Chrono Cross on Switch still leads the standard for RPGs, 20 years on

Chrono Cross, Serge looking at a grave on a cliff
(Image credit: Square Enix)

Chrono Cross fans have been calling for a re-release of the classic JRPG almost since its launch back in 1999. Finally, after many long years of waiting, we're getting our wish.

Available to play on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 / PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and other models, it features remastered graphics, the ability to fast forward, auto-battle improvements, and more.

I've been playing this new remaster on Nintendo Switch, and it's only strengthened my belief that modern RPGs can benefit a lot from the Chrono series, particularly when it comes to narrative and audio.

War of the Parallel Worlds

Chrono Cross fireball element in action

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Chrono Cross is a sidequel, rather than a sequel to Chrono Trigger, the famous RPG released for Nintendo's Super Nintendo console in 1995. Instead of time-travel, you travel across parallel worlds to face off against Lynx, a cruel agent of the supercomputer FATE that's trying to eliminate the main character, Serge, and his party while they also try to defeat a Time Devourer.

When Chrono Cross was released back in 1999, it was critically acclaimed, with praise heaped on its battle system and multiple endings. You could see dramatically different conclusions depending on who you recruited to your party and the conversation options you picked through the game.

While Chrono Trigger saw a remaster in 2008 on the Nintendo DS, followed by a PC release in 2018, I hoped for Chrono Cross to get a similar treatment. The spinoff may not have found the same fame as Chrono Trigger, but it still had a loyal fan base.

While I bounced off of Final Fantasy VIII on the original PlayStation back in 1999, and attempts to get into other entries in the series, Chrono Cross' story of Balamb Garden hooked me in, especially as it revolved around time travel. I've loved stories of time travel ever since seeing films and shows like Back to the Future and Quantum Leap. 

Final Fantasy VIII was how I discovered Chrono Cross, thanks to a magazine reviewing the eighth entry back in 2000. A small blurb was listing alternatives to the game, and it erroneously stated that it was a sequel to Chrono Trigger, with a bigger focus on time travel mechanics. Even though it turned out to be about parallel worlds, Chrono Cross still kept me enthralled.

Chrono Cross, facing a boss

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Playing the remaster on my Switch in 2022 has been a joy. Its art style has been lovingly remastered from top to bottom, alongside the modern features similar to the Final Fantasy remasters of fast-forwarding gameplay, avoiding battles, and more, with the press of the ZR button.

The audio deserves a special mention too. It's easy to focus on the gameplay of these RPGs from the mid-90s, all the while forgetting the music is just as cemented in our memories. Moments such as Chrono Cross' battles and when Serge stands at the graveside of his parallel self, all land because of this fantastic score. Composer Yasunori Mitsuda knew raised the bar for what RPG scores could achieve.

While it's not been confirmed yet if you can play Chrono Cross on a Steam Deck, I'd be surprised if this wasn't possible. There was no slowdown on the Switch, and everything worked as intended. I'm sure playing this in a higher resolution on the Steam Deck will only enhance the game.

Boss in Chrono Cross

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Chrono Cross is a prime example of how it makes you think about second chances, and what could have been if you took one route instead of the other.

We've all had those sliding doors moments, where we wonder what would had happened if we'd acted differently in the moment. Chrono Cross' story reminds me of a lyric from the song 'Two of Us', from The Beatles' 'Let it Be' album, "You and I have memories, longer than the road that stretches out ahead." That's what Serge's story is here, across the parallel worlds, with multiple endings.

Without spoiling the game, the endings are dependent on facing certain bosses at certain moments, alongside answering questions to characters in certain ways. This will all lead to one of 11 endings that may mean that Serge and his party find the happy epilogue or the sad conclusion of the story.

Hopefully, this remaster may mean another entry in the Chrono series could occur. We're already seeing reboots and sequels that we wouldn't have thought would be possible in recent years, with Resident Evil 2 Remake, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and the sequel, Return to Monkey Island all a reality.

Somewhere in this universe, Crono and Marle from Chrono Trigger, alongside Serge and Leena are waiting to appear in a third game, and in an age of remakes and remasters, perhaps its time to see what these characters are doing, and how a game on our modern consoles and handhelds will work across time periods and alternate worlds.

  • Chrono Cross may well find itself on our list of the Best RPGs
Daryl Baxter
Software & Downloads Writer

Daryl had been freelancing for 3 years before joining TechRadar, now reporting on everything software-related. In his spare time he's written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', alongside podcasting and usually found playing games old and new on his PC and MacBook Pro. If you have a story about an updated app, one that's about to launch, or just anything Software-related, drop him a line.