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Dracula's Dungeon of Classic JRPGs and Other Nonsense

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Pierre, Ace Attorney

Maybe this isn't news, but...



Lucca: "Oh ho ho ho.....!"

Lucca does the ojou-sama laugh. I can't remember how they translate this into English.

Anyway the next chapter of the game is the return to present day. This is one of the more memorable parts of the game. When you get back to the castle with Marle, instead of thanking you for bringing her back, the minister accuses you of kidnapping (and of being filthy, which, rude) and arrests you. You're then thrust into a sudden courtroom scene with its own specific music (always in my head still) where the minister lists your apparent sins and a defense attorney named Pierre tries to defend you.

You can be convicted either guilty or innocent, and the decision depends on things you did or didn't do at the Millennial Fair. Like, if you rescued the girl's kitten, that's a point in your favor. If you took the old guy's lunch, that's a point against you. The first time I played this game, this segment caught me totally off guard. I'd been pretty thorough at the fair, and the more things you interact with, the more likely you are to be convicted guilty in court. I felt so bad! I didn't mean to take that dude's lunch, honest!

But regardless of the verdict, the outcome of the chapter is the same. The judge sentences us to three days in a cell...but when the minister escorts us to the dungeon, he tells the soldiers there that instead of being released after three days, we're to be executed. Jeez! What crawled up this old guy's ass? I honestly don't remember if he ends up being a monster too, or if he just hates us for no particular reason.

Naturally like all good JRPG dungeons, we're locked inside with all of our equipment and items. What follows is the game's second dungeon, wherein Crono sneaks out by killing lots and lots of guards. At the end is the game's second boss and the first one that feels like a real Chrono Trigger boss.



Minister: "Go, Dragon Tank! Give these lowly terrorists a beating!"

Does the English translation use "terrorists?" I don't remember.

The Dragon Tank, unlike Yakura, requires more than just brute force to defeat. If you're smart and you check around the floor in the office just prior to the battle, you'll find the tank's design specs, which key you into how the thing works and how to defeat it. Its most powerful move is to drive forward and run over Crono and Lucca. It can't do this attack without its wheels. But as long as the head is functioning, it will usually use its turn to heal the body and the wheels.

So we have to target the head first (which resists magic), then the other parts of the tank. It takes keen use of potions to keep us healed between run-over attacks, but it's otherwise not too difficult of a boss as long as you were paying attention.

When we finally get to the castle entrance, there's a brief reprise of the scene from 600 AD where Crono is nearly arrested by the guards. Marle comes down the stairs, using the same dialogue on the guards as she did in the past. But it doesn't work. So instead, she throws off her gown and joins us in escaping. We're forced into the Guardia woods, where we quickly find another time gate.

But we have no idea where this one will take us...

(You guys all know where it leads, but I'll pretend this is suspenseful anyway)

So hey, when you first played CT, were you judged guilty, or innocent?
 

jpfriction

A most radical pontiff
Guilty the first time. Always a perfect boy after that (although I’m pretty sure you can not avoid bumping into Marle so there is always one jerk who votes guilty).
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
If I remember correctly, when you walk over the minister's back he curses you and says "覚えていろ!" which translates to basically "Remember this!" but is used almost exclusively by henchmen or villains when they are comedically defeated in children's cartoons and TV. A proper localization would probably come out to "I'll get you next time!"
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
  • In the U.S. version, Lucca calls Marle "Nadia." I'm not sure how this was rendered in Japanese, because in my version, she just affixes "dia" to the end of whatever name I gave her. So she keeps calling her "Funkodia."
You're blowing my mind here.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Guilty the first time. Always a perfect boy after that (although I’m pretty sure you can not avoid bumping into Marle so there is always one jerk who votes guilty).
The outcome of that decision is determined by whether you're walking or running when you bump into her.
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Moderator
The outcome of that decision is determined by whether you're walking or running when you bump into her.
So what you're saying is... there's always one jerk who votes guilty.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Does the English translation use "terrorists?" I don't remember.

