Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition Review: ‘Dreamin’ of a Better Remaster’

The oft-rumored Chrono Cross remaster is finally here, and despite many being filled with nostalgia for it, it’s a totally new game for part of the world. The launch of Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition will mark the first time the game is released outside of Japan and North America. As such, one would hope Square Enix pulled out all the stops to give new players an excellent introduction to one of the best games of the PS1 era.

I played Chrono Cross when it was first released, then again a few years ago, and it’s held up over the last 20+ years a lot better than many of its contemporaries. Like Chrono Trigger, it has a timeless sort of appeal (pun intended), and the gameplay is tight enough to still feel fresh. Unfortunately, this lackluster remaster was produced without the polish and care it deserves. So, when playing, I faced a conundrum. This is still an excellent game, but the remastered elements are generally poor.

Chrono Core

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Like I said above, the core of Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition, Chrono Cross, is an amazing game, and I loved playing through it again. It’s a sequel to Chrono Trigger that deals with the repercussions of Chrono and party interfering with the timeline and has an overall darker tone than the original game. For some reason, it’s somewhat divisive amongst the Chrono fanbase, probably because it’s not a direct sequel. However, I don’t really care about anyone like that because they have terrible takes.

Also new to all territories outside of Japan is the Satellaview exclusive Radical Dreamers. While a fan translation has been available since around 2003, this is the first time this bridge between the two Chrono games and prequel to Chrono Cross has been officially released in English.

This “game” will be more hit or miss for players. It’s not an RPG, for one. It’s a visual novel that is pretty slow-moving and which contains spoilers for Chrono Cross. It also has six comedy scenarios available after the first, which are non-canon. I actually recommend anyone who hasn’t played Chrono Cross to play it before Radical Dreamers because it spoils some of the mysteries like Kid’s identity.

Lack of mastery

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For the remaster, Square Enix added new HD models and textures, and HD text with redrawn character portraits. These are fine and similar enough to the originals to blend in well. However, one of my big issues was with the upscaled backgrounds. I’ve dabbled in AI upscaling, and you can get some incredible results. However, even pricey AI upscalers need guidance and manual adjustments to get the best picture possible.

Unfortunately, the backgrounds look like Square Enix just ran them through an automatic process and slapped them back into the game. I’ve seen fan-made upscales for PS1 games that look much better. Some of the backgrounds look okay, but then you have others that haven’t been touched up to eliminate aliasing or that have had details turned into muddled blobs. Luckily you can switch back to the original graphics, which are easier on the eyes at times, but not on the fly. To choose between the original and remastered graphics, you have to return to the main menu, which is annoying.

Even in early locations like Arni, you get upscaling artifacts like plants with jagged leaves. These backgrounds needed to have problem areas hand-retouched, and the entire game suffers from this poor work. Fan upscales absolutely blow this away. Fortunately, the one advantage of this remaster is that it’ll be easier to replace textures on the PC version of this game and give it the treatment it deserves, but that doesn’t help anyone who buys it on other platforms.

FMVs are also an area that needs a lot more care. They’re filled with compression artifacts, and I’d be surprised if they weren’t just direct upscales outside of the intro video, which has been touched up. I just used my copy of Topaz Labs Video Enhance AI, which is a $200 program, on a crappy YouTube copy of an FMV that someone uploaded ten years ago and got better results than what I saw in this remaster. If giving these a proper upscale wasn’t an option, then Square Enix should have remade them because they’re rough.

Chrono Cross is one of Square Enix’s golden age titles and to see such little effort put into its remaster is disheartening. It doesn’t really make sense, considering that Live-A-Live is getting a full remake and was far less successful and lesser-known than this game. With the care the SaGa Frontier and Legend of Mana remasters got, I had high hopes for this one. I sincerely hope that some of these issues are rectified in a future update because it’s pretty embarrassing. Until then, I guess I’ll be radically dreamin’ of a better remaster.

Besides the inclusion of Radical Dreamers, the only really positive addition that comes with the Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition is a newly orchestrated soundtrack. However, you’re stuck with it as the original MIDI music is completely missing.

Lack of Values

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Again, I’m confused at why Square Enix decided to make Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition such a low-budget remaster. It’s priced at $19.99, which is reasonable enough, but why not put a little more work into it and charge $25 like SaGa Frontier? Alternatively, Square Enix could have thrown a straight port of the PC version of Chrono Trigger in (since it isn’t available on PS4, PS5, or Switch), and charged $30-40 for a Chrono franchise collection.

Considering that the Chrono franchise has a larger fanbase than the Mana and SaGa series do combined (at least in the West), I would have thought this would be the crowning jewel of Square’s efforts to bring its PS1 classics to modern platforms. Instead, it’s a very meh attempt that doesn’t even feel like a cash-in because of all the money it leaves on the table.

Chrono Trigger: The Radical Dreamers Edition Review: The final verdict

Since there’s no way to get Chrono Cross legally on any platform introduced in the last decade other than The Radical Dreamers Edition, you’ve just got to deal with it. I played it on PS5, and I imagine it’s a similar experience on PS4 and PS4 Pro. However, as much as I love PlayStation, I would buy it for PC. We’ll likely see mods on that platform that will fix the issues with the backgrounds and FMVs. I really hope the poor quality of this remake isn’t indicative of what we can expect from Square Enix in the future.

7.0Bronze Trohpy
  • Chrono Cross is still a great game.
  • Radical Dreamers in English is a welcome bonus.
  • Orchestrated soundtrack is well done.
  • Upscaled backgrounds are poorly done.
  • FMVs are poor quality and full of compression artifacts.