Zeality Press Start Interviewby ZeaLitY 10:30, 9/28/05
A guy who goes by the name of UnforgivingEdges runs a show about videogames at California Polytechnical college; I was recently on it to talk about the Chrono series community, the Compendium, and why we're so fanatical about the series. Read the transcript here!
UE: Switching gears a little bit, as I said earlier in the show, I want to talk about Chrono Compendium, which is probably the most informative, detailed -- yeah, informative and detailed -- I mean, it's for the Chrono series of games, Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, and the little known game Radical Dreamers, and it's basically an online encylcopedia for these games that this guy put together. It is -- it's just unbelievable. If you -- I mean, people consider the Chrono Trigger game to be probably the best game of all time. SNES, 1995, Squaresoft RPG, it's absolutely phenomenal. If you haven't played it, you've been living under a rock -- go play it! But, it is just absolutely great. And so this guy, who was like bored, I guess -- he took his passion for Chrono Trigger and turned it into this website, chronocompendium.com, and it is every possible resource you could possibly ever hope and want for the Chrono games, and I actually got a chance yesterday to talk to him, so...he goes by the name Zeality online, and I got a chance to talk to him about the Chrono series, the games...so I'll just go ahead and roll that for you.
UE: You are sort of the webmaster, proprietor I guess, you could say of Chrono Compendium.
ZEAL: Yeah. I got another guy who does all the technical stuff and he's a whiz at that, but in terms of content and direction, I'm in charge of that.
UE: And what exactly is Chrono Compendium for people who may be hearing this for the first time?
ZEAL: Basically, back in 2003, over at the OCRemix boards, a lot of us were coming together as fans, like, playing Chrono series games for the first time like Chrono Trigger, and we're like, "Hey this is pretty cool" and everything, and we got to discussing it, and we needed to reference stuff. So we went to all the big websites, and we realized, a lot of this crap hasn't been put up yet, and a lot of it's empty; if you look for sites for like Final Fantasy 7, they have like EVERYTHING on there -- the mechanics, the algorithms that go into the battle stuff -- and the Chrono series really hasn't had that kind of professional treatment, so we said "Why not," -- and basically, the purpose of the site is to just do everything -- and I'm trying not to have that responsibility fall on me, because that takes a lot of time, but so far we're doing pretty good in that. So we just want to get everything -- featuers, articles, bios -- we're working on a full encyclopedia, fan projects, everything pretty much.
UE: Yeah, that's the one thing for the website -- if you want to check it out, it's www.chronocompendium.com -- it's this huge resource for anyone -- if you're ever wanted to know anything about any sort of Chrono game in the series -- Trigger, Cross, or the lesser known Radical Dreamers -- you have it all up there. I just wonder how much time would you say has been put into this website?
ZEAL: I'd probably say an incredible number of manhours, just because in the beginning, I had more than one editor working with me, and we had that passion -- when you start something up, you really put everything into it -- and we put in like two or three hours a day, and that lasted until 2004, and then we just started using our free time to do it -- and eventually I was sort of like the only guy left in charge who's actually doing anything. So now I work on it about one to two hours a day -- my free time -- it takes something up, when I have nothing else to do, and it's a pretty good creative vent. A lot of manhours and have gone into it, and I hope it's shown.
UE: Yeah, I definitely think so. I mean, you go there and look, and you've got game screenshots of like, the buildings of the games -- I was just on the site before the show, and I was looking at Dorino, which is one of the towns of Chrono Trigger, and you guys have got like pictures of the inside of the Inn of Dorino, straight from the game, and the amount of detail that's present here is incredible.
ZEAL: Yeah, I really wish that -- cause right now the basic encyclopedia, we're trying to finish that, because above all else, that's going to secure our legacy, and it's going to help the Chrono series live on and everything -- but right now the Chrono Cross part of the encyclopedia really isn't finished yet, just because we've been working our tails off on Chrono Trigger, but yeah. For the Chrono Trigger location stuff, we've got the best resources for that; we've got Temporal Flux, that rom hacking program -- that can like, output .png files of those maps on the fly, so we're really lucky in that regard. And it's almost complete; locations is about the last thing I've got to do.
