That is the only appropriate word for Radical Dreamers. Exciting? No, there never is a pulse quickening moment that causes your heart to make a frenzied attempt to separate itself from your chest cavity. Captivating? At no point did I feel that insatiable urge to keep playing long into the night that truly gripping games provide. Fun? Although there are many vague definitions as to what makes one game “fun” and another game “not fun,” I would find it hard to believe that Radical Dreamers is one of those games that would be appealing to play for a large spectrum of gamers.
No, the entire concept of Radical Dreamers, from game conception to actual finished product is interesting. Why was the sequel to Chrono Trigger, one of the most immensely popular role playing games ever, changed from a role playing game to a text adventure? Why was it relegated to the gaming wasteland that is the Nintendo satellite system instead of receiving a full Japanese and American release? And why, except for the release of Chrono Cross, has Radical Dreamers gone mostly unnoticed by Chrono fanatics?
There is a simple answer for these questions though. It is that Radical Dreamers simply isn’t good. It is an interesting side note, an asterisk in the history of Square, but it is by no means a solid finished product that gamers have come to expect from them. Radical Dreamers shows many signs of the rushed production that enabled it to be released only one year after the debut of Chrono Trigger on Nintendo’s satellite system in Japan.
The haste in production is apparent from the first seconds of play. Gone is any sort of role playing system. It has been replaced by a bastardized text and graphical interface, the sort commonly seen in Japanese pornography games. Freeform exploration has been replaced by a Choose Your Own Adventure! book masquerading as a video game. Radical Dreamers is a huge plot tree, with different choices sending you down various branches in your selected story. There are eight stories to choose from; however, the characters from each story and the locations involved primarily stay the same. There are also random enemy encounters, but since there’s no way of telling how hurt you are, or how your decisions will effect the battle, there’s little point in obsessing over each choice you have in battle.
If you’ve ever played Chrono Cross, then Radical Dreamers is going to be very boring to you. Think of it as the book version. The same characters (Serge, Kid, Magil, Lynx, Riddel) are present in both games. You’re basically re-enacting the very beginning of Chrono Cross: breaking into Lynx’s Mansion for the elusive Frozen Flame. Depending on which story you have selected, the story branches from here. You’re given insight into each character as you venture through the mansion, learning more about the tangled history of the Frozen Flame, Lynx himself, and the legendary Acacia Dragoons.
Chances are this information is only going to interest you if you’re a big fan of the Chrono series. Radical Dreamers reveals a lot of the little relationships that were only hinted at in Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross, while also creating entirely new questions to be answered. If you weren’t previously interested in the series, then Radical Dreamers isn’t going to change anything, as it doesn’t offer any substantially new plot lines or character profiles.
Radical Dreamers features two prevalent graphical features. The first is text. There’s a lot of it. Seriously. Break out your reading glasses. Since there really isn’t any “gameplay” per say, it’s just screen after screen describing what you’re doing, what you’re seeing, what you’re fighting, etc. Prepared to be really bored, as you’ll often see the same text over and over again as you wander through the mansion.
Combining with the text to create the graphics are still backgrounds with a few moving sprites. Some of these images are interesting the first time you see them. Some aren’t. However, this is irrelevant, since you’ll see all but the ending scenes repeatedly throughout the game. The few that are done really well, such as seeing your characters wander in the background through a mirror in Riddel’s room, are few and far between. Overall, most of the backgrounds are dull, dimly lit pictures showing off how “scary” the catacombs are.
If there is one aspect of Radical Dreamers that saves it from the trash can, it would have to be the sound. The same composer that did Chrono Trigger also worked on Radical Dreamers, and it shows in the quality of the work. Although the music is understandably not as cheerful as Chrono Trigger, the quality is still there, as each echoed footstep is heard. A scary atmosphere is created by the sound, which unfortunately can not carry over to other aspects of the game.
Radical Dreamers is not interactive enough to appeal to a wide variety of gamers. Hardcore fans are the only people who really need to play this game. If you’ve never played a Chrono game before, then I would stick with the vastly superior Chrono Trigger, or even the flawed Chrono Cross before sinking your teeth into this one. There’s simply not enough here to warrant extended playthrough.
Interesting. But not interesting enough.
Community review by sgreenwell (April 27, 2003)
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