Not in this instance but the chancellor uses the word a couple of times during the trial and incarceration procedures, so the nomenclature wasn't edited out of the game or anything.

Disclosure: the above minutiae doesn't come from any kind of personal expertise or familiarity with the game; I haven't played Chrono Trigger that much because it's never really connected with me that strongly (by my own relative scale, anyway; I've finished the game a few times on DS). I'm playing the SNES release for the first time in the background of this thread, so that's why I can speak to its odds and ends right now and possibly not after.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Future Sick

The stray subspace gate takes us to an unknown land of ash-heavy winds, muted colors, and droning ambience where there used to be rousing music. We arrive inside a habitat dome with a sealed door that gives us the same mysterious jingle we get whenever we try to open the sealed chests we've found elsewhere. Outside, we see ruined cities and ripped up highways.

From here there's only two places to go: "No. 16 Ruins" to the north and "Trann Dome" to the south. By the way, having just looked at a guide, the English localization for SNES treats "ruins" as "lab," which is just odd to me. It's clearly the wreck of a city.

Anyway, inside the dome we find the last remnants of society. They have an automatic revitalizing machine but no food. The world has been taken over by ghosts and mutants. No hope is left anywhere. But they say if we can brave the mutants in the No. 16 ruins, we can maybe find other traces of society. Following this are several short dungeon segments, one racing minigame, one new playable character, and the first glimpses of the game's ultimate threat.

Some observations from my trip through the ruins:

  • When I first played this game, this was the part where Chrono Trigger really gripped me. Far-future ruins is a favorite theme of mine. I think at the time I actually wished there was a lot more to this slice of the time pizza, but nowadays I feel like there's just enough. It's a lot to swallow.

  • The game does a lot with not much to drive home the atmosphere of 2300 AD. The people living in the high-tech domes wear rags; the ruins crawl not just with mutated creatures but with ghosts; rather than bothering to equip themselves with weapons and fight, the people sell them to you. The elder of Arris Dome says he hasn't seen people as lively as us in ages.

  • The game pulls some linguistic tricks to demonstrate the nature of some of 2300 AD's residents. Computer systems and unintelligent robots speak entirely in katakana (this is seen in many other games as well). Robots that have some intelligence, like Johnny, drop the occasional kanji into their kana (incidentally, it's nearly impossible for me to understand what Johnny is saying, except for when he ends a sentence in "BABY!"). A fully intelligent robot, like Robo, speaks mostly in hiragana and kanji, but some of his words are still in katakana.

  • The two mutant frogs in the underwater passage also have a funny linguistic quirk. The first frog (Kobun) ends his sentences in kero (ribbit). The second frog (Oyabun) ends his sentences in gero (another way of saying ribbit). Whenever Oyabun notices us standing nearby, he says "let's get outta here, ribbit!" When you say "run away!" (逃げろ) out loud, it sounds like "nigero!" (Be careful how you pronounce this if you say it out loud and other people are around.) But Oyabun merges the word with his vocal quirk (逃ゲロゲロ), so it ends up sounding like "nigerogero!" It's cute and I wonder how the translators approached it, if they bothered with it at all.

  • The scene where we first see Lavos made me realize something about this game that I probably didn't pick up any of the previous times I played it - at this point, Lucca and Marle are the primary actors of this game's plot. They are proactive while Crono is reactive. Part of this is by simple consequence of the silent protagonist, but the ultimate effect is a JRPG from 1995 with two women driving its plot forward. And that feels pretty good.

  • The part where Lucca repairs Robo, Robo discovers he's "defective," then you're forced to stand by while his former comrades beat the crap out of him, is still heartbreaking to me. By the way, the other R-Series robots speak entirely in katakana.

  • Robo is shaped like a friend, so I have named him Torneko.

