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ASK WHEELS
Yarns of Chrono
February 9th, 2011

02/09 - 12:00PM EST

  Welcome to another Chrono filled episode of Q&A! Well we've also got an Ys sequel pitch and letter about Dragon Quest as well. I guess either you guys really want to win Radiant Historia or just really want to pitch your own Chrono Trigger sequel. Either way this has been great fun so far. Don't forget there's still until the end of February to enter! Now, on to the letters...





The Letters
Chrono Time

"How would you do a sequel to Chrono Trigger?"  While I know I'm not eligible to win, I can't help but have the sneaking suspicion that something I wrote to you might have inspired this contest.  So here's how I would do it.


Wheels

Quite possibly! Anyway, let's hear what you've got. I'm expecting something awesome that will make people happy you aren't eligible.

First, let's look at what "Chrono" means as a series.  There are two themes linking both main Chrono titles: the obvious time aspect and the will or need to change.  As themes go these are pretty easy to work with.  Trigger and Cross approached the time theme literally from two different angles.  The first had its heroes moving up and down the timeline whereas the second had its heroes moving laterally across alternative timelines. For mine, I'd like to return to the up/down temporal axis, even if it practically requires that I break with the original Chrono-verse.  It's probably for the best, to be honest.


Wheels

Time travel is just a tough plot device to work with. However, the good thing is you can pretty much go and break the original timeline at your leisure, or just say your new story is on another alternate timeline. There are lot's of different possibilities. You could even have a game where you have to wander about the timeline trying to fix events from the original game that have now been altered (again).
 
Now we need to look at the second theme. Crono and Co.'s main motivation in Trigger comes from their experience with the post-Lavos future. The Day of Lavos is the main event their striving to alter, and for much of the game they're witnesses to the history building up to that event, rather than active agents of change.  Most of the major events (like Leene's kidnapping, Magus' defeat, the arrival of Lavos, or the Mammon Incident) would have / already had happened without them anyway. In contrast, Serge and Co. are stuck in the fractured now of Cross, subject to events far in the past that have made them the metaphorical victims of History as well as the literal victims of FATE. Their eventual goal is to eliminate the main factor forcing the timeline to fragment (the Frozen Flame), and their main opponent wants to make things turn out the way he wants them to.


Wheels

That's an interesting point. Now that I think of it, pretty much the whole timeline up to the The Day of Lavos remains the same throughout, with the player mostly taking part in the events, not really changing the outcome. Perhaps, taking the split-timeline idea from Cross, you could create a storyline where one timeline The Day of Lavos occurs and Lavos is not destroyed, and another where he is, so the future you visit in the original game is still intact. I'm not sure where the story would go from there, but it's a good starting point!

I suppose now would be a good time to drag out my big old notebook of random plot ideas (yes, I really have one of those) and see what inspiration lies therein.  It's story time.


Wheels

I think you need to take a picture of this notebook. No, I demand you take a picture of that notebook. I await your jpeg.

Our three main characters (let's call them Ral, Tem, and Po for now) live in the peaceful little republic of Kastodia. One or more of them is related to the local crackpot genius inventor, Auntie Kia (short for Know-It-All), who has spent the last decade or so researching exotic time magics (mostly timeflow-related spells like Haste and Slow) in the hopes of deriving solid scientific principles from them.  The result of her hard labor is the Time Shield, an energy barrier that separates the bearer from the flow of time by one degree. That is, the shielded person can still witness events, but cannot influence or be directly influenced by them. Stepping up the power allows a greater degree of separation, resulting in the area affected by the shield to float up or down the history of the world.  Kia then rigs her entire house with Time Shield generators in the hope of turning the building into a waystation for time-tourists. Friends and family are all invited to attend the inaugural test.


Wheels

About a million different ideas just popped in my head that could be done with this base story, but I'll save them...

She flips the switch, the generators whirr into life, and the world as they know it disappears.  In its place is a bombed-out wasteland.  After the house is safely parked and stable in time, a quick excursion to the ruins of the venerable Kastodia Library turns up several old history books which show a markedly different past two centuries. Something besides them has been at work on the timeline.


Wheels

So essentially, they protected themselves from changes to the timeline at the same time someone went back and altered things? Very interesting. Why haven't more games explored the idea of time travel? There are so many different ways the story could go from here. Even have the supposed "villains" who altered things actually have some sort of noble goal. Perhaps they altered the timeline to save their own homeland, but this devastation was a side effect?

Now it's time to introduce the villains.  Far, far futureways at the end of history, three factions are vying for power.  Each group has its own Time-Shield and is trying to rearrange history so that its rivals cease to have a viable place in time.  To them, the temporal continuum is in a constant state of flux as a time-war rages.  The 200 year era of peace which led to Kia's inventive existence lasted all of fifteen minutes from their point of view. Now, three kids from Kastodia, their eccentric aunt, and their oddball families have created a fourth side in the conflict just by existing.


