Recycling material isn’t anything new in video games. Game companies, whether it’s due to fan response or some sort of twisted narcissism, love to re-release their old wares on other consoles. It’s something that’s become so panned in the culture today. Yes, there are most certainly some terrible ports of classic video games, but there are also some very good ones too. In this list, we’ll check out five classic titles and see an example of both a proper port of the game and one that misses the mark for one reason or another. Welcome to Good Port, Bad Port! Enjoy!
Good port: Minecraft: 360 Edition (Xbox 360)
No, Minecraft: 360 Edition is not better than the PC version. Yes, it is an amazingly fun game. The lack of mods and a smaller world may turn off PC purists, but for anyone who wants a quality time-waster on the 360 should look no further than here. Minecraft is still all about crafting, building, harvesting and running from snarling and slurping night creatures. It’s a humble game without any real direction, but that’s the charm of it. It’s a sandbox game all about exploration and ambition. The controller does a respectable job of keeping the building maneuvers consistent and an easy-to-use party system will keep you and your Xbox Live friends involved for weeks. No major blemishes appear on Minecraft: 360 Edition, so PC gamers, take a deep breath and put your pitchforks and chloroform away, please.
Bad port: Minecraft: Pocket Edition (Android)
No, Minecraft: Pocket Edition is not better than the PC version. No, it is not an amazingly fun game. While Minecraft had hits on the PC and consoles, the mobile version on Android is easily the worst way to play it. There’s really one reason why it sucks: no buttons. A touch-screen does not work in Minecraft. The fact that the screen uses those “pseudo-buttons” (you know, just an overlay on the screen of where you should put your thumbs) is bad enough, but the sluggish and unresponsive building mechanics are downright terrible. You need to press and hold the screen to perform certain actions, which slows down building to a crawl. How about not being able to see your screen because your thumbs are blocking the view? Unless you own the Xperia Play from Sony (which actually has buttons), you’ll find the controls to be a major downgrade from Minecraft PC or 360 Edition. Oh, and the content count is even less than the 360 Edition. Nice one, Notch.
Good port: Chrono Trigger (DS)
Chrono Trigger really was the peak of JRPG creativity during the pre-CD world of video games. A massive quest with multiple endings, a solid and fundamentally-sound battle system and a collection of memorable team members made the game more than a financial success, but the standard by which the genre was measured. When the game was announced to be re-released on the DS handheld, fans were ecstatic, and for good reason. Chrono Trigger on DS offered the already content-packed title for gaming on the go, along with bonus material that was not on the original SNES cartridge. Translations were less “Engrishy”, the dual-screen mechanic removed the HUD from the top-screen, along with extra dungeons and story elements. All this on your handheld. Chrono Trigger wasn’t a cash-grab. It pretty much gave gamers what they wanted: to play Chrono Trigger on the go. But when you go the extra step and give the gamers a little more to chew on, you’ve proven to be more than a nice guy. Kudos, Square.
Bad port: Final Fantasy Chronicles (Playstation)
Well, I take those kudos back, Square. The first major re-release of Chrono Trigger was actually on a compilation disc on the original Playstation, Final Fantasy Chronicles. The SNES hit was paired with a revised version of Final Fantasy IV (Final Fantasy II in the states), and while it was very exciting to finally revisit Chrono Trigger after six long years, the game was a technical nightmare and a poor re-release. With no extra game-changing mechanics and load times that would make the Road Runner lethargic, Final Fantasy Chronicles showed that CD tech had a long ways to go before becoming the lightning-fast speed machine that we know today. You did get those anime cutscenes, I guess, so if you want to see the characters in anime form for a couple minutes, go for it. Then again, that’s also on the DS version.
Good port: Resident Evil (GCN)
Resident Evil remains a cornerstone in the survival horror memorial, and while the more recent installments have been major flops, it can be easy to forget how amazing the Gamecube port of Resident Evil was in 2002. With no Ganados or Majini or whatever in sight, it was all creepy survival horror atmosphere. Tank controls may have been the name of the game in 2002 (long before RE4 rebooted the series’ quality), but those graphics…man, what a sight. It was miles ahead of the blocky polygons of the original Playstation and made the spooky mansion come alive with the undead monsters that inhabited it. It may seem dated by today’s standards, but back in 2002, no game was more detailed and downright frightening as the Gamecube version of Resident Evil.
