I play games for fun, and like any twenty-something man-child, I have very strict perimeters on what ‘fun’ means to me. For example: Free running through renaissance Italy executing middle-class guards for doing their job – fun. Thinking with portals – fun. Roleplaying as Kirino Kousaka’s brother to take eerily suggestive glamour photos for fictional in-game perverts to comment on – creepy, but fun.
Let me tell you what I don’t find fun: Failure. Abject humiliation. Repetitive, arbitrary tests of skills I’m clearly already proficient at, and generally anything that speaks to the ever-growing spectre of self-doubt scraping away at my youth while I cling to the controller, ignoring its demands for me to start a savings account.
Put simply, I play games for fun and losing at games is not fun. As such, if I feel a game or a boss is simply taking the piss, I usually chuck it and move on. I was never interested in earning ‘gamer points’ when they were a fictional currency passed around between 12 year olds, and I’m certainly not interested in them now that they’re a real currency passed around between perpetual 12 year olds. I do however have a weakness in my darkest of hearts for strong video game narrative and, if your game hooks me with its story or characters, I find that difficult to shake. I’m much more likely to grit my teeth, dig into my crushed-controller fund and deal with merciless difficulty if I’m emotionally invested, however, few games pack the same kind of existential, emotional punch in the face as Squaresoft’s PSX opus, Chrono Cross. Unfortunately, even fewer games also delight as much in testing your patience with their bosses. None caused me more frustration, anguish and heartache than the admittedly unimpressively named Miguel.
Without going into spoiler territory, Miguel exists in a world disconnected from time. He’s been there for ten years by the time you find him and boy is he pissed off. Sure, he tries to hide it; he tries to claim that he has to fight you, that it’s for your sake and not just to give his pathetic timeless life some meaning, but come on, nobody’s buying that. Certainly not from an RPG boss dressed as Crocodile Dundee’s cheaper, Mexican knock-off.
He waxes lyrical pre-fight about our linear perception of time and blah blah blah. What this really comes down to is that Chrono Cross is a phenomenal story of self-discovery and self-improvement, reconciliation and abandonment, atonement and acceptance, and Miguel grounded my story to a halt for no less than three weeks before I finally zero’d the prick and got to move on with my life. Turns out he’s also the father of Leela, your primary love interest early on in the game, which explains his inexplicable desire to split you in two while smiling like a simpleton beneath his 5 euro thrift-shop sun hat.
You could say this was my own fault. You could point to my level and make assumptions about my play-style and/or mental capacity, and those assumptions wouldn’t be unreasonable. But how can you possibly defend the decision to take a boss, task him with waiting in a timeless world, haunted by images of those who’ve tried to escape its walls, just so a band of young heroes can come along and render all his work, all that time spent waiting and protecting, completely meaningless by taking his life? How can you possibly defend the decision to take that character, that potential, that inconceivable sadness and put it in that hat?
Chrono Cross rules but, for real; screw Miguel.