The Chrono Cross Remaster is worth revisiting, but don’t skip Radical Dreamers

More than two decades after its original release on PlayStation, Chrono Cross finally comes back to life with Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition. It’s a technically fascinating remaster, offering an identical reproduction of the original but with the option to enable enhanced visuals, including clearer text, retouched visuals, and new character portraits. The rest seems to have jumped right out of 1999 and into our fancy 4K TVs, giving it the thematically appropriate vibe of being moved in time.

Chrono Cross, despite its age, is worth playing today for a number of reasons – among them the amazing IGN exam score he got in 1999. The praise our review offered then for things like the engrossing story and excellent combat system almost entirely stands up to the remaster, save for a few ignorable performance issues on Switch. And as a classic RPG from Square Enix greats Masato Kato (Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, Final Fantasy XI) and Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, Shadow Hearts and more), Chrono Cross is definitely worth a visit or revisit. on its own, especially since it hasn’t been readily available without access to an older physical copy or PlayStation Classics. But the real crown jewel of the Radical Dreamers collection is one that could potentially be overlooked despite its presence in the title: Radical Dreamers itself, the text-based adventure bridge game integrated between Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross.

Radical Dreamers is a mysterious beast, a game somehow even more out of space and time than Chrono Cross, and its inclusion in this 2022 re-release comes as a delightful surprise, as its existence isn’t something you are likely to know, unless you are a hardcore and very online Chrono fan. Radical Dreamers is a text-based adventure game originally released in 1996 for Satellaview, a Japan-exclusive Super Famicom device for downloading games and other media via satellite broadcasts. The satellite view apparently had around 100,000 subscribers around 1997, a fantastic number for the satellite company behind it, St.GIGA, but an abysmal number for Nintendo, which produced it. This means that probably less than 100,000 people in Japan have played Radical Dreamers in its original form, a reduced number compared to Chrono Trigger, its revered predecessor which would have sold two million copies in its first two months on sale in Japan.

The Chrono series as a whole has had a strange life since the SNES. Chrono Cross was well received when it launched on PS1, but it wasn’t the direct sequel to Chrono Trigger that many fans hoped and still hope for. His ties to Chrono Trigger are odd, with many fan-favorite characters receiving implied off-screen endings and others not mentioned at all. Chrono Trigger enthusiasts wanted a clearer connection between the two, which was exactly what Radical Dreamers provided…if they could get their hands on it, which naturally many of them couldn’t easily. And that’s why its release alongside the remaster is so exciting.

Unfinished dream of another world

The story of Radical Dreamers follows a trio of thieves: Serge, Kid and Magil, on a quest to infiltrate the labyrinthine Viper Manor and steal a strange gem called the Frozen Flame. Gameplay is entirely choice-based, with characters able to select actions for Serge as the trio encounter monsters, traps, and other obstacles throughout the mansion. Some paths will lead Serge to a game over, and after beating Radical Dreamers once, there are also several alternate endings to unlock in true Chrono spirit.

For those who come to Chrono Cross’ Radical Dreamers, it may come as a surprise to discover that Serge and Kid’s personalities and stories are radically different from their more traditional appearances, especially with the way Kid’s story connects to Chrono Trigger even more explicitly than in Cross. In fact, Radical Dreamers’ ties to Trigger’s events and characters like Schala, Lavos, Magus, and Lucca are much more explicit and tonally different than the results of the more popular sequel.

A work as short and unfinished as Radical Dreamers is an amazing rarity in this industry.

But even providing some clarity to the story, according to director Masato Kato, Radical Dreamers was itself an unfinished dream. Kato says it first happened almost as an independent film, put together in just three months. Although initially not intended to be a follow-up to Chrono Trigger, Kato ultimately opted to continue Magus and Schala’s story, to “work out the loose ends properly”. But Kato considered the job half done, going as far as implies that he retained it to include it alongside the Chrono Trigger DS release in 2008 out of a desire to revise it. A job as short and unfinished as the release of Radical Dreamers is an amazing rarity in this industry, where games are so frequently and easily canceled for so much less.

[Some spoilers for how Chrono characters do and don’t appear throughout Trigger, Cross, and Dreamers are referenced below, skip ahead to the next paragraph if you don’t want to be spoiled!]

Although Kato never returned to revise Radical Dreamers, he was able to revisit some of the unfinished plot points in Chrono Cross, particularly those related to the nature of the coveted Frozen Flame gem central to the plots of Radical and Cross. But characters like Kid, Serge, and Lynx undergo massive transformations in between. Magil, who provides a critical link between Radical Dreams and Chrono Trigger, is completely obliterated, seemingly in favor of the elusive but relatively incidental Guile in Cross. Schala herself almost entirely disappears on the periphery despite all three games’ plot technically revolving around her role. Chrono Cross is perhaps the dream fully realized (or closer, anyway) designed in Radical Dreamers, but without the context of Radical Dreamers, much of its plot feels like an odd diversion for a direct sequel.

As unfinished as Kato thought it was, these story gaps left fans hungry for more Chrono, and Radical Dreamers provided that through the Satellaview era…and beyond. Interlude ROMs complete with a fan translation by ROM hacking group Demiforce have been circulating the web, easy enough to find for dedicated fans looking for more of the Chrono universe, but never self-explanatory enough to be General public. As a text adventure, Radical Dreamers might have struggled to catch mainstream attention had it been released more widely, anyway, as the genre was already declining in the late 90s in favor of worlds more fully realized visually.

Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition Screenshots

But perhaps it’s this exact elusiveness that made it so appealing to a quieter cast. Reading the latest rumors of an upcoming Chrono fan game, digging through wikis teeming with Chrono lore, or enviously gazing at the latest Square Enix trademark filing, an unsuspecting adventurer might eventually find their way to a download of Radical Dreamers. Its bewitching retro maze would bridge the strange gaps between Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross while promising a resolution that Cross never offered. Over the years and without an official re-release ever seeing the light of day, Radical Dreamers has become almost a weird ARG, or hidden secret with the aura of a fan game – enticing and mysterious in a way which might captivate Chrono fans who were looking hard enough for this.

Now, in 2022, it’s finally real and available, even as a physical edition, ensuring it can no longer easily disappear down rabbit holes on the internet. The alluring, mysterious quality it once possessed may have diminished now that it has Kato and Square Enix’s blessing to appear on a box cover, but Radical Dreamers is nonetheless a must-have for fans. of Chrono. Where Chrono Cross disappointed some by not being the direct sequel many fans wanted, Radical Dreamers was always meant to be and embraced as the weird spinoff that it was and is. It exists as both a satisfying and missing puzzle piece for Chrono Trigger while also raising many questions itself, leaving the Chrono universe a little more mysterious than it was before. Kato may never have revisited it properly, but the additions he’s still making to the Chrono universe are wonderful on their own.

Chrono Cross itself has long deserved a remaster to keep the critically acclaimed classic playable for as much as possible on current platforms. But playing Cross without Radical Dreamers when both are readily available again is an incomplete experience. Historically, temporally, and narratively, there is no Chrono Cross without its trio of Radical Dreamers, and it’s a triumph for game curators and Chrono fans alike to see their full story finally celebrated with a remastered release.

Rebekah Valentine is a reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.