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We Get Better Hardware, We Want More Nostalgia
One of the biggest issues I had with the 3DS’s launch and initial lineup was the emphasis on retro games coming back with 3D attached to them. Ocarina of Time 3D and StarFox 64 3D were among some of the most hyped up games for the handheld and people wanted more. While the system started slow it has grown to include some portable gems like Resident Evil Revelations, Kid Icarus Uprising, and Super Mario 3D Land. It really is a shame that no matter how long the 3DS lasts, Ocarina of Time 3D will constantly be in the top 3 games for the system (speculation but highly probable). Nostalgia is extremely powerful. When you tug at the heartstrings and memories of gamers with effort you almost always profit.
Then we have home consoles being bombarded with HD remakes of earlier games. My main problem with this is that now we aren’t getting classic games being redone. Now we’re getting recent games with just updated resolutions and a huge HD sticker planted on the box. Biggest offender? The Metal Gear Solid series. The series started out on the PS1 and reached all the way up to the PS3. Konami came out with a collection on the PS2 back in 2008 that included Metal Gear Solid, MGS2, and MGS3. However, three years later we get Metal Gear Solid HD Collection which brings MGS2, MGS3, and Peace Walker to the current gen’s home systems. I understand that backwards compatibility is out the window mostly and Peace Walker was originally a PSP game with some crappy controls but did we really need another collection? Why not just release the titles on PSN and Live? Konami didn’t stop there, either. They brought out another HD Collection for Silent Hill. I won’t just pick on Konami, though. Look around and you’ll see HD collections for Sly Cooper, Devil May Cry, Prince of Persia, Zone of the Enders, Jak & Daxter, Rachet & Clank, Splinter Cell, God of War, and Tomb Raider. We’re talking about games that have come out in the past ten years or even earlier.
Now, granted, there is no hard age at which to call something retro or classic but these games do not need HD Collections. If companies were adamant on making another quick buck on them, release them individually on the digital stores. I don’t want to spend $40 to be able to play Silent Hill 2 on my 360 or see less jagged edges on Sly Cooper’s raccoon face. This is only just beginning, as well. I see plenty of gamers clamoring for more HD fixes for series like Final Fantasy (which by the way given the trend of these collections would include X, X-2, and XII… do you really want that even with X-HD coming for the Vita?), Xenosaga, and plenty of others. I even saw a reader hoping to hear about a 3D or HD remake for Super Mario RPG at this year’s E3.
My point about all is this is not just to rant against HD Collections. The point is that these collections take up development time and manpower that should be better spent on continuing series and new titles. Every year we either get new hardware or we see developers pushing the current stuff past what we thought was the limit. Look at the Uncharted series and Naughty Dog itself. I applaud Naughty Dog for focusing on new titles this generation. Of course they came out with the Jak & Daxter Collection but before that they put everything they had into Uncharted and didn’t stop. Now they have The Last of Us in development. This is a studio that prides themselves on giving fans their very best. You don’t think they knew fans wanted more Jak? They waited until they finished with Drake. Then they gave the fans what they wanted.
Let’s also look back at the GameCube. Nintendo’s square, purple box was pretty powerful for that time. It rivaled and sometimes even beat the PS2 (Resident Evil 4) in the graphics and performance aspects. Back in 2003, Konami and Nintendo announced Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, a remake of a game that was released in 1998. The PS2 featured backward compatibility which meant that fans of Metal Gear Solid 2 could play the original. Why they thought this was needed is beyond me. Worst yet, they contracted Silicon Knights to develop the game along with Kojima, the series’ creator. Why is this bad? Silicon Knights is near infamous for a couple things. One, their crazy long lawsuit against Epic for the Unreal Engine engine. Two, the 1999 originally announced Too Human that did not reach shelves until 2008. Too Human had a long road to completion changing consoles multiple times, gameplay, and even stories. In 2003, Silicon Knights made Twin Snakes. This was a remake of a recent game for a console that did not even have the rest of the series for fans to play. One could argue that this time would have better spent on Too Human. While I immensely enjoyed the game, it was met with furious fan slaughter in terms of reviews, rants, and general hatred. I’m bias to it as I was a big fan of it but if I look on the other side of the window I’d be wondering if the game suffered greatly due to all these delays and changes. If so, they Twin Snakes was definitely a helping cause. Taking a dev team off a project and then reattaching them is going to make them rethink plenty and/or forget things. This is something that really scares me about Final Fantasy Versus XIII. That dev team has been been through so much in the past couple of years. Will the game suffer for it?
With every passing year the sensation for more and more nostalgia rises. Now this could mean a couple things. It could mean that gamers just enjoy living in the past. They enjoy the games they played as a kid and they enjoyed the recent games that have passed on thanks to the current gen. However, and more disturbingly, this could also mean that the games today are unable to surpass what came before. Is it that we can’t get over the old stuff or that the new just isn’t as good?
This is very interesting to think about. This gen has seem some of the best games of all time release in Skyrim, Super Mario Galaxy, Grand Theft Auto IV, Uncharted, Batman: Arkham City, Mass Effect, and a ton more. All these titles sit atop the list of the best reviewed games of all times. Reviews aside, it is hard to say that Uncharted and Mass Effect haven’t helped to evolve video games. We’re seeing so much innovation and entertainment in new titles I really wonder why there is such a wanting for a retro revival. Every console this generation has had its share of titles that will be remembered for the ages. Will they have “HD Collections” on the next systems? Are we primed to see Call of Duty: The Modern Warfare Collection on the PS4 and 720? With “enhanced” visuals and the “classic” gameplay we all loved? If so then you better bet that we’ll also get Call of Duty: The Treyarch Files collection bringing World at War, Black Ops, and Black Ops 2 to the next gen.
It is things like this that scare me. Not because they are cheap penny makers, but because they sell. I’ll be honest, I have bought an HD Collection before. I have the Silent Hill Collection sitting in the other room. However, as I sit here and think about it, I regret that purchase. I love Silent Hill 2 and 3 but I wished I kept my money away from it so Konami could see the problem that these can create. Stop wasting time on the past and enhance the future. How badly did Downpour suffer in development because of this HD collection? Both games launched with a ton of bugs. Did the dev teams split and mix up during the cycle? We will never know but it could be a safe bet.
I play retro games, don’t get me wrong. However, I play them on my classic systems and last gen consoles. I pull out those cartridges, CD-ROMs, and DVDs and grasp those old, dusty paddles. Some of the best nostalgia for me comes with the system and controller. It gives the feeling that my ten year old self is sitting back in the living room playing Chrono Trigger on my SNES. When I go to a store and my eyes wander over several HD Collections of games from the PS2 and original Xbox it really makes me shake my head. It also makes me wonder if people were really asking for Ratchet & Clank to get an HD Collection or actually just a current gen sequel.
Winston Churchill had a wonderful quote in which he says, “If we open a quarrel between past or present, we shall find that we have lost the future.” It’s time to stop dwelling on what came before. With the dawn of a new gen coming up, it’s time to see what is coming.