In the Valley of the Land of “HD” Remakes

Recently, Pokemon Company through Nintendo announced remakes of the games Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire renamed Alpha Ruby and Omega Sapphire. Like many Pokemon fans, I was excited although for a different reason; this was part of the series I had yet to play. With it coming to 3DS (and I’m missing my GameBoy Advance), I…




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Recently, Pokemon Company through Nintendo announced remakes of the games Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire renamed Alpha Ruby and Omega Sapphire. Like many Pokemon fans, I was excited although for a different reason; this was part of the series I had yet to play. With it coming to 3DS (and I’m missing my GameBoy Advance), I could finally get to try it out.

I completely understand the appeal of having a childhood game being remastered and retooled for modern consoles. There’s an undeniable rush of nostalgia coupled with seeing it slightly retouched in presentation that pumps you up with excitement. It’s the thought of the game becoming relevant because you could now share it with friends who might’ve never had the chance to play it before. I flipped out when both Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy X were getting the “HD Remaster” treatment for the PS3 (though part of me wished it was for the PS4). The Shadow of Colossus and Ico collection was part of my reason for wanting a PS3 also.

At the same time, I felt that my excitement was a bit ironic; I was more excited for a game of the past than I was for future titles that have been announced.

I feel like, as a player, all of us have to raise questions about these HD remakes; what does it bring to gaming? Can anyone argue the real merit behind reliving past experiences?

Sure, porting/remastering it brings the game to a newer, younger audience that can gain an appreciation for how far games have come since then. It also allows people who didn’t have an opportunity to play the game a chance to now. By playing these games, players can see the mechanics that created the blueprint for the games we play today.

Plus, this gives developers a pseudo-“second chance” with the game. Any bugs, glitches or control problems due to limitation in the technology back then could be fixed now. Extra content that developers had for the game they couldn’t put into it then can now be implemented now. This is especially true with games like Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy X; there was plenty of extra content that players didn’t see in the U.S. that were added in the HD remakes. However, the biggest factor for studios, developers and publishers is how these games can be an effective way to gauge the excitement for a potential sequel to the game. (Seriously, Shenmue III please?)

The other interesting benefit is the ability to port them to mobile/portable game devices. I know for certain there were many moments I wished I could continue playing a game I was hooked to on the way to school, rehearsals, swimming practice and road trips. It’s exciting that now players have the ability to to do so on the go.

Finally, the most important benefit to having a game being remastered for modern consoles is convenience. Most modern consoles are not set up for backwards compatibility, and some players don’t keep their previous consoles after getting the newest one for many reasons. By remastering a game, it makes it easier for players to be able to access and play it without the stress of looking for the original game and system.

That said, I’m going to be fanning some heavy flames here when I say this: we need to stop remaking games.

As John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

To me, the industry is focusing too much attention on two aspects that is damaging the market: past games/franchises and stale, stagnant game mechanics. Like the direction the movie industry is going, a lot of gaming franchises are getting the infamous “reboot” in hopes to make it relevant again. That’s because so many franchises are starting to see fatigue, and even when they do all they have to say is “reboot” and it’s supposed to make gamers interested in the franchise again instead of coming up with new ideas.

Gaming needs to continually push for innovation and present original ideas instead of clamoring back to the past. At some point someone has to say “This isn’t working” or “This is enough” while taking risks in gameplay mechanics. Aside from the Wii, game mechanics haven’t really seen a huge stride in change like the jump from previous console generations. Players are getting tired of seeing the same games being published with a different aesthetic but the same mechanics as hundreds of other games in the same genre.

What happened to the excitement of buying a game that felt unique and promising in gameplay that players shelled the money out to give it a try? By putting emphasis on creating a remake, it’s like a sign of affirmation that this has worked before…and that’s good enough.

At the heart of the remake though is one thing: money. Because of how much it costs to make a current “Triple-A” title game and how much profit it has to rake in, a lot of studios are getting into financial trouble even if a game is selling millions of units. For those studios (like Square Enix, who’s really hurting right now), remastering huge fan favorites like Final Fantasy X and Kingdom Hearts is a surefire way to make a quick profit while giving us a nice dose of nostalgia. That’s the saddest part about the allure of a remake. Rarely are these “HD remakes” warranted or justified. Instead, it’s a way for the studios to keep themselves afloat while bringing nothing new to the table. It can also be tough to say no to buying these games when our favorite studio is in peril.

So players, I’d like to pose a challenge; if you want to share the game with someone, have them try it out with you on the original console if you still have it. Sure, the games are going to look a bit more polished on newer systems and it’s more convenient to have it for the system that’s taking up space in your living room. It’s nice to have it in your library (again) to join your latest collection of the newest game. However, nothing beats the true feeling of nostalgia playing it on its original system. There’s this sense of excitement going back to something and giving it a try that speaks to the inner kid in all of us. If you don’t have the console or game, try to borrow it. Look to a flea market or to a novelty gaming store.

Let’s show studios that we as players don’t want to live in the past. Rather, we want to challenge the future of gaming.