That's all for today's chapter. I left off after departing 2300 AD and entering the End of Time.
 

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
I really like "Lab." Its very evocative, especially in its inaccuracy.

Where else would you mutate a tomato but in a lab?
 

gogglebob

The Goggles Do Nothing
(he/him)
The two mutant frogs in the underwater passage also have a funny linguistic quirk. The first frog (Kobun) ends his sentences in kero (ribbit). The second frog (Oyabun) ends his sentences in gero (another way of saying ribbit). Whenever Oyabun notices us standing nearby, he says "let's get outta here, ribbit!" When you say "run away!" (逃げろ) out loud, it sounds like "nigero!" (Be careful how you pronounce this if you say it out loud and other people are around.) But Oyabun merges the word with his vocal quirk (逃ゲロゲロ), so it ends up sounding like "nigerogero!" It's cute and I wonder how the translators approached it, if they bothered with it at all.

Does anyone think the prevalence of Frogs all over the dang place in Chrono Trigger was supposed to mean something, or was it just a matter of reusing expressive sprites across the epochs?
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Moderator
At minimum, I'd say it means someone on the team really liked frogs.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Seeing the SNES script for the first time as I am makes me both very impressed with what Woolsey was able to do with the limitations and constraints imposed upon him, and also incredibly glad that Slattery got to do the revised localization for the DS release, vastly improving the consistency of the script's voice and parlance. For example, someone like Magus in particular comes off as almost totally tonally incoherent to me on SNES, where he has these loud and weirdly sneering and pettily cruel lines as opposed to a reserved coldness and detachment.
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
The part where Lucca repairs Robo, Robo discovers he's "defective," then you're forced to stand by while his former comrades beat the crap out of him, is still heartbreaking to me.
A while back I found out you can actually still move your party during this sequence, but you're forced back if you try to interfere. Makes it all the more heartbreaking: These robots are pounding your new robot friend, and you can't do a thing to them until they try to take you down too.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
A while back I found out you can actually still move your party during this sequence, but you're forced back if you try to interfere. Makes it all the more heartbreaking: These robots are pounding your new robot friend, and you can't do a thing to them until they try to take you down too.

That's a good point, and I did actually try to run Crono into the battle but kept getting thrown back. I really like how Marle (or Lucca, depending on who's with you) crawls into the garbage chute by herself and drags Robo back out.
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
Yeah, I remember doing the "no, stop!" thing at that point. It's pretty powerful how the script gives the player some agency but not enough to actually do what you'd want to do, as a means of building tension and frustration.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
But Why is Lavos in a Bucket?

The End of Time is one of my favorite spots in Chrono Trigger. It's a liminal space, or in mechanical terms a hub area where you can collect yourself, test out new techniques, and maybe gather information about where to go next. I think of other locations like Dark Space in Illusion of Gaia or the Normandy in the Mass Effect series. You often return to them after times of great stress, meaning you associate them with a release of tension. And like many of these liminal spaces, the End of Time has a calm, introspective tune to go along with it, which also ends up being possibly my favorite single track in the game:


The End of Time itself is quite a small area:



The iron fences, cobblestone floors, and soft lighting from a single street lamp give it a familiar, human feeling. Somewhat more unsettling are the reddish pyramidal undersides of the "islands" and the cloudy starfield we seem to float within. Past the square with the lamp is a stone bridge that leads nowhere. As far as I know, the aesthetics of the End of Time are never explained, and that's fine with me.

The reason we show up here is because we tried to travel through time with more than three people at once. The old man who lives here explains that too many people zipping around like this can cause rips in the fabric of space-time, so we have to leave our excess characters here. Fortunately, we can change our party build at any time by pressing Y, even when we're not in this area. The reason this works is also not explained, which is fine with me.

