Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition Review

Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition Review
Photo Credit: Square Enix
Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition Review

Chrono Cross was originally released all the way back in 1999 when RPGs were almost always turn-based and graphical limitations left characters with missing noses and mouths. While it didn’t connect to Chrono Trigger in the way many fans expected, it was met with universal acclaim from critics. It holds a special place among the hearts of JRPG lovers, myself included. It showcases a vibrant, colorful world and a gigantic cast plus an innovative take on turn-based battles. All of these helped it stand out in a time where RPGs saturated the market.

Chrono Cross came at an important time in my life. It offered an escape from an abusive home environment and has always been dear to my heart. When I first heard whispers a remaster was on the horizon, I was excited for a new audience to experience it for the first time. I’d been holding out on playing again because I knew something had to be coming after it was mentioned in the NVIDIA GeForce Now leak. In fact, I even made a video all about why Chrono Cross deserved a remaster or remake.

In the newly remastered version, cracks do start to show in this 23-year-old game. The mechanics aren’t as intuitive as they once were, but I’d still rate the game, for what it was during that time, highly. There is so much heart and soul in its world that’s brimming with stories to be discovered and told.

But Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers is being measured for what it’s presenting now and not for how it impacted the generation that was around more than twenty years ago. Square hasn’t changed the game much. It still very much looks like an original PlayStation game just with a fresh coat of paint. The game beneath those layers, though, is still worth your time if you consider yourself a fan of RPGs or of Chrono Trigger.

Painting a Better Picture

Serge and his party in the starting village of Arni in Chrono Cross.
Photo Credit: Square Enix

It is hard to deny the beauty in Chrono Cross. Its world features a number of backdrops that vibrantly enrich the world you explore. From the coastal village of Arni with its palm trees, straw-thatched roofs, and shimmering waters to the ruinous futuristic city in the Dead Sea, you explore a variety of distinct landscapes throughout your adventure.

Radical Dreamers takes those backgrounds and smooths things out and adds a painterly quality to them. The game does offer the ability to toggle between the new graphics and the classic if you’re wanting to enjoy that old-school feel, though. 

The new backgrounds work especially well in places with a lot of vibrant colors and backdrops. In a few environments, things do get a little muddy. At one point in the game, you’re speaking with several fairy NPCs. Two of the three are animated and one is static. In the remaster, the static one has lost a lot of its detail and looks blotchy. It’s a minor issue, but it was glaring in this scene that was meant to hold a lot of emotional weight. It happens in a few other instances as well.

Character models also get an overhaul. They’ve been upgraded to high definition with a lot of detail. With a cast of forty plus recruitable characters, all of the ones I met looked better than I remember. It was fun finding new details in character designs that just weren’t noticeable previously. Character portraits have also been upgraded. Everything looks crisp and fresh.

There are moments, however, where it feels like the new character models are competing with the painterly backgrounds. Both look fantastic, but they don’t always mesh well together.

Unfortunately, many have discussed the framerate issues in the remaster. For much of my time, I thought it looked fine and didn’t think I was having issues. Upon checking out a YouTube video from Digital Foundry, I realized I’ve had a similar experience to everyone.

It honestly seemed to be no different from what I remembered on the original PlayStation so I thought I was unaffected. It is disappointing the game has trouble maintaining even 30 frames per second. 

Power at Your Fingertips

Harle using a tech in Chrono Cross.
Photo Credit: Square Enix

Over the years, Square has released remasters of many games, and they love to include enhancements to make the game easier. Radical Dreamers include many of the same seen in the remasters for Final Fantasy 7 through 9. There is a way to fast forward or slow time, which I used a lot. Characters move at such a slow pace, and it’s nice being able to zip through environments.

I also enjoyed being able to turn off enemy encounters. Chrono Cross’ leveling system is a bit different than most, and while there can be some benefits to non-boss battles, most stat leveling is done in those monumental fights. These two additions allowed me to zip through the game at a much quicker pace than any time prior.    

While I appreciate those additions, I don’t love the ones that make you more powerful. It’s very easy to hit a button on your controller and be guaranteed a win in battle. Enemies suddenly can’t hit you and all of your equipped elements are now at your disposal. I do think it entices people to pick the game up. Being able to access that so easily, though, is very tempting. I wish it was buried in a menu because there were a few times I used them and felt like a cheater. First-world problems, though, am I right?

