Just take it already
When I was younger I had a vastly different relationship with videogames.
I chose the games I wanted for my birthdays and Christmas based on what my friends and cousins had. I didn’t read many gaming magazines or if I did, I would borrow them from the library months or years after they were relevant. Even when I began working in my teens, the combination of high game prices and a low amount of time meant that I still didn’t managed to collect many of the great titles of the PS2/GameCube Era. It was probably only at the end of high school when I bought a Wii that I began to actively and regularly buy games. By this stage the PS3/360 era was kicking off and again high prices meant that I wouldn’t be able to join that arms race till a few years later.
Now at the dawn of the PS4/XBONE era I find myself buying FFX HD to play on my Vita, I see Okami HD on the PSN Store and the ICO/Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection sitting on my shelf and I feel conflicted. One part of me is happy that I can now play the games that I missed out on, games that I probably wouldn’t have fully understood at the time and games that I probably would have lost interest in when they got complicated or were no longer the flavour of the month among my friends. The other part of me is sad that these HD remakes are all that remains of the great gaming franchises that used to revolutionise with every game rather than disappoint.
This is the paradox of HD remakes; On the one hand they let fans old and new experience great games. On the other hand, HD remakes are a monument to the former glory of some of the great gaming publishers.
This leads me to the question of why? Why are we getting HD remakes instead of great new games? Where are we heading and what is the silver lining in all of this?
It is my belief that the prominence of HD remakes has become less about preserving the history of gaming and more about making money for large studios that have been producing sub-par games or not producing games at all. Recent history has revealed this HD trend to be a Sony dominated enterprise. With more HD remakes than any other platform the PS3 is a nostalgic game fan’s best friend. Rivaled only by the Wii U with its slow yet interesting role out of virtual console games the PS3 and Vita have seen many classics given new life. However the disturbing trend is that we are being given these HD remakes instead of new games worth buying.
Square Enix is leading the pack with HD remakes of both Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy X released in the past year and only mere trailers to show of Kingdom Hearts 3 and FFXV; games it has had in development of almost a decade. Further its recent entries in the Final Fantasy series have been less than spectacular. Square Enix’s actions make me question the direction the company is taking, it can clearly make great games Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Bravely Default and Tomb Raider are all recent examples but are the costs of doing business so high that the company must rely on making old IP profitable again so as to bank roll new games?
This seems to be the case with Sony Santa Monica, the company behind God of War, which has recently succumb to layoffs in the wake of the under performing God of War: Ascension. Sony Santa Monica has re-released every title in the God of War series for the PS3 and Vita and I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before they are re-re-released on the PS4. They have made great games but has their eye towards making lightening strike again and again on the same franchise left them without any creative breathing room? These games aren’t FIFA or Madden, remaking them every year with minor tweaks just doesn’t work and pumping out HD remakes to distract from the sub-par new iterations just makes it worse.
So what does the future hold? I think the answer is different depending on your system of choice. For those who play on the PC none of this is a concern, the community will always find a way to bring the games of yesteryear back from the dead. For console gamers the future is a little darker, with backwards compatibility disappearing HD remakes and re-releases are going to be the norm especially when they can convert a popular game and cash in again. We can see that the Last of Us is already slated for a next gen release a mere year since its PS3 debut and we can only speculate as to when and if GTAV will appear on the XBONE and PS4 after making billions on the PS3/360.
So is there a silver lining in all of this? The answer is complex; it is a question of balancing enjoyment with disdain, I will probably always go out and buy HD remakes of games that I’ve wanted to play but didn’t have the time for, I will enjoy my time with these HD remakes and the reduced price makes it a good value proposition. I will however also cringe at how long it has taken for FFXV or The Last Guardian to come out, these games seemingly stuck in development limbo now supposedly to be released on the PS4. I will also question why Capcom hasn’t released another Okami game when it has re-released the title twice on the Wii and PS3 and other studios somehow manage to find funds to produce a new Armoured Core or Dead or Alive every other year.
The average consumer is being given a choice between the shiny and shallow latest AAA title and a classic, most will make the wrong choice and complain when they are trading in the AAA a few weeks later but the choice allows for education and education breeds change.
The Publishers will profit whether we buy their latest AAA disaster or a HD remake and lets face everyone isn’t suddenly going to give up on games so the money will keep coming in. My only hope is that publishers will realise that HD remakes are popular because their new games are uninteresting and gamers are searching for former glory not cheap nostalgia.
Thus enjoyment versus disdain becomes our rhetoric as we constantly remind ourselves how great some companies used to be rather than enjoy their new titles. If anything publishers need to start afresh either by losing the long running franchise names or starting from scratch, it worked with Tomb Raider and it’s working with Bravely Default, they should keep the HD remakes for preserving history rather than distracting us from the present.