Is it wrong for fans to remake older games?
I thought about this after learning the outcome of the Chrono Resurrection project a few weeks ago. Despite being relatively four years late to that party, I’m admittedly a huge role-playing fan, and I sharpened my teeth on many Square Co. Ltd. classics on both the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy II US, Final Fantasy III US, and Chrono Trigger were staples of my early years, so imagine my excitement regarding a re-imagined Chrono Trigger using an updated 3D engine.
That was the essence of the Chrono Trigger Resurrection project. Back in 2004, a talented group of individuals got together and asked “What would Chrono Trigger look like if updated for the modern PC?” With a custom built 3D engine that “…runs on GameCube, Xbox, and PC…,” the Chrono Resurrection group set out to craft one of the finest looking examples of fan remakes ever conceived, taking ten key sequences from Chrono Trigger and updating them for the modern audience.
Chrono Trigger Resurrection was set in a fully 3D world, with lighting, shadows, fantastic camera work, and the same Chrono Trigger charm that fans of the series have come to expect. But with a project this huge, it’s only a matter of time before it began garnering attention from all over the globe. After all, Chrono Trigger was one of the greatest games for Super Nintendo and one of the most cherished RPG experiences the world over. The fact that a “dream team” of developers, artists, and sound composers crafted it is icing on the cake. How could something this massive be kept secret for long?
With that in mind, the Chrono Trigger Ressurection project was fully underway, but little did they know that the dark cloud of Square Enix Co., Ltd was hovering on the horizon. In September 2004, Square Enix Co., Ltd issued a “Cease and Desist” order and the project was shut down soon after. The team scattered to the proverbial winds but not without strewing their work across the ‘net, sharing everything they’d created, aside from playable code. In that way, all of the team’s hard work would live on as one of the greatest achievements in the name of fan remakes.
But was Square Enix Co., Ltd right in asking the team to cease the project? Was the Chrono Trigger Resurrection team wrong for wanting to recreate ten of the most memorable sequences that Chrono Trigger had to offer? Considering it was non-commercial, with only the Gamecube and Xbox ports being internally playable when all was said and done, was it necessary for Square Enix Co., Ltd to step in?
Forgetting the fact that Square Enix Co., Ltd repackages all of its older content and, besides Final Fantasy III and IV for the Nintendo DS, leaves virtually the original experience untouched, what would lead the company to call for the cancellation of Chrono Trigger Resurrection? Would it be that Square Enix Co., Ltd wants to redo Chrono Trigger as a 3D world all their own? That would be nice, but it’s unlikely.
There’s a fair amount of politics surrounding anything Chrono related. The primary developers associated with the project have either left Square Enix Co., Ltd. or work under their own companies in association with Square Enix. You could fill a landfill with the amount of paperwork it would take for a re-imaging to get underway. Even with tidbits dropping once every few years concerning a possible Chrono Trigger sequel (Chrono Cross is widely considered an extension of the universe and not a true sequel to Chrono Trigger), nothing has yet to materialize. The best fans could hope for is an update of the holy grail of all things Chrono.
But it goes beyond Square Enix Co., Ltd. As the industry pushes forward with better technology, it’s becoming more expensive to craft the AAA experiences core gamers require. If a company like Square Enix Co., Ltd wants to re-release a previous franchise, then it’s easier, and less expensive, to re-release it with all previous assets intact than to re-imagine these assets. If Square Enix Co., Ltd. wanted to re-imagine those assets, then they would turn to portable systems. A redone Chrono Trigger, or any other popular franchise that has yet to find life in the latest generation of consoles, would have to be on the PlayStation Portable or Nintendo DS.
That’s assuming that major corporations want to attempt a repackaging. More often than not, companies cancel intellectual properties that don’t succeed. We have only to look at Clover Studios, which was forced to shutdown, and Capcom for an example of that. Though Okami was finally released on the Wii, the idea of a sequel or a higher resolution re-imagining for the PlayStation 3 is virtually out of the question. And what if fans wanted to create a non-commercial remake of it for PC? Capcom would most likely issue a cease and desist order, even though it would be highly unlikely that the release of the non-commercial fan remake would hurt Capcom’s potential sales for a true, developer sponsored canon remake.
Where does that leave us then? It leaves us with IPs that fans create messageboards about, trade valiant tales of victory over, and write fan fiction about that have yet to get either sequels or developer remakes. When fans wish to continue the adventure with characters that they’ve grown to love, where else is there to go?
So are fans at fault for wanting to create remakes of groundbreaking game series? If major corporations won’t do it, and as the physical game machines and physical media of the respective games dwindle in number as time goes by, are we supposed to forget these experiences? Are cease and desist orders really warranted when all fans wish to do is play the games that brought them into the industry to begin with? We’ll never know, honestly, but that still doesn’t stop us from wondering what Crono would look like with a nice splash of normal mapping and the processing power of a quad-core CPU behind him.