The second game in my quest to explore more fully the SNES video game library is a strange one. A good one, but it is truly one of the oddest games that I have ever encountered. Radical Dreamers is a visual novel with some light RPG elements. Honestly, it is pretty light on the visual part of visual novel as well. It is also a sequel of sorts to Chrono Trigger, which is quite possibly the best game on the system as well as my personal favorite. So in making a sequel to a popular game, Squaresoft chose not only to change the genre, or to release it only on a little used platform, but it also buries the lead so deep many players are likely to not get ever realize what they are playing. Still, it turned out to be a fairly entertaining game, especially with the fan-translation by Demiforce.
That Squaresoft would make a sequel to Chrono Trigger is not odd. Especially one that follows up one of the biggest dangling plot threads from the game. That the perfect storm of factors that lead to Chrono Trigger’s creation weren’t able to be recreated wasn’t a surprise; that they got the minds behind the two biggest RPG franchises together to make it in the first place was something of a minor miracle. Still, that it was not really an RPG is a strange choice. It was also only released on Satellaview, an early attempt by Nintendo for some sort of online gaming, is also a curious choice. I am sure Nintendo was eager to get other companies to support his endeavor. A fairly short visual novel was probably a good choice for that platform. These two choices are compounded by not being upfront that this is a follow up to Chrono Trigger. Players were likely an hour or more into the game before the oblique references to Chrono Trigger added up to enough make it clear that it takes place in the same world and it is most of the way through the game until Magus reveals himself.
Still the game itself is a lot of fun. It follows a trio of adventurers, Kid, Serge and Magil, as they break into Viper Manor in an attempt to steal the Frozen Flame from the villain Lynx. Most of the main scenario of the game consists of running through the mostly abandoned mansion trying to find where the Flame is hidden. It really builds the characters well in its rather short running time. Serge, the player character, is somewhat inexperienced, which means that Kid and Magil spend a lot of time helping him out. The center of the game is the relationship that develops, aided by the player, between Kid and Serge. Magil holds himself somewhat separate. In all, it is a compact, fun adventure, though some of the battles can get annoying. The music is quite good, and the few instances where it really uses graphics they look pretty nice.
After the main scenario is completed players can activate a handful of others. Those are mostly comedy or just plain weirdness. In one Magil falls in love, in another he is a space cop and even a mecha pilot. I didn’t complete all of them, but they fit in with the title. They are all something like dream sequences, fitting for a game called Radical Dreamers.
If the main scenario sounds familiar, that is because it was expanded to be the opening part of the eventual “real” sequel Chrono Cross. The broad strokes are the same, though many of the details are changed and it serves merely as the opening of a much larger adventure. Really, the only thing that was lost in conversion was that Magil was secretly Magus. The Viper Manor portion of Chrono Cross was probably the best part of that game; the rest seems a little lost.
Still, the existence of Chrono Cross and this game’s scarcity condemn it to be little more than a footnote in the grand scheme of things. It is a small little project that served as the basis for something much better. The game is still worth playing, even if just for an excuse to see the weirdness.