There's only three areas with appurtenances in this zone - from the left side we can warp to any time zone we've already visited - sort of. On first visit, we can use the gates to return to 1,000 AD, to 2,600 AD, and to the stone age. The latter, of course, we've never been to. We can't, so far, return to 600 AD. Through the north gate we can meet Spekkio, a spry gremlin who describes himself as the God of War. Spekkio serves as a combat test dummy, but he also teaches us our first magic spells. Why does the God of War hang out by himself at the End of Time? It's not really explained, but that's fine with me.

In the center is the aforementioned old man, who at this point in the game goes unnamed (and may always be that way...I actually don't remember!). In his courtyard is a save point, an HP/MP restore point, and, of course, Lavos in a bucket, whose presence is referenced, but not explained, by the old man.

Why is Lavos in a bucket? Well, like I said, it's not explained. And that's fine.
 
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YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
The End of the Time was the first instance I can remember of being confronted with memento mori, and it only got worse as I got older and thought about it at all for any length of... time. So that's pretty amazing tbh for a children's RPG.
 

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
You do learn who the old man is, and even meet him once or twice before his arrival there.
 

Bulgakov

Yes, that Russian author.
(He/Him)
The End of Time is Chrono Trigger at its most holistic. It makes you feel like you've broken the game and gotten into a special backstage area.
 

Destil

DestilG
(he/him)
Staff member
There was once a person from the sky kingdom who fell to Earth and was adopted by a woodcutter. I am not sure if I fully understood this text, but I think it was implying that that person may have been Drac.
So this is actually covered and hinted at pretty well in the original NES translation, but the woodcutter was your father. The person who fell to earth was your mother, and is an elf in the castle who shys away from the party while the other elf in the same room says something like "Ignore them, sister." Your mom also showed up in your ruined village at the end of the game.

Now is when I should point out that you can apparently use the Baron's Hunting Horn here to summon the wagon and switch out party members. If I knew that, I would have totally swapped in Mannea instead of Minnea. More on that later, though.
Good job because it's actually much better than that: the wagon can climb the volcano, so you can bring the entire party to the final battle and switch people out mid fight.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
So this is actually covered and hinted at pretty well in the original NES translation, but the woodcutter was your father. The person who fell to earth was your mother, and is an elf in the castle who shys away from the party while the other elf in the same room says something like "Ignore them, sister." Your mom also showed up in your ruined village at the end of the game.

I kinda figured that's what the lady in sky town was trying to say - but I totally missed the deal with the elf! I definitely remember one elf acting weirdly and wondering if it was yet another quirky DQ NPC or something more. I also assumed the elf in the village at the end was your childhood friend coming back, but it being the mother actually makes a bit more sense.

Good job because it's actually much better than that: the wagon can climb the volcano, so you can bring the entire party to the final battle and switch people out mid fight.

LOL jfc, I really made this a lot harder on myself than it needed to be!
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Pass the Vinegar

Through the warp gate in the End of Time, we find ourselves back in 1,000 AD, but in the wrong spot! We pop out of a cupboard in the village of Medina, which is south of Guardia. Medina is populated entirely by monsters! Fortunately, we're in peacetime, so most of the villagers in Medina aren't hostile. But some have carried a grudge for 400 years. Some things we see or learn in the area...

  • Many monsters still worship the Dark Lord, and worse, they connect him to Lavos.
  • Medina is the first place we catch a glimpse of Magus, in the form of a statue of him in the town square.
  • The Medinan shopkeep won't sell to us. We can plead with him, but he sics the ogre knight in the shop on us if we do. Even if we manage to defeat the knight, the shopkeep sells to us at a thousand percent markup.
  • There's a mysterious blue pyramid north of town. I don't remember its purpose.
  • The elder of the village, Vinegar VIII, tells us he's a descendent of a general who served the Dark Lord during the monster war. (More on Vinegar later)
  • There's an old guy with a weapon collection west of town who I seem to remember has an important role in the story later, but I don't remember the exact details.

