Interview: Koichiro Sakamoto (Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition, Final Fantasy VII, VIII, IX)
Koichiro Sakamoto is a long-established member of Square-Enix and recently has been involved in the remasters of many of the companies greatest hits including Final Fantasy VII-IX, as well as The Last Remnant Remastered. His latest project is the recently launched Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition, and Paul was very fortunate to get a little bit of Mr. Sakamoto’s time to delve into his work.
PJ: CHRONO CROSS despite being an acclaimed title, has always been in the shadow of its predecessor, CHRONO TRIGGER especially at the game’s original launch. What prompted the decision remaster Chrono Cross, rather than begin with Chrono Trigger?
KS: There are already ports of CHRONO TRIGGER available on multiple platforms, so you can still to play it to this day. However, as the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita are no longer current consoles, there isn’t anywhere you can play CHRONO CROSS anymore. We thought it’d be very unfortunate to let CHRONO CROSS fade away like that, so we started working on the remaster project.
PJ: It took the world a lot longer to properly fall in love with CHRONO CROSS. Why do you think that was?
KS: I think it’s really down to how complex the story is, and the way in which the connection to CHRONO TRIGGER is quite difficult to grasp. But there were people who enjoyed that complexity, really observed the game in detail, and got that out there on websites and social media. I believe that people gradually became aware of the enjoyment to be found in CHRONO CROSS, thanks to those fans. Additionally, I imagine that the new ending added to the Nintendo DS version of CHRONO TRIGGER sparked some people’s interest in CHRONO CROSS.
(Or it may have been the other way around…)
PJ: I must admit, that I, like many at the time, didn’t give CHRONO CROSS a proper chance when it first launched, and it was the music, when I heard that performed in concert that prompted me to give the game a proper chance. Once I did that I fell in love with the game. What is it about the music of not just this game, but the franchise, that is so immediately attention grabbing and powerful?
KS: This is a question that I think Mr Mitsuda would be very happy to read. I didn’t work on the original game myself, but I love the music in CHRONO CROSS. This is just my own personal view, but I imagine it’s because the game and the music combine together in people’s memories. If you were emotionally moved by watching a film or playing a game, then just hearing the music can bring that particular scene to mind. And if it’s a well-known film or game, then even if you haven’t watched or played it yourself, I’m sure you’ll have heard it enough times in adverts or on the internet to recognise it as the theme song. So, I think that there are lots of opportunities to hear music from well-known series or franchises, which makes them catch your attention.
PJ: Obviously a lot of time has passed since the game’s original launch, and a lot of people have moved on from the franchise/company. What level of involvement did some of the game’s original developers have in this remaster? Was there much need for their input or did you simply need to get their blessing?
KS: Although we did receive advice from some individuals, unfortunately, none of the staff from the original development were directly involved with the remastering work.
However, we did receive generous cooperation from Mr Kato, who worked on the scenario, Mr Yuuki, who worked on character design, and Mr Mitsuda, who worked on the music.
PJ: A lot of quality-of-life features have become prominent in the decades since the original launch. What should players be looking out for that may have changed aside from the standard graphical upgrades?
KS: CHRONO CROSS: THE RADICAL DREAMERS EDITION includes the following new/corrected features:
3D models converted to HD (possible to switch between original/remastered versions)
Refined illustrations (possible to switch between original/remastered versions)
Switch between HD/SD fonts
Background filter (can toggle on/off)
Turn off random encounters
Change screen ratio
Change game speed
PJ: Of course, the launch of this title has whipped many, like myself into a frenzy over the prospect of CHRONO TRIGGER getting a remaster, or even the 2D-HD treatment. With this title now available, is revisiting Chrono Trigger, in some way, shape or form, something that becomes an option?
KS: We don’t have any plans at the moment, and I don’t know what the future holds.
PJ: Of course, the other theory that has been suggested on the internet is that bringing back this game, may be the beginning of something bigger, like a new chapter in the franchise. The Chrono IP has been gone for such a long time, but do you feel like there is a place for it still in the current market? In what ways might the franchise need to evolve if it were to return?
KS: That’s the first I’ve heard of this theory, but I’m honoured that people would think that way. I wouldn’t want to say anything that could give people unintended expectations, so I’ll be quite clear – we don’t have any such plans at this point in time.
As for whether there’s a place for it in the current market, I think that would depend on how this remaster of CHRONO CROSS is received. And this is just my own personal view, but in terms of how it might evolve – CHRONO TRIGGER deals with time travel, while CHRONO CROSS looks at parallel worlds, so the series would surely have to introduce another theme that was different to that of both previous games!
PJ: Radical Dreamers is something that many Western players may not know much about. Might you tell us a little bit more about that addition and what it means for those experiencing it for the first time?
KS: The main scenario, Kid, is directly linked to CHRONO TRIGGER, and also formed the original model for CHRONO CROSS. I hope you’ll enjoy the differences from the main story of CHRONO CROSS. There are six other scenarios as well, allowing players to enjoy a varied selection of stories in a sound novel format.
For RADICAL DREAMERS, I think that the different, varied scenarios, alongside the one that became the origin of CHRONO CROSS, are good fun. Something else special is the way in which you’ll be able to have a deeper enjoyment of CHRONO CROSS after playing RADICAL DREAMERS. (Of course, I think that playing RADICAL DREAMERS after completing CHRONO CROSS also allows you to notice things you may otherwise not have picked up on!)
The above is a fan-made mock-up designed by Owlboy pixel-artist Simon Andersen
PJ: There is a large cast in CHRONO CROSS, several dozen playable characters. Do you have a favourite, one that you would recommend personally that players shouldn’t be without in their party?
In terms of my favourite, it would be Kid, because she becomes a key character through the entire game. For characters that players shouldn’t be without – if you want to make battles easier, you can’t go wrong with characters like Glenn, Grobyc, or Riddel. And I really like Mojo, just because of his design.
PJ: As a long-time fan of both games, thank you so much for revitalizing the game and bringing it back on modern consoles. For new players, what is your one piece of advice that they should adhere to while playing?
KS: If possible, I recommend that people try playing the game without using any kind of guide.
And, I would suggest that people pay attention to exactly what’s going on in the game. I think you’ll be able to enjoy the depth of the story.
PJ: Thank you for your time.
KS: Not at all – thank you for your interest in the game!