Character Development and Replay Value in CC

by Kris Wolfe 

(This is a semi-rebuttal to "Replayability in CC" and some other eds which implied that CC was less than stellar for not providing a detailed life history and 10-minute FMV of every single character.)

Warning: Several Chrono Cross Spoilers!

I think Chrono Cross is God. This may be because I just beat it for the first time recently, but frankly, I can't wait to play it again. What for? Several reasons. Firstly, obviously, I want the other endings. Who doesn't? I recall getting most of the CT endings, and I fully intend to do the same for CC. Who doesn't want to see the "Nikki Concert" ending? My friend and I were practically drooling at the thought. But I won't go on with this reason since it's been mentioned before and it's obvious.

I want to replay this game badly. I look forward to replaying it several times over my winter break. And what for? I am the kind of person who wants buff characters and all the good items, but that's just so it'll be easier to blow through the game. That's not what draws me to replay. However, you must admit that keeping your stuff and your stats adds significantly to the replay value for ANY game. I am concerned with the plot and characters, not the gameplay. I really enjoyed the CC battle system, but in any game I like the plot of, I want to replay it and frankly, boring tromping around getting the stats and items needed to simply PLAY the game without dying all the time is not something I enjoy. For example, I really liked FF8. But the battle system was dull and getting 100 curse spikes for Quisty or all the spells I needed for stats or all the parts of the lionheart was, frankly, deadly boring. But I did it. But do I want to do it again? Hell no! I love the plot and the characters, but it'll be a while before I can psyche myself up again to go through that hell of collection again. Before the retards who say "If you don't like gameplay then why don't you read a book?" even open their mouths, I'll tell you. A video game is an experience wholly unlike a book. I enjoy reading, but the interactive fun of gaming is completely different. Fighting is NOT the whole extent of "gameplay" and just because someone dislikes it doesn't mean that s/he doesn't like "gameplay." I actually enjoy exploring complex dungeons, running around talking to people in towns, discovering side quest stuff you wouldn't get if you didn't seek it out (just how would you do that in a book?), picking who is in my party, and doing puzzles. I just don't like fighting. Beware, I'm halfway through a long editorial on this subject so... soon you'll have the oppurtunity to peruse my opinion in its full glory.

So back to CC. For me replay of this game is the characters. As someone else correctly noted, there are over 40 characters in this game and it's such a pain in the butt to redo elemental grids that you usually want to use the same ones, plus you don't care about half of them. But there was more to it than that for me. That person complained about character development, but I've discovered that, though it's not as great as CT (what do you expect for a game with that many characters? Too many, I agree, but I'm not discussing that), there IS character development in CC. Usually when you get them and sometimes when you get their level 7, but there's more than that! (Shock!) To the person who thought only Kid and Serge get plot; it's true they get way more than everyone else, but they ARE the main characters; it's only to be expected. Much like in FF8 where only Squall and Laguna get plot (Rinoa doesn't. Seriously. How much non-Squall development does she get? No more than anyone else) or in other games where there are several characters. Only games like Lunar, which have such a linear plot that the whole small cast is scripted for each point in the game, or games like Wild ARMs, which only has 3 characters, is big plot with lots of character development possible for lots of characters. FF7 probably did the best in this regard. Anyway, when you compare 7 characters over 3 discs in a very character-focused game to over 40 characters (not counting NPCs) over 2, well, you see that it's not fair.

Anyhow, there is character development for other people in CC, though. It's definitely not equal; Luccia and Draggy get crap for character development, but Nikki and Karsh get piles of it. And I found that really, the more you use someone, the more development you get. It seems like at points in the game there's dialogue assigned to character #2 and character #3 in the party; but at many other points, anyone you take has original dialogue. And frankly, the plot revolved around our cute little Sergiepoo, but we learned almost nothing about him. Like Crono, Serge was almost a blank slate as far as personality. Since you always know what he "said" but never the exact words, you're free to give him whatever personality you like. What else do we know about Serge? Almost nothing. You make his choices (does he like Leena or not?), you direct his path, and his past is more or less the game's plot. It's not character development to know that someone was mauled by a panther or almost drowned at 10. Character development is finding out about the person's personality. Many times that means you find out about their past, because life events usually influence people. But as I said, Serge gets nothing. Kid is one of the most "developed" characters in the game, but... half the time that's only if she's in your party. Having someone in your party is crucial to any character development in CC. I can say quite honestly that Nikki, Karsh, and Glenn were some of the most developed characters in the game, and at least Nikki and Karsh had the same amount of character development as Kid, but the one who takes the personality prize for the game is probably Harle. She's also the only character you don't need in your party to get the full extent of personality from.

So why do you need someone in your party? Because as I said, there's usually at least a bit of original dialogue for almost everyone in the game at several points, but if they aren't in your party, you'll never know it. Did you take Nikki to fight Marcy? Did you take Miki to talk to Nikki? Who did you take to fight Dario? Did you take Leena into Termina to talk with the girl in the store, or Karsh to talk to Zippa and Zappa? Did you take Glenn back to relive old memories in the shed? Did you do the Magical Dreamers concert? Did you take Harle to the Hermit's Hideaway when Kid was in a coma? These aren't required things, nor do they really get you anything, but they tend to result in at least a little dialogue or action which can help you resolve people's characters a bit. Also, every character has a different little speech when you go to fight the boss, and a different little thing they say to you during the "good" ending. If you pick a character and have that person in your party as often as you can, you sometimes learn a great deal about them. CC is not a game where it was even POSSIBLE to make everyone have much plot relevance (how could they know if your party was Serge, Glenn, and Kid, or Draggy, Starky, and Mojo?) but if you go out of your way, or play the game through again using different characters at different parts, you'll find that most of the characters do have a little something to them (and some characters have a LOT to them).

This leads back to replay value: for someone who loves several characters but didn't have the chance to really play with some of them, there's quite a bit of replay value in this game. Over that, simply having all your stuff back and replaying through again fast, just to see everything again, is nice. As the person who wrote the original "CC has no replay value" editorial said, they want the same "feeling" again playing the game. S/he stated that s/he couldn't get that from CC, but did get it from FF7. Let me tell you something. I got almost NO feeling from FF7 at all. I hate Aeris and I was glad she died, frankly. But there wasn't really any "cheering" part of FF7 for me. I liked it, and I enjoyed the gameplay and story, but it wasn't so great that I felt the need to replay it. On the other hand, I'd probably be playing FF8 again right now if it had a new game+ (that crappy battle system is too much) and I just GLOW at the idea of seeing the whole plot of CC again. I'd play through it all again to get the exact same ending again, not to mention all of the other ones (which probably include more of that neat "character development" stuff). I was not "cheering" when I killed Lynx... but I WAS practically moved to tears by some parts, and other parts of the game were just so fun or cool that I'd love to see them again. (Especially that FMV of Serge naked. Viva la screencapture!)

Well, that's pretty much it. I hope I've convinced you not only to replay the damn game, but also that if you look, character development is indeed to be found.

--Kris Wolfe [Angry cow productions]

Original Editorial : Replayablity in Chrono Cross
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