In order to get back to Guardia, we have to go through Heckran cave, north of the old guy's house. The monsters in the cave are resistant to everything except magic, which means this is the game's clue that you should have learned magic from Spekkio by now. It's otherwise a pretty quick and easy dungeon.

Once we're back to Guardia, we can reconnect with a few characters. Lucca's father, Taban, gives her a special vest that resists fire. Fritz, who we rescued in the Guardia dungeons, gives us ten middle ethers as a thank-you. Crono's mother is just happy to see us. I also paid the ten gold to ride the ferry, because I forgot where it went. It takes us west to the village of Palipoli. At the moment there's not much notable there. I did forget about the rich village elder, who pays you ten gold to do a funny dance. And his daughter has one of my favorite lines of dialogue in the game:



"The person I hate the most in this world? Of course, it's my father."

Anyway, the thing we actually need to do now is go back to the Millennial Fair and return to 600 AD. Marle and Lucca assume that the dark lord of that era might be the key to stopping Lavos. Notable stuff about this revisit to the era:

  • The Xenan bridge is repaired, but the monsters are pushing their assault and the kingdom is running low on food. The castle is full of the wounded and the starving.
  • Everyone is waiting for the arrival of the legendary hero (more very Dragon Quest language here), who supposedly carries the Symbol of the Hero and a legendary blade given to him by the king of Guardia.
  • Palipoli, to the south, is apparently where the hero lives.

The second visit to the Xenan bridge is where we first meet the original Vinegar. He attacks us with a horde of skeletons, and just as we cross the bridge, he unites them into a single gigantic bone creature which is known as ZOMBOR in the western releases. In Japanese, this guy's name is ジャンクドラガー, which roughly comes out to "Junk Dragger," but maybe possibly could be more accurately "Junk Draugr," referring to the undead creatures of Norse myth.

By the way, we also learn of the dark lord's other two generals, Mayonai (マヨネー) and Soysau (ソイソー). So, yes, these very DBZ food-name villains were changed to rock 'n roll references for the American versions. Since the literal translations of their names sounds pretty awkward, I'm gonna be referring to them as Vinegar, Mayo, and Soy for my playthrough.

Once we beat up the Junk Draugr, we can freely travel south through the village of Sandrini and then to Palipoli. Notably, the desert between these two cities present in the modern era is woods in the middle ages, and there's a house here where a woman tells us she and her missing husband have been hoping to protect these woods.

The elder of Palipoli in the middle ages is happy to report that his son, Tartar, is the legendary hero, and bears the hero badge. He seems eager to take the fame but doesn't seem interested in the responsibility it may carry with it. Tartar, meanwhile, is missing, having apparently gone into the Frog Woods west of town. And that's where we'll go next!
 

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
Could it maybe be something like Junk Drawer?

Cause, you know, that's where you keep your skeletons...
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
For Whom the Frog Bell Tolls

The frog woods west of Palipoli is a short three-screen area with some bad snakes and amusingly named "Snack Frogs" which serve entirely as HP recovery for the snakes. I don't think I've mentioned this already, but Chrono Trigger's enemy encounters are rarely boring. There's almost always a mild puzzle element at play - in this case, if you attack one of the snakes, they have an automatic counter-attack where they eat one of the snack frogs and recover all the damage you just did to them. So to optimize the battle, you need to attack the frogs first. But if you don't beat a frog in one attack, it retaliates with a water spell. And now, with spells at play, few battles feel like "mash A to win."

Anyway, our friend Frog lives in a little cave under a bush in this forest. He refuses to help us, though, claiming that there's nothing he can do.

If we head north, though, we can find Denadoro Mountain, where the legendary sword GRANDORION supposedly sleeps. Nope! In the original version it's not called the masamune. The vaguely Euro/DQ sounding title feels a little more appropriate to the middle ages setting, to my ears. Anyway, in this wooded area we first meet Tartar, the trouble-making kid who found the Hero Badge in the woods and figured that made him the legendary hero. He's in over his head.

