Author Topic: Why Chrono Cross?  (Read 7112 times)

Beach Bum

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Re: Why Chrono Cross?
« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2012, 06:03:14 am »
I agree. Chrono Cross has some inconsistencies, especially near the end. And the huge plot dump at the end on the beach is just all information that should have been integrated into the game. And Guile should have been written as Magus, as they originally intended.

But despite this I still love Chrono Cross because I can also see the positive side: A varied cast of exotic characters of all kind, despite not very well developed, it's fun to try out every character and see the special dialogue for each one. A great, tropical setting, beautiful graphics, and an amazing story. Even if that story was a bit too ambitious, and I still don't understand it completely, I still love it very much.

And anyway, it's not like Chrono Trigger is without flaws. Especially regarding Ayla. Where every other character experienced some sort of tragedy in their life, which helped them develop and grow, there was none of that for Ayla. And as such that character always came off as sort of bland to me.

It's also not like Chrono Cross was the only one to use the "accent generator" thing. Chrono Trigger did the exact same thing, with the exact same dialogue just said by a different character. The only difference is Chrono Trigger did it to a much lesser extent.

Specterace

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Re: Why Chrono Cross?
« Reply #16 on: April 14, 2012, 01:20:20 am »
Hello guys! First-time poster here.

As someone who started out by playing Chrono Cross first (though I'd certainly heard of Trigger's richly-deserved gilded reputation beforehand), and then played Trigger after, I ultimately feel that Cross's greatest fault is not so much that the plot/scenario and tone of the game was bad, but that it was ultimately so far divorced from the plot and tone of Trigger that the feel of the 'series' (or in other words, the overall narrative and motif that fans of CT had come to believe that the Chrono series was all about) was lost in translation. The factors people feel are responsible for this 'disconnect' are numerous and varied (it's a commonly-held opinion that has divided the fanbase, and all who hold it will mention different things as to why), and have been mentioned many times before (on this forum and others); but for me, I feel that the major ones are as follows:

1) The fact that the main protagonist of Cross, Serge, is a completely brand-new character to the Chrono series who not only suffers from the lack of any clear personal motivation or purpose to his journey as we’re trying to invest ourselves in him, but also from the fact that has no clear connections to any member of the main cast of Trigger or it’s story whatsoever. I’ll elaborate on this later on, as I feel it generally encapsulates many(if not all) of these factors into a single product.

2) The noticeable lack of presence of Trigger’s main cast in Cross

3) The notable lack of solid, tangible connections from CT to CC to not only be found and seen in CC, but ultimately FELT, even.

4) A confusing, unevenly paced, and ultimately somewhat disjointed narrative that tends to lack clarity of direction in key areas and ultimately leads to an uncertain (and arguably unsatisfying) resolution

In short, Chrono Cross suffers from a perception problem: players not only generally find CC’s story hard to follow and understand completely as a whole, but due to all the differences between CT and CC, they also find it hard to perceive that the story of CC ‘belongs’ in the same universe as the story of CT. The differences can be anywhere from subtle to absolute opposites: different characters given the same name, the same characters given differences in appearance or motivation, art style, change in tone and content of narrative from light to dark, clear and simply told story as opposed to a complex and non-linear narrative, and so forth.

And ultimately, I feel that the differences from CT to CC, or more to the point, the often-mentioned disconnect between them, are most encapsulated in and by the main character in CC, Serge. Why? I'll explain below, but please bear with me as it's a bit long :)

