Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Who — Not Whither — Is the Blue-Haired One?

Some people make life a little tougher than it is. And they do this by being confusing. Of course, the fact that certain people speak different languages doesn’t help, either.

two characters, who may be the same characters, and who
nonetheless have four names between them.

An example that sprang to mind this morning for no apparent reason: a certain character in the video game Chrono Trigger, which I played and thoroughly enjoyed almst fifteen years ago. Ostensibly, his name is “Magus,” even though the appellation should be considered more of a title than a name. (Unfortunately, no one bothers to put a “the” before the “Magus,” so the matter is hardly clear.) From the get-go, Magus is offered as the storyline’s primary villain, but that doesn’t turn out to be the case. In fact, if the player makes a few key decisions, Magus actually reveals himself to be not a total dick and joins the party outright. Furthermore — and keep in mind that a video game with the word “chrono” in the title must necessarily involve a bit of skipping around through time — the characters in the game also encounter Magus as a child, in a different period of history, when his name was “Janus.” (A sensible allusion, as the character has at least two distinct personalities.) In Japan, however, the character’s grown-up bad guy name is “Maoh,” which literally translates as “Demon King.” And his little boy name is “Jacky.” (This is one instance in which I’m actually happy that the translators took some liberties in removing the text from the original Japanese. “Jacky” is not anyone to be taken seriously. Jacky is a girl with bangs and glasses who came up to you at recess and asked you if you wanted to play tetherball.) That is the extent of the character’s names in this one game, although one character memorable refers to him as “the blue-haired one” and that phrase has long stuck out in my mind. (Enough, least, that it became a post title and a chunk of surrealistic dialogue for a nonsense comic I once drew.)

from radical dreamers

The character became further complicated with the release of a game called Radical Dreamers, a Japan-only text-based sort of “chose your own adventure” game that featured a man named “Gil” as one of the three protagonists. The game’s developers have since stated that Gil is, in fact, Magus — as well as Maoh and Janus and Jacky, I guess — and that the connections between Chrono Trigger and Radical Dreamers were initially obscured so that the latter’s status as a spin-off would be a sort of Easter egg for those who play through the former. In unofficial English translations of Radical Dreamers, however, that gap is closed somewhat by the fact that Gil is re-named “Magil.”

The intentional obscuration is completely undone, however, with the release of a true Chrono Trigger sequel, Chrono Cross, a few more years down the line. One of the 45 playable characters in it is a guy named “Guile” who bears enough of a resemblance to Magus that it seems more than coincidental. (He also looks like an extra from the ballroom scene in Labyrinth, but that is neither here nor there, as this post is concerned.) Also, the linguistic distance between “Gil” and “Guile” seems negligible. The matter is compounded by the fact that Guile has a different name in Japan: “Alf.” Associations with extraterrestrial-starring sitcoms aside, the name is notable because Chrono Trigger’s Janus has a pet cat, Alfador. Again, the names resemble each other enough that I’d guess the similarity is not a coincidence.

Thus, what may or may not be the same character in three different games has eight different names. (As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out on whether Guile is supposed to be Magus or just someone who looks a lot like Magus.) I’m not sure whether I love or hate the fact that such a seemingly simple matter could be so very complicated.


  1. Anonymous1:46 PM

    You made me lol.

    Thank you. That was an enjoyable read.

  2. ... Thanks? Though I must admit that this post wasn't intended as comedy.

  3. Guile was, at one point, planned to be revealed as Magus during the storyline.

    They eventually decided against that and dropped the connection, but the character design (and the name, to an extent) still reflect the once-intended connection.

  4. Anonymous7:14 PM

    After Magus goes back to 12,000 BC, he takes the identity "The Prophet". You knew this, of course, but I think it's worth mentioning.

    In Radical Dreamers, in one of the non-canon endings, his name is equally non-canonically revealed to be Gilbert.

    In the remake of Chrono Trigger for the DS, Magus is called "Fiendlord."

  5. The only way I could ever figure out to beat Chrono Trigger was to have Magus join my team...ooops :)

  6. Anonymous11:30 AM

    Magus is sweet nonetheless

  7. Anonymous3:58 PM

    With the addition of the new ending to the Chrono Trigger DS port, it is further suggested that Guile is indeed Janus. In the ending,


    you fight the Time Devourer. This is where Schala has been infused with Lavos or something or other. After some dialogue, Schala tells Magus he can't save her and to continue on. He freaks out a bit. After the battle the screen goes black and he says some things that he will continue his mission no matter what (not in those exact words). The next scene shows Janus in a forest. He has suffered from amnesia. He is unsure of what it is, but he knows he must do something. And with a whoosh of his cape he sets off on his quest.

    This suggests that he lost his memory, and over time became Guile. I'm taking the connection Square is giving and saying Guile is indeed Janus.

    Though He got a tan, and became a lot more effeminate... lol