23 years after its original release, Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition relives one of the true gems of the PS1 era with improved visuals and a handful of extras. It’s available on last-generation PS4 and Xbox One, as well as Switch and PC, with backwards compatibility that allows the game to be played on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S as well. Regardless of platform, it’s a pleasure to see one of Squaresoft’s great JRPGs remastered, but it’s definitely not a perfect package. Stark changes have been made to the pre-rendered 2D backgrounds, dramatically changing the look, while the frame rate is much less consistent than you’d expect from a game made four generations ago.
So is the Radical Dreamers version the best way to play Chrono Cross, despite these issues, or is it still better to enjoy the original version – perhaps enhanced with a CRT or HDMI scaler like the Retrotink 5X Pro?
Before answering this question, let’s take a quick look at the changes that were made. The first thing you’ll notice is that the models for the chosen characters have been upgraded, the character art has been redrawn, and the backgrounds have been treated with some kind of high-end artificial intelligence. All of these changes can be toggled with a single option in the front-end launcher, between the new and classic modes – but unfortunately, none of them can be toggled individually. all or nothing..
No matter which mode you choose, there are universal modifications to the Chrono Cross remaster. First, there is a change in the iconic FMV opening sequence; A higher resolution version is now being used, with noise removal and sharper text – a very welcome improvement over the original PS1. However, the downside is that the improvements end there, and later FMVs remain raw and untouched. It’s also a pity that the music in all of the FMVs is heavily compressed, and appears to be rendered in a quality comparable to that of the original PS1. in the game? The good news is that Yasunori Mitsuda’s beautiful, sample-based soundtrack shines through. It’s still a real highlight of the Chrono Cross experience, and while the arrangements are left as is, at least newly formatted tracks are being added to the remaster’s front-end launcher.
What about the visuals then? The biggest modification is AI processing of 2D background assets to match the enhanced resolution. However, due to the inherent reluctance of the original PS1 wallpapers – which seem to be used as the source for this project – this results in some artifacts in areas that contain a pure color element (sky blues for example). The result is fun at times, creating a watery effect that fits the chrono-cross aesthetic. But in other places, new details were added that were not intended; Artifacts such as the occasional recurring wave and stripe appear, while store signage appears with an unusual pattern. In general, Ai wallpapers developed for the new mode are preferred, if mainly for compatibility with new 3D models – but it is not always an ideal solution.
There are more changes too. For both the new and classic Graohics modes, all 3D elements (character models, 3D battle sequences) we scale the original resolution in the 900p area to 936p. Only the new character models are dedicated to the new graphics mode, and this one also features a 1080p HUD overlay. These revised 3D models are found on both PS4 and Switch with matching quality. Meanwhile, Classic mode uses the original PS1 models, and also brings back wallpapers and portraits in 240p, with chunky text on the screen. That doesn’t look great until it’s up to 1080p or 4K viewing, especially in the outside world where we’ve clearly introduced 3D elements running on top of the broken map. Again, the new mode is preferred on larger screens.
One of the obvious problem points with the adapter is performance. Honestly, frame rates on the PS5 and on the Switch are as low as the original PS1 – and sometimes even worse when the “new” graphics mode is selected. The issues are visible right from the start, with the first opening lobby dropping to 20fps compared to 30fps on the original PS1. This isn’t as low as it can happen either, as more tax scenes could see you shift the frame rate cap to 20, 15, or even 10 fps. That’s not to say the original was perfect – the original PlayStation ran the game at a wildly fluctuating frame rate between 10 and 30 fps as well – but what’s worrisome is that hardware running on modern consoles actually ends up hitting a lower frame – Rates in some of the same scenes.
Selecting classic mode in the remaster’s menu improves things, but it doesn’t guarantee a 30fps lock. In general terms, it seems to put frame rates on par with the original PS1 again, with fights still dropping to 15fps and below. However, regardless of the mode used, additional obstacles are introduced during battles in the Remaster – such as during a post-battle victory – that were not present on the original PS1.
All of the performance issues raise a question: How is this reduced performance possible after so many years from its 1999 release? One possibility is that the game works as an emulated PS1 game, rather than being remade from the ground up for modern systems. Supporting this theory is the presence of virtual PS1 memory cards in the save menu, while the PC installation guide shows two archive files for each physical disk. Proper reconfigurations undoubtedly take more time than adding additional graphic tweaks and styles to a simulated copy, but it’s hard to imagine Square Enix visualizing this discrepancy as an end result.
Given the performance issues on PS5 and Switch, we wondered if the game might run better and be more fun to play on PC. Sadly, it’s quite similar to what we were able to test – opening lane stays at 20fps in the new graphics mode, and battles drop to 15fps and lower – even on a Titan RTX. Obviously, overall system horsepower isn’t a limit here, but there must be an issue of some sort with the simulation contributing to the blatantly low frame rates. The only difference on the PC compared to the console versions is that you can press Escape to access a graphics menu, which shows that the game runs with MSAA and FXAA and allows for higher output resolutions – not a solution to re-control issues.
So, our final recommendations: If you are lucky enough to own the original game and hardware, this will still be the best way to play. Using tools like the RetroTink 5X HDMI scaler can be a smart way to make your game look better on modern screens without changing its feel, while the select few who still have TVs or CRT monitors in their possession can enjoy the original presentation.
If you don’t have the original Chrono Cross on hand, the editor still has some value. If you pick up the Switch version, playing in portable mode lowers the resolution to 720p, bringing the 2D and 3D elements closer together in your presentation. Regardless of the platform, the story, gameplay, and atmosphere of Squaresoft’s classic JRPG still resonate in 2022 – despite some technical and technical limitations.
Ultimately, this record is a disappointment. Chrono Cross is undoubtedly a cult classic, but the Radical Dreamers Edition version is poor in terms of visuals and performance. While some issues may be fixable after launch, the challenges here should raise questions at Square Enix regarding the correctness of its approach to transferring PlayStation Classics.
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