Review by TIDQ

Reviewed: 02/11/05

Who needs to play a video game when you can read one? Oh boy!

Ah, Radical Dreamers. The game itself makes those who've played this highly obscure Square game feel like 1337 gamers, but it's nowhere near deserving of its underground popularity.

Radical Dreamers in its true, legal form, is nearly impossible to find nowadays. The reason being is that it was one of the games for the infamous Bandai Satellaview. The Satellaview was an add-on for the Japanese Super Famicom that downloaded Nintendo games online. Satellaview service has long-since been discontinued, so Radical Dreamers couldn't be downloaded, even if you were to get ahold of all the necessary Japanese hardware.

Luckily for us, a group of entrepreneuring people named Demiforce hacked the game data, made it emulator friendly, and released it as an English translation. 99.9% of the people who have now played Radical Dreamers by now have been playing the only possible way, through illegal ROMs. Anyone who pretends otherwise is a dirty liar, or a hardcore collector. Probably a dirty liar.

So why would English-speaking gamers feel the need to convert and translate a simple text game from a crummy Nintendo add-on? Why would this get special treatment over some of the other fantastic yet never-translated Japanese games. There's only one reason, and it's the same reason why people think this is a better game than it actually is. Because it takes place in the Chrono Trigger universe.

Oho! So that's it. It takes place in the same mythos as Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross, so people are naturally curious about it. I know I was. I love both Chrono games, and the countless allusions to the game Radical Dreamers in Cross would make anyone want to see what the fuss was about.

So what IS Radical Dreamers all about? Well, it's a text-based game. There's nothing wrong with that. I remember a lot of great text games dating back to the 80s, classics like Zork. This isn't one of those classics, unfortunately. The countless possibilities and actions available in true text-based masterpieces are totally void from RD. Your entire interaction with the game is as follows: You choose which room to walk in, and you sometimes have to answer a few yes/no questions. Oh, and there are "battles" occasionally, where you basically do nothing and read about how the characters won. That's IT.

The battles let you again choose between a couple of choices, usually "attack" and "dodge." Which one ends up working is usually random and nonintuitive, of course with no skill or thinking needed. There's very little room for actual gameplay, and that's the main problem.

Radical Dreamers does at least present an interesting character study. Serge and Kid from Chrono Cross are two of the three main characters here, and it's basically a lengthened retelling of the break-in to Vipor Manor from Chrono Cross. Well, retelling is an incorrect statement. The beginning part of Chrono Cross is actually a retelling of Radical Dreamers. However, if you've played Cross, you know there are alternate universes. RD is one of those alternate universes, which explains why most of the game is extremely different from Chrono Cross. Themes like "the Frozen Flame" still transcend both games though.

The third main character in RD is Magil. I won't spoil the story, but it's HEAVILY hinted through in-game text that he is a returning character from Chrono Trigger. The blurry picture's of Magil's back that you see occasionally will also drive home Magil's true self. Finding these clues does add something positive to the game, and taken what we find out about Kid's identity in Cross, you can come to a reasonable conclusion about why Magil tagged along to Viper Manor.

The story itself isn't bad, partly because of the characters and partly because it's not a bad stand-alone story. I'm not sure if the original game was as compelling, or if the translators spiced it up, but playing Radical Dreamers is like reading a good short story. The setting never changes from Viper Manor, but it doesn't need to. It's not an epic, nor is it trying to be. It's just trying to get the player/reader wrapped up in this jewel heist, and it does pretty successfully.

Story and characters can't make this a good game though. It's almost complete lack of interactivity makes for a less-than-satisfying experience. The closest thing to a puzzle you'll probably come across is finding a locked door, then having to go to other rooms until the text tells you that you've found the key. It's a very cerebral game, obviously. The game is also really short. From start to finish is about two hours. Any longer, and it probably would run patience thin anyway.

I really don't think there's a whole lot of purpose to this game. This game doesn't do anything you wouldn't get by reading a short fictional story in Time magazine. It doesn't enhance interactivity really, because there isn't any. It's not exactly graphically enhanced. The few stillshots they shower across the game are blurry and undetailed, not even fit for the NES really.

I think the only reason Radical Dreamers is a "game" instead of a short book is because Square knew that their fans don't read books.

Do you know the impatient feeling you get at the beginning of a very wordy RPG? When you have to sift through a ton of text, and you're going, "C'mon. C'mon. I wanna start playing soon." That was how I felt the *entire* time I was playing Radical Dreamers.

I believe there are two main reasons this game has gotten any praise:
1. Because it has Chrono Trigger/Cross characters in it, and that makes it interesting. Of course, if Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross never existed, the few people who play Radical Dreamers would probably call it crap.
2. Nobody playing the game these days ever has to pay any money for it. If I had even had to pay five dollars for Radical Dreamers, I would want my money back.

As I said, the story has merit. It's good, and Radical Dreamers is absolutely required playing if you have any interest in the Chrono Cross/Trigger characters and their background. If you're not a Chrono Trigger fan, don't even bother. As a stand-alone product, it's pretty crappy.

Now get off the computer and read a REAL book. At least then you'd get to turn the pages, which is still more action than Radical Dreamers has.

Rating:   2.0 - Poor

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