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Screen Crunch

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Dodging the bouncing ball can be easy or hard depending on the version.

"With the camera panned out, and just, with enough viewpoints, [Mine-Cart Carnage is] not that hard. You'll make some mistakes, your first time, sure, or if you're rusty like I am, but... at least it's not zoomed-in and like, requiring different timing. That'd be awful!"
ProtonJon, playing Donkey Kong Country on SNES and comparing it to the Game Boy Color remake

If you're a gamer, you've more than likely run into Event-Obscuring Camera issues or Camera Screw at some point. Whether it's a controllable camera that constantly gets stuck on things or an Auto-Camera that abruptly changes angle mid jump, bad cameras have been the bane of gamers' existences for decades.

But what if the game hardware itself was to blame for the camera and not bad programming?

Enter Screen Crunch. This is what happens when a game's bad camera is caused by the screen resolution (or lack thereof). While it's not a porting-specific (or handheld-specific) issue, ports to handheld consoles tend to be plagued by this due to the small screens.

This trope was codified with the release of the Game Boy in 1989, though it wouldn't become infamous until the Game Boy Advance due to the many ports on that system.

Nowadays, screen sizes and resolutions, even for mobile devices, have become large enough that the crunch has mostly become a Discredited Trope. Most manufacturers have agreed upon 16:9, and the handful of aversions (most notably "tall" smartphones and the occasional 16:10 tablet) usually offer the player an option of either stretching the pixels to fit the screen or pillarboxing to emulate older games. And newer releases generally have no problem changing their aspect ratios and resolutions by themselves. Of course, this trope does still happen in some unfortunate cases.

Sub-Trope to Event-Obscuring Camera. Also see Porting Disaster and Fake Difficulty. Often goes hand in hand with Trial-and-Error Gameplay. Not to be confused with Camera Abuse (when the viewscreen is crunched into smithereens either for humor or adding tension) or Shoot the Television (when a character destroys an in-universe screen). This is one of the reasons why developers might make a Reformulated Game instead. Similar to Pan and Scan for movies.

Examples (sorted by system)

For reference: the original NES has a resolution of 256×240, the SNES supports several from 256×224 to 512×448 (interlaced), the Sega Master System is 256×192 and the Sega Genesis supports several from 256×224 to 320×480 (interlaced).

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    Atari Lynx (160×102) 
  • Ms. Pac-Man completely redrew the graphics for the smaller screen. The upshot is that you can see the whole maze. The downside is that everything in the maze is downright microscopic, which is really bad if you're playing on real hardware.
  • Double Dragon is a doozy. As the graphics, which were of a 256×224 game, were ported more or less 1:1 to the Atari Lynx (aside from some sundry alterations such as the player's foot during a kick), this means you're getting only 28% of what the arcade game offered and character sprites stand at almost half the height of the screen.

