We’re at a point in time where video games are mainstream and games are easily accessible. As consumers, we want to experience entertainment at its best, whatever form it takes – whether it’s movies or video games. That’s pretty normal. It’s why I’m not opposed to this new trend of developers re-mastering classic games, as long as the original game remains accessible and the improvements they add don’t ruin what made the game great to begin with.
One of the first things people ask about when they hear a game is getting re-mastered is about the visuals. Usually, the older the game, the bigger the differences. Sometimes overhauling the graphics is all-together unnecessary if the source material has an art style that has aged well. An example of this would be The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Nintendo wouldn’t be able to alter the graphics of Wind Waker because the game has a distinct art-style that is part of its identity. The visuals don’t feel outdated and don’t hinder the enjoyment of playing the game either. So when Nintendo re-mastered it for the Wii U, they only had to make some slight changes to the graphics. Now, on the other hand, a lot of classics from the Playstation and Nintendo 64 era run into a very common issue: 3D graphics from that particular generation have not aged well. This isn’t surprising because it was the first time a lot of developers tried making games with that type of visuals, so updating the graphics makes the games more accessible to people who have a hard time getting past how outdated games can look.
Another benefit of re-mastered games is that more people will have access to them, especially if the game was originally released on an unpopular console or if it was released some time ago. Grim Fandango is an adventure game released by LucasArts on PC back in 1998. It was critically acclaimed, but bombed commercially. For years it was nearly impossible to find a convenient way to play the game until earlier this year when the director of the game, Tim Schafer and his company, Double Fine were able to release a re-mastered version that updated its controls and visuals for consoles and PC’s allowing an even larger audience access to the game.
Sometimes re-mastered games don’t end up all that great. Sometimes developers can make a good game terrible through a series of bad decisions. Silent Hill is a critically acclaimed survivor-horror series that was first released in 1999. The Silent Hill HD Collection includes the re-mastered versions of Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3. The HD collection turned out to be a disaster due largely to a wide array of technical issues and artistic liberties the developers took. One of the iconic aspects of the original games was the use of a thick fog throughout the environments. The HD versions altered this and some areas were missing fog completely. There was also a list of technical issues with the games that included things like the game crashing, severe drops in frame rate, and audio and graphical glitches. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is another re-mastered title that wasn’t well received. The two games that are included in this HD re-master were originally released on the Playstation 1 and Nintendo 64. The games featured fantastic soundtracks that included songs from popular rock and punk bands, a career mode, multiplayer modes, a skate park editor and you were able to create your own skater. The developers behind the HD re-master ended up removing features like the split-screen multiplayer, park customization and some of the music. Consumers will enjoy re-masters, but why remove key elements from games that the majority of fans enjoyed?
Bad examples aside, bringing games to this new generation of consoles tends to be a good thing. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was released 17 years ago on the Nintendo 64, a console that wasn’t as popular as the Playstation 1. The game is widely considered to be one of the greatest games created. So it was natural that Nintendo would remake it at some point, which is what they ended up doing. The game was re-released on the Nintendo 3DS with the visuals completely changed, with the inclusion of gyroscope controls and it also took advantage of the 3DS’s touch-screen. Resident Evil HD is another great example of a re-mastered game done right. The original game was released by Capcom in the same generation as Ocarina of Time so it featured low-resolution visuals and a control scheme that feels pretty archaic nowadays. Capcom updated the graphics and control scheme so that it plays more like a modern-day game. They even took it a step further by adding things like a new type of zombie, expanding some areas, a harder difficulty setting and a few other, slight minor additions. This is what separates good and bad re-mastered games. There shouldn’t be a reason for removing things that made the original games fun, while adding things is a positive thing as long as it fits within the confines of the original game.
Ultimately, re-mastering old titles that gamers love, is a good thing. Having more people experience them is also great. But like all things, moderation needs to be maintained. Developers can’t focus too heavily on re-mastering old games while not releasing anything new. Finally, work on re-mastering classic games can’t be rushed and there needs to be a balance between modernizing aspects of the games, like graphics and controls, while keeping other aspects true to original form.