Friday, 24 February 2012

Revived, Revamped, Re-released

Recently I've been thinking a lot about the trend for re-releasing older games onto newer consoles. With the exciting news that Dreamcast classic Jet Set Radio is set for a revival on PSN and XBLA later this year, and after a slew of HD remakes have made their way back onto home consoles, it seems that industry investment into nostalgia has never been higher. Nintendo's 3DS has boasted revamped versions of the N64 classics Ocarina of Time and Lylat Wars, while the 360 celebrated the tenth anniversary of the seminal Halo with a graphically improved re-release. The PS3 now plays host to HD versions of Resident Evil 4, God of War, Shadow of the Colossus, Ico, and Metal Gear Solid, and through services like PSN, XBLA, and Virtual Console you can enjoy hundreds of retro classics from years gone by. But where do you draw the line?

A few weeks ago a big chunk of my student loan came through. Being the level headed gent that I am, I immediately blew most of it on games. Picked up some recent releases I've been meaning to get: Skyward Sword, Rayman Origins, Dark Souls... But what I was most pleased with was getting replacements for my dead N64, Dreamcast, and Gamecube. All of them were pretty cheap, and came with a load of games, so I've had a fun couple of weeks revisiting some classics and wallowing in nostalgic pity. What grabbed me though is the fact that both the N64 and the Gamecube came with versions of Ocarina of Time.

Now, like all good little N64 owners, I owned and played the fuck out of OoT when it first came out. I'd estimate that my parents probably picked it up for about £50. Then it was brought out on the Gamecube a mere five years later, unchanged (it now goes for around £30 on Ebay). Sure, the Gamecube release came with Master Quest, the stunningly unimpressive harder version of the original, but they're essentially the same game. Couple that with the fact that it came out on the Wii's virtual console in 2007 (Which my brother bought), and has now had its big 3D makeover on 3DS (retailing at about £20), and you're looking at a game that's been re-released four times in fifteen years, with only the latest of those making any substantial changes to the graphics.


Crazy Taxi is another one that grabbed my interest. The arcade and Dreamcast classic was a favourite of mine, often considered one of the best on the console. I've been replaying it on my new machine, and the gameplay is as refreshing and fast-paced as it ever was. It enjoyed a re-release on PSN and XBLA in 2010, complete with barely updated graphics and the same game modes. But here's the kick in the teeth: Sega couldn't license the tunes from the original, so they were all replaced for the reissue. So, in effect, I'm being asked to pay again for a game that is actually worse than the original release from ten years ago. And now there's talk that Jet Set Radio could suffer from a similar problem. And while I understand the point of a re-release is, in part, so that people who missed it first time around can enjoy it, the majority of people excited by the news of JSR's update are probably those that still own the original anyway. So why pay again for a less complete version of a game you already own?

I feel much the same about these HD remakes that we've been seeing so much of recently. And while at least those offer up the hook of improved graphics, you're essentially paying money for a game you're likely to already have. Resident Evil 4 suffers from the same problem as OoT, having enjoyed three or four major re-releases in the seven years since it came out. As good as both games are, there's no need for that, not unless major changes are made to the graphics or gameplay, or it was a particularly unheralded game on its original release.

Want to know the best modern example of a re-released game? Well I've got two: Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid, both on the Gamecube. The former is especially brilliant, as not only does it still look fantastic, but at the time it was completely relevant. The original Resident Evil, while rightly considered a classic, was completely held back by God-awful visuals and its infamously bad voice acting. REmake brought everything into line, making it the game Resident Evil was always meant to be. Dark, atmospheric, and genuinely terrifying at times, the graphics were (and are) breathtaking in parts. As well as that, parts of the gameplay were brought up to date as well, with defensive weapons to be used when cornered, and more aggressive "Crimson Head" zombies that would reawaken if you didn't properly dispatch the bodies of fallen zombies. Capcom did such a good job with the game, that I still think of it as the best example of a remake done right. It makes their lazy as fuck ports of Resi 2, 3, and Code Veronica on the same console all the more baffling.

A world of difference

Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes is great for pretty much the same reason. The original release on the Playstation was an incredibly inventive and enjoyable game, but was really due a graphical overhaul in between the release of 2 and 3. The visuals were brought in line with Sons of Liberty, with all the cutscenes redone to match that level of quality. Besides that, as a Playstation exclusive it had passed by a lot of envious N64 owners, so a re-release on the Gamecube was an important bridge to the series for a lot of gamers. Weirdly, it's never seen release again, despite arguably being the definitive version of the game. I was actually surprised that it never showed up on the recent Metal Gear HD Collection, which seems kind of empty without it.

My long-winded point is that a re-release should really have a reason to exist, other than to just milk our nostalgia glands for lots of money. Nintendo have always been terrible for this, but their 25th anniversary release of Mario All Stars (for example) was a total joke. £30+ for a SNES game that hadn't been changed in any way, ported to the Wii. What's the point? This is why I'm really happy that services like PSN, et al, exist; it gives us a chance to play games that we may have missed, been recommended, or simply remember from years ago, while still giving some money back to the developer/publisher. In lieu of an actual archive for game releases, it's an important thing to have. But if we're paying for the games, they should at least be the full versions, if not augmented in some way. Otherwise, it's just transparent money grabbing, and in the case of games like Ocarina of Time and Resi 4, it dilutes the importance of their original releases.

No comments:

Post a Comment