    Game Boy (Color) (160×144) 
  • Battletoads in Ragnarok's World, the Game Boy port of the NES Battletoads featuring only eight of the stages.note  The smaller resolution can prove particularly problematic in Karnath's Lair, since a lot of the time the snakes (who have been made skinnier) will be off-screen and harder to anticipate without Trial-and-Error Gameplay.
  • The first Donkey Kong Land had this problem due to Rare's inexperience with the Game Boy's smaller screen. This resulted in them importing the sprites from Donkey Kong Country without properly resizing them. Future Land games would try to resize/redraw the sprites to make things more fair, though this problem would return with the GBC port of Country.
  • The Mega Man (Classic) games weren't ports from the NES, but they used the same sprites which makes the play area really cramped. Also, the energy meters take up the bottom 16 pixels of the screen, making the play area that much smaller.
  • Metroid II: Return of Samus ran into this relative to the preceding Metroid on the NES. In addition to the usual reduced screen size, the number of pixels per tile was increased, allowing for more detailed sprites to compensate for the lack of color. This was what started the series convention for the Varia Suit granting Samus her now-iconic shoulders, for example. A consequence of this was it was very easy to run into trouble against enemies on the edge of the screen, but on the flipside the player could exploit this against certain enemies if their enemy was in a consistent spot in their line of fire.
  • Pac-Man, oddly enough, has a giant, unnecessary gray border on the right side of the screen that eats up nearly 1/3 of the resolution. You can, from the title screen, switch to a "1/2" mode which shrinks everything down so the whole map fits on the screen.
  • Shantae sometimes makes the player perform Leaps of Faith due to the developers sacrificing screen space for smooth sprite animations. This makes traveling around Sequin Land much harder than intended.
  • In Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, you can only see 1/3 of the original screen.
  • Defied in the first Super Mario Land, which used smaller sprites than any other Mario game specifically to avoid this. Later games in the series would revert to standard sprite sizes once the developers and level designers got more comfortable with the screen size's limitations.
    • Exploited by the Wario Land subseries in particular. Wario's attributes (a Mighty Glacier with no run button and limited Jump Physics), and the the design of the games (which downplay getting to the end of each level in favor of collecting coins and treasures) are meant to make screen crunch less of an issue.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures 2: Montana's Movie Madness: The sprites are very large for Game Boy standards. While this might have been done to counteract the "ghosting" issue that plagued the original model's screen, the game became hard to play for a different reason, so much so that the Japanese version removed several enemies and pits to compensate.

    Game Boy Advance (240×160) 
  • The Game Boy Advance's Classic NES Series line of NES ports attempted to combat this by editing the sprites so all the original resolution fits on the more horizontal screen, a literal screen crunch. This results in games having bizarre sprites. For example, in Super Mario Bros., Small Mario has no neck and Super Mario's mustache disappears when walking.
  • The two proper Crash Bandicoot platformers on the system, Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure and Crash Bandicoot 2: N-Tranced, though otherwise well-liked tend to be criticized for using the smaller handheld screen to hide boxes and enemies or, at their worst, outright force a Leap of Faith situation due to the game not making it clear where the next platform is after a jump (or even worse, having hazards that are also impossible to see along side this). The developers somewhat compensated for this by being noticeably more generous on using wumpa fruit to route the levels compared to other games in the series and Crash starting with a double jump in the latter game, but this hardly helps in the time trial mode which gets rid of wumpa fruit almost completely, essentially forcing the player to know the exact locations of every hazard they can land on during said leaps of faith.
  • Disney's Magical Quest got hit with this trope in its two player co-op mode. The developers forgot to remove the rule forcing both players to be on the same screen (as the originals could only be played on a single screen), resulting in a cramped experience.
  • Earthworm Jim suffers from the "sprites are too large" issue, which resulted in several unintended traps when trying to jump over pits. The sequel's port has this problem as well.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man & Bass did nothing to account for the lower resolution making an already Nintendo Hard game even harder. Most infamously, the game has no camera control whatsoever, making Tengu Man's stage border on Trial-and-Error Gameplay.
    • Despite being a GBA original, a common criticism of Mega Man Zero is that enemies and obstacles that are impossible to see ahead of time are a dime-a-dozen. Boss fights, in particular, are often made more difficult than they otherwise would be, since most of them take place in arenas larger than the screen, so you cannot see their attacks coming and thus cannot prepare for them. Fortunately, the developers learned from this as the rest of the Mega Man Zero series is designed to account for the screen better.
  • Pac-Man Collection is an interesting case. In Pac-Man & Pac-Man Arrangement (1996), only one half of the maze can be on screen at once, though using the shoulder buttons will allow you to see the other half.
  • Rayman
    • Rayman Advance, the GBA port of Rayman. The original game had big, detailed sprites that didn't translate over to the GBA's screen very well, and this is seen when fighting the first boss. In the original, you had a lot of space to move, but thanks to the GBA's lower resolution, the arena became ridiculously small. The developers were kind enough remove certain obstacles throughout the game and get rid of the knockback but it only helps so much.
    • Despite being a Reformulated Game, Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc focused more on sprite detail than playability. This made the game's primary goal (finding lums) much more difficult than it should have been and made later levels border on Trial-and-Error Gameplay. Its sequel, Rayman Raving Rabbids wasn't any better about this.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • A frequent criticism of Sonic Advance 3 is that the game invokes this trope for difficulty by hiding spikes and crushers off-screen until it's too late for the player to react.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis is the king of this trope on the GBA. The sprites were virtually unchanged from their Genesis counterparts resulting in Sonic's sprite taking up most of the screen. Labyrinth Zone's Rise to the Challenge section becomes nigh-impossible to beat, since the camera remains centered on Sonic while immediate obstacles are just off the top of the screen. The GBA's reduced resolution is also a drawback for the Boss Battle at the end of Marble Zone, where the inability to keep the Egg Scorcher and the two platforms it takes turns firebombing all onscreen at once may cause some cheap deaths, though the fact that the boss flies lower in this version also permits the Cheese Strategy of having Sonic repeatedly bounce on top of it.
  • The Super Mario Advance games aren't affected as much due to their smaller sprites and gameplay better translating to horizontal movement. All games attempted to make up for this by adding extra content and giving the player more opportunities to get extra lives. Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World added vertical scrolling for the camera button, while Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 suffers the least as the original NES game already had a smaller viewing resolution from the large HUD which the remake completely replaces with a thin status bar and a lot of levels have been edited to better suit the smaller screen.

