Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition review (PS4)

Chrono Cross is one of those games that was met with critical acclaim when it released, but rarely gets mentioned today. That’s about to change though, as Square Enix is re-releasing it as a remastered version that comes bundled with a bonus title as Chrono Cross – The Radical Dreamers Edition. It’s out for all major platforms right now – here are our thoughts on the PlayStation 4 version.

We think that part of why Chrono Cross isn’t as fondly and vividly remembered by people is that the Western release of the game didn’t launch on the original PlayStation until the summer of 2000, when the PlayStation 2 was already out in Japan and about to come out in the west as well – stealing away the focus of a lot of gamers. In an era before cross buy, free upgrades and digital distribution, games were way more tied to a particular generation, and Chrono Cross was one of them. For better and for worse, as it’s also one of the true classic RPGs of the PS1 generation.

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This new version of Chrono Cross is not a remake like the Final Fantasy VII release, so it still very much resembles the game that was first released back in 1999. It comes with all the usual remaster elements though: the game is now rendered at a higher resolution, character models have been upgraded and the audiovisual quality of the menus and music has been polished as well. Oddly enough, however, the game’s performance seems to be sub-par, even when running on a PlayStation 5 (which doesn’t have a native version of the game, so we were running the PS4 one on it). Although we didn’t have a PS1 copy to compare it to, we noticed some slowdown during combat scenes that you wouldn’t expect to see. Considering how this isn’t the most audiovisually demanding game out there we expect that that’ll be fixed post-launch, but it’s worth mentioning.

It’s still a joy to get through the game’s 30+ hour storyline though, as unlike the framerate things rarely slow down with a story that deals with different timelines and alternate realities. There’s a lot going on in the second half of the game though, and it’s not as streamlined as more recent games, so without a little help from some kind of written guide you can find yourself a little lost. What helps is that the new remaster gives you the option to get through the game and its battles a little faster, letting you focus more on the story and its well-written characters.

Despite the remaster treatment, Chrono Cross does show its age in certain areas. For one, the controls aren’t as smooth as they are in today’s games, with some awkward moving about and positioning as a result. You’ll also find that the game can feel a tad menu-heavy, especially when trying to tweak your party’s abilities and loadout.

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Combat can also be overwhelming due to a multitude of mechanics, but is ultimately rewarding if you invest time in learning its ins and outs – though we couldn’t resist using the newly built-in ‘cheat mode’ to speed our way through some of the combat scenarios anyway – which can feel lengthy and repetitive when you’re a little pressed for time. With its complex story and ditto mechanics, Chrono Cross is a game you want to take your time with, and is still supremely rewarding as an RPG if you look past some of the rough edges of this remaster.

The same is true, but in a different way, for The Radical Dreamers, the visual novel-like bonus entry that’s included with this edition. Devoid of traditional gameplay, it’s purely narrative-driven, but it does connect the storylines of the SNES classic Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross – which is a lovely touch for fans of the franchise even though it’s a gameplay style that’s distinctly “niche” in nature. It’s a shame that Square didn’t bundle the original Chrono Trigger with this package as well though, as it would have given it much more value. As it stands, it’s nice to have access to Chrono Trigger again, but there are certainly areas where it could have used a bit more polish.

Score: 7.7/10

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