Wheels

I really have to say it's a good thing you can't win the contest because this is freaking brilliant. It solves the problems associated with characters no longer extant in the timeline (they're protected), allows for vastly different scenarios thanks to complete altering of the timeline, and could even tie into the original Chrono games very well. You'd then even have the option of having multiple versions of characters in your party that you've brought in to be protected from timeline changes. I want this game.

So how's that for a pitch?  One of the things I like about this setup is that there's no guarantee that the events necessary to restore the heroes' timeline will be happy ones, or even moral ones.  If it's a situation where an assassination changed the course of history in favor of them, then they'd have to side with the assassins against whoever is trying to prevent the murder from occurring.  There are lots of good story opportunities here.


Wheels

The opportunities are simply endless, and I like that the nature of the characters can be very "gray". To give the story some kind of "endgame" you can have one "true" storyline that the heroes need to get events back to, but have the process of doing so be very messy.

All I need now is a name... How does Chrono Chaos strikeyou?

This was fun. We should do it again sometime.

--Gaijin


Wheels

Chrono Chaos actually seems like the perfect name.

Indeed! In fact, I'll present a challenge to you right away. Pitch me a direct sequel to the SaGa game of your choice. Have fun!



You see? Someone brought up Tales first this time. You all saw it!

Dear Wheels on the bus,

Should North Americans be excited for the English release of Tales of Graces F? Click here for the answer

Wheels

Oh boy should they ever! Not just because it's a new Tales game, but it's the first Tales game we'll be getting which uses an off-shoot of the Tales of Destiny Remake battle system. Not only that, it's also only the second Tales game (after Hearts) to ditch a world map area in favor of all the locations being interconnected (think Final Fantasy XII if that sounds confusing). I think people will find this game very refreshing.


Okay, forgive that ill attempt at humor. I'm super ecstatic that the game is finally coming! That bit of news made my entire day... no, make that my entire MONTH! It's also nice to see that the "wishful thinking" that I wrote about last August is actually coming true, and that Bandai Namco is localizing the latter, superior PS3 version of the game for a change. It seems like they finally learned their lesson concerning which version of a game to localize. Now, what would make my entire YEAR would be the localization of the PS3 version of Vesperia too! Of course, we shouldn't complain to Bandai Namco if that doesn't happen, because it's nothing short of a miracle that we're getting Graces, and we should be thankful for that, not keep on whining for more so soon.


Wheels

Exactly! I can feel for people wanting the PS3 version of Vesperia, but we do already have a perfectly fine version of it, and we should take solace in that. From what I've heard, we should be very thankful we aren't getting the Wii version!

That does make me wonder something, though. Fans rightfully loathed Bandai Nacmo's decision to not localize the PS2 version of Symphonia and the PS3 version of Vesperia, since it meant that we were stuck with the inferior versions of those games. That obviously isn't going to be the case with Graces, but are there people out there who are upset anyway over the fact we aren't getting the Wii version, despite it being the inferior version? I don't even have a PS3, so you'd expect me to be one of those people who would want the Wii version brought over instead, but that ISN'T the case, because I'd be sick of them making the same mistake all over again, even if it meant that I'd have to wait until I acquire a PS3 to play the game. I wouldn't want fellow Tales fans to be denied the superior version again just because I'm so cheap.


Wheels

Was Symphonia on PS2 really superior? I'm sure it had extra features, but there's no way it could look quite as good as the Gamecube version, or have the blazing fast load times. I think I'd still prefer the Gamecube version even if the PS2 version had a ton of new features. Nintendo's adherence to quick load times on its systems is a good thing. As far as Vesperia, the PS3 was stilling taking its good sweet time to get going here, so bringing the 360 version over first and foremost (I'm sure they already knew of the PS3 version at that point), with its larger userbase was absolutely the correct move. It doesn't seem to have worked out, like a lot of JRPGs on the 360, but we can't say for sure the PS3 version would have done better.

As far as the Wii version goes, there seem to be some hints about them bringing Graces F to the Wii and bringing that over, but I think that would be a lot of work. I highly doubt they'd get a good return on such an investment. Honestly, I've said this before, but I think the only reason we never got the Wii version to begin with is due to the massive bugs. I think you'll want to get a PS3 anyway, as I have a feeling we will certainly see Xillia in the west.

