We are in an Era of HD Remasters

I am honestly on the fence over this issue over the past few years. I honestly do like remasters/remakes of games, but there is a fine line where it seems unreasonable to do for some video games.

There was a time when video game remasters were on a five to 10 year intervals between the original game and the remake, but with the imminent rise of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, this time length has grown ever so shorter.

Some games for example are Dark Souls II, The Last of Us and most recently last week, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. These games have been upgraded to current-gen consoles with upscaling to 1080p resolution and upping the frame rate to 60 frames-per-second. But, of course, these games are sold at full price, even though you’ve purchased them before. (This excludes Steam for the last month since they have allowed people who own the original Bioshock and all the DLC packs for Skyrim to get a free copy of the HD remastered on the day of release.)

The gaming industry has been ecstatic for HD remasters as of recent. Especially for ones that seem to add little to no added value to the game’s core experience. Why is it necessary at this time?

Let’s take a look back to where remakes and remasters started at. A fact which most people don’t know about: Pong is actually a remake game of Tennis for Two, a sports video game developed in 1958 that had to be displayed on an oscilloscope. The Super Nintendo classic, Super Mario All-Stars was a remake of an older title on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Final Fantasy III for the DS was a remake with 3D graphics and an expanded storyline. The remake of Gears of War for the Xbox One that includes new content and a polished and redesigned graphics, makes it more of a remaster. These are all titles that I feel do deserve to be brought up again for people who would love to rediscover favorite games from the 90s or early 00s, or perhaps for young gamers that wish to play these games that they were not able to because of the year they were born in.

Then we have games such as Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, which takes Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, making the resolution better, and enabled new multiplayer servers for the Xbox One and PS4. There wasn’t anything that really changed the game overall. Levels in the game were the same as they were on launch and all downloadable content that was released for the game was included in this bundle. That’s it. No significant changes or a new story mode at all was found, all for the hefty $60 price tag. The one benefit from buying The Handsome Collection was that you got two games for the price of one. A very generous move by Gearbox Productions and Gearbox.

Games that were not as generous as The Handsome Collection include remasters such as The Last of Us, Sleeping Dogs, Tomb Raider and Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, which were all released after a year or two from their initial release date. Again, $60 for better graphics and the DLC for the game.

I still stand on this with a 50/50 for remasters. I enjoy titles such as the ones I listed above when I played them for the first time, but if I were to get the games when they were initially released, or on the last-gen console versions, I would probably still like them the same.

Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR) analyst, Satori Bernbeck, says he is in favor for remasters, and many gamers as it looks like.

“Players vote with their wallets,” he explained. “Given the success of remasters in recent history, gamers are showing that they do care and appreciate the value developers are providing them with these releases.”

With the added inclusion of better graphics for the costumer and more money going to the developer, there is an added benefit from all of this.

“Developers can learn new hardware with a remaster before moving into the next main-line series,” Bernbeck said. This is true since the Xbox One and PS4 both have a different anatomy than their predecessors, especially for the PS4.

“Remasters are a great way to introduce a new audience to a beloved title on a previous gen. Many new players in the industry won’t have played older games, so remastering them and re-releasing them on new consoles is a great way to introduce those players to classics.”

The rings very true within me since as of recent, I decided to play the Uncharted games, a game series that is highly appraised by PlayStation gamers and one of the most highly rated games for PlayStation. The only way I could play it without having to buy a PS3 and all of the games individually, is by purchasing Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection for the PS4. The collection comes with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception on a single PS4 disc. The collection debuted a few months before the final installment in the series was released, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. It’s a good way to experience what many gamers did with the franchise and give the ones who have played it before a return to the roots type of gameplay.

An argument that can be brought up is that when the game is worth full price when it first came out, it would make since to charge the same amount since there are better graphics and more content added to the game. Although, when you consider the time a remasters comes out, the last generation game is usually found for half the price, or even less, with the DLC.

With that in mind, the graphical improvement between last-gen and current-gen systems are not entirely that different. Games on the Xbox 360 and PS3 didn’t always achieve a full 1080p resolution, but were mostly upscaled and stayed about 30 frames per second.

The new hardware should be able to hit a smooth 60 fps, right? Unfortunately, many games are capped still at 30 fps such as Sleeping Dogs because of technical limitations. Borderlands: The Handsome Collection claimed to hit for 60 fps, but many times well short of that goal when actually playing the game.

So what of the people who never owned an Xbox 360 or a PS3? They deserve to play these last-gen classics.

Xbox One users shouldn’t have this problems since Microsoft announced back in E3 2015 about the implementation of backwards compatibility with multiple Xbox 360 games. Microsoft promised over 100 titles would be available for backwards compatibility by holiday 2015, and upscaled games, just like the remastered versions. This only applies to the Xbox One since the PS4 will probably never get backwards compatibility support due to the fact that PS3’s system has a different architecture than PS4’s and Sony’s PlayStation Now service which allows gamers to stream PS3 titles for a monthly subscription.

Not every game deserves a remaster, but why is it that some get it while others don’t?

“Introducing new players to old classics via remasters can be very important for franchises that rely heavily on story sequences told through iterative releases,” Bernbeck states. “Your potential audience for a new release grows as more players have played the previous story in the franchise.” Reaching new players when your game relies on understanding the backstory is a big deal for game developers.

This point made by Bernbeck justifies many of the remasters that have released: The Nathan Drake Collection and The Master Chief Collection for Halo. But this just makes games like Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, the God of War III remaster and Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin even more confusing on why they have a remastered version of the game.

The Handsome Collection comes with Borderlands II and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, but the first Borderlands is completely left out of the equation. It leaves the player without any background and story knowledge that could better help make the player understand and appreciate the series on a different way.

God of War is a heavily based story-driven series. God of War III wraps up the trilogy and closes out the story indefinitely. It would make sense if all three God of War games came in a collection to better understand the story.

Remasters/remakes both have their pros and cons, but are they a good investment?

Gamers are purchasing these games in large amounts of quantities, and if the experience that developers get out of this in order to better future installments in a series for current-gen consoles, that’s a positive in my book, but if they release old games with only a slight graphical update and don’t add any new content at full price, you are not taking a right approach in the gaming industry.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition is up for grabs on the Steam marketplace for $40 and includes all previously released DLC with updated graphics in the current generation of games while console gamers have to pay a full price of $60. Since I was able to get a copy for free since I have owned the base game with all of the DLC released, I will be spending my hours into this beautiful remaster. A remaster that is actually worth playing for the price on PC.

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