Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if you had made different choices? What would things be like if you had taken a different career path, or what if you had never met your closest friends or significant other?
Perhaps a single decision you made at one point in your life set you on a path that took you to where you are right now, reading this review. If you had made a different decision, would your life be the way it is today?
How would the world be different if you had died at a young age? Would it be any different at all?
Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition explores these concepts and more. You play as a boy named Serge who lives in a quiet fishing village before he is transported to a parallel dimension. Here, everything and everyone seems similar, but he quickly learns a disturbing difference: in this alternate world, Serge died 10 years ago. He teams up with new friends who help defend him from Lynx, the main antagonist.
The game throws you into action pretty quickly. It isn’t long before you meet key characters, learn the basics of the plot, and make significant decisions that will alter the course of your playthrough. You must travel between the two parallel dimensions to attempt to uncover and thwart Lynx’s evil plans.
Chrono Cross’s strengths when it was originally released in 1999 remain the same today. After playing through the remaster, I’m surprised that Chrono Cross has been seen as the black sheep when compared to its prequel, Chrono Trigger. While the two have pretty drastic gameplay differences, Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition has earned its place next to its predecessor as a standout JRPG in my eyes.
With over 40 recruitable characters, I found it very difficult to choose favorites.
You may think 40 playable characters means the developers went with quantity over quality, but that is not the case at all. Every party member has a unique personality and purpose, often with story significance, which is surprisingly well-intertwined considering choices you make can lock out certain characters from being recruitable.
The writing, especially the dialogue, is stellar. Though there is no voice acting, each and every character manages to have his or her own accent and inflection when speaking. It’s completely ending and makes the characters feel alive and convincing.
Chrono Cross’s story has many moments that will stick with you long after you set the game down. There are heartbreaking scenes, tricky moral dilemmas, and jaw-dropping plot twists. It was only after a particular twist that I realized just how precisely everything leading up to that moment was connected.
One major difference from Chrono Trigger that I haven’t really ever seen in another game is the combat system. In fact, I think I enjoy Chrono Cross’s combat even more than its prequel’s.
Physical attacks work with a stamina meter, which charges up your ability to use elements (magic attacks). Every character, enemy, and boss has an “Innate” element that it is weak to. Though using an element of the same Innate as your playable character makes that attack stronger, every character can use every element type, which is helpful to provide coverage against all enemy types.
Chrono Cross has a good difficulty curve. I never felt under-leveled or needed to go out of my way to grind. Some bosses were challenging, and I did die to a few in the late game, but not because of being under-leveled; I simply had to change up my strategy, which felt fair and prevented me from wasting my time.
I cannot over-stress just how great the recruitable characters are, and I do believe they are what make the game shine. Since some are locked out if you make certain choices, it motivates me to play through it again with new decisions and recruits. There are several branching paths (even extremely early on in the game) and multiple endings, so you are truly forging your way with every choice you make.
Chrono Cross has one of the most beautiful soundtracks to any game I’ve ever played. Fans of Chrono Trigger will be delighted to recognize versions of familiar melodies. Both old and new fans will have songs stuck in their heads for days in the best way possible.
I want to talk about the differences that this remaster brings to the table, which is why many people may be interested in reading this review in the first place. I wish I had more good things to say about how Square Enix handled this one, and I’m honestly a bit perplexed about what they did.
Side by side, the game undoubtedly looks much better than the original. The character models are fully updated and look very nice, nothing is pixelated, and the colors are vibrant. The environment and scenery look crisp in most places, though some textures still look pretty dated, which isn’t a huge deal.
The cutscenes though… Yikes. I’m not sure if this is a result of playing on the switch with a worse resolution or if it looks the same way on other platforms. The cutscenes look like they just tried to smooth everything out hastily because it looks extremely fuzzy on both handheld and docked modes.
Honestly, I think the “remastered” cutscenes on Switch look worse than the ones in the original version. It’s hard to look at, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t typically put a lot of weight into graphics.
It’s a shame that Square Enix didn’t give Chrono Cross more love in this “remaster” after 23 years. This was one of the most beautiful games on the PlayStation in 1999, and you wouldn’t be able to tell that two decades of advancements in graphics have happened from this remaster.
Luckily, other additions beyond updated visuals are much better. Modern features such as auto-save and auto-battle are nice to have. Turning off enemy encounters (not bosses) helps when you’re in a pinch. I played through most battles in the new 2x speed mode, since the combat sequences can be hellishly slow.
Finally, included with Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition is the 1996 text-based adventure Radical Dreamers, which connects Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross. This is a special inclusion in this remaster because this game was only officially released in Japan for the Satellaview, a peripheral for the Super Famicom.
In other words, very few Chrono fans have had the opportunity to play this side story until now. I am grateful to Square Enix for including Radical Dreamers in this remaster so that it can finally be experienced by so many people for the first time.
Overall, I am happy to have a modern way to play Chrono Cross and Radical Dreamers. Could Square Enix have polished this up a bit more to fit the standards of a remaster in 2022? Absolutely. Is Chrono Cross still a stellar game regardless? Absolutely. I am eager to play through it again in New Game+ to make different decisions and recruits.
Chrono Cross stands the test of time, and I implore anyone who enjoyed Chrono Trigger or other 90s JRPGs to give Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition a shot.
Who knows, perhaps making the simple choice to play it could even change the path of your own life.
Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition
Reviewer: Rebecca Stone | Award: Editor’s Choice | Copy provided by Publisher.
- Strong, lovable characters with over 40 to recruit.
- Ambitious, thought-provoking story.
- Fantastic writing.
- Unique, enjoyable combat system.
- Beautiful soundtrack.
- Remastered visuals aren’t up to today’s standards.
- Cutscenes don’t look remastered at all.
- Still feels clunky in some ways.
April 7, 2022
PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC