What follows is the story of how I overcame a serious anti-Sony bias in order to own a Playstation, and the role that Chrono Cross played in all of that. To be read in F# minor.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I was in an advanced program that was meant to acclimate you to the rigors of college ahead of time. However, the only real difference between the program and “ordinary” high school classes ended up being the endless stream of busy work the teachers so gleefully assigned. Almost every night, each teacher would unload a new project or paper that there simply wasn’t enough time to actually finish, with an inevitable result: I quickly acquired the skill of saying absolutely nothing in a dizzying amount of words, a skill I lovingly refer to as “loquacious BSing.” However, there still wasn’t enough time to get everything done, so I eventually began taking zeroes in certain assignments, necessary losses to afford myself a chance to sleep. Complicating this was the fact that I had taken on a paper route around this time, so I was waking up at 3 AM. Because of this, I averaged about 1-2 hours of sleep a night for something like seven straight months.
I only remember a few details around that time, several of those memories revolving around completely irrational behavior that stemmed from my sleep deprivation: throwing objects at teachers (to be fair, only the ones who deserved it), speeding through traffic like a psychopath, generally being a menace to everyone and everything—let’s just say that sleep is incredibly important for someone like me and leave it at that before I eat off your limbs in a sleep-deprived fury. Ahem! Anyway, moments of irrationality aside, the majority of my memories from that time actually revolve around games. Since I would finish delivering papers at around 5 to 6 AM, I had a little bit of free time each day before school; it wasn’t enough time to sleep, and there was no way I was going to work on homework that early, so I claimed it as “me” time and would spend a little time each day before school playing through old Super Nintendo games.
This quickly proved to be frustrating; it wasn’t possible to save whenever I wanted, so I’d constantly have to replay sections when having to get to class forced me to leave before saving. I don’t remember exactly how I found them, but I eventually ended up using emulators and downloaded ROMs to play through my Super Nintendo games before school, and this turned out to be an ideal solution—emulators let you save whenever and wherever you want. Granted, they lack the charm of playing the games on an actual Super Nintendo, but I was suddenly able to go through my games without being stuck without a place to save.
I somehow came to hear of a game called Radical Dreamers. Again, I don’t remember exactly where I heard of it since it’s hard to remember much of anything from that sleep-deprived period, but it sounded interesting: it was allegedly a sequel of sorts to my beloved Chrono Trigger, but released only in Japan (and even then, only on the Satellaview). The Satellaview was a weird add-on for the Super Famicom, Japan’s version of the Super Nintendo, that allowed games to be beamed down into it from a satellite. Or something. Honestly, the whole concept sounds crazy and Bond villain-ish enough that I’m not 100% confident about the exact details, but the important part is that by the time I had heard of the game, the Satellaview was dead and gone. Even if it had survived, however, Radical Dreamers had only been released in Japan. Fortunately, it had been fan-translated into English and unofficially made available for emulators. I didn’t pass up the opportunity. It could be argued that downloading it was immoral, but I didn’t care—it wasn’t possible to play it any other way.
Radical Dreamers is kind of like a “choose your own adventure” book in game form, and it’s incredible. Seriously, the translation is amazing. I soon became addicted to it, playing it over and over again to see all of the different endings multiple times, and it wasn’t long until I found out about its somewhat-of-a-sequel, Chrono Cross. However, I had no interest in the Playstation at that time; up until then, I had been a die-hard Nintendo and Sega fan, so I was as resistant to change as a gamer could possibly be. It must have been a year or two before I finally ended up picking up Chrono Cross. Still resistant to the idea of the Playstation system, I assured myself that I’d play it on an emulator and get the best of both worlds without having to become one of those “awful Playstation people.”
No dice. My computer back then was what’s known in technical circles as a “POS,” which I’d like to believe stands for “pretty outdated system” since I loved it dearly. Despite my love (which didn’t seem to improve its specs any), it was barely able to handle the slightest amount of 3D, and even the less-demanding Playstation emulators simply refused to play the game faster than 2-5 frames per second. It was a slideshow, completely unplayable, but I trudged on, playing through the opening of the game in slow motion. I was enraptured by even that little bit that I experienced, and something in me soon split wide open like a watermelon dropped onto a circular saw; for the first time in my life, I felt the need for a Playstation. The console had suddenly become like that shady, dirty guy on the street who sells drugs. Yeah, it’s easy to avoid him when he has nothing you want, but when he’s holding the object of your desires, dirt and grime can start to look pretty charming and endearing. It’s amazing the mental gymnastics we can do when we’re addicted, and I was in serious need of my Chrono Cross fix. My silly fan allegiances to other consoles had suddenly become flexible under the weight of my naughty Playstation thoughts and desires.
I ended up with a Playstation and immediately played through the entire game multiple times. I was thrilled; when Kid, a prominent character from Radical Dreamers, showed up, I squealed out of glee so loudly that I probably would have had my man card revoked had anyone heard. Much of the music in Chrono Cross is derived from Radical Dreamers, as are several characters and their motivations, so it poked that warm, fuzzy nostalgia spot enough to make me love it. For example, while it takes place in a different universe than Radical Dreamers, you’re able to read RD’s opening lines at one point when you’re looking at “another universe.” Compare:
If a fan-gasm is a thing, I had one when I saw that. That’s not the only bit of nostalgia that the game hits on, either:
Lucca, of course, being the character from Chrono Trigger, the game that led me to Radical Dreamers in the first place. I ended up with a deeply-rooted love for all things Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross/Radical Dreamers, and I’ve probably played through those three games more times than all other games combined. It was a long journey from sleep-deprived game sessions to having my own Playstation, but I ended up loving the system every bit as much as my Super Nintendo. I still have both of them.
Since the story’s basically over, here’s an entertaining little sub-story: I eventually transferred to a more flexible high school that allowed me to sleep (for the benefit of all mankind). I had more or less terrorized everyone I knew, and at no time was this more hilariously apparent than when I went to see an old teacher; I was dating someone from my old school, and she liked the teacher, so it seemed like a fun visit. I was right, too—he was visibly uncomfortable in my presence, and the first thing he asked me was, “So… was was the deal with you back then?”
I ripped out his throat with my bare hands, just to maintain consistency.