Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition review: strange and spellbinding

Chrono-Cross got off to a, shall we say, rough start. It was billed as a follow-up to the trigger of a stopwatchone of the most beloved role-playing games ever made, but although the two are set in the same world, there are big differences. the trigger of a stopwatch was created by a great team of developers including Final Fantasy mastermind Hironobu Sakaguchi, longtime dragon quest steward Yuji Horii, and dragonball creator Akira Toriyama. It is frequently cited as one of the greatest games ever made. This all-star team did not continue the streak, and although Chrono-Cross was widely well received at launch, its legacy never reached the same heights as its predecessor. It’s always been this weird follow-up with parallel worlds, a confusing story, and way too many characters.

Which brings us to the new remaster on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC, and PS4. Double Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition, the release is a fairly light update to the PlayStation-era release, with improved visuals, some quality of life features, and the inclusion of a long-lost text-based adventure. In terms of scope, it’s similar to the remaster of Final Fantasy VIII that Square Enix released a few years ago. And just like FFVIII, Chrono-Cross is an often maligned sequel that deserves a second chance.

Chrono-Cross is not a direct sequel to Trigger but rather a sort of spiritual successor that takes place in the same universe. The central idea of ​​the game’s fantasy world is the idea of ​​parallel worlds. At first, the protagonist Serge finds himself in an almost identical version of his own world with one key difference: in this one, he died at a young age. The story then gets extremely weird and convoluted from there, involving everything from an evil panther to a powerful supercomputer. Serge goes back and forth between worlds, recruiting new team members (there are an amazing 45 playable characters) in an effort to learn the mysteries of his past and the different worlds.

The remastered visuals (left) versus the original (right).

The story can be hard to follow, even by Japanese RPG standards, but it had just enough mystery to keep me going. This is especially true of the characters you’ll meet; many are underdeveloped, likely due to the sheer size of the cast, but discovering and meeting new team members is one of the highlights of the game.

Chrono-Cross has plenty of other things to do. The Weird World is a fascinating place to explore, an intriguing mix of fantasy and sci-fi filled with beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds. The game has an interesting twist on classic turn-based battles, with a stamina system that forces you to make important decisions about how you’ll use your available actions, and a hold on magic that works much like the material in Final Fantasy VII.

And, my goodness, the soundtrack is one of the best in any video game, a wonderful collection by Yasunori Mitsuda that includes one of my favorite compositions, “Shore of Dreams (Another World)”. When this song starts playing on the world map, I always have to stop and listen for a minute or two. (In fact, I’m listening to it right now as I write this.) There’s a very distinct flavor to PlayStation-era RPGs that (for the most part) no longer exists, but it is perfectly captured in Chrono-Cross.

This is all true of the remaster, but with a few tweaks. The most obvious is the improved visuals; character models now look crisper and clearer while, in contrast, pre-rendered backgrounds now have a painterly, almost impressionistic vibe. (The developers used a combination of AI scaling and manual rollback to achieve the effect.) I really like the contrast, but it’s definitely a choice that might not appeal to everyone. world. You also have the option to revert to the original 32-bit graphics, although annoyingly swapping between visual styles requires a full game restart. CG cutscenes also retain their original look, which can be a bit shocking if you play with the more modern graphics option.

Radical dreamers.

Other quality of life tweaks include a fast forward option and an auto battle mode so you can focus on story and exploration. These are nice, especially for speeding up some of the more tedious sections of the game, but the remaster definitely lacks a manual save feature. I played on the Switch, and there are long gaps between save points that make the game feel more punishing than it should be.

Perhaps the most interesting addition is a little-known game called Radical dreamers. It was a visual novel that launched in 1996 exclusively on Satellaview only in Japan, an add-on for the Super Famicom. It is a visual novel that was presented as a side story to the trigger of a stopwatch, but it also sets up a lot of the premise and characters in the follow-up. Essentially, it serves as a much-loved bridge between Trigger and Crossand now it’s available with an official English translation for the first time.

Square Enix could definitely have done more to celebrate Chrono-Cross in this package (making the trigger of a stopwatch available on the Switch would also be a good idea for finalists). But even in a no-frills package, Chrono-Cross remains a great game. And the things that made it stand out in the first place – that complex narrative, the huge cast, the oddly fascinating world – are what make it interesting more than two decades later.

Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition is available now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC and PS4.