Concerning all these ideas about a Chrono Trigger 2 and what the game could be about, well, who says it has to be a sequel? Just because it has a "2" in the title, that doesn't necessarily mean that it has to continue the story (case in point: Street Fighter IV is actually a prequel to Street Fighter III), so why not a prequel, or even a retelling of the same story? I know that the latter idea may seem dumb, but think about it. This game is all about time travel, which, as was mentioned in the last column, can get pretty complicated. So maybe they can remake the game with a Mass Effect level of freedom and consequence. Just think: what if you had to freedom to decide on what to do and how to go about doing it, and not only seeing the immediate consequences of your actions like in Mass Effect, but even the far-reaching consequences when you travel to the future? And still keep on playing the game and seeing it progress along the path of your past decisions?


Wheels

  This right here, is an absolutely fantastic starting point. The thought of the development process needed to make such a thing is headache-inducing. Who cares about that though? Let's take this idea as far as it will go. We aren't developers, we don't have to worry about actually making it work!

(Possible spoiler alert) For example, let's say you choose NOT to save the queen, Marle's ancestor, when she is kidnapped towards the beginning of the game, and then travel to the future. The kingdom could then be under the rule of a different dynasty, since Marle's came to an end, and maybe your character will have an entirely different love interest in her place for the rest of the game as a result. Or going a little more extreme, let's say you choose NOT to side with the humans in the stone age when they fight with the lizard people, and as a result, the future will be ruled by the lizard people, creating an entirely different game experience! (I realize that this could cause continuity problems with why your character can continue to even exist, but I'm just throwing out ideas, not laying the groundwork for a serious game)


Wheels

  Don't worry about continuity problems, you can always make brand-new rules for time travel, or even make whatever is used to accomplish it in this game protect you from changes in the timeline (see the first letter in this column). I think the key to making any time travel story is just to create a set of your own rules, and then stick to them. That way anything that may normally be a continuity problem will make sense in your world.

Furthermore, maybe instead of retelling the same game with a greater level of freedom, maybe the game could start as a prequel of sorts, taking place before the game. Going with nonauno's idea from the last column about a possible threat that Lavos defeated and took the place of, maybe the game could take a page from Eternal Darkness's book. In the beginning of that game, your character had the choice between three different deities, and his decision would determine which of those deities would become the "evil" god, and which would become the "good" god for the rest of the game (well, "good" in the sense that it opposes the evil one). Melding that with the Mass Effect idea, and you can even determine who will be the main bad guy in the game, and what the conflict in the world would be about, thus creating multiple, seemingly completely different RPG plot lines. Maybe what determines the game's universe and conflict being about either angels and Derris-Kharlan like in Tales of Symphonia, or about fonons and fomicry like in Tales of the Abyss could be what junction the universe took at the beginning of time in those games. Who's to say maybe those two games weren't once the same universe but took different time lines determined by different forces of the universe? A game that let's you determine the forces of the universe like this idea could be like a million different RPGs rolled into one!


Wheels

  I love this idea. Essentially make an open-world time travel RPG where the very fabric of time is your plaything. Completely impossible to develop of course. Let's not let that hold you back though. The only problem with this, is that we need some kind of end game. Some kind of driving force. Perhaps the "hero" needs to alter the timeline to destroy Lavos, by any means neccesary?

But wait! My crazy mind isn't done brain-storming yet! Since you have an actual time machine, maybe you can actually travel back in time to an earlier point in your game, and actually REDO quests differently, so that you can see all the possible outcomes from all the possible decisions without needing to play a different game file all over again! This would actually eliminate the need to save multiple files in case you regret some decisions early on, because, I mean, you have a freakin' time machine! You should be able to redo past decisions and mistakes! Unlike Mass Effect where you would have to replay the game to try all the different story progressions (the earlier the branching path, the more of the game you would have to replay), this game with its time machine should allow you to potentially see every possible story path and outcome to a decision all in just one single file! If you want to go nuts with this idea, maybe you can play all the way until you are about to reach the end of the game, but then hop in your trusty little time machine, and warp back all the way to the beginning of the game, and be able to redo the quests from the game's exposition and play the entire game all over again! I mean, the NPC's whom you interact with on the beginning quests would have no way of knowing that all that time has passed for you and your character (unless they can visibly see that you aged a few years since they last saw you a couple of hours ago), and would let you partake in those quests once again, and maybe try different story paths this time around. And since you would probably be leveled up still, that should reduce the tedium of repeating the easy parts of the game and let you power through them to see the different story paths. I understand that such an idea could take years or even decades of development time to actually realize, since you'd have to create thousands upon thousands of possible scenarios that goes even beyond Mass Effect's level of ambition, but I can still dream, can't I?