Building the Perfect Team

Glenn, Leena, and Serge checking in on Kid.
Photo Credit: Square Enix

At its core, the gameplay in Chrono Cross is still a worthwhile investment. While some things aren’t refined like they would be today, it still holds up in the grander scheme of things. I love the game’s take on magic and abilities with the Element Grid. Placing elements and making sure you have good coverage of offensive, defensive, and healing spells are key.

It hasn’t lost its luster in the last twenty years. Many of the elements and summons still have a lot of personality in their designs, too. I particularly love the Golem summon which calls on a giant rock creature to tower over the world and pummel the enemy.

While the game’s giant recruitable character roster is sometimes a point of contention among fans, it adds an almost Pokemon, gotta catch ‘em all element to getting as many as you can. Hell, each character you recruit even has an elemental type.

Like in Pokemon, some party members are more viable than others. Even those who aren’t viable still offer interesting story moments. Many of the characters who are optional add nuance or an extra perspective to the story that would be missed otherwise. The large cast isn’t for everyone, but it’s one of my favorite parts of the game.

Weaving a Story Between Worlds

Lynx on the top of a cliff with Radius.
Photo Credit: Square Enix

Chrono Cross’ biggest critique it gets revolves entirely around its story. It’s been more than two decades since its release, and I still love the tale it weaves. Despite how much some hate it, there is no denying it is a sequel to Chrono Trigger. Chrono Cross just isn’t heavy-handed with its connection between the two games. In fact, most of the connections between the two come late in the story. While some have issues with it, I think it is a smart choice and makes sense narratively.

One of the big reveals comes in a place called the Dead Sea. I won’t get into spoilers, but there are scenes and a boss battle that connect the games in a quiet way. It doesn’t try to beat you over the head with its connection, but the moment is still impactful, important, and shows you the scope of the problems faced by the characters in Chrono Cross.

Not many games explore competing worlds. But being able to explore each and see how small and large decisions cause ripples through in one another is fantastically done. These ripples and decisions explore themes that are still relevant today like climate change, prejudice against other races, and occupation of towns by armies. 

One thing I think most people can agree on is the game’s music. It is some of the best in the genre and honestly in gaming history. Yasunori Mitsuda composed music for Chrono Cross, Chrono Trigger, and the text adventure Radical Dreamers. All three have things that meld and connect the games together. With the game’s theme of opposing worlds, it is also exciting getting to hear the different themes for places in each world. It helps add drama, excitement, and a whole string of emotions throughout the game’s story.

An Unplayed Dream

Lynx stands in Sprigg's hut.
Photo Credit: Square Enix

The remaster does include the text-based adventure game Radical Dreamers. This game connects the narrative between the two games. It might also add a little more context to those who detest Chrono Cross for not being the sequel they wanted. Previously, it was only available in Japan, so it’s quite a treat being able to play through it.

While the game’s narrative doesn’t carry over to Chrono Cross, it does feature favorites like Serge, Kid, and Lynx. It isn’t breaking new ground, but it is nice to finally be able to play it in an official capacity. Thankfully, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t played Chrono Trigger or Radical Dreamers – the game doesn’t require prior knowledge. Its story is touching, exciting, and told brilliantly through a cast of lovable characters. Each has their own unique style of fighting in the game’s turn-based battles.

With New Game Plus, there is a lot of replayability to discover new things, make different choices, and recruit new people. If you’re a fan of old-school RPGs from the PlayStation era and haven’t gotten a chance to play Chrono Cross before, do it.

Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition Review
Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition Review
While upgraded graphics and gameplay enhancements may not be enough for everyone, it's still a great game thanks to a vibrant world and cast and its take on the tired and true turn-based battle system. Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers is a worthwhile port for fans of the game and those looking to play for the first time.
Vibrant world looks great with updated graphics
Character models are detailed and improve upon the original
The gameplay and story are still a worthwhile investment
Framerate issues
Sometimes the updated backgrounds and new character models do not mesh well


  • Casey David Muir-Taylor

    Casey grew up in the deep south but now resides in the Midwest. He is a fan of JRPGs, survival horror, and story-driven games and believes video games offer the best form of escapism. He is a freelance writer and social media manager.

Casey David

Written by Casey David Muir-Taylor

Casey grew up in the deep south but now resides in the Midwest. He is a fan of JRPGs, survival horror, and story-driven games and believes video games offer the best form of escapism. He is a freelance writer and social media manager.

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