Chrono Cross Is Making It Real Hard To Not Just Emulate Old Games

Let’s just get this out of the way: I like buying video games. A lot. It’s probably my favorite activity that’s not your mom. I happily buy the $80 bullshit Deluxe Edition of new games. I spend hours sifting through Steam sales and Nintendo eShop deals for weirdo games that cost a dollar. I’ve also worked for video game companies that make and sell video games, so the purchasing of said video games has put food on my table.

Hell, I even got flack for saying that people shouldn’t emulate the new Metroid game until it had, I dunno, been out longer than three days. Why? Because even when games are released by a major corporation they’re actually made by human beings whose livelihoods often rely on the success of the previous project they worked on. And because I want more Metroid games, you fucking monsters.

On the other hand, I don’t mind emulating old games. I’ve done it for literal decades. My first playthrough of Final Fantasy 5 was an incomplete fan translation because it hadn’t been released in the West yet. I have a keychain device that can play the full version of Doom. But these are all games I literally couldn’t buy (FF5, at the time) or had bought eight thousand fucking times in my life (Doom).

And, honestly, I don’t mind buying classic games time after time. Like I said, I’m the video game industry’s best stupid fucking mark. I’m an adult with no responsibilities living a life that my childhood self would call ‘the dream’ and my adult self often calls ‘a waking nightmare of loneliness and isolation.’ I’m extremely lucky in that regard and I respect that not everyone can afford to buy Final Fantasy 7 every time a Square Enix executive needs a vacation home.

That said. With all due respect. What the fuck is going on with Chrono Cross?

Like the fucking idiot I am, I preordered the Chrono Cross remaster the second it was announced. See above about me being a complete fool.

And, to be honest, I didn’t expect much from it! I wanted to play an official localization of Radical Dreamers and do a quick run through one of my favorite PSX games. I’m not new here. I’d bought and played the Final Fantasy 8 remaster that felt more like a mod – mostly because better, unofficial mods already existed for PSX-era Final Fantasy games.

But lord almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth, is this Chrono Cross remaster bad. Or, rather, an example of the acceptable level of bad that people like me have put up with for too long. The new features and graphical upgrades are fine, until they’re not. Everything looks a little stylishly mismatched. And, because nobody but fans can ever seem to upgrade old PSX pre-render backgrounds, we’ve got the choice between blocky and blurry. Fine. Whatever. This is par for the Square Enix re-release course.

It’s the slowness that gets to me.

Chrono Cross runs worse than the original. Not much worse. But worse. A PlayStation 1 game runs worse on a PlayStation 5 than on a PlayStation 1. The exact same game that you can pay money for now is a worse version of a game you could pay money for twenty-five years ago.

Of course, I know that Square Enix apparently lost the original source code of the game. And it’s unfair to pin a project as ‘lazy’ when you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes in terms of deadlines, staffing, and budget. ‘Lazy’ could mean, ‘We literally could not fix this issue without tearing apart the entire game for months.’ But ‘Lazy’ could also mean, ‘Our parent company doesn’t give a shit as long as those cash registers are a-ringing.’

I’m not sure which one Chrono Cross is, but either way, it’s embarrassing. And it’s just a reason for me to emulate it rather than trying to go through official channels. Me ripping Chrono Cross off my PlayStation 1 CDs and playing it on a tiny handheld device will be a better experience than the official release. Not on PS5, not my Switch, not even on my gaming computer – a tiny emulation machine that costs under $100. That’s fucking insane.

True, fans will almost always be ahead of the curve in terms of preserving and fixing-up classic games. But it is embarrassing that a multi-billion-dollar corporation like Square Enix can’t do better than a few friends with extra time after work. It’s also a sign that what I’m buying is encouraging them to not give a shit. Like I said, I’m the mark. And when a con man gets money from the mark, they don’t decide to turn a new leaf.

The same thing goes for playing my video games. While Microsoft got its shit together in a big way this generation, Sony seems to have decided it’s a good time to make enjoying their library even harder. I own real discs of real games through every era of PlayStation. I respect the PS5 would struggle emulating every game released in the past – the Xbox isn’t 100 percent completely backward compatible either. I also know, of the PlayStations, the PS3 is the weirdest and hardest to get right for reasons I don’t have the patience to understand. Yeah, I know there are YouTube videos about it but they’re like thirty fucking minutes and baby just don’t got that time.

Still, you know what the PS3 did get right? It could fucking play PS1 and PS2 games! Well, until Sony decided that second part was a bad idea, and then it could only play PS1 games. It, like the PSP and Vita, could also download PS1 games and emulate them pretty well. I bought plenty of old games on those systems, just like I’ve done since then and just like I did with the Chrono Cross release.

Yet now, many of those same emulated games are unplayable on the PS3 and Vita because of a calendar glitch that says they expired fifty years ago. So, even buying old games on a system meant to run them isn’t a guarantee we won’t get fucked later on. That’s weird, right? That shouldn’t be normal.

It’s become real fucking frustrating and real fucking hard to not just turn into the Joker and torrent full catalogs of games. Why not, right? If those companies don’t give a shit, why should I give a shit? If a re-release of Chrono Cross is going to be this shitty, why aren’t I just ripping it and tossing in some mods myself and never looking back? It seems a lot fucking easier and doesn’t require me to wait for a company to scrape the bottom of their IP barrel to make a little money.

To be clear, I do not want to do this. In my dream world, every old game would be re-released like the Mega Man Legacy collection or the Disney Afternoon Collection. Hell, I’d even do the idiot thing I’ve done for years and buy them on more than one system. You would not like to know how many different versions of Shenmue I own. But that game always ran like shit, so it’s hard for me to judge.

I want to spend money on old games.

I want to buy them.

My expectations are lower by the day. Square Enix could’ve probably left me satisfied if the new version didn’t run poorly on a gaming computer with lots of RAM bells and lots of RTX whistles. Or my Switch which, despite its reputation, is more powerful than a video game console released in 1994. I want to give Square Enix money because their games have given me joy throughout my life. Final Fantasy may have done a lot of damage to my expectations of romantic relationships, but boy was it comforting.

As long as I can afford these old games, I’m going to want to pay for them. I want people compensated for their work and I want companies to recognize the value of their classic games. I don’t mind it. This isn’t about affordability or accessibility – that’s another argument I respect people are having and should be having.

So please, for the love of fucking God, stop making it a better option to emulate.

It’s already a cheaper option. It’s already a quicker option. It’s already an easier option. And – I hate to say it – it more and more feels like an option being put forward by people who care more about the games than the companies that own them do.

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