HD Remakes: Nostalgia Going Too Far?

Good morning students. I hope you had a good holiday. By holiday, I mean absence from my column. To be truthful, obviously it isn’t your absence from me, but mine from you. Yes, I have an excuse prepared.

Originally, today’s column was intended to be extended coverage, featuring my highly regarded and frankly, superior opinions on the PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale beta. Having being promised a key by SuperBot Entertainment, I couldn’t wait to jump into the masterful mash-up of Sony (and some third party) characters and worlds. This however, has not happened. I have been let down. So blame SuperBot.

I have decided instead to provide you with everything you need regarding HD remakes. Why they are bad and, sometimes, why they are acceptable. I figured that given the recent release of the remastered Dreamcast classic Jet Set Radio, and upcoming titles such as Okami being re-released in HD, this would be an appropriate subject. Once again, you may not agree with what I have to offer you, which is fine, you can live with your own mistakes. Now don’t get me wrong, I do not completely resent the idea of HD rehash.. I mean remakes, but I’m not exactly going to snuggle up to them with a nice hot cup of cocoa and cradle them to sleep lovingly in my arms.

Jet Set Radio. Shadow of the Colossus. ICO. Metal Gear Solid. All of these games are unmistakably excellent titles. Most were released to spectacular reception, and remembered by many as fantastic experiences. And that is the key word here; remembered. Past tense. One of the main gripes I have with HD remakes/collections, whatever you want to name them, is that they are re-releases of games that were enjoyed years ago. The issue that arises here is that these games were great for the time. Jet Set Radio had a fairly distinct art style, as did Shadow of the Colossus, which arguably stands to this day. Arguably. Many years have gone by since these games were released, and particularly focussing on Jet Set Radio, many other cel-shaded games have been released since then. Regardless of whether a game has been updated with a HD resolution, the actual art direction of the title can often still feel dated.

Speaking of dated. With the progression of each console generation, there inevitably are changes, or even complete revolutions in terms of gameplay. Kinect, Wiimotes, touch screens; whether you love them or hate them, one cannot deny that they are key gameplay elements that have evolved to be a major part of this generation of consoles. Even things that are minor, including new game engines that allow more believable physics, or increase the fluidity of character control are all built upon over time. When the player is presented with a HD remake of a game that was released on the PlayStation 2 or Dreamcast, the gameplay mechanics often feel like they are: dated. Characters are clunky and awkward to control, and the overall experience feels stale. If it isn’t the dated control systems and old-fashioned game mechanics that make the experience feel stale, it’s probably the fact that we have already played the game before. And we’re paying for it again.

Are you people mugs? I’m sorry, that was rude. Are you people mentally challenged? That was better. Why any one would be prepared to pay just shy of the price of a full retail game; a game that could potentially offer a new experience on every level, for a game that they played five years ago is beyond me. Is nostalgia really worth that much? I loved Shadow of the Colossus. It is quite possibly in my top ten titles. However, the idea that I would have to pay an extortionate amount to download and play it in HD when I could dig out my PS2 and play it for a couple of quid makes me vomit.

Well that’s dramatic, but still. I think I am missing one of the major benefits of HD remakes though. They allow those that missed out on awesome titles such as Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty a chance to experience them in an updated (visually, at least) version. Even I have to admit, despite my pessimism, that this is great. Players who were too young, or could not afford to pay for titles at retail release can pick them up now on their modern consoles. But, (yes, there is a but, even on a positive note), this makes me feel sorry for those that weren’t able to experience them for the first time around. It’s really hard to put a finger on it, but I can’t help but feel that the initial experience was the one that counted. In some weird way this makes sense, inside my head at least. I wish I could elaborate for you, but my mind is a complex entity that if I struggle to understand, you certainly won’t. No offence. Well, a bit offence.

Overall, I can’t help but feel that game developers know that you all are suckers. They can give their aged titles a fresh lick of paint, ship them out, and you’ll lap it up. Don’t get me wrong, I’m probably going to buy Okami when it is released. I missed out on it, but things got in the way of me purchasing it at the time of release. Maybe this undermines everything that I’ve said and if so, then you should have realised two columns ago that I am a hypocrite. However I will leave you with one question:

Is nostalgia really worth the price tag?