Wheels

This actually sounds more down to earth, if we keep it within the varying paths a game like Mass Effect could take. So, you would have a Mass Effect-type game, but could go back (leveled up fully of course) and redo things, possibly even save characters that ended up dying or just to change a decision that turned out poorly. Unlike the previous idea where you were talking about changing the very nature of the story, this idea is possible. So here's hoping Bioware somehow gets to make a new Chrono Trigger! Fantastic ideas!

Whew, typing that sure was a lot of fun! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed thinking it up!

FirstAid


Wheels

  I did very much enjoy reading it, was good to hear from you again! Look forward to discussing Tales of Graces with you in the future.


Ysy Sequel

First and foremost the story of course would have to be epic as always. I would like to see the story go further in the future than most would think. Based off the ending of Ys IV (the no-Canon one), I think the story should take place while Adol is with the mystery woman he married at the end of IV (though we all know the woman looks an awful lot like Lilia). This would be very interesting because Falcom never actually said who the woman was that he married. Of course this isn’t going to be the main story, just a backdrop for the timeline. Now that we finally focused on the five dragons of Altago in Ys VII, a lot of people may wonder what adventure could Adol go on next. I say they should delve more into the Eldeen winged people. They have been shrouded in mystery far too long. Adol could somehow end up on a floating continent hovering in the atmosphere. Depending on where the Eldeen people originally come from, Adol can even end up on another planet to explore or a populated and civilized moon. The possibilities are endless really and it makes me all excited thinking about it. The combat of course needs no change except I would still like a block option included, there were a few times in VII to where I would have preferred to block rather than run around at crazy speeds (although fun that can really be J)

Sincerely,

Lenoxseer

Wheels

I like the idea of focusing on the Eldeen winged people. The Ys series has been around long enough, and a game focusing on them seems like a great idea. I'm sure Falcom can even make it stand-alone, while still explaining some of the past mysteries about the series. I'm certainly down for this idea. Who knows when we'll even see an Ys VIII though, we all know how much Falcom likes to re-release past games.

I'm not sold on the idea of there being another planet involved, though. That idea gave me a strange flashback to Highlander 2 (which with its prominent Queen music gives us an even stranger connection to Ogre Battle).  I think it best for the Ys series not to get too sci-fi on us.

Great idea though!

The Last Hope (No not the fourth Star Ocean)

Hi!

I haven't written in forever, but when you mentioned your love for Dragon Quest IV I felt compelled. 

I know that DQ III is supposed to be the golden child of the series, but I've always loved IV so much!  Something about it hit the perfect balance between FF-style character focus and story development and DQ-style challenge, flexible order-of-events, and open world exploration.  Whereas III was extremely open, with little guidance as to where to proceed, IV let you discover the world and its characters in part first and then made you go out and explore.


Wheels

I'm guessing the love of Dragon Quest III comes from the job system. Dragon Quest IV doesn't even need it though! The structure of Dragon Quest IV just shocked me. I  can't come up with any 8-bit game that accomplished as much with story as IV did. Torneko's story especially is a lot of fun. Granted my opinions are biased, as I've only played the DS version. I kind of missed most of the series past the first game, until getting Dragon Warrior I&II for gameboy color as an unexpected Christmas present one year. Despite this, Dragon Quest IV is the first game in the series I actually finished!

What are your thoughts on the game?  How would you compare it to other DQ titles?

Keep up the fun columns!  Even if Tales has been talked to death.

JDX



Wheels

I kind of take the Tales stuff a bit too far yes, but a lot of people do write in about it. I shall cut back on the Tales puns though.

Dragon Quest IV, for me, is the best title of the 8-bit quartet. It even stands up reasonably well to the more recent titles (we'll see about VI next week!).  It would be hard for me to say it's better than the most recent entry though. Dragon Quest IX is just so massive. I'd say it stands as the simplest example of what makes Dragon Quest so beloved. The world of Dragon Quest IV feels real, and it's one you'll want to explore. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a great RPG.

IN CLOSING

That's all for this week! Someone sent in a great Ogre Battle sequel pitch I've been itching to post, so look for that next week. By then I'll probably be well on my way into Tactics Ogre (I never really played the original) so it seems like a good time to get that one up. So keep these Chrono Trigger/Ogre Battle/Ys sequel pitches coming!

-Wheels

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What I can't wait for:

1. Tales of Graces

2. Dragon Quest VI

3. Tactics Ogre

4. Ys 1+2

5. Radiant Historia


On my Playlist:

1. Resonance of Fate Soundtrack

2. Final Fantasy XII soundtrack

3. Tales of Graces Soundtrack



Hot Topics:

1. Does Resonance of Fate deserve a sequel (spiritual or otherwise)?

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3. Does the crazy complexity of the Armored Core series qualify any of the games as RPGs?

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