Great Moments in RPG History
I fired a rocket at this light tank yesterday and killed the tank and four guys inside–
No wait; I’m not here to talk about rocket-propelled grenades. I’m here to talk about role-playing games, and some of the incredible moments that I’ve experienced. There are, of course, spoilers ahead, so watch out!
Magus Joins the Party (Chrono Trigger)
The party is in trouble. Crono has just bit the dust, and Phoenix Downs won’t work. Your Epoch’s been stolen, given wings, and given back, but you can’t actually use it because Marle won’t shut up until you “search the area,” even though the vast population of the world just died from the recent Lavos attacks. So you’re off to the North Cape, where the man in purple explains his tragic past and challenges Frog to a one-on-one duel. If you decline, the black wizard actually joins you in the war against Lavos (although he really doesn’t care about your party, except that he needs you to get his strength back).
Since this game, it’s been common in RPGS for your foes to become your friends (or even your friends to become your foes). But for me, as a young lad, this was an amazing turn of events! Magus, the mid-boss of the game, has actually joined your side! (Minus much of his strength.) Woo hoo!
The Mana Tree is Your Mother! (Secret of Mana)
You have just ventured through the volcano, through grueling green mushrooms and other nasty creatures. You get to the Mana Tree, and she says that she’s…your mother? Does that mean you’re a walking tree, and woodpeckers like to peck at your kneecaps? As it turns out, the tree was once human, and she was the wife of the original Mana Knight, who is your father. Maybe the tree is inhabited by different people, because the tree is said to be centuries old. I remember walking around trying to talk to every tree in the game thinking that one of them was the Mana Tree in disguise, or perhaps the Mana Tree’s cousin.
Also, Santa Claus is in this game. Apparently the children stopped believing in him because Mana was becoming weak. That’s funny. Santa is an actual person in this game (though there’s no sign of Jesus), and people still don’t believe in him?
Lynx and Serge Switch Bodies and are also Father and Son, Sort of (Chrono Cross)
I thought I’d seen it all with Chrono Trigger and all the other RPGs I’d played. Chrono Cross, one of the most underrated RPGs and sequels, has a super twist about halfway through that still managed to catch me by surprise.
When Serge was a young boy, he and his father Wazuki set sail to find a doctor to heal the injuries he’d sustained from a Panther Demon attack. Serge was healed, but Wazuki came into contact with the FATE computer, which corrupted him and transformed him into a physical manifestation of FATE itself with its own, much darker, maniacal twist. He was now known as Lynx.
Lynx manipulated many nations in Another World. He eventually tricked Serge and his party into following him to Fort Dragonia, where he activated the Dragon’s Tear and switched bodies with Serge. Serge didn’t know what was going on, and his allies knew even less. Kid was hell-bent on destroying Lynx and attacked Serge (as Lynx). Lynx then furthered his plans, terrorizing the land as his son, Serge. Meanwhile, all of Serge’s allies left actual Serge behind, and he had to continue through a major part of the game as Lynx, acquiring new allies and trying to convince people that he wasn’t actually evil. Remember the signs in Karakiko village telling people to watch out for Link? It’s like that times 100.
It was a major plot twist, but really, the entire game was crazy like that. It was a very deep and dark continuation of Chrono Trigger. There’s been many stories where two people switch bodies (an episode of TaleSpin comes to mind), but none are as cool as Chrono Cross.
Hamburgers Taste Better with Ketchup (EarthBound)
EarthBound was certainly a nice change of pace, eh? Early on, you get to use everyday household items such as frying pans and pizzas as weapons and healing items. How cool was it to order your first pizza on your way into a treacherous dungeon? A nice little mid-dungeon pick-me-up. Mmm, I can still taste those 16-bit anchovies. What was really cool was that your food items could be combined for great justice! Though, sometimes, the results didn’t taste so good. Cookies and mustard don’t go well together, at least according to Ness.
You Get Flammie (Secret of Mana)
I remember in the mushroom village area, after you rescue Flammie from the serpent who is weak against thunder magic, Flammie’s just sitting there on a throne in the castle. I guess he’s a prince now. Anyways, I’d heard in Nintendo Power, or perhaps from a friend, that you eventually get to ride on Flammie. I talked to Flammie about 50 times after that, and each time he just whistled at me and laughed. I came back throughout the game to check up on young Flammie, and he just kept on whistling at me. And just when I’d lost all hope of riding Flammie, Flammie swooped in to pick us up and save us from a burning castle!
This was the first real RPG I played (Mystic Quest and Dragon Warrior didn’t count), so I didn’t know that getting a flying vehicle was so common. How awesome was Flammie? You could use the drum in just about any place in the game, and he’d come and pick you up. He didn’t break down or need rare materials from the corners of the Earth, and you didn’t get into battles when riding him. Ahh, how sweet it was.
I remember when I got to the end-boss of this game, I couldn’t figure out how to beat him. Then I went to summer camp for a week, and it was there that I learned how to cast the Mana Sword magic and defeat the dragon. It’s amazing how much the Internet has changed how people learn about videogames.
Chicken and Egg Paradox Ending (Final Fantasy VIII)
The ending of Final Fantasy VIII has Squall and the party travelling to the future to stop Ultimecia. After her defeat, she returns to the past and possesses Edea, starting the course of events that takes place throughout the game. So which happened first? It’s a classic chicken-and-egg story, and it totally blows my mind. I thought after Chrono Cross that nothing could top that. This was the last RPG that I’ve played recently; it was my senior year of college and a year of reflection. Also, you play as a group of students for most of the game, so that was fun and appropriate, too.
I hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane. Please share any of your experiences with any of your great moments.