When it comes to gaming, there are not many things that can take you completely by surprise. In this day and age, most of the games get leaked months before they’re out. It’s hard to keep anything secret. Last year, there was this peculiar NVIDIA leak with a lot of high-profile titles scheduled for a PC release. Some were new, some were remakes, but there was one title that got my attention. Chrono Cross something edition. Wait, THE Chrono Cross from my days of PsOne? It can’t be. That was when I decided most of the leak was fake. I mean, one of the greatest JRPGs ever is getting a stealth PC release? Yeah, right. Then E3 came and went and there wasn’t any announcement for it (which only strengthened my assumption about it being fake). Then bam! I’m watching some inconspicuous Nintendo presentation of upcoming titles and there was a sudden announcement of something called CHRONO CROSS: THE RADICAL DREAMERS EDITION with an added remark of “also on PC a day later”. Grats, Nintendo. You got me good.
There are two stories here actually. Or two games, let’s put it that way. This edition comes with Chrono Cross (as in, base game) and something else called RADICAL DREAMERS – Le Trésor Interdit –. A text-only adventure or a proto visual novel that was only available for Satellaview, a device for Super Famicom which allowed users to receive downloadable content from satellite broadcasts. So you would have to jump through a couple of hoops first before even hoping to get a chance to play it in a needlessly obtuse and complicated way. Now for the important part: both games take place and are also sequels to the acclaimed Chrono Trigger. Though the connections between Chrono Cross and Chrono Trigger are a bit obtuse and vague at first, Chrono Cross can be easily played as its own game and it doesn’t require any previous knowledge of Chrono Trigger. I’ll just briefly mention the story of RADICAL DREAMERS – Le Trésor Interdit – since the game is pretty short and it is set in one of the alternate realities of the Chrono Cross universe (more about alternate universes later). It’s not even a mandatory play when combined with the main game but it’s a nice addition if you ever want to know more about the lore of the main characters in Chrono Cross. As for the main game, the story starts fairly innocent. You are Serge, a young boy from Arni Village. You overslept and are late to a meetup with your girlfriend. To make things right, she asks you to get a couple of rainbow shells so she can make a necklace and meet her later at a nearby beach. You do all that, go to the beach, and then…….a strange tidal wave sweeps you off your feet, you almost drown but make it out alive. You go back to your village, except folks tell you Serge has been dead for a long time, he drowned many many years ago and nobody there recognizes you. But wait, you are Serge. What is happening? Well, this is the part where the game gets you hooked with the story. Later on, we find out that there is another world than the one we grew up in. You even get to hop between the worlds later as you try to solve the mystery of who you actually are.
There are a couple of things that are pretty unique to Chrono Cross. Do you know how in other RPG games you have collectibles in form of secret weapons, skills, and summons? Well, think of Chrono Cross as a prototype Pokemon game except the collectibles are various playable characters. This game has a total of 45 playable characters and it is impossible to get them all in the first run. Some will join you in the branching story paths (while some will be locked out), some are hidden behind optional quests and some can only be unlocked by unlocking certain secret characters first. Crazy, I know. But also incredibly fun. Every playable character has 2 unique skills to be used in battle, with a third one usually being hidden through a character-specific quest. Every character is different in terms of stats like strength, magic damage, defense, and also color affinity. Ah, yes we have to talk about colors. You see, magic in Chrono Chross is renamed to “elements” and they come in different colors. As in, the fire-based elements will be (obviously) red, the water ones will be blue, the light ones are white, dark ones are blue…..you get the point. A character with red affinity will do more damage with fire-based element attacks and not so much when using blue elements. However, they will take far more damage if attacked with blue elements by an enemy with blue affinity so watch out for that. Aside from all that, the rest of the battle system comes down to the usual turn-based system, with upgrading weapons and equipping stat enhancing armor and accessories as you play through the game.
CHRONO CROSS: THE RADICAL DREAMERS EDITION comes with some specific enhancements. You can toggle enemy encounters on or off, you can speed up or slow down the battle and even activate a battle boost for the “easy mode”. That way, every enemy attack is guaranteed to miss, you just have to sit back and enjoy the show. But now you will say, ok but what about visual enhancements? This is why we are here, after all. The good news is that there are those too. 3D models have been converted to HD, you also have a background filter feature and you can now change the screen resolution from the default 4:3 (remember, this was a PsOne game). The bad news is that….all of that doesn’t matter much in the long run. The game will have occasional frame drops (in battles and even on the world map) and most of the visual improvements that are advertised on the story page are barely noticeable.
When it comes to audio, even with or without a selling point of “higher-quality background music” on the store page, you should know that you are getting one of the greatest video game soundtracks in the history of …….well, video games. For me, Yasunori Mitsuda is right up there with Nobuo Uematsu and Mick Gordon when it comes to video game composers. I’m not gonna say the music of CHRONO CROSS: THE RADICAL DREAMERS EDITION is worth the purchase alone, but it’s a tight race. The whole soundtrack is (and always will be) one of the greatest things about this game.
Here is a classic example of an iconic game being fumbled by a mediocre release. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that I finally got to play one of the PsOne classics on PC. It’s been what, more than 20 years now? I wouldn’t even care about the advertised enhancements really if the game came with some sort of acceptable framerate. The good thing is that this can all be remedied with a performance patch or two, it’s just a question of how much Square Enix cares now that the game is out. In the end, I got my wish. It’s a monkey paw type of granted wish, though. Here is your Chrono Cross, but here is your below 30 fps play experience as well.
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