    Game Gear (160×144) 
  • Defied with Bubble Bobble. It was yet another Master System-to-Game Gear conversion, this time for Final Bubble Bobble. Instead of replicating the Game Boy version's scrolling however, the developers simply created mini versions of the levels, resulting in a unique experience from its console counterpart.
  • The Game Gear ports of Sonic the Hedgehog (8-bit) and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-bit), which were originally made for the Sega Master System, suffered from this badly.
    • While the former game took many measures to make the game easier (like removing Jungle Zone Act 2's Ratchet Scrolling), the latter game didn't even bother, making certain levels (especially Green Hills Act 3) an absolute nightmare to complete.
    • Interestingly, the first game saw a case of Screen Crunch that benefited the player. In the first boss of the game, Robotnik floats at the top of the screen, before descending and charging across the bottom of the screen. In the Master System version, he has to be attacked while he descends, but in the Game Gear version, the smaller screen means he can be hit while at the top of the screen, to the point that he can be defeated before he even gets the chance to descend.
    • The worst example of Sonic 2's Screen Crunch is the first boss. The bouncing balls are ridiculously hard to dodge in the Game Gear version—not helped by unpredictable heights they bounce at in the port. This trope singlehandedly turned a pushover of a boss into That One Boss. (200×160) 

    N-Gage (176×208) 
  • Crash Nitro Kart on the N-Gage would have been a Polished Port of the GBA version... if it wasn't for the aforementioned screen. It's nearly impossible to see anything to the side of you, including the race track. In a misguided attempt to fix this, the camera is much more jumpy which only makes things worse.
  • Pandemonium! (1996) had bad draw distance and low frame rates on top of the screen problems.
  • Rayman 3 was a port of the GBA version (itself a victim of this trope as seen above), trading in horizontal screen space for vertical. The already hard-to-find lums have become even harder to locate thanks to the resolution and fighting enemies has become an absolute chore.
  • Sonic N, the N-Gage port of the first Sonic Advance, was also a victim of the vertically oriented screen—you can barely see ahead of Sonic making the whole game one giant Luck-Based Mission. There is an option to letterbox the screen allowing you to see more but it's too small to make anything out, making it useless.

    PS Vita (960×544) 
  • Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours features Dariusburst Another Chronicle EX as part of the package. DBACEX's arcade cabinet uses a pair of widescreen displays for a total resolution of 2560×720 with a 32:9 aspect ratio. This is fine for the PlayStation 4 and PC versions of DBCS, where the game will have letterboxes and is still fairly playable, with the PC version even supporting ultrawide and dual-monitor setups. The PlayStation Vita version? If you don't have a PS TV, enjoy squinting to try and make anything out in the 960×270 window!

