Chrono Cross is a classic that deserves a reboot — but fans of Trigger should know what they’re getting into

chrono cross is back. It’s taken decades, but one of Square’s sadly most maligned titles from its PS1 silver age is finally getting the treatment it deserves. A bunch of new people are likely to experience Serge and Kid’s adventure for the first time – and that’s reopening a twenty-year-old can of worms.

Chrono Cross got an unfair rap on the PS1. First off, it wasn’t released in Europe at all. Since its predecessor was never released in Europe, and by the time this came out, Final Fantasy was only just becoming truly international, it skipped Europe entirely. But things didn’t go well in North America and Japan either.

The makers of the game know that too. In an internal Square Enix interview, released to the media as part of the remaster’s review package, the creators of Chrono Cross are asked with a taunting question how it felt when the first game was “so good was included” – a wild misinterpretation of the situation at the time, likely based on some arguably exaggerated and inflated ratings that some outlets and writers have since quietly dismissed. Even in the text, the amusement is evident in the response from Masato Kato (original Chrono Cross director and key contributor to the original Chrono Trigger).

“It didn’t fare well in Japan and was heavily criticized at the time with comments like ‘The story doesn’t make sense’ or ‘A game like this can’t be the sequel to Chrono Trigger!’ It was quite a minefield”, says Kato.

I remember those days. Kato is right; it was brutal. This game has been trashed. And as I play Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition on Nintendo Switch, I wonder if we’ll see some of the same reactions again after only twenty years.

Here’s the main thing for people to be aware of: This is just a Chrono Trigger sequel in the most casual of ways. If you’re expecting to see all your favorite time travel heroes again, be prepared: you won’t. In fact, most of them are probably dead? Things are deliberately kept vague. While Chrono Cross’s story deals with Trigger’s direct impact and dangling threads, it’s a very separate game.

In hindsight, all these years later, this seems like a particularly smart choice. Chrono Trigger is one of the best games of all time – why try to make a direct sequel? It would inevitably disappoint. So, Chrono Cross is breaking into a unique and intriguing direction.

Back then, many people dismissed Cross as not a true sequel, given the three “big names” associated with the Chrono Trigger hype upon its release (Final Fantasy’s Hironobu Sakaguchi, Dragon Quest’s Yuji Horii, and Dragon Ball’s Akira Toriyama). I have nothing to do with Cross. But the truth is that the most important line was there: Kato himself. Kato wrote the screenplay for Chrono Trigger based on a loose draft by Horii. He was also one of several to direct the game. Though he wasn’t credited with that, since Trigger’s director’s chair was a melting pot of up to five or six people. For Cross, Kato went solo, both writing and directing. The point is: this story comes from the same person who wrote much of what people loved about Chrono Trigger. So this criticism is irrelevant.

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A better question for Square Enix Q&A wouldn’t have been “why are you so brilliant” but to ask Kato how it feels when a game that was extremely controversial at launch is re-evaluated as a cult classic. This is exactly what has happened to Chrono Cross for the last two decades; As it has shrunk in relevance and availability, and its predecessor has been re-released numerous times, those who seek it have been able to appreciate it for what it is: quietly brilliant, but also not a trigger.

However, Chrono Cross is definitely less easy to love than Trigger. It has all of those early Japanese 3D RPG weaknesses and ramps up Trigger’s non-linear structure to a point where I think some people can feel overwhelmed pretty easily. Not only does Cross have a story driven by time travel at its core, but it also mixes in a Zelda-esque dimension leap element where something done in one world can echo in another.

In battle, an elemental system isn’t just a strength/weakness system to be exploited – it’s absolutely essential to survival. In many areas, cool mechanics return from Trigger both naturally and superficially – so tech combos still exist and enemies are still encountered on the field – which was pretty rare at the time of release. Instead of a tight-knit cast of unforgettable playable characters, Chrono Cross has 45 party members in total – and you can’t even recruit them all in one go.

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Chrono Cross is a good game. It was treated very unfairly at the time, largely because it was a sequel to such a popular game, a game so heavily priced that everything that followed was cast in its shadow. Cross isn’t as good as Trigger either – make no mistake – but it’s a fine, solid Square RPG for its time… though aspects of its story will leave you squinting.

As for this remaster? Well, it largely goes without saying. Square Enix has now released a number of these re-releases and if you’ve played even one of them you should know what to expect. Real-time 3D elements are rendered crisply with higher quality textures. Pre-rendered CG backgrounds are believed to have been lost in their source format over time and have therefore been subjected to filters to look better on modern displays with mixed results. You can disable enemy encounters to speed through things – which will be especially useful in this game in New Game Plus.

The rendering of the character portraits has been overhauled to a higher resolution, and there’s a new font that’s nowhere near as flashy as some of Square Enix’s other re-releases. Music is now presented without compression, and there are also a handful of new arrangements by series composer and game score legend Yasunori Mitsuda (although these only appear in the menus). The best part is that most of these enhancements can be turned off, giving you the PS1 game at a higher resolution. Options! options are good.

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All these changes are fine and welcome. Square Enix could have done more, but it could also have done less. I’m generally happy with it, though much less so with the performance on Switch with all the new graphical changes enabled; There’s some serious roughness and hiccups that don’t make sense. Even remastered, a 22-year-old game shouldn’t have any framerate issues. I haven’t tested the other console versions yet, but if you get the chance it might be wiser to do so on PC, PS or Xbox instead – where presumably there will be fewer of those due to the sheer hardware power to get by.

Speaking of deals, the biggest of them all is the new element that gives this remaster its name: the inclusion of Radical Dreamers. This is a separate game originally released for Satellaview, a Japan-only SNES service that allowed players to download games over a television signal wirelessly. Although there was a fan translation, this release marks the first time Radical Dreamers has ever been released in the West, and the first official re-release of it outside of a service that shut down 22 years ago.

This inclusion is a bit of a given, but it’s also something I wouldn’t necessarily expect Square Enix to bother with. For example, this is the company that patched a perfectly fine PC port of Chocobo World from the latest Final Fantasy 8 release – they don’t always treat minor spin-offs with respect. So I’m thrilled to see Radical Dreamers included in this release.

Radical Dreamers is basically a text-based adventure game that tells the story of certain minor events that take place between Chrono Trigger and Cross. It won’t satisfy fans who want more of CT’s crew and world, but it’s a lovely companion to CC – and it’s fabulous to finally have it in the west. It’s an experience of a couple of hours, but it’s a brilliant little piece of history worth preserving.

That’s really the most important thing about this release. Performance issues aside on Switch, this is a perfectly timed version of a game that was in danger of being lost over time – and now it’s both preserved and remastered for a new generation. But beware: it’s not Chrono Trigger 2, it’s not as good as Chrono Trigger, and it’s often quite confusing. Temper those expectations and you’re likely to have a great time.

https://www.vg247.com/chrono-cross-remaster-chrono-trigger Chrono Cross is a classic that deserves a reboot — but fans of Trigger should know what they’re getting into

Fry Electronics Team

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