UE: What is like the purpose of putting together the website. Obviously, it's this great resource for Chrono fans, but when you started it, what was your goal?
ZEAL: Well, there's something I've noticed about Chrono fans in general -- you have like, the casual ones who play all kinds of games, and then you have these fanatic people -- and I guess I'm sort of the posterboy for that -- but when we played this stuff, we were like, wow, this is all pretty special, and we just wanted to finally convert that into something productive. Right now, you've got all these people whining about Square-Enix and all that, but we're just trying to put this stuff together, and really give the Chrono series some professional treatment, because the creator -- Masato Kato, if I pronounced that right -- he put so much depth into this game, and until now, it's not really gotten that treatment from fans, who really archive this stuff. I mean, there's been countless discussions on forums for the last ten years almost, but they get wiped -- forum prunings, and everything. So this is like our attempt to finally archive and present this stuff in a vehicle that can be updated by new people as they come up with new ideas, and allow it to be viewed for the first time.
UE: Yeah, I noticed you have this section on the Chrono Compendium where you've got these articles, and you've got these long discussions about minor aspects of the games that you wouldn't think are important, but when you start to explore them -- for example, you've got the Rise of Porre -- how the nation of Porre from Chrono Trigger changes -- in Chrono Trigger, it's just this country that you go to -- just this town that you're in, and in Chrono Cross, you've got Porre playing a huge part of the story, and you've got all these articles about minor things like that -- where do you get this material? Is it primarily from the Chrono Compendium boards?
ZEAL: Yeah, originally I posted around Gamefaqs and OCRemix. That was before liking Chrono Trigger sort of became something to laugh at. But back then, when we were starting up, everyone was like "whoa, yeah, let's do this," and a few Unmodders even were posting stuff on some of this. And we get all this stuff, and once we have a general idea of "why wasn't this explained? what's left? There's got to be something," because 90% of the unexplained stuff has something behind it -- and after we got that far, we just use the script, because we've been able to use these rom hacking utilities to extract the script, and we have every quote in the game at our disposal, and we just search that for minutiae -- and recently we just got the Chrono Cross script, and that was a major achievement, since that's like 1.4 megs of text. We can search that out now. So we just crossreference canon with our own ideas, and create this frame work, and write about it and make it presentable to casual people.
UE: Yeah, there's a lot of interesting stuff on there, stuff I never bothered to look at, and once I saw it, I was like "wow, that's really interesting." It sort of opens up whole new windows about the series that you'd never think about. I want to ask you -- because you're sort of like, when I think of Chrono Trigger, and the series in general, based on my experience where I hang out online, because you're sort of like this guy who knows everything -- this guru, you could say, of the series. What is it about the Chrono series that drew you in and inspired you to do this?
ZEAL: My RPG experience, playing these games, and really my console experience period has been kind of limited. The last new system I've bought is an n64, because I've gone over to other people's houses to play and stuff. I didn't play my first RPG until I got Super Mario RPG, and that was like a year later, and after that I really didn't get back into that stuff until 2002. And Chrono Trigger was on this list that one of my friends gave me. And when I got to it, it was sort of like Breath of Fire II, which is really deep, and it kept going on and I was like, "this music is really cool, you know, whoever composed this (I'd found this out later), did so much with this," and it was amazing how you take FF6 and compare it to Chrono Trigger, and how the graphics suddenly look a lot more vibrant -- not to rag on FF6 -- so there are all these elements. And, then, of course, when you got to Zeal, and my name reflects that -- Zeal was amazing. It was entirely dreamt up by Masato Kato, and was just this paradise of civilization floating in the sky, so beautiful, and the people are so actualized that there's a city just made for dreamers. And this entire atmosphere, and all this, really made me start thinking about it, and realizing that there's so much depth to this stuff. So I attribute it to Zeal, and Kato's vision; it was overpowering almost.
UE: Definitely. One of the highlights in the game, almost universally regarded as the most favorite part of Chrono Trigger, is Zeal, and you go through this whole arc of discovering Zeal, losing Zeal, and it's sort of magical. And a lot of people think that Time Circuits, the song that plays, is one of the better songs in the game as well.