    Mobile Phones 
  • Mario Kart Tour got into a lot of controversy upon its release for displaying in portrait mode instead of landscape like most mobile racers. This meant that the player couldn't see the side of the road (much like Crash Nitro Kart mentioned above) which gave it a bunch of Trial-and-Error Gameplay for new players. It wasn't until months after launch that a landscape mode was added.
  • Progressbar 95: Progressbar 1X makes you use a radial progressbar with segments coming from all sides and angles. Other Progressbar systems would have you use a regular horizontal progressbar and only have segments fall from the top, which works perfectly fine due to smartphones having a screen with high vertical resolution. However, 1X's changes don't work too well with the low horizontal resolution, making it frustrating to react to segments that come from the side, not helped by the wide radial progress bar. An update tried to address this by making the bar slightly smaller, but it hardly fixes the issue.
  • Reflec Beat plus plays just fine on an iPad. However, a later update made the game compatible with iPhones and iPod Touches, which simply just aren't big enough to comfortably play the game on. Orienting the screen vertically results in a tiny playfield that is far too small for even kids' hands, and orienting the screen horizontally allows for more horizontal precision but also renders the game in a really awkward three-quarters perspective.
  • Gameloft's mobile versions of Splinter Cell on low-end devices such as the Nokia 3510i (96x65) took the Super Mario Bros. Deluxe approach by panning the screen vertically when needed, as the games were based off the 128x128 Series 40 versions.

