What is it about video game characters that resonate with us and make us care about them? Is it their otherworldly abilities that make us feel like we’re living out our dreams of being a hero, or perhaps their stories of wonder and awe that captivate us?
In this weekly series, I will be taking a closer look at some of the most beloved and respected characters in the realm of video gaming, as well as taking a second glance at some characters that we perhaps wish we could permanently erase from our minds.
Please be advised that *spoilers* can and probably will happen.
Chapter One: The Time-Traveling Journey of a Silent Protagonist
I would like to start off by saying, yes, I do consider Crono from Chrono Trigger a silent protagonist, even if he does have a couple of sentences that he so eloquently utters to Lucca and Marle in one of the endings of the game, or the fact that he mumbles some words in a cameo appearance in Chrono Cross.
Crono, in my definition, is the perfect example of the hero archetype: he is fully willing to risk his life for strangers, and is willing to take on foes with immense strength in order to save the world without so much as a second thought. His immediate response to go after Marle and his reckless abandon for his own well-being is something that resonates with gamers and fully pulls us into the narrative of the game.
We wish we could be Crono; as I believe that all of us fantasize about being a hero at some point in our lives: the chance to save the girl, and more importantly, the world from impending doom. Crono had experienced more in his life by his late teens than any one of us realistically will: he traveled across time, fell in love with a princess, sacrificed himself to save the world, and ultimately was rescued from his own death. That is the beauty of video games, especially those that have such a strong narrative like Chrono Trigger does, that we can totally immerse ourselves into a world of mystery and excitement, and come out feeling like a hero.
One of the greatest things about RPGs is the idea of building relationships; the ability to build upon the strong relationships you already have with people that you’ve known all your life, and the opportunities that will present themselves with people that you will meet. We as human beings have an instinctual longing for building strong relationships with others… it’s wired into our DNA.
It was Crono’s fateful meeting with a mysterious blonde girl named Marle that forever changed his future. The relationship that he builds with her echoes the same kind of romantic plot devices that have been used in a variety of narratives for centuries: they both resist each other at first because of their uncertainty, but ultimately fall in love with one another. It is a thing of beauty to play through Chrono Trigger and watch the relationship build – from their fateful encounter at the Millenial Fair, to the moment when the party goes to Death Peak to replace Crono with his clone and save him from death at the hands of Lavos. A scene like that completely puts you in the shoes of the characters, it makes you feel as if you are there with them through every step of their journey.
Video games with strong narratives can feel almost like a roller coaster ride – you sit down, buckle yourself in, and prepare for a fleeting moment in time where you don’t know what is going to happen; you take every thing as it comes, you brace yourself for the best and the worst. That is what Chrono Trigger exemplifies for me while reflecting on Crono’s incredible journey. Every time I play through the game, I come away feeling like I’ve gained some other understanding of the basic principles of human psychology – a different perspective on the ideas of comradery, love, and death.
This is one of the things I want to do with this series: I want to disprove the naysayers that continually discredit video games by saying that they have bland characters and narratives – that try to say that video games cannot be art. The characters and narrative in Chrono Trigger define what art is and can be. I knew that when I came up with the idea for this weekly series, I needed to start on a strong note, with an excellent example of great character development – I needed to start with Crono and Chrono Trigger.