I've been haunted by Radical Dreamers since I was a nerdy, RPG-loving teenager. In 1996, I heard internet whispers about a pseudo-sequel to the SNES masterpiece , which remains my favorite game to this day. But Radical Dreamers wasn't your ordinary title: It was a text adventure released solely in Japan for Nintendo's Sattelaview, a satellite peripheral that let you download games to the SNES. Unfortunately, that device never made it to the US. And the game's director, Masato Kato, reportedly felt there wasn't enough demand to include it with the Nintendo DS re-release of Chrono Trigger.
So, for the past few decades, the only way to play a translated version of Radical Dreamers was . For whatever reason — maybe it was the daily struggle to survive as an adult, or working like crazy to get into the prestigious world of tech reporting — I never got around to playing it. Now with the , I finally have an easy way to catch up on both of Chrono Trigger's follow-ups.
It's somewhat fitting that Radical Dreamers finds me now, when I'm juggling family life with a toddler and a newborn. I haven't had much time to play any games since the birth of my son three months ago. But it turns out I can still make room for a text adventure title on the Switch – it's something I can play while my daughter is busy with her Lego creations, or while I pray for my son to stay asleep at night.
It also helps that Radical Dreamers is relatively simple. You play as Serge, a young thief working together with his rambunctious companion Kid and a mysterious cloaked mage named Magil. Like your typical text adventure, the game involves lots of reading, creating a mental map of your travels and making a few choices (like the direction you're moving, or deciding to attack or dodge in battle). Some gorgeous artwork helps to paint a picture of your journey, while Yasunori Mitsuda's music once again envelopes you in a unique atmosphere. (It was a surprise to find that some of Chrono Cross's sweeping melodies first appeared in this simple text-only title.)
While it's far from Chrono Trigger's epic time-hopping journey, I found myself instantly vibing with Radical Dreamers. It feels more like reading an adventurer's journal than playing an actual game, but I ended up caring for these characters quite a bit. In many ways, it was the escape I needed from dealing with a colicky infant all day.
Playing Radical Dreamers also made me excited to give Chrono Cross another chance. That’s a game I was eager to play when it was originally released in 2000, but I never quite clicked with it because it was so dramatically different from my beloved Chrono Trigger.
Over the past few decades though, as I’ve fruitlessly attempted to recreate the highs of that RPG experience (), I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s impossible. After seeing projects to tap into our nostalgia for the past, doing so just seems like a fool’s errand. You’ll never be able to recreate your childhood experiences. But sometimes you’ll find something that evokes a feeling you once had, like an echo through time.