Bad port: Resident Evil Archives (Wii)
Back in 2002, we really didn’t mind the tank controls in the Gamecube version of Resident Evil. They were restricting, but they had a purpose: to make you feel tense and claustrophobic in your own skin. When the Resident Evil port on Gamecube was getting a re-release on the Wii, it just wasn’t the same. We were already spoiled with the sublime controls of Resident Evil 4. Hell, Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition had come out two years earlier. This regressive shift made going back to the tank controls all the more frustrating. The annoying motion controls made the already clumsy camera a serious pain to contend with as well. After playing Resident Evil 4, there isn’t a good chance that you’ll see the nostalgia gold in the original Resident Evil. It may be good for a history lesson, but survival horror has changed, and as a result, there really was no reason to buy or care about this Wii version.
Good port: The Orange Box (Xbox 360)
It was a long time ago that Valve actually had something nice to say about Microsoft. When the company decided to release their massive compilation disc The Orange Box across the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3, 360 owners were given the treat of a wonderfully functional port of the PC smash Half-Life 2. Everything that made the PC version a treat was here on The Orange Box. With the budding Achievement system in perfect resonance and some high-quality tech powering the 360, The Orange Box provided a Half-Life 2 port fit for hungry console gamers, even if the PC version still reigned supreme. Anyone who (for some reason) has a problem playing FPS games with a mouse and keyboard could finally journey as Gordon Freeman and crap themselves in Ravenholm. Having Episodes 1 and 2 along for the ride wasn’t a bad deal either.
Bad port: Half-Life 2 (Xbox)
Some say that the Xbox port of Half-Life 2 was a good transition of the PC game onto a console. I, for one, didn’t have much fun with it. Being released near the end of the Xbox life cycle, Half-Life 2 just didn’t fit with the Xbox tech at the time. While Half-Life 2 was pushing PC’s to their limits, those who were actually able to run the game were treated with some of the most intricate physics and most memorable designs ever seen in a shooter. The Xbox port suffered from far too many technical issues to sit next to its PC brother, including a stuttering frame rate along with frequent freezes. It proved that the Xbox’s technological guts just couldn’t handle what Valve was pushing at the time. While some gamers enjoyed Half-Life 2 on the Xbox, flaws and all, after seeing the future incarnations of the Game of the Year winner, it makes the Xbox port look all the more buggy and forgettable.
Good port: Sonic Jam (Sega Saturn)
Yes, Sonic is no stranger to compilation discs these days. With over ten consoles to choose from, the original Sonic the Hedgehog from 1991 has been re-released without any restraint whatsoever. And while we’ve seen huge compilations of Sonic’s world, both retail and digital, Sonic Jam for the Sega Saturn was, oddly enough, the one that got it right the most. With the classic Sonic the Hedgehog game intact, along with a number of extras including the ability to use the Sonic 2 Spin Dash, multiple difficulties with redesigned layouts, and the addictive Time Attack mode. It’s especially surreal, since this game has long since been eclipsed for other incarnations of Sonic the Hedgehog like the Mega Collections and digital download versions. But by piling on the extras and keeping the nostalgia levels high, Sonic Jam is still the best way to revisit Green Hill Zone in its 16-bit glory.
Bad port: Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis (GBA)
Advertised as a modern re-release of the classic Sonic the Hedgehog game, Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis flaunted a number of nuances for the GBA retail form of Sonic’s debut. With a level select, a save system, and an “Anniversary Mode” (which included the Spin Dash move which debuted in the sequel Sonic the Hedgehog 2), Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis looked to be the defining way to play the original Genesis classic on the go. But it wasn’t. Not even close. Despite these additions, Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis suffered from unbearable technical infidelity. From instant-death glitches, terribly remixed Sonic themes, and an insufferably slow frame rate, Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis was by far the worst form of Sonic’s original adventure. Even at a budget price, Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis was a total train wreck, making the goal of playing the original Sonic on the go still out of reach (until Sonic Classic Collection on DS made the move right).
Got any other favorite (or least favorite) ports of classic video games? Share them in the comments below!
It began with a hand-me-down Sega Genesis from his cousin and since then, he's been fascinated with video games. He enjoys the blissful platforming of the 16-bit era and the rich adventures of the 64-bit era. Favorite games include Metroid Prime, Banjo-Tooie, and practically every 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog title.
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