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Visual Novel / Radical Dreamers

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In 1995, SquareSoft (now known as Square Enix) released Chrono Trigger, a phenomenally successful RPG for the Super Nintendo. A sequel to Chrono Trigger was in the works for a while, but not in the way people might have expected. Rather than another console RPG, the sequel surfaced in the Japan-only Satellaview add-on for the Super Famicom. The device allowed players to download content and games, in a remarkably prescient precursor to current trends for home consoles, over ten years later.

One of the games Square released for the Satellaview was Radical Dreamers: Nusumenai Hōseki (The Unstealable Jewel). This is actually a Visual Novel, with mainly ambient music and dark, mysterious background images. Although there are no controls other than hitting the A button to select choices, there is a sort of pseudo-battle system involved, where the player must select actions to battle enemies, despite not having any visible Hit Points. It is possible to die this way and other ways as well.

The story involves a trio of bandits, the titular Radical Dreamers: Serge, the protagonist, Kid, a young girl with a short temper, and Magil, a mysterious magician, as they break into Viper Manor, home of the imposing Lord Lynx, on a quest to steal a treasure called the Frozen Flame. On the surface, it has nothing whatsoever to do with Chrono Trigger, but slowly, concepts from the previous game begin to be namedropped until the connections become clear. Yasunori Mitsuda, who composed the much-lauded soundtrack to Chrono Trigger, also composed the music for Radical Dreamers.

Fast-forward to 2000 when Square's PlayStation era was well underway. A full-blown sequel was announced for the PSX, called Chrono Cross. However, rather than being a brand-new game, it built off of elements from Radical Dreamers. This included plenty of shout outs, such as Viper Manor, Lynx, and the Frozen Flame, and lots of remixed music, including the main theme (which became the Alternate Universe theme, as opposed to the Chrono Trigger main theme which was the Home Universe theme). Despite the influence, Chrono Cross suggests Radical Dreamers is a (yet another) alternate dimension in the Canon; in Chronopolis, the party can actually find a terminal that repeats the Radical Dreamers introduction verbatim and the characters comment on it. In addition, the ending theme is called "Radical Dreamers: Le Tresor Interdit", a rough translation ("Forbidden Treasure") of the full title of the original.

RD contains one "main" story and, once it's finished, the ability to branch it off into seven wildly different stories that range from poignant to ridiculous.

Three years later, in 2003, a fan translation was created, allowing English-speakers to play Radical Dreamers for the first time on an emulator. The translators did their best to keep as many Chrono Cross aspects as they could, including the English names and Kid's Australian accent.

The game eventually got greenlit for an official English localization as part of the HD remaster of Chrono Cross for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Steam, and Xbox One, 26 years after its initial release. Notably, this makes it the second Stellaview game to get a re-release (the first being the BS Fire Emblem chapters, which were included in the 2010 DS remake of Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem) and the first to come to the west.

Radical Dreamers provides examples of the following tropes:

