Two news stories in the last few weeks have shown a worrying trend. The Secret of Mana 3D remake received a lacklustre response. Not long afterword a PC port of Chrono Trigger similarly left fans disappointed. Both of these games are hugely popular and some of the best loved JRPGs in existence. Surely releasing new versions of beloved classic games should not pose such a problem?
Square Enix have a long-standing history of porting their older games for newer generations of fans and consoles. I am sure I am not alone in enjoying many of the earlier ‘Final Fantasy’ games through their versions for the original Playstation. The European release of Final Fantasy Anthology contained versions of Final Fantasy 4 and Final Fantasy 5, while the US edition had come packaged with 6 instead of 4. The UK need not have worried: 6 arrived in its own separate release.
This is a trend Square Enix have kept up with through to the present day – releasing new versions or enhanced ports of fan-favourite titles to keep them playable on the latest hardware. The original Nintendo DS played host to a barrage of these releases, with Final Fantasy 3, Final Fantasy 4 and Chrono Trigger all getting versions on the system. The PSP release cycle continued this trend with releases of Final Fantasy 1, 2 and Final Fantasy Tactics. Recapturing the PS2 era has been another recent tendency, with enhanced versions of Final Fantasy X and X-2, as well as seemingly every Kingdom Hearts release to date, appearing on both the PS3 and PS4. The enhanced version of Final Fantasy XII in particular has attracted praise for its PS4 release, and for many fans has been adopted as the definitive version. It is not the case, then, that Square Enix cannot produce a satisfactory remake when required then – they have perhaps the best track record of keeping their popular games in the hands of players of any developer.
Recent success stories have been the remasters of the Dragon Quest series which have done an amazing job in not only updating the older titles in the series, but growing its popularity in the West. Dragon Quests 4, 5 and 6 all reappeared as full-remakes on the original DS, with 7 and 8 joining them on the 3DS.
While it may not be a household name in the West, Dragon Quest is an immensely popular series in Japan, just as Final Fantasy has its own dedicated fanbase. One has to wonder if that was a factor at play with these recent missteps – neither Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger are parts of ongoing, bankable franchises in quite the same way. It is disappointing to see a company with such an excellent track record in this department start to fall short. The ability to replay older games on current hardware is key to video games developing the same type of canon as literature and film – if critical opinion recommends a game people need to be able to get their hands on it to play it. It seems like Final Fantasy 7 fans should be waiting with baited breath to see how the complete remake of that title fares.