, a low-rent games press anxious to advertise its moral virtue.

At the behest of the games press, the mainstream media has entirely cast aside any ethics considerations brought up by #gamergate despite the fact that The Escapist, Kotaku and Polygon have each amended their editorial policies as a result of the concerns brought to light. This would seem, to me at least, like an acknowledgment of systemic failure.

Gamers supporting #gamergate have also successfully helped green-light a female developer’s game on the Steam marketplace via a Twitter campaign (all while opponents of #gamergate urged a boycott because she has the wrong opinions) and also contributed over $20,000 to the Fine Young Capitalists, a feminist organization.

Instead, the media has lazily stereotyped #gamergate as the highest expression of sexism in gaming and that gamers are a horde of basement-dwelling, fedora wearing neckbeards who hate the idea of women and/or minorities playing videogames and will threaten to murder and/or rape any that try. Five minutes of independent research would disprove most of these stereotypes but that would be work, and work is hard. Plus, it has the unfortunate side effect of complicating your tidy narrative.

It also bears mention that not a single arrest or prosecution has yet been brought as a result of alleged threats in which #gamergate has been implicated. nor a shred of evidence linking any #gamergate supporter to any threat. It should also be pointed out that social justice fundamentalists use online “threats” as currency in a perverted sort of Oppression Olympics, showing off to one another and begging for donations with each new round of threats that, in many cases observers suspect they have deliberately manufactured for themselves.

The annoyance is certainly understandable, but it shouldn’t really be surprising at this point. In fact, as depressing as it is, this perception of gamers is actually an improvement. You may recall, 10-15 years ago, once it was discovered that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who committed the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, were avid players of Doom, the media narrative around gamers became that we were all just one bad day from becoming mass-murderers.

Is it any wonder gaming enthusiasts and #gamergate supporters alike look at these dishonest summaries of themselves and the hobby they love, which in many cases has been an escape from everyday troubles, and are driven to hyperbole when describing their critics?

However, this media attitude in some ways actually helps #gamergate in that it solidifies opposition to lazy, ideologically motivated  media coverage which takes the easy route through the #gamergate controversy, instead of addressing the movement’s concerns and scrutinizing the claims made by the people who want to turn the entirety of the internet into an echo-chamber for their opinions.

It seems pretty clear at this point that gamers as a whole are a long way from getting any kind of fair shake from the media, even the media that purports to serve us specifically. Perhaps in another 10-15 years we’ll become acceptable members of society. In the meantime, if they don’t want gamers as part of their audience I think we should oblige them.