Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition - A Radical Improvement
PS4, Switch, Xbox One, PC
For many of us here in Australia and other PAL regions, the Chrono games, and especially the PS1 entry Chrono Cross had been the forbidden fruit, games we could only long to access but were never allowed by the powers that be at Square-Enix. If you wanted to access the acclaimed SNES classic Chrono Trigger, you’d need a Super Key, and an NTSC version of the game, meanwhile illegal means or access to a US PSN account on your PS3/Vita were the only ways thoe of us in PAL-land had access to the initially divisive, but ultimately beloved Chrono Cross. Times were hard, but finally in 2022, players, no matter their regions chosen video format, will all get the chance to (re)experience the incredible Chrono Cross, this time with a few accoutrements that create a better, a more realised version of the original 1999 vision.
One of the many things that has made both Chrono games resonate to strongly with players over the years is the branching plots, leading to numerous, wildly different narrative endpoints, and while Chrono Cross was a bit more linear in this aspect that it’s predecessor, the adventure that Serge and his party of dozens (potentially) is no less impactful, as it explores the stories entangled by parallel worlds. Finding himself in a alternate reality where he died as a child and is being chased because he is thought to be a ghost, Serge must unravel the mystery that has bound the two realities together, and navigate the looming threat of Lynx, a magic wielding anthropomorphic panther who desperately pursues Serge and the team for reasons that reveal themselves as the narrative plays out. It’s a strong plot that still holds up well, more than two decades later, and yet fails to resonate as powerfully as its predecessor. The choices are more limited, and the consequences less dire than Chrono Trigger and as such, the gravity of the decision you need to make is diminished somewhat. The addition of Radical Dreamers, a text-adventure side-project developed by Square strengthens the connections between the two Chrono titles and sheds some fascinating insights into characters from both games. For players in the west, this will be the first time that anyone gets to experience the Radical Dreamers story, so for franchise fans it will be a must play piece of content.
The moment-to-moment gameplay of Chrono Cross remains in-tact decades on, with the overworld navigation looking and feeling the same as the preceding title, while the exploration and combat made some strides forward in the years between titles. Despite at it’s core being a turn-based RPG, Chrono Trigger always felt a little more alive than its contemporaries due to enemies still being somewhat active within the fighting space, Chrono Cross loses some of this feeling, but introduces a stamina bar that it marries with three levels of attack and element use to thwart your opponents. Each level of attack is stronger than the last, but also less likely to hit the target, however, as you stack accurate strikes, the likelihood of hitting the target with your next, heavier attack grows. There’s a constantly engaging risk/reward mentality that players will bring to each encounter as you attempt to be as swift as possible, but without losing too much health in the process. The Elements are of oppositional types (White V Black, Red V Blue, Green V Yellow), and each character is imbued with an element of a particular type that of course have inherent strengths and weaknesses that can be exploited each way. The Field Effect icon adorning the top left part of the screen highlights recent element use, and should that Field Effect be filled totally by one colour, characters can unleash a powerful summon attacks that devastate foes; then you’ve got the adopted Tech skills from Chrono Trigger that work solo but can also be paired with allies to incredible effect. Even in 2022, the combat of Chrono Cross remains a highlight. The exploration however feels rooted in its era however, with it being fairly simple, most and most items, chests, etc all being fairly well signposted.
For its time, Chrono Cross was something of an audio/visual marvel, and in 2022, despite being a PS1 title at its core, that artistic soul has gotten a sensational facelift. Character models look better than ever having been converted to HD and patched up a bit, others have been redesigned and have been given new character art, meanwhile the musical backing, which was already earth-shakingly great in 1999 sounds even better with some refinements made by Yasunori Mitsuda. Of course, like other PS1 remasters, the CG cutscenes haven’t received the same level of love, which is unforuntate.
As is the case with other modern remasters of classic RPGs, a host of quality of life features have been added including auto-battle functionality, a “can’t touch this” mode where enemies won’t lay a blow on you, and speed-up and slow down functions to help push through combat animations at a brisk pace, and even slow things down for some specific sider-activities that require precision timing. There are some frame-rate hitches that bring the game down on a technical level, inexplicable given the circumstances, but they were never too prominent that they caused significant concerns.
A classic of it’s time, and now available for all who previously never had access to enjoy it, Chrono Cross hits all the right notes, with a story that is more resonant than ever before, gameplay that holds up well, and updated visuals that freshen up a game that had grown weary with age. Radical Dreamers adds wonderful context to an already exceptional pair of games, making the Radical Dreamers Edition the definitive Chrono Cross experience.
Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition was reviewed on PS4 with code kindly provided by the Bandai Namco Australia