  • A-Cup Angst: Never comment on how small Kid's breasts are or you'll suffer the consequences.
  • Accidental Pervert: In the main storyline, Serge pulls Kid behind cover in the library as a guard approaches, accidentally feeling her up in the process and putting her face dangerously close to his for a few moments.
  • Action Girl: Kid's the most physically capable of the 3 heroes.
  • Alternate Universe: It is briefly implied in Chrono Cross that the events of Radical Dreamers took place in an alternate dimension.
  • Androcles' Lion: Double subverted. You find a mouse trapped in a cage who pleads for you to release it. Doing so has it mock you for your naivete and transform into a griffon to attack you... only to falter due to hunger. It then provides a pivotal clue to finishing the game before fleeing.
  • Animated Actors: Part of the weirdness of the The SuperXtreme Alphacosmo... ah, that scenario. Kid breaks character to tell off the Assistant Director at one point.
  • Apocalyptic Log: What the book Serge is writing turns out to be if you get a game over.
  • Body Horror: The atrium in the Shea's Light scenario is filled with dilapidated human corpses described in excruciating detail.
  • Broad Strokes: Replaced by Chrono Cross as the official sequel, but a Chronopolis computer implies the events still happened somewhere.
  • Butt-Monkey: Poor, poor Serge. He seems to exist only to fail at everything he does and be comically abused by Kid.
  • The Atoner: The imprisoned old man with an uncanny resemblance to Radius from Chrono Cross.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Averted in an unusual way - Chrono Cross seemingly relegates the events of Radical Dreamers to an alternate dimension (as stated by characters who inspect the monitor displaying a diary excerpt), and also believed due to the Updated Re-release of Chrono Trigger suggesting that the Chrono multiverse contains a nigh-infinite number of possible realities.
  • Casting a Shadow: Magil chiefly prefers to manipulate shadow when working magic, and Lynx even traps him in a light based snare to disadvantage him.
  • Continuity Cameo: Examining the purple book at the front of the library reveals a report of the Neo Epoch (or "Neo Silbird"), better known as the time machine used by Belthasar in Chrono Cross. Of course, Kid will think it's trash and scold Serge for not locating the book they need right away...
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: You find a message written in blood in one room.
  • Creative Closing Credits: Depending on the scenario, aspects of the credits may change - the birds may become UFOs, or one or more of the heroes might be missing from the cliff shot.
  • Darker and Edgier: Significantly so compared to Chrono Trigger, paving the way for Chrono Cross to inherit a similar tone.
  • Death Trap: Several, including a descending ceiling in the aptly named Room of Death, to an atrium that floods and allows a school of piranha-like fish to swarm potential victims.
  • Dem Bones: An animated skeleton who can somehow charm Magil into uselessness can randomly attack you.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: In the main storyline, Kid is grateful for Serge's help yet overwhelmed with the sudden rush of her past life's memories. Sensing that the forces of Porre (noted to be a fairly large country that governs the southern continent) are on their trail, she bids Serge farewell for now to keep him out of it, with Magil solemnly motioning not to follow them.
  • Dub Name Change:
    • Not counting the fan translation, there is one official change in the Chrono Cross text cameo - Magil was originally simply "Gil" in the Japanese version (no relation to "Guile", who is instead "Alf" in reference to "Alphard/Alfador").
    • Kid and the Sunflower aside, the alternate scenarios in the Radical Dreamers translation have different names from their original Japanese, in particular "SuperXtreme Alphacosmos Police Case EX Ultra is localized as the much simpler "The Great Space Chase!"
  • Earn Your Bad Ending: It is much harder to get the bad ending in the initial scenario than it is the good one, since it's highly dependent on Relationship Values, and the amount you need for Kid to trust you enough is so low you have actively fight to keep the value below the threshold.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Easy to obtain though it may be, the main good ending is this in-universe for Magil. Actually Magus from Chrono Trigger, the main story ends up being the conclusion to his search for Schala, both revealing her fate and reuniting him with her. Unfortunately, by the time Kid remembers all of this, there's no time to sit down and talk to him before the story ends.
  • Easter Egg: The invoked Fan Translation added two of them, accessible after beating the game and selecting a hidden choice in one of the alternate scenarios: a music test, and a hidden sequence reenacting the opening to Zero Wing.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Mandora Monster after it gets fused with Kid.
  • Exposition Beam: The Chrono Trigger and the Frozen Flame's combined powers allowed Kid to remember her former self.
  • The Faceless: Almost all graphics for all 3 heroes are either facing away from the camera, obscured by a hood, or otherwise hidden. As a result, what their faces looks like is a complete mystery, save for Kid. In one scenario, her face can only vaguely be made out. In another, the top half can be seen as she is suddenly kissed by Serge, with a humorous expression
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Many of the battle scenes are described in surprisingly graphic detail.
  • For Want of a Nail: Opting into a given scenario happens based on two to three different choices made early in the game that unlock once you've finished the main one at least once.
  • Framing Device: The game's events are a story being read by Serge's grandson.
  • Generation Xerox: The first scenario reveals that Serge's grandson is also named Serge, and the friend who comes to visit him is heavily implied to be a reincarnation or other iteration of Kid.
  • Gratuitous French: The title, and some of the in game menus are in french for no particular reason.
  • Haunted Castle: Viper Manor, filled with ghosts, demons, and, depending on the scenario, spirits in need of avenging.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Averted. The old man has clearly lost his marbles, but he's not violent at all.
  • In the Hood: Serge's design in this game, to the point you're never given a good look at his face.
  • Kung-Fu Wizard: Magil is just as capable with hand-to-hand combat as he is magic. Given Magus was a capable physical fighter, as well, this tracks.
  • Literal Genie: Serge can ask the Mirror of Whispers for Kid's "three measurements". Being a magical artifact with no understanding for such colloquialisms, it responds with three apparently randomly selected physical measurements: height, shoe size and ring size.
