Once we collect our mass of new party members (we’ve just barely completed the game’s first act, and already the party roster includes more characters than were available in the entirety of Chrono Trigger), our first stop is the Hermit’s Hideaway, an island where the old Acacia Dragoon Radius has retired. Radius should be familiar to anyone who’s playing along (oh my gosh, please don’t play this game at the rate I’m writing about it; I can barely stand to go this slowly myself) as the elder of Arni Village in Serge’s Home World. I’m not sure what circumstances changed so that Another World’s Radius decided to go be a hermit instead of living among the people that he used to help protect, but he’s hanging out on that island and we just got ourselves a boat, so the game’s going to give us a chance to use it.
We find Radius’s hermitage in ashes after Harle has stopped by to delay Serge in his search for help tracking down the other Dragoons and Lynx. It’s at this point that we once again see that Harle clearly has a thing for our protagonist, but the laws of antagonism and Harle’s late entry to the story compared to Kid and Leena (who, to be fair, aren’t really participating in the plot at this point) doom her to just be that one character who admires the hero from afar even as she tries to bash his head in.
This is also the first boss fight that posed a little bit of a challenge for me on this playthrough.
That’s not to say that the fight is especially hard or even that I was in any danger of losing, but the fight with Harle struck me as the moment when I remembered that it’s really important to have the right balance of elements on your characters’ grids. In the future, as the grids open up more, I expect I’ll probably shift my priorities more towards filling lower ranks with healing elements (it’s always a good idea to only need a single light attack to land before you can heal) and work on constructing the upper ranks so that my three characters (I’m currently using Serge, Leena, and Glenn; I haven’t decided if I’ll swap someone else into Leena’s spot yet) complement each other and can work together to keep the field’s color in a favorable position. Anyway, to make a long story short, I nearly ran out of good offensive elements when fighting Harle.
Following Harle’s delaying action, you finally meet Radius, and all he really has to tell you is that the Dragoons are probably heading towards Fort Dragonia, which can only be reached through Mt. Pyre. Naturally, there’s a thick fog bank settled over the approach to Mt. Pyre, and Serge and friends end up getting captured by a band of pirates who are captained by Fargo, a notorious outlaw (apparently). The pirates are masquerading as a ghost ship in the thick fog to help them ambush unwary travelers, but things take a turn for the ironic when their own ship gets attacked by real ghosts, which Serge has to help them fight off.
The most notable thing about the entire ghost ship segment is probably the fact that you keep getting thrown into boss fights. There are two back to back when you first board the ship, and then there’s another one at the end that serves to teach the player about how relentless boss monsters can be in trying to turn the field color to their advantage; add in the aggravation that comes from the boss being a black innate, and the fact that every part of the field color that is black serves to weaken Serge’s regular attacks, which are probably the strongest thing in your arsenal at this point.
Overall, this whole segment feels very unnecessary in regards to the story. It’s a fun enough diversion, but the only real purpose I can see it serving in the larger narrative is to give the party something to do while the requisite time can pass so Kid can mysteriously recover (remember, we didn’t opt to help find a cure for her poisoning). Now that that’s done, it’s time to return to Guldove to figure out how to scale Mt. Pyre.
Recruited Party Members
Pip – In order to be able to recruit Pip, you have to free him from his cage in Viper Manor during the infiltration. If you do that, then you’ll find him stowed away on Fargo’s ship during the ghost invasion where you can catch him and allow him to join you. Pip’s an interesting character from a mechanical perspective, because he evolves as he gains levels if you use him in your party. The only real flaw I find with him is that his innate element is white, and because I have a major aversion to redundancy in party composition (particularly when it’s a three person party so there is literally no room to double up on any particular role) and you can’t remove Serge from your party until New Game +, I have never used Pip. Maybe he’s a lot of fun, and his innate element can change if you use non-white elements often enough with him, but it always struck me as more work than I wanted to put into developing a given party member.
Doc – When you return to Guldove after finally finishing with the ghost ship, Doc, who has been caring for Kid, laments over the fact that he utterly failed in his vocation since it was some random stranger passing through who provided the remedy that Kid needed to recover (no, I don’t know how any physician would take the fact that they provided the best care they could to a patient who was otherwise terminal could consider themselves a failure; of course, I didn’t go to medical school, so maybe I’m missing something), so he’d like to accompany Serge on his travels in the hope of becoming a more experienced healer. Naturally, Doc’s innate color is white, which means he gets the same treatment as Pip.
Kid – I know that it’s actually possible to never recruit Kid into your party, but you do have to return to Guldove at some point in order to acquire the key item that allows you to switch between worlds, so I’m guessing that I just returned early enough that she hadn’t yet taken off on her own. Kid’s a solid character, and I used her constantly the first time I played Chrono Cross (for all the brief time she’s actually in the party), but given that on this playthrough I’m really emphasizing Serge’s skittishness around what he’s dreamed happening with Kid, I plan on not using her at all for my current playthrough. That’s a pretty big loss though, because Kid’s one of only three characters who has a technique that allows the player to steal from enemies (one of the other three is permanently locked out on this playthrough because I decided not to save Kid, and the last won’t be available until about halfway through the game).