    Non-Handheld Systems 
  • The arcade version of Pac-Mania, while regarded as a classic, is known for this, as Namco made the perplexing decision to use a TATE (vertical widescreen) display despite the game's isometric mazes being more suited to a 4:3 display. This isn't a problem in the first two worlds, but Sandbox Land and Jungly Steps can be a bit unfair as a result. The biggest reason many of the (pre Namco Museum) home ports are seen as Polished Ports is because of the increased horizontal screen space, which makes the game easier.
  • beatmania IIDX. The arcade game is designed for 16:9 monitors, but when the games were ported to the PlayStation 2 from 2000 through 2009, the porting team had to make the game compatible with those playing on 4:3 screens, which early on in that period were more commonnote . This led to the introduction of a console-exclusive gameplay UI that only shows one player's playfield, the song animation screen, and the HUD at the bottom, designed to fit better on a 4:3 screen than the original arcade games' UIs. If you wish to play Double Play mode, another unique console-exclusive UI exists that again keeps the note lanes looking correct on a 4:3 screen...but eliminates the video screen entirely. This trope comes to a head if one wishes to play 2-player, as this forces the 16:9 arcade UI to be compressed into a 4:3 screen; there's no 4:3-friendly 2-player interface.
  • In the first Grand Theft Auto, you would usually view the game through a top-down camera with a limited field of view surrounding your character. This could be mitigated once you got into a vehicle, as the camera would helpfully zoom out so you could see what was in front of you, as well as see enough to figure out where you were on the map. Come Grand Theft Auto 2 however, and the zoom-out function appears to have been weakened drastically, to the point that it is much more difficult for you to properly utilize any of the benefits that could have assisted you as in the first game. As well as not having a good-enough field of vision to see the amount of traffic in front of you, (especially in the first sector where fast cars are scarce) or be able to make out where you were going, it also rendered your character much more susceptible to ambushes from threats. It could also wind up compromising your ability to see enemies from far away if you were looking for them, or needed a strategy to approach them without blindly walking into danger. For the PC version, you would need to download a debug patch in order to just zoom the camera out in order to mitigate this problem, barring that you don't mind fewer vehicles and pedestrians appearing on the screen (you often required many people and vehicles to appear in order to pass a Kill Frenzy) while doing so.
  • In the old fangame Sonic Epoch, the sprites are massive—Sonic's sprite in particular takes up 1/8th of the screen—despite being an MS-DOS game. This makes the game borderline unplayable at times as you can't see the enemies coming at all.
  • The Tengen console ports of Ms. Pac-Man, rather than fitting the entire maze onto the screen (keep in mind that the original arcade game is designed for vertically-oriented monitors), decide to instead have the screen-wide maze scroll up and down. Not only does this mean you can't see the entire maze at once, which may be problematic if you are trying to escape ghosts or find the last few pellets, but in a 2-player simultaneous game, it is possible for one player to scroll the other player off the screen. There is a "Mini" set of mazes with minimal vertical scrolling, but it's much smaller in dimensions than arcade-spec mazes.
  • The Windows 95 port of RayForce, also known as Layer Section, on top of being regarded as an inferior port of the arcade game, it had most of its screen real estate crunched down to a 4:3 320x240 display horizontally, from an arcade version that originally used a vertically-oriented 7:10 224x320 display, and unlike the game's Sega Saturn port, the Windows 95 port did not have a TATE display option, meaning players were forced to see a portion of the game being cut off vertically and the HUD and border taking up over half of the right port of the game screen.
  • The PC port of Bombergirl is presented in 16:9 widescreen, however, its original arcade version was developed with a vertically-oriented display in mind, which causes a great deal of vertical visibility to be lost on a game with the majority of its maps being designed vertically in the former. Despite this, it does make up for this shortcoming by giving PC players a mini-map they can view from the upper-right corner of the game screen, and many of its HUD and UI elements were refitted to work with the wider-than-tall aspect-ratio.
  • Parodied in Zadette: The Retraux screen resolution would be acceptable if not for the enormous player character sprite that takes about 80% of the height of the screen. It's also a 4:3 screen, meaning you can't see further ahead than about the main character's height, all played for Stylistic Suck.
  • The Nintendo Entertainment System version of Prince of Persia had graphics based on the IBM PC version, which ran in 320x200 resolution with Flip-Screen Scrolling. Since the NES has only 256 pixels of horizontal resolution, a bit of left-to-right panning had to be added. Other versions of the original game reduce the graphics to allow all of each room to be visible at once, though the SNES version of Prince of Persia 2 uses similar horizontal panning.
  • Resident Evil (Remake) and Resident Evil 0's HD remasters are vertically cropped for 16:9 display mode, which the game attempts to alleviate with vertical panning, though important objects and enemies still often get hidden out of frame. Therefore, the pillar-boxed 4:3 mode is preferable.
  • When Battle Garegga was ported to the Sega Saturn, it added some display options on account of the original game being presented on a vertically-oriented monitor. The most optimal way to play is to rotate your TV, but if you don't want to or can't do that, there are three alternative display options, all of which have their own problems. There is pillarboxed 3:4, which keeps the entire playing area visibible but harder to see the game's realistically-colored bullets, a full-width option that expands the play area to the width of the TV but also omits a lot of vertical space, and finally a wobble variant of the previous option that allows the screen to scroll up and down in accordance with the player's vertical movement, at the expense of potentially causing motion sickness. This is averted with the Battle Garegga Rev.2016 release on PS4 and Xbox One, consoles that mandate an HDTVnote  so even in pillarboxed 3:4, you can still see every single detail.
  • The boss battles of Crescent Pale Mist plays around with this. By pressing the Zoom button while fighting a boss, players can either zoom the screen out to get a better view of their screen and track their opponents more easily, or zoom the screen in to invoke this but get a power boost for their attacks as a trade-off for the limited visibility.
  • Megumi Rescue for the Sega Master System, a firefighting-themed Breaking Out game, has to scroll up and down a bit to show the entire building you're rescuing people from. The original Arcade Game used a vertically-tilted monitor, so it didn't have to do this. A loose remake of this game for the Famicom, Flying Hero, avoided this issue by making the buildings shorter.