  • Madness Mantra: The old man in the jail kept mumbling and asking for forgiveness.
  • Multiple Endings: Both the main scenario and some of the alternate scenarios each have multiple endings a piece.
  • Naked Freak-Out: In one of the endings for the "Kid and the Sunflower" scenario, Kid ends up nude after being returned to normal. Although Magil puts a golden cape on her to cover her up, she realizes that Serge and Magil saw her naked, and loses her shit, beating the crap out of poor Serge (Magil having hightailed it out of there specifically to escape her wrath).
  • Nested Story: The stories you have to tell to Esmeld, which are told inside the Radical Dreamers story which is being read by Serge's grandson from his grandfather's diary.
  • Nobody Here but Us Birds: Too bad Kid doesn't know what a "heckran" sounds like...
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Verging on an alternate bad ending, though it doesn't unlock the other scenarios the first time through. If you fail to save Kid at the end of the initial scenario, rather than the usual ending theme playing over the credits, Star Stealing Girl is heard instead, and none of the three heroes will be standing on the cliff as the birds fly by.
  • Nostalgic Narrator: "Do you still remember...? How we first met, and all of our adventures since... It all seems like such a dream nowadays... You were a piece of a star that fell from the sky..."
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: Kid carries a couple of these, most importantly the Chrono Trigger.
  • Piranha Problem: The fountain in the atrium is filled with vicious little fish called Piranadons in the Radical Dreamers Edition translation, and are implied to be markedly more violent than their real world counterparts.
  • Plot Lock: Not even our infamous thieves seem to be able to open a locked door without the key... unless the particular scenario doesn't require you to look for the key.
  • Posthumous Narration: If you die in the game, Serge's diary ends with the words "And so, I died."
  • The Power of Love: This is the only thing that can reverse Kid back to normal in the Sunflower scenario.
  • Quirky Bard: Serge is a musician by trade who is implied to know some basic magic, but only ever even tries to cast a spell once outside the manor. He can hold his own in a fight for the most part, but is largely outclassed by his companions when it comes to combat.
  • Random Encounters: They occur with a great deal less frequency than a typical RPG, and generally only exist to both prevent you from getting a bad ending via lack of affection from Kid, thanks to the random gems that drop from them making her like you, and to break up some of the monotony of roaming the manor in the first scenario.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: In the Sunflower scenario, when you run into a horde of goblins after Kid gets possessed by the sunflower creature, you beg for their help to save your friend. The goblin leader sympathizes with your plight and says they will help you save your friend. However when it comes to light that your friend is Kid, Lynx's nemesis, they quickly turn on you.
  • Relationship Values: One is kept for Kid, which you can gauge by how she reacts to Serge after battles.
  • The Reveal: Three or so, which tie this game with Chrono Trigger
    • Kid's adoptive sister who Lynx killed is Lucca.
    • Kid has the Chrono Trigger, entrusted to her by the late Lucca.
    • Kid herself is strongly implied to be Schala, reborn in Lucca's time via contact with the Frozen Flame.
    • Magil is similarly implied to be Magus, especially going by his intimate knowledge of the northern magical kingdom (most likely Zeal) and his unusual familiarity with the legendary Masamune (and his rocky relationship to its owner), although several of the Multiple Endings seem to go out of their way to contradict this.
  • Schrödinger's Gun: To an epic extent in the alternate stories. Characters wind up being revealed as completely different people, etc.
  • Satisfied Street Rat: Kid's quite proud of her reputation as a thief.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Space Police: The Universal Detective Mick Van Jovi, also known as Magil.
  • Stealth Sequel: When the game was originally released, it wasn't advertised as being connected to Chrono Trigger at all; as the game goes on, names like "Heckran" and "Porre" start dropping until it becomes explicitly connected through The Reveal(s).
  • Storybook Opening: It all starts with Serge's grandson opening his grandfather's diary. As with other examples of this trope, it all ends with the diary closing as well.
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders: Magil under his mask, very much so, at least in the Kid and the Sunflower scenario. When Serge accidentally knocks the mask off he ends up being captivated by Magil's beauty for a minute, even though they're in the middle of a fight against what's probably the most powerful opponent in any scenario of the game with Kid's life in mortal danger.
  • Time Travel: Schala (or someone with suspicious similarity to her story) traveled to the current era as Kid. Technically, because she was turned into a baby and through time by the power of the Frozen Flame, it could also count as both Reincarnation and Fountain of Youth.
  • True Love's Kiss: In the Sunflower scenario, this is one of the ways to stop the Kid!Flower. The other way is to stab her with a dagger that kills her, but preserves her soul. Play the battle just right (or wrong), and Serge gets stabbed with the dagger, but still manages to kiss her.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Some of the "joke" choices you're given make Serge do assholish things, like trying to stab Kid with the Einlanzer sword when you enter the torture room again.
  • Video Game Perversity Potential: Some other joke choices fall under this. For example, you can make Serge ask the Mirror of Whispers what Kid's measurements are note .
  • You Killed My Sister: The reason Kid bears a grudge on Lynx.
  • You Don't Look Like You: This game being a predecessor of sorts to Chrono Cross, the characters in the game look nothing like they do in Cross. Instead of being an actual anthropomorphic Lynx, Lynx looks more like a human with a cat-like facial features. What little we see of Serge and Kid is also entirely different from their designs in Chrono Cross.
    • Kid, in particular, is an interesting case: While she looks reasonably similar to her Chrono Cross incarnation (though with significantly tamer hair and wardrobe), her hair color is completely different from her appearance in Chrono Trigger as Schala. This was presumably done so that it would catch the player all the more off-guard while leaving them to figure Magil out over the course of the game.
  • You Lose at Zero Trust: The only things determining your survival at the end of the main scenario are how quickly you can press the A button, and if or if not Kid is fond of you.