Once a rare and sought after breed, nowadays remastered games seem to be springing out of the ground left, right, and centre. A week can’t simply roll on by without mention or rumour of yet another game being re-released on slightly newer tech.
This year alone we’ve seen plenty of remasters come to both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Chief among these are the third instalments of both God of War and Gears of War alongside Devil May Cry 4 and even Resident Evil. There has also been a few notable digital remasters such as Journey and Homeworld, as well as handheld revamps like Xenoblade Chronicles and the sublime Majora’s Mask.
Some five or six years ago, remasters were almost completely unheard of. Although there were definitely cases of video games being optimised and re-released on other platforms, this was a relatively unknown practice, but in today’s climate, it’s not uncommon for studios to eye up their recent string of last-gen hits, and who can blame them?
Not only are they cheaper to make than sequels and new IP, there’s also a healthy demand that has yet to show signs of fatigue. This camp is mainly comprised of those who missed out on playing the original version of a game, and those who adore it enough to consider a re-purchase on newer hardware.
However, one question that continues to float around is this: which games are truly deserving of being remastered? The go-to answer is, of course, the “classics” – landmark games that have dropped jaws around the planet in years gone by. Games like Final Fantasy X, Metal Gear Solid 2, God of War, and Kingdom Hearts.
God of War was in fact that one game to kickstart this recent remaster trend. Prior to the launch of God of War III (a truly seminal game, for anyone asking) Sony Santa Monica e-mailed its fans a survey, quizzing them on upcoming extras they’d like to see in the game’s special edition. The survey seemed innocent at first, touting the usual bits and bobs we like to see, but then something caught our collective eye. A HD remake of the first two God of War games, complete with trophy support.
The rest, as they say, is history and soon demand for the God of War remasters skyrocketed. (Re)developed by the talented folks at Bluepoint Games, they were eventually released on Blu-ray to rave reviews. I remember being so excited that I even imported a copy from the United States just in time for my eighteenth birthday.
Inevitably, more remasters were soon to follow. Under the “HD Classics” label we saw series like Splinter Cell, Ratchet & Clank, Sly Raccoon, and Prince of Persia all go under the knife. They just kept on coming with smaller remasters also cropping up via digital storefronts.
Compared to many of the remasters we see today, these ones actually felt warranted. It seems that, somewhere along the way, this nostalgic edge has been marginalised in order to help publishers bridge the gap between the two most recent console cycles. Games like Hitman and ICO originally launched almost a decade before being spruced up whereas The Last Of Us was out for little more than a year.
Stefan shared his thoughts on the matter a few months ago, with his opinion being that we need a more universal approach:
Just the act of preserving our gaming history through remasters is inherently worthwhile, and shouldn’t really be restricted just to the games that are “good”. Of course, those will be on the frontline, and we’ve seen the vested interests of major companies playing out with remasters after just a year or two.
However, there’s also some rather exciting projects like the recent Mega Man Legacy Collection, with Digital Eclipse porting the games into the Eclipse Engine. This then acts as a middle ground for these games to be run on existing and future platforms with ease. The more games that are recreated in the Eclipse Engine, the more of our gaming history can be preserved for the ages and brought to new platforms in one fell swoop.
When it comes to remasters, there are no right and wrong answers. Even the ones that seem cobbled together and grasping are still enabling a sizeable part of the market to re/experience a catalogue of games they might otherwise pass on. For that reason alone, it’s hard to get mad whenever publishers give their old games a fresh lick of paint.