ZEAL: Yeah, that one's been remixed so many types. My last count -- I think there's about 50 now -- maybe 52, with that Japanese remix project coming -- and yeah, it's no mistake that it's been covered so many times. It's this amazing atmosphere -- the fall, everything's so dramatic and tragic, it's perfectly executed.
UE: Let's switch gears; I want to talk about Chrono Cross. There's a lot of mixed feelings in the community about Chrono Cross -- a lot of people loved it, a lot of people absolutely loathed it, and don't see it as part of the Chrono series. Personally, when I played Chrono Cross, I thought it was great, and then, this is where you helped me out -- because Chrono Cross's plot is a little hard to understand the first time through -- you pointed me in the right direction, I read this huge plot summary, and it blew me away. I think that Chrono Cross is actually a better game after you baet it and think about it.
ZEAL: I'm really lucky in that regard, because the entire process of forming the Chrono Compendium and writing that chronology on the OCR boards -- being exposed to this stuff so much -- it empowered me with all these facts enough to write that. I've had the advantage of not playing Chrono Trigger until 2002, so I was 7 years removed from the first generation, and at the same time I had the advantage of playing Chrono Cross right after that. I think in a lot of ways, that sort of stems any possible fanboyism on my part, because right now, I sort of -- when I talk about fanboys, there's fanatics, and we could easily fall into that category, but fanboys are the ones who can't spell and stuff, "Enix ruined Square" and that -- what I think happened, and I've been discussing this a lot with my compadres at the Compendium, because we're going to do a feature that covers this, why the community is split and everythinig when Chrono Cross is a good game. What I think happened is, there are some legitimate problems with the game, and I think there's about 2 or 3. There's too many characters, and not enough development, and I agree because of Guile's backstory. He was supposed to be Magus, but they got too many characters and they were like "crap, we can't represent his story," because he couldn't be in the party all the time -- too much of a risk, so they cut his backstory. That, and Masato Kato's directing -- those ghosts on Opassa Beach dump that plot on you at the end of the game, and that's been criticized. But when you step back and look at it, the plot is consistent, and a lot of the characters are flushed out -- like Nikki, he goes through so much character development; Serge has a personality, almost, where Crono was just sort of this brave dude who just went into battle and everything--
UE: And what I think is impressive about that is that they're the same way; they hardly say anything, both of them. Crono has no dialogue except in one of the endings, and Serge has no dialogue as far as I can remember, but you end up having Serge as a much more deeper character.
ZEAL: It's amazing how they come off like that; these last two weeks I finally played FF7 for the first time, it's amazing to see how Cloud, with lines and things, and how Serge, with no lines, and they're still both viable, great characters. And that silent protagonist thing has become a Chrono trademark; if they ever made a new game, hopefully it would have that. And again, ther'es so much depth in Chrono Cross -- if you're looking at it from science, an artistic point of view, or from the characters or plot -- and it's sort of like an experience, becuase the scenery is so beautiful, and the music's perfect -- and a lot of people were turned off for some reason, and I'm still trying to figure that out; I can't find a basis for just hating that game.
UE: A lot of people complain about the battle system, and say they didn't like it, and personally I thought it was great -- one of hte best ever in an RPG -- when I played it for the first time, I thought every game should have it.
ZEAL: Yeah, the Elements and everything -- the game reviewers, like professional dudes -- Gamestop, IGN -- they were like, wow, this is good, this is groundbreaking, a trendsetter -- and the fanboys were like, "What is this?" I'm about to play Final Fantasy 8, and I've heard a lot of criticism about its system too, and I don't understand how a battle system can ruin someone's experience of the game. It all boils down to attack, defend, all that. When you have elements and all that, and there's such a diverse array, and the Chrono Cross, the ultimate element, it really works; it requires strategy and everything, and it was good.