As I mentioned above, Serge is a brand-new character to the Chrono Series who has no clear connections to either the story of Chrono Trigger or any of its principal characters. He doesn’t know who any of the CT cast is, nor does he even know or even perceive of anything they did in the events of that game. In short, to Serge, the CT cast has had such little impact on his existence that they might as well have never even existed. And even if we expand to the overall story and all the other characters in it, it doesn’t get much better; In fact, Serge’s only real connection to anything in Trigger at all is the one he shares with Schala (a minor, though certainly memorable and beloved, NPC). And even that connection is frankly, quite shaky; it basically amounts to the fact that he happened to be a child who's life Schala chose to save. Nothing more, nothing less. Furthermore, we are only made aware of that 'connection' late in the game (in either Terra Tower or in Opassa Beach before the Time Devourer fight which basically amounts to the same thing really), and even then, we are never told of a specific or even substantial reason as to why that connection came to be (presumably, Schala chose to save Serge out of the goodness of her heart, or whatever remained of it while she was fusing with Lavos to be the TD in the Darkness Beyond Time, but then we are still left with other unanswered questions, such as why Schala chose Serge specifically and so forth). In short, we’re put into the shoes of a 17-year-old boy who we know little-to-nothing about and are asked to invest ourselves in his story and journey for the next 50+ hours we will be playing as him.

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with this per se; it’s basically the same thing we’re asked to do with almost every main character(s) in any RPG we play. However (and this applies many, many, MANY times over for those who played Trigger before Cross), there is a snag here: generally, we’re asked to do this for characters in brand-new worlds and universes/timelines, so we are absolutely free of any sort of expectations and are free to base our connections/opinions to nothing other than the innate merits of the characters and their overall story. Serge, unfortunately, doesn’t have this benefit, because the greater world/universe Serge lives in is not a brand-new one, it’s one that we’re going back to after having seen it though the eyes of others. Sure, Kato and co. may have tried to minimize the burden Serge (and, indeed Cross) had to bear by having about 98% of the game take place in brand-new areas not present in CT, but ultimately, it doesn’t work for the same reason that expecting a brand-new side-story Chrono game (even if it features a new cast that takes place in times not visited by Crono’s party) to be divorced from the expectations that CT would put on it is utter folly: it cannot escape the fact that it exists as part of the same narrative. Any story in that universe’s myth arc is by nature linked to everything else in it (especially what came BEFORE it), and trying to play down or hide those links not only does not free those stories (and their characters) to be judged on their merits, but furthermore does the opposite: it hinders that story’s (and those characters’) chances of being favorably received or appreciated.

So already, to the people who’ve played CT and/or follow the myth arc as an overall narrative, Serge has to deal with the problem of having to generate interest in himself and his story in an audience that for the most part will be pre-inclined to judge the worth of his character and his story on how it fits into the greater Chrono story already told. As you can imagine, this is not the most favorable of circumstances to be thrown into. Instead of players approaching him saying ‘I don’t know who this guy is, but I’m eager to find out’, he has players saying ‘Who is this guy I’ve never heard of before, and why should I care?’. Really, there’s only one possible way Serge can overcome the position he’s in, the perception players have of him, and the questions it asks of him, and it’s this: To quickly build himself up as a compelling character who not only has a worthy quest to embark on, but clear, logical, and ultimately moving personal reasons that would inspire the player to emotionally invest themselves in his story. Only by being a character with a personal story people both understand and literally can’t help but try and unravel can Serge hope to overcome the weight of expectation players who know CT would have in his story (or at least, overcome them enough to make those players actually care about or appreciate him).

Unfortunately, Serge never really becomes this sort of character until the end of the game (and there are some who would say he never becomes this sort of character at all). And even when he does, his development and importance as a character is instead mostly grounded in his function as a previously-unknown-but-later-revealed key to the plot as opposed to growing into a driving force of said plot through any personal growth or development he had as a character. The overall purpose of his quest is often unclear, and what turns out to be his ultimate objective (saving Schala) is never even referenced until the very end, after numerous twists and turns that render his overall story complicated at best and incomprehensible at worst. In short, his importance to the story ultimately becomes clear, but it’s not so much that we gradually discover it with him through the quest as we play it so much as we suddenly have it told to us near the end of the game, info-dump style. Furthermore, what little connections he has to the CT story and the overall Chrono saga are similarly hidden, and revealed even later, also info-dump style, with little-to-no noticeable impact on his overall story until the very end.

In addition to all of the above, we don’t even really have the benefit of being able to truly put ourselves in Serge’s shoes and mind and either understand him as a character or understand his motivations as to why he does what he does in the story. We are never privy to Serge’s own motivations, goals, dreams, or desires, or what personally drives him to search for the Flame, Lynx, or ultimately, what drives him to risk his very existence in trying to save Schala from the TD in the DBT. We rarely know what he, as an individual wants to get out of the overall CC quest (a quest which he undertakes as a central protagonist) at any given time; and even when we do know, we know precious little other than that he wants to achieve a stated goal, with his feelings on the situation left up in the air to be guessed at by the player. In other words, we as players may have a reason to see how Serge’s story plays out, but it’s like these reasons are more dependent on ourselves as opposed to being inspired through Serge’s own motivations. He is, for the great majority of the game, less the focal point and engine through which we see the story being told in the way it is, and more of a blue-haired male sprite along for the ride as an avatar of ourselves as we discover the story. This lack of insight we have into his character, combined with the sense that Serge is not as effective an engine to the story as his protagonist role would lead us to expect, makes it difficult for us to establish the emotional connection with him that we need to make us truly want to invest ourselves in him and his story, let alone make us care enough to appreciate his ultimate importance to the overall narrative in the Chrono series.

The final result of all this is that Serge’s story culminates in him saving Schala, uniting the divided timelines, and finally saving all of space-time from an entity determined to destroy it from existence. Through his actions, he is the greatest hero of the Chrono series in terms of his deeds and the impact of those deeds on the well-being of the world and universe. But yet, we never feel he achieved all this through the completion of his personal quest; we don’t feel as if any of these deeds started out as goals he was motivated to fulfill on a personal sense, or that they became the culmination of his choices and reactions to the story on a personal scale. Rather, it almost feels like he was a designated hero who happened to be chosen to do them by others, both in-game (Balthazar) and out-of-game (Kato and the creative team), and had little choice but to do so, because that was the role he was ultimately put in the Chrono series to fill. This is ultimately unsatisfying, especially in light of the personal, character-driven plot of CT that came before, which involved a protagonist who grew into his role and a cast of individuals who’s personal motivations were the engine that made the story go.

Does this mean that Serge was a bad character, or that his story was uninteresting, or that CC was overall a bad product because of it? No, in fact I feel that the opposite of all those statements is true. But in light of what came before, does it all mean that he was not quite the type of character with the type of story that would have been best suited to deliver the next chapter in the Chrono myth arc, especially given the role he was called upon to fulfill? In my mind, there is no doubt that the answer is yes. And ultimately, I believe that was the overall problem with Chrono Cross: it was an interesting story with great characters on its own merits, but it ultimately failed at being a good fit as the next story in the Chrono myth arc proper due to a narrative and spiritual disconnect between its story and that of Chrono Trigger. And in that comes the tragedy of it: Kato and his team may have wanted to create a new game free from the shadow of CT, but in placing it in CT’s universe and making it the continuation of the overall story arc begun by CT, their effort was doomed from the start, as CC by its very nature was fated to never truly be free of that shadow and the weight of expectations it bore from having the responsibility of carrying the Chrono name and continuing the story of the series.

Well, I hope that wasn't too long. Thanks for reading  :)

Specterace
« Last Edit: April 14, 2012, 01:31:13 am by Specterace »

Boo the Gentleman Caller

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Re: Why Chrono Cross?
« Reply #17 on: April 14, 2012, 11:09:00 am »
Wow, Spec, great post! I think that's a very accurate assessment you have there. The reasons you've listed are reasons why I felt a slight disconnected of Chrono Cross as a sequel (or spiritual successor) to Chrono Trigger. Oh, and Schala was blonde... That, too. I hated that.

But overall I loved Cross for it's own reasons. It's still in my top games of all time, although not as high as Trigger. I think the nostalgia factor also grants Trigger a favorable advantage. I was 10 when I played Chrono Trigger (during the golden era of JRPGS - Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, etc), and was 15 when I played Chrono Cross. The difference in life experience and maturity was also quite different.

Kodokami

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Re: Why Chrono Cross?
« Reply #18 on: April 14, 2012, 02:04:55 pm »
Very well said, Specterace. I think you nailed it.

