the artistry and psychology of gaming


Black Omen (Chrono Trigger)

Black Omen (Chrono Trigger)

You may remember the ruined world I visited in which time travel was actually possible.  Well, it just so happens that I was able to witness one of the events leading up to its destruction.  Due to an odd change in events, a massive, high-technology fortress went from the bottom of the ocean to floating in the sky, remaining there for millennia.  This structure was created in an era long forgotten to those alive today, who have vastly inferior technology.  Not understanding this mysterious monolith, the residents of the world gave it a name befitting its ominous nature: The Black Omen.

The Black Omen is truly a technological marvel.  It was crafted largely by a force that the world’s inhabitants call magic.  As you already know, I have a problem with the term, magic; “magic” is merely a name that humans give to a force they do not understand, whether it be technology or control over a natural force.  In this case, it is the latter; when the structure was built, the privileged humans wielded this force, enabling them to control fire, water, and even electricity without technology of any kind.  So, while The Black Omen has the same problem as The Mana Fortress – forces of nature are often ill-controlled by human technology – it at least interfaces with the humans that created it, resulting in slightly greater efficiency.

After flying through the air, I landed upon the deck, which was a narrow walkway with very intricate patterns upon it.  These patterns had a geometric shape – in this case, a square rotated forty-five degrees – with rays shining from them at many different angles.  I would later discover this to be a recurring motif throughout the fortress.  I entered through the main door and was in a massive labyrinth of corridors.  I was completely overwhelmed by how immense the whole thing was, so I stuck to the bland, steel elevated walkway, rather than leaping to the many doorways that lined the walls.  Further along this walkway, I looked over the edge to see all of the high technology powering it all.  There were so many components that I couldn’t even describe them all; the most noteworthy were long, orange poles that seemed to bring energy to every part of the fortress.  At the end of the walkway was a door leading into an area with solid ground.  The floors were of an indeterminate dark color, but had a differently-colored walkway trimmed in golden orange with many intricate patterns upon it.  Massive pillars with strange designs stood tall, and large glowing panels decorated the walls; the color of the energy in this place seemed to be an evening shade of orange.  I eventually reached a room with a round pedestal emitting a similarly orange pillar of light; I stepped into it, only to be transported to another area.

I stepped out of this new room into a massive elevator shaft that was bronze and purple; I’d never seen such a combination, but it worked quite well.  Touching the sparkling of the two devices resembling mutant trackballs, I caused the platform to rocket me to the next level at a dizzying speed; my low blood pressure already tends to make me dizzy when riding elevators, and this certainly didn’t help!  After regaining my composure – and my equilibrium – I moved forward, eventually reaching an area that was quite blue.  The floors were very dark blue with lighter blue intricate designs tracing over them.  A powerful light emitted from the chasm below, brightening everything near it.  Looking up, I saw the high-tech walls, covered with machines in the same bronze and purple color scheme as the elevator shaft, with a floor accompanying it; for some reason, the floor had geometrically-shapen holes in it, and tiny pink lights pulsated rhythmically within the walls.  I moved along the edge until I reached a doorway with a round, flashing green light above it, with torches of the same green in their flames burning along the wall.  I headed inside, walking along a large blue floor, eventually coming to a pair of statues.  Their bronze forms were those of beautiful kneeling maidens with long hair, cupping cyan spheres between their hands.  Just ahead, the powerful light shone through another chasm, the edge of which I followed until I reached another area with similar statues.  This one also had a statue of some kind of wild-haired demihuman with wings and talons crafted in a gray material with yellow-green stripes, its countenance made foreboding by its dark navy eyes.

Traveling further through this large blue area, I found another teleporter, this one hidden in a nondescript floor tile.  As a green light transported me to somewhere else, I pondered what might be happening to my spiritual form when my physical one was being repeatedly deconstructed and reassembled.  I came to what appeared to be some sort of ceremonial chamber, and another statue greeted me, this one of a gargoyle-like creature with piercing eyes.  It was then that I realized that none of the statues were constructed to actually face anyone walking through the chamber, whether they were perpendicular – like the demihuman – or diagonal, like the others.  I headed through an important-looking doorway onto a large dais with intricate floor patterns arranged in an octagonal pattern.  I could not discern their purpose, but I felt a very strange presence in this room, and not just from the powerful light emanating from below.  I quickly stepped through to the next room, not wanting to find its source, the loud clacking of my shoes making me all the more nervous as I hurried along; high heels were certainly not an appropriate choice of footwear for this adventure.

Eventually, I reached another bland walkway, this time leading me to a door that seemed to have a great amount of energy behind it.  Stepping inside, I saw cyan pillars of light emanating from round discs that appeared to be floating in the air.  Inside each one, I felt the life force of a live – yet dormant – human; they must have been stasis chambers of some sort.  Passing all six of them, I eventually wound up outside, at the very zenith of the structure!  I stood atop The Black Omen and stared at the world below, as well as the red moon above.  The intricate machinery seemed to buzz with eldritch energies beneath me, and I simply stood there, unsure at that very moment of whether I should be admiring the beauty of nature or technology.

What is it to be a deity?  To some, it means creating life and matter.  To others, it means controlling nature in a way not able to be understood by those less advanced.  You may have considered this notion already, but would those living thousands of years before us – using tools made of stone – not consider today’s people to be gods?  Today, humans control fire and electricity with devices small enough to fit in the palm of their hands; something as simple to us as a lighter might be considered magic to a less advanced society.  However, to many of us, someone with technology far more advanced than our own would merely be considered “futuristic”.  So what is it that makes this so different a distinction?  It is the very understanding of knowledge; that humans understand the gap allows them to also understand that such a gap might exist between them and potential others, even if arrogance prevents them from considering such a possibility until empirical evidence is presented to them.  In the same way, the people of the world of The Black Omen being able to control the forces of nature with their life force might seem like gods to you.  Can you honestly tell me that if you were to see someone create a sphere of lightning in the palm of his or her hand that you would not be mystified that he or she could do such a thing without the use of technology?  Would you perhaps even go so far as to call it magic?  These are all things that you are likely to encounter in your adventures, but are you really ready to experience them?  Only time will tell.

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