Of all the hotly debated topics surrounding the early days of the previous console generation, there was one trend that started happened so often that people eventually stopped getting mad about it and began accepting it as a normal occurrence of the industry. Today, nobody bats an eye when a publisher comes out and announced yet one more video game remake.
Before the days of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One; remakes, remasters and HD re-releases were actually pretty uncommon. Up until this point, there was a simple, unspoken expectation that games consoles would release and be backward compatible with their older generation of games. I mean, that was certainly the case during the early handful of console generations when games were on disks.
Much to everyone’s distaste, when we arrived as this most recent generation, were were all forced to swallow the bitter pill that our older games would not be making the jump to the newer consoles. Thus, slowly over the course of the generation, our favourites we pieced out to us, little by little in the form of re-releases, collections and HD remasters. Charging us again for the pleasure of playing a game we already owned.
Today, it’s just a matter a fact, people just accept it and will just go out and buy the game multiple times as long as enough time has passed. Very recently, we got a remaster of Saint’s Row: The Third. Which, by all accounts, it just one more re-release with slightly better textures and all of the DLC bundled into the game. It’s the kind of release that comes and goes with relatively little fanfare. The game wasn’t significant enough to garner any major attention, and not enough was changed to warrant it being an interesting talking point.
But that didn’t stop me.
But before Saint’s Row the Third leaves my mind entirely and forever, something does occur to me. With the talk that the newer consoles are going to be backward compatible (at least with the previous generation) right from the start, are these types of remakes going to become even less relevant than they even are now. At which point, are the developers and teams behind them going to be forced to do something a little more substantial to make this kind of work worth doing if they wish to do it at all.
Like it or not, Final Fantasy VII Remake has set a new precedent and a new standard of what a remake can be, no, what they need to be moving forward. Updating art assets and getting it running a little smoother isn’t going to cut it anymore. At least when it comes to the post cartage format of video game. Older games of the 16-bit era and prior will still probably want these games in form as close to their original release as possible.
And that’s where the likes of the Megaman Legacy Collection and the Castlevania Anniversary Collection will most like see re-release in the same form, with much of the extra work coming in the form of previously unseen concept art and maybe even specially made documentaries; Rare Replay being the ultimate realisation of this. But, how once those remakes are already out, and backward comparable with the newer consoles, how are the licence holders going to keep milking them going forward?
With the prospect of releasing these same games over and over dwindling fast, and the collection of people becoming savvy enough to start getting into emulation rather than dealing with overpriced and sometimes under-performing remakes, it means Devs are going to have to take a more creative look at how to better use these old properties. They’re going to need to justify making their audience pay for these products in a way they haven’t had to before with remakes.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is the ultimate expression of this, taking the original story and altering it so much that is ends up feeling like a totally new game telling a totally different story than the original. (Something I’ve already talked about previously on my blog). Developers have certainly made these moves before, off the top of my head: Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes remade the original MGS in its entity, while adding a ton of anime bullshit along the way that I personally loved.
And it does seem like the wind is starting to blow in that direction, with devs out there already working on remakes of this type. Vicarious Visions announced Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 a few weeks back; a from the ground up remake of the first two games, mashed together, featuring new graphics, new scans of the skaters as they appear today and adding mechanics from later games that never actually appeared in the original two games. It might not seem as dramatic as FFVII Remake was, but it’s these extra commitments and features that make paying for a game you already potentially own feel justified.
And to me, this kind of work excites me far more than a simple re-texture/DLC collection of a game every could. And with so many games from the PS1 era getting to that point where people want to look back at them, some extra work on them is probably essential. Adding something more substantial than a mere fast forward function and the ability to skip all of the combat. At which point, why are you even playing the game.
My final hope is that EA, despite all historical evidence to the contrary, will really invest some time and manpower into this all but confirmed Mass Effect Trilogy remaster. A simple HD re-texture would make for a profoundly disappointing final nail in one of my favourite franchise’s coffins. Instead, the work needs to be done to that game to make it feel like something totally new and justified. At the very least bringing the combat in 1 and 2 up to match the combat from Mass Effect 3.
I’d love to think all my favourite franchises can get the profound attention that Final Fantasy VII got, but I feel like that’s overly ambitious on my part. But with backward compatibility a bigger topic this generation, I hope we can see an end to simple texture or frame rate upgrades in our re-releases and something more substantial, because consumers are a lot more savvy than they were seven years ago. And personally, my broke ass needs a much better justification to spend money on older games like this outside of Nostalgia!