Let's start right offwith the 500-pound Nu in the room: the untimely cancellation of Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes. Crimson Echoes was a five-year fan project written to fill in the storyline gap between Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross, in an entirely new adventure using CT’s Super Nintendo engine. About two weeks before its release, Square Enix sent a C&D to Chrono Compendium, the makers of the fangame, to demand an immediate halt to the project and the destruction of all copies and materials related to the game. Though the game was 98% finished, Compendium was forced to comply.
If you’re frustrated or angry, you’re completely justified- and for those who aren't, allow me to attempt to explain why.
This was a new Chrono Trigger game.
A NEW CHRONO TRIGGER GAME.
Really, that should be enough. Square has done nothing with one of its most beloved franchises since 2000, addressing a neglected fanbase with nothing more than half-hearted rereleases on the Playstation and DS. They've shown no interest in actually revisiting Crono's world, in spite of the many questions left unanswered by the two games, and the terrific characters we've been longing to connect again since the mid-90's.
But, that's not what really hurts. What really hurts is that a handful of people took it upon themselves to construct a deep, elaborate love letter to a narrative that Square had long since left for dead. For five years, they toiled away at their tribute to Chrono Trigger.
Then, two weeks before their wishes and ours are realized, Square Enix released the hounds.
That they issued a C&D order on this project through their legal team at the time they did smacks less of a legitimate defense of profit than it does pure spite. Not only will Square not give us a single drop of new Chrono Trigger among their flood of Final Fantasy releases- they're going to make goddamn sure that nobody else can give it to us, either.
In his “Levels of Losing” scale, sports writer Bill Simmons would call this “The Stomach Punch”. It came from out of nowhere, at the worst possible time, and shredded the hopes of thousands to pieces- like Jordan's last- minute jump shot in Utah, or the sudden ending of Half-Life 2.
So, yes. I'm angry. At times, unbearably so. Now, every time I'm even reminded of the original game, I'm only going to be able to think of what might have been. This thing was going to be great. Really great. A culmination of thirteen years of fanhood. Now, even the original Chrono Trigger has turned sour for me- and like Beethoven in A Clockwork Orange, there are some works that simply should never invoke that kind of frustration.
That's why I'm angry. Why many of us are angry. Square has punished Chrono Compendium, punished us all, for enjoying their masterpiece just a little too much.
I realize, however, that on a stage as modest as mine, there is no direct recourse. Internet petitions aren’t worth the paper they’re not printed on. Email and phone-in campaigns are as useful as prank calls. Even a boycott would be miniscule, scattershot, and utterly demolished when Final Fantasy 13 comes out. Even though this is an epic dick move on behalf of Square-Enix, there is no way that I, or any one of us can return this action in kind.
But, if you want to something, anything at all to take from this, something that may prove even the slightest bit useful as we Chrono Trigger fans attempt to move on from this grave disappointment, then simply keep this in mind:
Square-Enix has, for the second time now, treated its most dedicated fans like criminals.
A company is only as good as its reputation- and this is a black mark that shouldn't soon be forgotten. Maybe they'll make it right by putting out a new CT game themselves, or maybe the one other thing we've been aching for all these years- a current-gen Final Fantasy 7 remake. Or, this could be the beginning of a greater legal war on the fandom. Who can say? Whatever happens from here, though, will be done in light of Square Enix as a fan-unfriendly company.
I'd also like to take the time to point out that, in the Destructoid story, I commented that I would “pirate every game Square made, if they'd released anything worthwhile in the past decade”. I posted that out of pure anger and frustration, and I humbly ask to take that back. At the time, I was only thinking about the Final Fantasy series, in which I haven't found a game that piqued my interest since FF9. I wasn't thinking of Kingdom Hearts, or The World Ends With You, or even the Dragon Quest games, all of which have been on my to-play list for quite some time. Moreover, while my feelings on copyright violation are mixed, there's no way to justify doing it out of pure spite, with products I can easily pick up off a Gamestop shelf or borrow from a friend. That's exactly the kind of behavior that engenders these problems in the first place.
