Magus: Darkness Within, Darkness Without

By John Donahue

Ever since Chrono Trigger's debut way back in '95, people have loved the game, calling it the pinnacle of RPGs. While this IS my favorite game of all time, I'm not here to discuss that. I'm here to talk about one of the things that almost everyone loves most of all. That's right, the blue-haired wizard himself, the Magus.

Magus is something of an uncommon sight in standard Square RPGs. It's not the fact that he's moody, or sulky, or is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders and lets everyone know it that sets him apart from the other playable characters; it's the fact that he's not a 'good' hero.

Once the truth about the destruction of the world is realized during the trio's trip to AD 2300, our band of intrepid heroes goes off to save the world from Lavos. Unfortunately they have no idea how to proceed, and wind up going home. After Heckran cave, however, they now know that it was in fact Magus who created Lavos in AD 600, so they set about to deal with him.

And there we go. Magus is the villain, the person who must be stopped if the world is to continue. So (after a few sub-quests and a recruitment), our merry band is off to the dark lord's lair.

After fighting through the hundred beasts in Magus' castle, and his three chief lieutenants (though I don't really consider Ozzie much of a fight, do you?), they confront the wizard, and conquer him, only to find that he only 'summoned' Lavos. And after another trip through the gates, they put Magus aside as the villain, and tend to other matters.

Later on, after running afoul of the Prophet (who is so obviously Magus wearing a funny hat), our heroes witness the destruction of Zeal and the desolation that follows. Now, they see Magus one last time. He's spouting off in arrogance, and ticking off whatever people you've sent to meet him. Now, if they decide to be the bigger person and not kill him, he joins up with them. This begs the simple question "why"?

The answer is simple. It's the motive behind EVERYTHING (with one possible exception) that Magus does throughout the entirety of the game. REVENGE. Think about it. He was born high, then cast low. By Lavos. His mother was corrupted and ceased being human. By Lavos. His sister was lost, his home destroyed. By Lavos. He was banished to the far future, to unknown lands, when he was a child. By Lavos. Everything leads back to that one entity. And Magus felt that he deserved a little vengeance.

Now, all that's well and good, and a very interesting character history, but it's made better by the fact that once he joins the party (and becomes a 'hero'), where most formerly evil characters would renounce their past and claim not to have enjoyed it anyway, and feel really, really bad and want to make reparations (e.g. Celes, FFVI, Beatrix, FFIX), he doesn't change his attitude. He's still arrogant, moody, condescending, and sometimes, just a real bastard ("You got whacked, 'cuz you're weak.").

These aren't qualities we find normally find in Square heroes. Though Edge and Edgar are womanizers, Locke's depressive and overprotective, Shadow and Cloud are indifferent and VERY mercenary, Squall is moody, and Zidane is pompous and arrogant, all are basically good guys with the interests of their friends and the world at heart, and grow into their heroic roles during the course of the game. And those are just Final Fantasies. Randi (the boy from Secret of Mana) is very unsure of himself throughout the game, but it doesn't stop him from going out and doing the hero thing.

You get no such reassurance from Magus. Not once does he express remorse for Crono's death ("He's history! Play with fire and you get burned!") or for his murder of Cyrus or cursing of Glenn into a frog (remember the trip to Cyrus's grave? Take Frog and two others, and the others just stand there as Glenn and Cyrus chat. Take Magus and he pulls his cloak over himself and says nothing - still, he's the only animated character). Not once does he fail to express his disdain at wasting time on sidequests when they could be going after Lavos. But nor does he remind them that Lavos destroyed the world and needs to be stopped. Oh, no. All he wants is his shot at the being that took everything away from him.

Even when he goes back to Zeal, and poses as the Prophet, he does not warn the Queen about Lavos. He does not stop the construction of the Ocean Palace, nor the placement of the Mammon Machine within. Being from the future, he knows that Zeal will be destroyed if Lavos awakens. But he doesn't care. All he cares about is facing Lavos and destroying it. Though he does express genuine concern for Schala, (both in the scene and in your return via the Time Egg) he leaves her behind when the palace is destroyed. She offers to send them away with the last of her pendant's power, and HE DOES NOT OBJECT. He merely bows his head in acceptance, and is teleported out. Schala then collapses, and is presumed dead afterwards. But what does Magus do about it? Nothing. Oh, sure, there are countless fanfics out there about his quest for Schala, and Marle even asks him if those are his plans at the Moonlight Parade, but you'll also remember that he pulls his cloak up and flies into the gate without a word. Without a word. No, "yeah, that's what I'm going to do," or "That's not your concern" or anything. Complete and total snub. Then, as the Epoch flies by in the ending montage, there's our boy, wrapped up and flying off into the night, God-knows-where.

Magus is an awesome example of an anti-hero. He has NO normal heroic qualities about him. He's a jerk, antisocial, bitter, callous, tactless, condescending, and feels absolutely no remorse for anything he has done nor concern for his own well-being ("If history is to change, let it change. If the world is to be destroyed, so be it. If my fate is to die, I must simply laugh."). Lavos is all that matters. So much that he uses the Mystics' trust in him to guard him while he summons. So much that he does not try and stop the path of Zeal towards destruction when he had the chance. So much that he acquiesces to leaving his sister to have another chance at it. So much that he uses the rest of the party for no reason other than to get to it. Yes, you read that right. Forget your delusions, folks, Magus really doesn't care much about the band of heroes ("The weak only strive to be weaker."). He goes along with them for three reasons: because they have the same goal, he can use their power in his fight, and they have that nifty ability to travel through time and actually GET to Lavos.

Take him along sometime to fight Lavos (even though I'm sure most pro-Magus people always do). When the Core is revealed, and all the characters get their little epiphanies, they all say something about not tolerating it, about it not being part of the planet's natural course (except Crono, of course, he just pulls out his katana and looks surly). Not Magus. He takes his position, straightens a glove, and the wind whips though his hair and cloak. No mention of the planet, or the people in his reasoning. "It's over for you... Your life ends here."

Magus is hell bent on revenge, to the exclusion of all else. He has no life outside of it. In his departure scene from the square after the Moonlight Parade, there is no one with him. Ayla and Kino go back, Frog goes with the King, and Robo accompanies Doan. Magus is alone, because he has no one and nothing. His quest has taken everything from him. It's a bit of the Inigo Montoya syndrome (for those Princess Bride junkies out there). After Inigo kills the man he's been hunting for twenty years, he says, "You know, it's very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it's over, I don't know what to do with the rest of my life." That's Magus to a T. I like to think of his flight off screen as a flight into the sunset, as his quest is complete, he can finally, at long last, rest. He's in 12,000 B.C., so maybe he will be searching for his sister, but there is no corroborating evidence to back that up.

Well, thanks for your time. This has been a blast writing, and anyone wanting to compliment, deride, or comment in any other way on this essay is greatly encouraged to do so. Comments on the game quotes or situations in the game itself that you feel would support or contradict this argument are what I'm really looking for. Just drop me a line at

Till next time,
Johnny D

IcyBrian's Fanfic Resource -- Chrono Trigger
IcyBrian's Fanfic Resource

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