Released in the late 90s on Sony’s first PlayStation, only in Japan and the United States, Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers took part in this golden age of J-RPG . A time that saw Squaresoft place itself in the firmament of video game developers, with productions such as Final Fantasy 8 (released a few months earlier), Xenogears (1998), the two Parasite Eve (1998 – 1999) or Vagrant Story (2000). So many titles that have deeply marked the players of the time
It is therefore not so surprising that Square Enix chooses to bring back to the fore certain past glories, with in particular Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition which interests us today. And not to spoil anything, this edition includes an unreleased episode outside the archipelago, released at the time on Satellaview (a module to add to your SNES allowing you to download games), The Radical Dreamers: The Forbidden Treasure.
More than twenty years after the initial release, we are entitled to wonder about the relevance of this return of the cult title. Wouldn’t its presence in 2022 ultimately be anachronistic or, on the contrary, is Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers a J-RPG that stands the test of time?
A game ahead of its time…
Competition is strong within Squaresoft. Each development team constantly seeks to do better than the others, to offer an even more poignant and immersive story (remember that two years earlier, Final Fantasy 7 swept the world).
From this point of view, the bet is largely successful. Even today, Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamer draws us into a universe that hasn’t aged a bit. Of course, technically, the game has suffered the ravages of time, but the artistic direction continues to shine and offers us enchanting colorful settings to explore. Many 3D games from that era are hard to watch these days. This is not the case with Chrono Cross. Even the cutscenes in synthetic images were able to make us let go of our onomatopoeia of ecstasy. It will be necessary to take a step back, because we are dealing here with a simple remastering, but the game did not need more to look beautiful as on the first day.
A colorful artistic direction as is the adventure. Although the beginnings are sluggish, even nebulous, we embark alongside Serge and Kid on a masterful, timeless epic. Better still, certain reversals in the story managed to glue us to our screen. A screenplay audacity rarely experienced, even in our recent games. An incredible adventure carried by the compositions of Yasunori Mitsuda , to whom we owe the OST of Xeno blade Chronicles 2 or Shadow Hearts in particular, which signs there one of the best soundtracks of all time , just that. Just let yourself be carried away by the first notes of the game’s introduction to understand that we are dealing with a separate title.
But Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers also has this second reading grid, very current. It evokes, with more or less finesse, the place of Man in relation to Nature, and his impact on the planet and the living beings that compose it. An ecological discourse that has a particular resonance in our time.
And since we are talking about adventure with a capital A, let’s not forget that, as its name suggests, this edition includes the visual novel The Radical Dreamers: The Forbidden Treasure. It was basically a spin-off of Chrono Trigger, ultimately serving as a prologue to Chrono Cross. Let’s not beat around the bush, we weren’t really convinced. We certainly learn a little more about the universe and its characters, but the contribution, like the interest of the game, is so limited that it is hardly recommended.
Despite some fine lines to hide
But Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamer is far from perfect. We may live an epic story, particularly well written, but it is clear that its protagonists have not benefited from the same care. With more than forty playable characters to recruit throughout the game, we could say that it’s normal. However, we can’t help regretting that only a (small) handful of them are really interesting.
So obviously, by being curious, we were able to discover a few minor details about the lives of our partners, but in the end, only Kid and Arle really stand out. Other warriors also benefit from their moments, but many are just empty shells that join our group for no particular reason and will never leave the depths of our combat pool.
It’s a bit the same concern that we had with the combat system, by the way. On the one hand, the game mechanics are not lacking in originality and let us choose our strategies very freely. We are invited to adapt to the elementary strengths and weaknesses of our allies as well as our enemies via a fully customizable bar of elements (magic or objects). In each battle, we must make the choice between attacking quickly, but weakly, or taking the time to access our best spells, at the cost of some HP gleaned by our opponent.
On the other hand, this advanced combat system unfortunately impacted our experience. The challenge being rather reduced, we inevitably find ourselves not using the possibilities offered and simply spamming our physical attacks in order to be able to chain our most powerful elements. A profitable strategy with a few peaks of difficulty.
But above all, the fights are often very long for not much , the game is not based on a traditional level up system. Our stats only increase after boss fights and during the few encounters that follow. In fact, most battles have regularly appeared to us as unnecessary and frustrating interruptions, which are chained without real pleasure.
This is where the comfort options that Square Enix has accustomed us to come in. In Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition, you can speed up the action, block clashes on the map, and above all set the action bar to the maximum. Possibilities that we particularly appreciated, because they make it possible to avoid exhaustion in the face of a lack of tempo between two bosses or strong script moments.