Yourgingerestfan

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Re: Why Chrono Cross?
« Reply #19 on: April 14, 2012, 06:34:00 pm »
Hmm ...I do agree with Specter in that sometimes ...Serge's actions are not explained at all, take coming out of Spriggs House for example ....suddenly everyone in this arc says that their joining Serge to encounter the Flame ....not even Serge at this moment in time had any 'real' knowledge about the Frozen Flame because up until now his main motivation was tracking Lynx, although it can be argued that alot of the characters get caught up in Serge's journey ...most of the time it seems like they are the ones who have clearer goals.

I do however love Cross more than Trigger , something about the Serge/Kid/Harle triangle, makes me appreciate the game more.

Lennis

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Re: Why Chrono Cross?
« Reply #20 on: April 14, 2012, 08:10:21 pm »
Quote
In addition to all of the above, we don’t even really have the benefit of being able to truly put ourselves in Serge’s shoes and mind and either understand him as a character or understand his motivations as to why he does what he does in the story. We are never privy to Serge’s own motivations, goals, dreams, or desires, or what personally drives him to search for the Flame, Lynx, or ultimately, what drives him to risk his very existence in trying to save Schala from the TD in the DBT. We rarely know what he, as an individual wants to get out of the overall CC quest (a quest which he undertakes as a central protagonist) at any given time; and even when we do know, we know precious little other than that he wants to achieve a stated goal, with his feelings on the situation left up in the air to be guessed at by the player. In other words, we as players may have a reason to see how Serge’s story plays out, but it’s like these reasons are more dependent on ourselves as opposed to being inspired through Serge’s own motivations. He is, for the great majority of the game, less the focal point and engine through which we see the story being told in the way it is, and more of a blue-haired male sprite along for the ride as an avatar of ourselves as we discover the story. This lack of insight we have into his character, combined with the sense that Serge is not as effective an engine to the story as his protagonist role would lead us to expect, makes it difficult for us to establish the emotional connection with him that we need to make us truly want to invest ourselves in him and his story, let alone make us care enough to appreciate his ultimate importance to the overall narrative in the Chrono series.

All of the above can be traced to one design decision that ensured that Chrono Cross would never live up to its predecessor, or live up to its own lofty ambitions: Serge didn't speak.  If there was one game that needed a speaking protagonist to keep the audience invested, it was this one.  Most of the time the player didn't know what the heck was going on, so the "avatar as character" device only served to deepen the player's confusion.  Are we supposed to care about Serge just because he is as confused as we are?  Or are we supposed to discount his individuality altogether and just use him as a blank slate for ourselves?

But the lack of characterization in Chrono Cross isn't limited to the non-speaking Serge, it also extends to the speaking characters that are supposed to help define him, and that is where Cross really fails compared to Trigger.  Thanks to Marle, Lucca, and the other main characters of Trigger, the player feels a solid connection to Crono even though he never says a word in the main quest.  In Chrono Cross, the only character that does a passable job of helping us understand the protagonist is Leena, and that's only at the very beginning of the game.  After that, Leena is forgotten and the main foil to Serge becomes Kid.  Apparently, Serge is supposed to develop an intimate relationship with Kid sometime during the journey, if Serge's dream-sequences about her halfway through the game are any indication.  But do we see anything in the actual narrative to make us believe that?  No.  In fact, there is little indication that they are even friends, much less lovers, even if the player makes all of the "nice" decisions regarding her.  And so when Kid is poisoned and she talks with Serge on her deathbed, we are all wondering why there is suddenly a connection between them.  Compare this to the lighthearted Crono+Marle moments in Trigger leading up to the climatic "resurrection" scene on Death Peak.  We would sooner believe Serge has a relationship with Leena instead of Kid.  But because Kid is central to the plot (sort of), Leena is shunted to the DBT, figuratively speaking.  In fact, as I alluded to earlier in this thread, the characters in Chrono Cross really aren't very important at all.  The characters don't exist for their own sake, they exist only to advance the plot.

