The new Chrono Cross Remaster runs worse on PS5 than the original on PS1

23 years after its original release, Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition revives one of the true gems of the PS1 era with enhanced graphics and a handful of extras. It’s available on last-gen PS4 and Xbox One computers, as well as Switch and PC, with back-compat so the game can also run on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. Regardless of the platform, however, it’s a delight to see one of Squaresoft’s great JRPGs remastered, but it’s certainly not a perfect pack. Heavy changes have been made to pre-rendered 2D backgrounds, changing the look significantly, while the frame rate is far less consistent than you’d expect from a remaster of a game made four generations ago.

So, despite these issues, is the Radical Dreamers Edition the best way to play Chrono Cross, or is it still better to enjoy the original – perhaps complemented with a CRT or an HDMI scaler like a Retrotink 5X Pro?

Before we answer that question, let’s take a quick look at what changes have been made. The first thing you’ll notice is that select character models have been updated, character art has been redrawn, and the backgrounds have been processed with some sort of AI upscaling. All of these changes can be toggled between a new mode and a classic mode with a single option in a front-end launcher – but unfortunately none of them can be toggled individually. All or nothing..

Regardless of which mode you choose, there are universal improvements to the Chrono Cross Remaster. First, there’s a change to the iconic FMV opening sequence; It’s now using a higher resolution version with noise removed and text being clearer – a very welcome improvement over the PS1 original. The downside, however, is that the improvements end there, leaving later FMVs raw and untouched. Also unfortunate is that the music in all FMVs is heavily compressed and appears to be presented at a similar quality to the PS1 original. In the game? The good news is that Yasunori Mitsuda’s beautiful sample-based soundtrack shines. It remains a true highlight of the Chrono Cross experience, and while the arrangements remain unchanged, at least newly orchestrated tracks are added to the front-end launcher of this remaster.

Then what about the optics? The biggest optimization is the AI ​​processing of the 2D background assets to match the increased resolution. However, due to the dithering of the original PS1 backgrounds – which appear to have been used as a source for this project – this introduces some artifacts in areas with pure color elements (e.g. sky blue). The result is sometimes pleasing, creating a watercolor effect that suits the Chrono Cross aesthetic. In other places, however, new details are added that were not intended; Artifacts such as a repeating wave and banding are sometimes visible, while store signs show an unusual pattern. Overall, preference is given to using the new mode’s upscaled Ai backgrounds, albeit mainly for consistency with the new 3D models – but this isn’t always an ideal solution.

There are other changes as well. For both new and classic graphics modes, we measure all 3D elements (character models and 3D combat sequences) to have a native resolution ranging from 900p to 936p. However, the new character models are only reserved for the new graphics mode, and this also features a crisp 1080p HUD overlay. These remastered 3D models can be found on both PS4 and Switch with consistent quality. Meanwhile, Classic Mode uses the original PS1 models and also restores its 240p backgrounds and portraits with chunkier on-screen text. That doesn’t look good on a 1080p or 4K display, especially in the overworld where we have sharply rendered 3D elements running on a pixelated map. Again, it’s preferable to use the new mode on larger displays.

A clear issue in the remaster is performance. To be perfectly clear, frame rates on PS5 and Switch are as low as the PS1 original – and sometimes even worse when the “new” graphics mode is selected. The problems are evident from the start, as the very first opening floor drops to 20fps, compared to 30fps on the PS1 original. This isn’t as low as it can go, either, as more demanding scenes can see the frame rate cap pushed to 20, 15, or even 10 fps. That’s not to say the original release was perfect – the original PlayStation also ran the game at a wildly fluctuating frame rate between 10 and 30 fps – but it’s worrying that a remaster running on modern consoles actually hits a lower frame . Guessing in some of the same scenes.

Chrono Cross The Radical Dreamers Remaster Screenshots Digital Foundry

Selecting classic mode in the remaster menu improves things, but doesn’t guarantee a lock at 30fps. On the whole it seems to bring frame rates back to the level of the PS1 original, with fights still dropping to 15fps and below. Regardless of the mode used, however, additional issues are introduced during battles in the remaster – such as during the post-battle victory pose – that weren’t present on the PS1 original.

All performance issues raise one question: How is such low performance possible so many years after the 1999 release? One possibility is that the game will run as an emulated PS1 game rather than being built from scratch for modern systems. Supporting this theory is the presence of PS1 virtual memory cards in the storage menu, while the PC installation directory even shows two archive files for each physical disc. Proper remakes are undoubtedly more time-consuming than adding graphical tweaks and extra modes to an emulated version, but it’s hard to imagine Square Enix visualizing this inconsistency as the end result.

Given the performance issues on PS5 and Switch, we wondered if the game would perform better and be more enjoyable to play on PC. Unfortunately, it’s similar to what we’ve been able to test – the opening corridor stays at 20fps in the new graphics mode and fights drop to 15fps and below – even on a Titan RTX machine. It’s clear that overall system performance isn’t the limit here, but there must be some issue with the emulation that’s contributing to these blatantly low frame rates. The only difference on PC compared to console editions is that you can press escape to access a graphics menu that shows the game is running MSAA and FXAA and gives access to higher output resolutions – not really a fix for the problems of the remaster.

Chrono Cross The Radical Dreamers Remaster Screenshots Digital Foundry

Chrono Cross The Radical Dreamers Remaster Screenshots Digital Foundry

So our final recommendations, if you’re lucky enough to own the original game and hardware, this remains the best way to play. Using tools like a RetroTink 5X HDMI scaler can be a clever way to make the game look better on modern displays without altering its character, while allowing the select few who still have CRT TVs or monitors in their possession enjoy the original presentation.

If you don’t have the original Chrono Cross handy, the remaster still has some value. If you select the Switch version, playing in handheld mode drops the resolution to 720p, bringing the 2D and 3D elements closer together in the presentation. And regardless of platform, the story, gameplay, and atmosphere of Squaresoft’s classic JRPG resonates in 2022 – despite some technical and artistic limitations.

Ultimately, then, this remaster is a disappointment. Chrono Cross is undoubtedly a cult classic, but the Radical Dreamers Edition underperforms in both looks and performance. While some issues may be fixed post-launch, the challenges here at Square Enix should raise questions about the validity of their approach to porting PlayStation classics.

Leave a Comment