Chrono Trigger: Mass Destruction

Having now been through scenarios past and future, I reach what seems to be a sort of time-travel hub. Described as “the end of time”, it’s your basic stone platform in an inky void, with a mysterious elderly guardian-of-the-balance type on hand to explain things. There are a few permanent time portals there, including one back to the present. (That is, the time period in which the game starts. To some of the player characters, it’s the past or the future.) But it doesn’t go to the same geographical location that you started in. It goes to Monstertown.

That’s not its real name. It’s just a more descriptive name than the real one, which I’ve already forgotten. Regardless, it’s the place where an evil wizard tried to take over the world 400 years ago, and it’s still inhabited by the descendants of his minions, who still bear a grudge against all humans for defeating him. Not an attack-on-sight sort of grudge like most monsters, just a seething prejudice and an active project to eventually summon a Godzilla-like lava monster to lay waste to all human civilization. And when I say “Godzilla-like”, I mean it’s an obvious metaphor for nuclear weapons. The future you visit is a post-apocalyptic wasteland with starving survivors huddling in shelters and mutants in the ruins outside, and it was Lavos who made it that way. The present seems to be in a state of cold war.

It seems to me that East and West have different trends when it comes to post-apocalyptic scenarios. Japan is the only nation on Earth to be the target of a nuclear attack, and understandably has never forgotten it. America is the only nation to have launched a nuclear attack, and has done its level best to forget. Thus, in American games with post-apocalyptic scenarios, such as Wasteland and the Fallout series, the details and origins of the conflict tend to be either lost to history or just not particularly relevant to the story — the world has moved on and developed new bad guys from the chaos following the war, and thus has more important things to worry about than who nuked who. Japanese games, on the other hand, are generally very clear that whoever activated the doomsday device is the story’s villain. We see this most clearly in the Final Fantasy games, where, as I’ve noted before, the world tends to get destroyed at the end of the first half. In FF5 and FF6, even after the world is shattered, the villains continue to target individual cities for destruction with city-destroying weapons.

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