UE: I also want to ask you what you think of the future of the Chrono series and community. We have Chrono Cross, which came out at the end of the PS1 cycle, in 2000. That was a good 5 or 6 years after Chrono Trigger, and a lot of people speculated that we wouldn't see a new Chrono game until the end of the PS2's cycle. We're about at that poitn right now, where the PS2 is about to be replaced by the PS3, and still, not even any news about a Chrono game. People like to speculate, and things like that, there have been rumors -- a lot of the conflict is really when Enix been Square, that has to do with it, but I'd like to hear you rtake on why the Chrono series has totally gotten no attention in the last half a decade or so.
ZEAL: The fanboys will say, you know, the game was cancelled, that it was in production -- it wasn't in production ever really, Masato Kato and all those guys with Chrono Cross were like, "let's make Xenogears." Or I don't know if Xenogears came before that, but they had their own projects and everything, and about that time, Masato Kato stated in an interview on my site somewhere, in Weekly Famitsu, that -- the interviewer asked him how he felt about Square right now, and he said, "I'm not going to answer or I might get in trouble." And he left Square after that for Monolith Soft, and now he's left to be a freelancer, and Mitsuda left too, and I think that the conditions -- FF7 is coming back, all this cool stuff, 12 is looming on the horizon, PS3's coming out -- and all these other series are getting revived; I can't name any, and Square's got its eggs ready in a basket. They're just going to keep passing this cool stuff out as long as they can, and the Chrono series is just something that they can play if they absolutely need to, or when the conditions right. Everything's going into a chill right now, since Kato's not with the company, and Mitsuda's out too, and there's a lot of people still in, but the conditions aren't just right. All these new games are coming out, and I guess Chrono doesn't fit into their business plan right now. That doesn't mean it won't, as all these old series are getting revived, so we can't count it out, but Kato and all those guys definitely have to be at the helm to make it a quality game.
UE: People are going to be so upset if we get another Chrono game without Mitsuda, or Kato; it's going to be kind of disappointing, the best way to put it.
ZEAL: Yeah, especially when you have Kato, who made all this deep stuff, and so much of it is still in his head -- like the Fall of Guardia, how that happened, what happened there, that stuff hasn't been told yet; all that's stuff still in his head, like what happened to Magus, so if he were removed, omg, we'd have a lot of retconning -- maybe not, but yeah.
UE: Before we run out of time, let me ask you what you attribute to -- the Chrono series is hugely more popular in America than it is in Japan -- why do you think that is? And do you think that's one of the reasons that we haven't seen or heard anything about a new Chrono game?
ZEAL: I haven't researched it really, since I haven't been able to come by those sales figures that everyon ewants -- butI heard that Chrono Cross didn't do so hot in Japan'; I know Chrono Trigger did, and it was drawn by Toriyama, who did the Dragon Quest series, and I guess the Chrono series ahs a lot of ideals that appeal to Western audiences, like Zeal, and at the same time, I don't really know what caused Chrono Cross to do bad in Japan. I mean, they could be suffering from fanboys over there too, people want to play Crono when they get the game; they want to play as the old character, in the same world, but I'm not sure. I definitely think that the problem is there, and really influenced that; awhile ago we had some dude write Square Enix of America on why they didn't make new stuff, and they said "it would be pretty cool, but SE Japan makes all this stuff. But if you could get a petition, we could send it to Japan, since we really want to kick their butt to get them doing stuff." And that could be corporate chatter and everything; definitely, they make all the decisions, so even if Cross did exceptional in the US, it boils down to things over there.
UE: Yeah, here's hoping we get a new Chrono game soon; I love the series, it's awesome, and I know you do too, and there are tons of people out there who absolutely love the series; and as evidence, it's amazing where the wierdest places it will pop up, and I'm browsing the facebook website, and there's a whole group at my school dedicated to Chrono Trigger. Pretty cool. Well, Zeality, thank you so much for coming on, talking about Chrono Trigger -- this is great. If there's any new developments in Square, or Chrono news, I'll be sure and get you back on here, because you're sort of the unofficial guru of the Chrono series.
ZEAL: I'll be definitely sure to drop you a line and everything, and I hope everyone has a good time listening to Symphonic; it's been a long time in the making.
UE: Definitely; thanks a lot, Zeality.