So, what’s the lesson here for fangame makers? If you’re working on a Square-Enix hack, do yourself and everyone else a favor: clam up. Take down your website. Post no videos. Keep the project as insular as you possibly can until it’s complete. Give those jerks no rope to hang you with. In keeping with that spirit, I’m not going to post any information- or even acknowledge the existence- of any Square-Enix mods on this column or any other public forum until their final release is already slathered across the internet.
I can’t blame the Chrono Compendium team for their actions, they’re facing a $150,000 fine for all of their hard work. With nowhere near that kind of money to burn on what's effectively a hobby, they had to shut down, and there’s not a single person outside the project who can take them to task for doing just that. For what they accomplished, they did a terrific job, and here’s hoping they can all put their efforts toward a new, less lawsuit-prone project. You, sirs, are the noblest of all of us who yearn for one more trip to the end of time.
With that having been said, let’s have a look at a few projects that Square-Enix hasn’t found a way to shut down yet.
Super Mario 64: The Missing Stars
Just released to the public this week, this is the very first top-to-bottom mod of Super Mario 64. Featuring 38 stars dotted around an entirely new open-world setting, The Missing Stars is a fully-realized challenge, and a wicked one at that.
Like the Lost Levels, the level design in The Missing Stars is designed to be fiendish, with platforms placed tantalizingly out of reach, and goals that require just that extra bit of effort and precision to pull off. You'll be giving every one of Mario's (and Luigi's!) acrobatic tricks a workout in this game.
However, as also with the Lost Levels, the layout lacks a certain charm. The landscape is haphazard and utilitarian, designed to provide a challenge rather than immerse you in its world. In short, it feels more like an obstacle course than a playground.
But, this is admittedly an unfair criticism- Mario 64's level design is tremendous, and that The Missing Stars even invokes it is success enough. The use of classic music from the Mario games (and even a few imports from Zelda, Kirby and Star Fox) bring an added charm to the gameplay. Nintendo could wrap this package up, call it “Mario 64: The Lost Levels”, and roll in the cash.
Have a look at the gameplay- if you think you're up to a new 3D Mario challenge, you can find the ROM patch right here
Breath of Fire 2 Re-Translation
Speaking of RPGs done wrong, take Breath of Fire 2. One of the more underrated RPGs of the 16-bit era, BoF2 is also one of the most notoriously garbled games in history, with a translation that likely had Ted Woolsley saying “Come on, I'm RIGHT HERE!!”
While working on a German translation, modder Ryusui decided that, while the code was open, it'd be a service to rewrite the English script as well.
The difference? Well, just have a look for yourself. Here's a comparison from the very, very beginning of the game.
The original text is bland, lifeless, and cramped- and doesn't get any better through the course of the game. In rewriting the script, Ryusui removed the biggest obstacle preventing BoF2 from joining the pantheon of great SNES RPGs, and allows it to shine as it was originally intended. I last played Breath of Fire 2 in '96, and while I enjoyed the gameplay, the storyline was simply too garbled and incoherent for me to progress more than halfway. I'm sincerely looking forward now to reliving this story the way it was meant to be told.
Want the retranslation patch for yourself? It's a tricky workaround, but you can get all the files and information you'll need right here
Mushroom Kingdom Fusion Update
Demo version 0.3 hit the interwebs last month, and it's a doozy: fifteen playable levels, and seven new characters: joining Mario, Luigi, Sonic, Tails, and Arthur on the roster are Wario, Roll, Link, Classic (8-bit) Mario, and Vile (from Mega Man X), as well as work-in-progress versions of Simon Belmont and Ryu Hayabusa. Point your browser over here
to download the standalone package, and check out this latest batch of wicked gameplay videos.
Mario vs. Contra
Roll vs. Contra
Wario vs. Doom
Ryu Hayabusa kills Goombas
That's it for this month's Fan Game Watchlist. Tune in this June, when I have a look at a turn-based strategy game that never hit American shores, a couple of ongoing Metroid projects, a few of the better Mario fangames, and as we can always hope, no legal proceedings to speak of. I leave you now with the current list of quality completed fangames and mods, one that will surely be growing in the months to come.
Mother 3 fan translation
Final Fantasy Tactics 1.3
Super Mario 64: The Missing Stars
Breath of Fire 2 re-translation