We’ve seen a lot of ports in recent years, especially with the classic Square-Enix JRPG’s. At the same time, we’ve seen backlash on how these re-releases have been handled. Initial Steam reviews have been split for many of the Final Fantasy titles. They’ve recovered since, but a significant amount of the early reviews poked at the minor differences with character models, UI performance, and occasional frame rate issues. Recently fans were surprised by the sudden Steam release of Chrono Trigger. After discovering that it was “just a port of the mobile phone version,” fans revolted with a cavalcade of complaints.
News of the carnal sin that Square-Enix committed by re-releasing a game with bad fonts spread like wildfire, quickly surpassing the hype that initially existed from the beloved JRPG finally coming to PC. It took almost no time at all for negative reviews to flood in, sinking the Chrono Trigger port to the dreaded “Mostly Negative” waters faster than a ship made of Swiss cheese. The unfortunate repercussion of this reception is that a lot of people who have yet to experience Chrono Trigger are going to be turned off from purchasing it on Steam. Fans have waited a long time for Chrono Trigger to release on PC, but the expectation was not that it would suffer from the stigma of being an unplayable mess.
I’m not as fired up compared the rest of the fanbase, but I do understand the importance maintaining a certain set of standards when it comes to nostalgic properties. My standards, however, are very straightforward. In most cases a crisp resolution is enough to satisfy me. Not having to set up a CRT is a huge incentive to spend $10-$15 on a game that I’ve already owned. Another important area for me is the historical integrity of the OST. Something can screw up my immersion with a video game from my childhood is tampering with the soundtrack. Aside from making improvements to sound clarity, leave my music alone!
If a game port manages to improve the aforementioned components on a basic level, I can’t bring myself to tear them apart. Are they playable on a high resolution PC monitor? Do you have to jump through hoops to emulate them? What exactly is the problem? Anyone can be overly critical and locate every small flaw with a game port like Final Fantasy VI. The sprites and background visuals might not be identical to the SNES version. It’s very possible that the control scheme isn’t going to translate perfectly to a keyboard or gamepad. But is any of this really that surprising when you consider the fact that they’ve slapped together a 2018 version of a game originally released in 1994, like some type of JRPG Frankenstein’s monster? Sure…there have been ports of this game on other systems like the GBA, but we’re working with entirely different components that are hardly comparable.
I remember starting up Final Fantasy IX for the first time after it was released on Steam. To say that I was impressed with the resolution and performance would be an understatement. I was utterly blown away that I was playing FFIX in 2016 without having to squint at the screen. The music was right, the character models were right, and I just felt that surge of nostalgia that could have easily been squandered if bigger issues were present. Granted, most of the negative reviews have been buried since these titles were first released. Patches have improved on glitches and bugs, making them quality versions of their predecessors. Still, there will always be that group of purists that require game ports to meet every unrealistic expectation they have. In my opinion they should just stick to their CRT’s and hope their old systems can hold out.