When you're a middle-aged person who's been playing games all her life, you kind of expect young people to pooh-pooh the titles you cherished as a child. You deflect comments about "cheesy graphics" and "lame music" with a serene smile and get on with life. Kids are ornery little punks incapable of appreciating the finer things in gaming, yes, but they mean no harm.
Luckily, my disappointment in society's unappreciation for classic video games isn't squandered. Thanks to Square-Enix's dismal PC ports of its classic 16-bit RPGs, I'm still able to exercise that disappointment regularly.
Chrono Trigger is Square-Enix's latest port, and oh boy, is it ever something. Excitement rustled across social media earlier this week when news got out about Chrono Trigger hitting Steam, but that enthusiasm wilted in record time when the first buyers revealed the port is a blown-up version of the 2011 mobile release.
While Chrono Trigger's anti-aliased character sprites don't look quite as bad as the smears that pass for character sprites in Final Fantasy V and VI for the PC, the Steam release of Chrono Trigger is inexcusably sloppy in myriad other ways.
Most strikingly, the barest effort was spent on transferring the mobile game's touch-based user interface to something more appropriate for keyboards and controllers. Huge dialogue boxes and menu selections—which utilize a font so bland, I can only assume its name is "Unsalted Potato"—loom all over the screen. A necessary evil when you're playing on a smartphone and need to tap selections with your chunky finger, but totally uncalled for (and super-duper ugly) on a PC monitor.
Steel yourself, because it gets better. When a character asks you a question and the huge "Yes" or "No" prompts pop up to engulf Crono's world, the top selection isn't automatically highlighted. You need to perform an extra push on your controller's d-pad or perform an extra mouse-click to "activate" your cursor before you can choose.
Why? Because in the mobile version of Chrono Trigger, the same prompts are meant to be tapped, not moved around with a d-pad, so there's no need to automatically highlight the top choice.
It's sad enough the mobile-to-Steam port of Chrono Trigger doesn't bother optimizing its menu's visuals or font for PC screens. Its failure to make the game's touch-screen controls more suited for keyboards and controllers, however, is just foul.
And best of luck to you when it's time to get into a fight. Not that fights are an important part of Chrono Trigger or anything, so this is just a friendly heads-up. Again, the mobile game's menu nonsense is splashed all over the screen, but the setup is fine if you're feeding the party commands by tapping on a smartphone screen. On the PC, though, shuffling between your options quickly becomes a slog because, again, "activating" the menu requires those extra actions.
Worse, it's difficult, if not impossible, to reach some menu actions with your controller. Maybe I missed a cue somewhere, or maybe I didn't futz around with my controller options enough, but some of the vital battle options—running away, for example, or selecting "auto battle"—proved impossible with my controller. I had to click them with my mouse.
When my heart couldn't take any more abuse and I tried to abandon the gongshow, I discovered I couldn't return to the main menu. I couldn't select the option with my controller, and I couldn't even click on it with my mouse. I had to alt-tab out of the game and right-click to quit.
I wonder if there's any point in even mentioning Chrono Trigger PC's tiling errors, pointing out the ugly juxtaposition between the anti-aliased characters and the super-pixelated backgrounds, or sighing over the graceless music segues that occur as you travel across the overworld map. It all seems secondary to having another iteration of Chrono Trigger that's downright painful to play (Chrono Trigger on Final Fantasy Chronicles for the PlayStation is somehow even worse than the Steam release, nevar 4get).
I'm OK with Square-Enix cashing in on nostalgia. It owns epic properties, and it may as well flaunt them. Heck, I've tried my luck many times at the Gashapon games in Final Fantasy: Record Keeper and Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius. But those are free-to-play games that don't hide what they are. They're like, "Hey! You like Cloud, right? Feed us some money and maybe you'll see him. Oops, you got Shantoto. Try again." I made my peace with that concept a long time ago.
But Chrono Trigger isn't a cynical coin-vacuum dressed up in the skins of classic Square characters. Chrono Trigger is classic Square. It's one of the best games of all time. The trailer for the port crows about Chrono Trigger's legendary conception as a "Dream Team" project between Final Fantasy's Hironobu Sakaguchi, Dragon Quest's Yuji Horii, and world-famous manga-ka Akira Toriyama, but the actual product on Steam (which sells for $14.99, by the way) carries all the markings of a project farmed out to the lowest bidder. It's a shrug in Square-Enix's mind, seemingly not worth the money or effort necessary for a half-decent port. It's apparently not even worth hiring a third-party studio that specializes in emulation like Digital Eclipse.
I can deal with punk-ass kids mocking the old games I love. But Square, when you try and charge me for the digital equivalent of a sneer in the direction of a classic, and then do it over and over, maaaan, you hurt my soul.
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