Saturday, December 4, 2021

Inside the Surprise Chrono Cross-over Event That Has Fans Buzzing About a Remake

Following reports that beloved PlayStation RPG Chrono Cross might have a remaster in the works, another unrelated piece of official news is helping fuel the Chrono nostalgia even more. Chrono Cross is getting its first-ever crossover event by making an appearance in mobile JRPG Another Eden, beginning on December 9.

Of all the games in the world for Chrono Cross to show up in, Another Eden is probably the most appropriate choice. Officially titled Another Eden: The Cat Beyond Time and Space, the free-to-play adventure is a collaboration between Masato Kato and Yasunori Mitsuda, both of whom worked on Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross. If you’ve played Another Eden at all, you’ve likely noticed a number of parallels with the Chrono games, ranging from the thematic (it’s a game about time traveling, fine) to the specific (there’s a talking frog named Cyrus, and a character that looks suspiciously like Lucca named Dr. Ashtear).

But this crossover event goes beyond cheeky references. Taking place in a parallel timeline where Another Eden hero Aldo fails to defeat his adversary, the Beast King, “Complex Dream” introduces Chrono Cross characters including Serge, Kid, and Harle into Aldo’s world. A piece of promo art shared with the announcement implies we may also see the likes of Lynx, Glenn, and Starky. Kato is penning the story, with Mitsuda composing new songs and remixing old favorites. And the crossover event will include multiple endings, voice actors for Serge (Ashton Frank), Kid (Sheena May), and Harle (Shazia Nicholls), and introduce new battle mechanics from Chrono Cross such as Star Levels, Elements, Combo Techs, and a New Game+ mode.

Chrono Cross showing up anywhere at all in the year 2021 is a pretty big deal given how quiet the Chrono series has been since Cross’ 1999 release. It was certainly a big deal to Another Eden game director Daisuke Takeshima, who tells me that he had been discussing a possible Chrono collaboration with his colleagues since Another Eden’s 2017 launch.

As Takeshima tells it, Another Eden was created with the aim of “reproducing the ‘good old RPGs of our youth’ on modern devices with content being released regularly, and without time constraints so players could play at their own pace.” And Kato and Mitsuda’s involvement primed the pump, too, both internally and by association, ensuring that a number of Another Eden players were already Chrono fans.

From there, all it took was a pitch to Square Enix, who accepted. Again, Kato and Mitsuda’s involvement was critical, and Chrono Cross character designer Nobuteru Yuuki was willing to come on board to oversee the new designs.

“I also like to think that Another Eden's past crossovers, which were developed with immense respect to crossover titles in regards to the story and game systems, helped make this crossover happen,” Takeshima adds.

But with the weight of the Chrono franchise and the distance from its original release comes some hefty expectations. It’s the first time we’ve seen Serge and company for two decades, and the Chrono games frequently top “best RPG” and even “best game of all time” lists. On top of that, the team has to make sure that people who haven’t played the 20+ year-old RPG but love Another Eden are able to understand what’s going on. So yes, Takeshima says, he’s thrilled, but he’s also feeling some pressure.

“Chrono Cross has many engaged fans, and I myself am a fan of the Chrono series,” he says. “No matter how hard we worked on the crossover, I always felt like we could push further.

“This story is written by Masato Kato himself, and the characters, battle system, music, and direction were all created carefully and meticulously by our development team who have a lot of respect for Chrono Cross.”

No matter how hard we worked on the crossover, I always felt like we could push further.

One particular challenge Takeshima notes is the difficulty of bringing Serge, a silent protagonist, into a world where he’s no longer controlled by the player, and thus should have some dialogue. “In this crossover, he comes over to Another Eden's world and has his own lines,” he says. “Fans may find it uncomfortable if he speaks too much, but if he has much fewer lines than Kid and Harle, he may not stand out, so it was a tough balancing act.”

He adds later that another challenge was incorporating other Chrono Cross elements that were unfamiliar to Another Eden, such as elements and field effects, while staying true to the original. On the other hand, Takeshima says character design was “relatively smooth” despite the challenge of adapting Chrono Cross’ characters into Another Eden’s distinct art style.

“The proportions are different from the original, and the 3D design needed to be incorporated into 2D, but I think we did well to duplicate the characters given the limitations,” he says. “We had Mr. Yuuki, who designed the original characters, oversee the 3D renders for the cinematic trailer for this crossover. We put a lot of care and respect into the rendering, and he approved the first draft without any feedback, so it's something we're proud of.”

One question Chrono fans may have going into Complex Dream is exactly how “canon” the events that take place are for the crossover characters. Both Chrono Cross and Chrono Trigger make use of alternate timelines and “another” versions of places and characters, prompting questions about reality and truth and possibility. Takeshima suggests that these same themes are likely to come into play again in the crossover.

“In universes that allow time traveling, history change, and parallel worlds, it's tricky to say what would be considered ‘canon’ or ‘real’. I think one of the great things about the Chrono series is that there are as many stories as there are players, and there are many theories to be made.

“In Chrono Cross, these multiple story branches are indeed all ‘canon,’ and it's not for us to decide what is canon or not since each player’s experience is different. In the world of Another Eden, a parallel world exists in the ‘Complex Dream’ crossover. I look forward to hearing what everyone's interpretations are for Serge and the world building in this crossover adventure.”

An even more immediate question fans might have, especially after all the rumors last week, is whether this could be Square Enix’s wind-up for a remake or remaster announcement. Takeshima sure hopes so, but he doesn’t know. He works for Another Eden developer Wright Flyer Studios, not Square Enix, but tells me that he’s a “great fan” of the Chrono series who has been waiting for new Chrono content just like the rest of us, and is delighted to be a part of bringing the game back in crossover form.

His response to my asking about a possible Chrono Trigger crossover with Another Eden in the future comes with a similar urge not to read too much into things. But given the fervor with which he and the team pursued the Cross crossover (Cross-over? Sorry, I’ll see myself out), Takeshima’s love of Trigger might indicate optimism for more Chrono in Another Eden in the future.

“Chrono Trigger is a beloved title, and it's true that many fans have asked for a crossover. Personally, I've played Chrono Trigger many times along with Chrono Cross. I have many fond memories of it, so I wholeheartedly sympathize with those who want the crossover to happen, though the decision is not mine alone to make.

“I don't want to get everyone's hopes up to expect something -- what I can say now is that I hope as many people as possible can enjoy the Chrono Cross crossover.”

Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.


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