Another example of this plot-centric mentality is the role Lynx plays.  We come to understand some of his motivations late in the game, but we never really understand his behavior.  Lynx is evil and sadistic, judging by his actions in Fort Dragonia and later in the world at large - where several NPC's say that Lynx (in Serge's form) and his minions are attacking people all over El Nido.  The question is why?  There is no indication that Lynx's melodramatic speech about enmity or his spree of terror had anything to do with FATE's objectives, to say nothing of why he didn't just go straight to Chronopolis to reestablish the connection with the Frozen Flame after taking Serge's form.  This tells me that Lynx was never really developed as a character, but rather as a simple device to move Serge from one point of the story to the next, just like Kid.

Apart from these points, I don't think there is anything more to say about Chrono Cross' shortcomings that Specterace hasn't addressed in his brilliant post.  Welcome to the Compendium, Ace!

Mr Bekkler

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Re: Why Chrono Cross?
« Reply #21 on: April 15, 2012, 03:53:24 am »
The thread was supposed to be about why people like the game. When did it switch?

Lennis

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Re: Why Chrono Cross?
« Reply #22 on: April 15, 2012, 09:11:09 pm »
Sorry, Bekkler.  I take no small amount of responsibility for that.  I think the thread switched not as a way to start bashing CC, but rather for the sake of being thorough.  Your first post pretty well said what Chrono Cross got right, but to really address the initial question required us to dig deeper into what it didn't get right.  I guess we went too far in that.  Anyway, I don't think any of us hate Chrono Cross.  I certainly don't.  I'm in the middle of a follow-up playthrough right now, so that should say something.

And I use Serge for my profile picture.   :wink:

Mr Bekkler

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Re: Why Chrono Cross?
« Reply #23 on: April 16, 2012, 12:23:00 am »
Eh, it's probably my own fault for pointing out negatives but I was just being thorough and hopefully balanced. No need to apologize.  :wink:
I don't know, I figured there was more people liked about the game than disliked. It seems not, though somehow the whole seems to be more liked than the sum of the parts. If that makes sense, at all, then that's how I'd describe Cross to a new or prospective player.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2012, 12:25:46 am by Mr Bekkler »

Beach Bum

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Re: Why Chrono Cross?
« Reply #24 on: April 16, 2012, 04:05:41 am »
Wow, Spec, great post! I think that's a very accurate assessment you have there. The reasons you've listed are reasons why I felt a slight disconnected of Chrono Cross as a sequel (or spiritual successor) to Chrono Trigger. Oh, and Schala was blonde... That, too. I hated that.

But overall I loved Cross for it's own reasons. It's still in my top games of all time, although not as high as Trigger. I think the nostalgia factor also grants Trigger a favorable advantage. I was 10 when I played Chrono Trigger (during the golden era of JRPGS - Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, etc), and was 15 when I played Chrono Cross. The difference in life experience and maturity was also quite different.

People always seem to notice Schala's blonde hair, without noticing her other features that are different. Namely, she's a child. While she was around 16/17 years old in Chrono Trigger, she's around 11/12 in Chrono Cross, maybe even younger. This means that Schala's hair has not just turned blonde, she's also been de-aged. Personally I find this very interesting as the blonde hair seems to be a side-effect of that. And because of that one could speculate the circumstances of the blue hair of the Zeal people. We know it probably comes with birth, because Janus had blue hair at a young age. But perhaps this is not the case for all of them. Perhaps those with higher magic ability are born with blue hair, while those with lesser magic ability get their blue hair later.

Also, I do believe quite a lot of people like Chrono Cross. It is one of few games that received a perfect 10 from GameSpot, something not even Chrono Trigger achieved.

utunnels

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Re: Why Chrono Cross?
« Reply #25 on: April 16, 2012, 05:00:50 am »
Heh, I think they intended to change the color. I don't see a problem why they couldn't make it blue, even though the artist changed. Maybe they just wanted to keep the identity as a secret.

At first I thought in SNES era, the small sprites need more significant marks, there are many RPGs with characters who have all kinds of hair colors. But this theory doesn't work because in anims there are still many obnormal hair colors, and there are many blueish haired characters in Chrono Cross, include Serge.