The notable enemy at the Denadoro Mountain is an ogre-looking species called Ougons. This is another puzzle encounter which took me a little while to figure out: normally, they're pretty weak. A single hit from Crono will take one out. But sometimes, they come equipped with a giant hammer, and that hammer boosts up their defenses and gives them area-of-effect attacks. However, using a fire-element attack on them will cause the hammer to burn up, removing their threat.

So at the top of the mountain we find a cave where the sword is buried within a rock, in true "who shall be the new king of England" fashion. It's also guarded by two children, and when we try to take the sword as is our JRPG birthright, they change into two gremlins who test our worthiness. They're not too tough, though. But that's because they hide a secret! When we defeat them, they unite, Dragon Ball Z fusion style, into a single, far more powerful form.

This is a notable point in the game since it's the first place we hear the second-tier boss battle music!


I love battle music in JRPGs, man. The thrill of realizing "oh, crap, this is a serious moment, and I hope I brought enough ethers," is what I live for.



So, let's talk about this boss's name. In the English version, the gremlin guardians are named Masa and Mune, and they unite into the singular Masamune. In Japanese, the gremlins are named Gran (グラン) and Rion (リオン). Their combined form is Gran and Rion (グランとリオン), which phonetically ends up sounding like the sword's name (グランドリオン) with the middle "do" changed to a "to." This cute wordplay is lost in the English translation, unfortunately. But I'm not sure how I'd solve it given character limits and time restraints.

The boss itself lives up to its music, with several powerful attacks including a charge-up "SHINKU-HA!" wind attack that always requires a round of HP maintenance afterward.

But our reward turns out to be incomplete. The Grandorion is broken, and we have only the blade. The hilt belongs to Frog, who after seeing the broken sword, gives it us, saying there's nothing more that can be done. But Robo notices a name on the side..."BOSCH," which may be linked to the weapon collector of the same name in the modern era. That Bosch indeed recognizes the sword, telling us that it can only be re-forged with a certain mineral known as Dristone that existed in the ancient past.

So it's time to go to the ancient past!

Continued...
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Joe & Mac 3

The prehistoric age doesn't fuck around. As soon as we hit the ground we're attacked by dinopeople and helped by Ayla, the game's final playable character for a while. Ayla wastes no time in pinning Crono against the mountainside and telling him how much she likes strong men.



"All of you also strong! Ayla love strong people. Men and women."

Bi icon confirmed, I guess. Also I've named her Aleena.

What follows is a quick fetch quest where we win a drinking contest with Ayla but lose the Gate Holder after we all pass out drunk, then have to recover it from the dinopeople. Some notes about this part:

  • I love the music in the prehistoric age. Especially Azala's theme.
  • The big fat dinosaur enemies in the dinopeople hideout are puzzle encounters too. You can stun them with thunder magic, which reduces their HP.
  • You also have to use this technique during the battle against Azala's hench-creature, the Triceraton dude known as Nizbel. The difference with Nizbel is after a couple of turns, he will discharge the electricity and hit the whole party for a lot of damage.
  • I super enjoy the prehistoric party at Ayla's village. Robo doesn't have much fun, but Marle tries everything and dances and just has a grand ol' time. I love that she's down to clown no matter how weird the situation gets.
  • The dinopeople (恐竜人, literally "dinosaur person") are called Reptites in the US version, which I think is a snappy and good localization.
  • Ayla's village introduces a bartering mechanic where you can trade items you find in the forests for various unique weapons and armor. The game doesn't tell you what you're about to get, though, so you just have to either guess or use a guide. I guessed and got a nice new gun for Lucca and a new sword for Crono.

I finished out this section with the Dristone and the Gate Holder recovered, so now the next step is to re-forge the Grandorion!
 

jpfriction

A most radical pontiff
I love that little bartering side quest. So many fun inconsequential things like that in this game.

I always made sure to have plenty of cat food.
 
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