**Simultaneous release on leetNEET
A Little Bit of History:
To say the least, Radical Dreamers has quite a bit of story behind it. Intended as an official sequel to the critically acclaimed Chrono Trigger, the game was something that many people were looking for at the time. Starved for a sequel to one of the greatest games ever and combined with the fact that most of the original Chrono Trigger team was returning to develop Radical Dreamers, it’s no surprise. Sadly though, the game ended up plagued with a variety of issues—the most notable of which was the production schedule. Ultimately, this rushed schedule would result in Masato Kato’s team finishing the game in a record three months and releasing it in 1996… at the cost of the game being labeled “unfinished” and being nothing like the RPG it was intended to be. The story behind Radical Dreamers would eventually form the foundation of Chrono Cross however, which is now widely considered the official canon sequel and was released in 1999 (JP)/2000(NA).
About the Game:
Characters/Story: The story focuses on three main characters: Serge, Kid, and Magil. Serge is the main narrator, Kid is a renowned thief, and Magil is a mysterious character skilled in magic. The entirety of Radical Dreamers centers on their attempt to sneak into a building known as the Viper Manor in search for the fabled Frozen Flame, an artifact supposedly capable of granting any wish.
Graphics/Animation: Because Radical Dreamers is pretty much a text-based story, there aren’t many graphical elements present at all. You’ll get the occasional graphic showing where you are, but it’s nothing to really cry home about.
Gameplay: Chances are, if you have never played a Japanese visual novel, you’ve probably have never seen a game like this before. Gameplay revolves around text-based scenarios and you’ll feel more like you’re reading a story rather than actually playing the game. As you go through the game, you’ll find yourself presented with a variety of text choices that will ultimately determine where your party goes, how they fight (or not fight), etc.
Depending on the choices you make, there are a variety of different end game scenarios that may result, mostly dependent on your interactions with Kid. There is also a New Game+ that unlocks additional endings, though most of these are intentionally comedic. Also, you may game over if you hesitate too long in making key decisions or take too many hits from an enemy. Various potions/events can restore Serge’s invisible health count. Total duration is around 2 hours for the main story line “Le Trésor Interdit”, provided you have a walkthrough handy. Typical gameplay is probably slightly more than that.
Music: Yasunori Mitsuda composes all the music you hear throughout the game and well, they’re more of his usual goodness. Considering this is a text based adventure, it’s not a stretch to say music plays a major role in creating the atmosphere and the emotions that come from a story like this. Delivered wrong, there’d be no enjoyment at all… and well, Mitsuda definitely delivers. Notably, many of his themes were ultimately also adopted for Chrono Cross, so head over to that if you want to hear some samples.
The Verdict: For the most part, Radical Dreamers draws quite a split in terms of its reception. Some people laud the fact that Kato was able to accomplish so much despite the production schedule and the type of game it ended up. Others are quite critical of the text-based story concept.
Personally though, I find myself in the former group. Maybe it had something to do with the fact I played Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross prior to playing Radical Dreamers, but I loved the game. Yes, it’s not an RPG. Yes, it’s strange to be playing a game that’s more reading than anything else. But the thing is, the game has so much for something that’s only a few hours long. Great music and unique dialogue combine together to give a fairly complex story and well, there’s just something about being able to see how Chrono Cross developed from this as well. Furthermore, it gives us some background to the characters and answers we previously had to assume a bit about in Chrono Cross, and thus supplements everything quite nicely. Granted, I will admit the game’s not for everyone, but fans of Chrono Trigger and/or Chrono Cross need to at least give this game a try. Word for the wise though, try to play this game in a closed room, plug in your headphones, and make sure you’re not in a distractive environment. Being the format it is, a major key in enjoying this lies in the fact that you’re able to immerse yourself in its atmosphere, in its story. Get distracted by random stuff in between and you’ll most likely not enjoy it at all. If you give it all your attention though… I’m sure you won’t find yourself disappointed.
Overall, it’s quite good for its medium and a great treat for Trigger and Cross fans in general. It’s a bit difficult to acquire/play these days though, albeit a certain SNES emulator may do the trick…