Beach Bum

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Re: Why Chrono Cross?
« Reply #26 on: April 16, 2012, 07:58:46 am »
If they made Schala's hair blue then they'd have to make Kid's hair blue. And then everyone would immediately know Kid is Schala or Schala's clone.

MaLiang91321

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Re: Why Chrono Cross?
« Reply #27 on: April 20, 2012, 12:01:20 am »
Hello everyone.  This is my first time posting after a long time lurking, so yay.

Chrono Cross is my favorite game of all time.  It's a fantastic game, and I think it's truly a masterpiece.  I've been playing it again, going on my 4th playthrough now, and I noticed something I've never noticed before:  Chrono Cross may not have originally been a sequel to Chrono Trigger.  Not even a pseudo sequel.  Why would I say such a thing?

Sure, there's no time travel, zooming around in the Epoch, averting the crisis of Lavos, etc.  But that's not really what I want to focus on.  If you changed the names of the referenced CT characters/places (other than the seemingly hastily added cameos of the CT characters late in the game), would you be able to tell that the characters/places were actually from CT?  What would this game be like without the vague CT references?

A boy named Serge struggles against the tides of fate.  He becomes wrapped up in the lives of others, and together, they try to change their destinies.  The Frozen Flame, a miraculous artifact, has the power to transform reality (Lynx --> Serge, shattering the dragon god, "anything that touches the flame will become a different being", etc).  Serge is deceived by the Dragons to destroy FATE, Dragons rise once again to power.  Serge and friends push on recklessly to change their destinies and prevent themselves from being controlled by anyone (Lynx, Dragons, FATE, etc).

This game stands on its own, I think.  The CT references feel too vague and forced, like they were added after most of the game had already been written.  I think it was an attempt to capitalize on CT's success, but they sold themselves short because they already had a great game.  The game is all about the struggle against fate (not the computer), and breaking away from having anyone control your life but you.  The dialogue in the beginning of the game in Arni Village (Home) pushes this theme very heavily.

I love this game, but not because it has anything to do with CT.  CT is also a masterpiece, and it came to a satisfying conclusion.  Chrono Cross is more like Radical Dreamers than it is like CT, and I think it should have stayed that way.

Kodokami

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Re: Why Chrono Cross?
« Reply #28 on: April 20, 2012, 02:05:25 am »
Welcome, and glad to see another Chrono Cross fan. Good first post too; you pose an interesting question.

Does Cross stand on its own without Trigger?

My answer would be no, it does not. The connections are too consequential to the plot. However, those connections, or at least the way in which they are presented do a disservice to the legacy, I think. They could have been implemented better, but I do not think they could be removed entirely, even by changing the names of characters and places. Besides, there is a Lavos is the room that is difficult to ignore: Schala. Who is she? Where did she come from? Why is she here? Without Trigger, players are missing important details that are poorly explained in Cross, if at all.

Radical Dreamers had it right. Subtlety. Cross most assuredly sprouted from Radical Dreamers, so it would have been nice to see some similarities in presentation. As Kato himself explained,
Quote
...the connections between Radical Dreamers and Chrono Trigger were intentionally left blurred in the background so that it'd only be recognizable by those who would understand.

Of course, if you are satisfied with Cross's resolution, and its story, that's all that matters.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2012, 02:30:43 am by Kodokami »

utunnels

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Re: Why Chrono Cross?
« Reply #29 on: April 20, 2012, 02:30:28 am »
 :wink:
Perhaps not like those 'sequels' in which the same protagonist beats up new villains, falls in love with another gal, saves the world once again from a new threat, etc.  So they a freshly new story which doesn't focus on the quest to save the world(or universe). Although you fight the Time Devour in the end of the game, but the story rarely focuses on that matter.

BTW, I do think Kato was really evil for writing the ending.   :twisted: I know there is a multitude of people who want a direct answer to the fate of protagonist and won't buy any equivocal explanation. Perhaps that was why the ending of Final Fantasy VIII also left a lot of arguments, hehe, I really enjoy reading such topics, though I'm usually too lazy to think too deep into the subject.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2012, 02:31:59 am by utunnels »