Happy Meliversary, devoted readers, as on August third of last year I released my first post here on Lcom. And as worthy of celebration as that milestone surely is to the world, I must first divert attention to the latest complaint de jour that has been rushing through the industry enthusiast websites. To be certain, complaints are flung often from the enthusiast press regarding videogames and when these complaints are not declaring stagnation over the constant release of sequels they are moaning about dissatisfaction from too many divergent spinoffs. I can safely say I have done both and sometimes these are well deserved criticisms. But the industry has moved on from churning out sequels to a much more worrisome trend.
While sequels have and continue to flood the market with hopes of brand power selling new products with the use of old art assets and derivative story lines, the latest trend seems to involve the complete repackaging of old games with an higher definition shine and perhaps some new content thrown on top, maybe. The latest news of unexpected, if not a bit unnecessary, remasters comes from the old pro of re-releases, Capcom. In the 90s and into the early 2000s Capcom made themselves no stranger to the concept of re-releasing their games, often as a simple port to another system, with the most famous case being their original Resident Evil title seeing two re-releases in as many years. The Director’s Cut and the Dual Shock Ver. both made minimal changes to the game on the order of something a free firmware update would add today. One added a mode to change up the item placement while advertising the addition of uncensored FMV cutscenes (which turned out to be untrue, to some controversy at the time) and the other re-release saw the addition of analogue support in the advent of Sony’s Dual Shock controller that came with dual analogue control.
From there Capcom would give similar treatment to many of its mainline RE titles and it began to wear a bit thin on the consumerbase until they put forward a true bottom to top remake of the first entry in the series. The Resident Evil remake for the GameCube was not simply a graphical reconstruction of the entire game for the current generation of consoles but a reinvented version of the gameplay as well. New mechanics were added (like the self defense knife), new enemies were added, the story was altered, the puzzles were almost all completely changed or modified in ways that would trick a player familiar with the original. But time would prove that this full fledged remake would not buck the trend of the re-releases Capcom was so fond of. The RE remake (or REmake as it became known) would see a port to the Wii and more recently an HD port for all current and previous generation systems minus Nintendo platforms. And while the Nintendo omission remains sad and a bit baffling, the announcement of this old-style Resident Evil remaster in the wake of the critical dumping ground of Resident Evil 6 is an unsurprising move from Capcom.
But far be it from Capcom to be the only major industry developer to get busy remastering content for the new consoles. Sony’s own Naughty Dog, creators of the Uncharted series, have announced both a sequel and a remaster for their latest game The Last of Us. Arguments were made, and mine among them, that the The Last of Us offered a complete story that should probably be left alone instead of making a burgeoning epic out of the tale this game originally told. However it would prove merely wishful thinking that a game so expensive to produce would see the intentional dumping of all that hard work over the easy application of it to a direct sequel. The kicker, however, is that this one year old game would also see an HD remaster fittingly titled The Last of Us Remastered for the PS4 and include such banal upgrades as a higher frame rate and full 1080p resolution from 720p. In effect this was simply The Last of Us “Also on PS4 Edition” in an attempt to fill in the software lineup as other developers worked on their games for the new hardware.
And while not a new trend by any stretch, the new hardware is quite obviously the factor involved in all of the HD remasters rolling out the doors. In the face of new hardware and inflated production times while developers become familiar with the systems, these filler titles will likely see a continued presence for the time being. The only difference is that in previous generations these years would be filled with middling launch year titles that would measure up poorly to mid- and late-life releases. But for as poor as some launch titles can be I would probably prefer the new, if ugly, content produced in these years since they can potentially go on to become a newer better series. Re-releasing old games as remasters to me looks like another means of selling back my old library of games to me with minimal effort on the part of the developer. These remasters, or ports as they were commonly called once, go a long way in reminding me that backwards compatibility is well and truly dead. No one would buy The Last of Us Remastered for $50 if their PS4 could play the PS3 version that costs less than $40. And at a time where consumer control only threatens to pass further away, this trend is perhaps the most worrisome regarding the whole situation.
But worry not about sharing your thoughts, year-long readers, because doing so is easy enough in the comments section below! Have you bought a re-release, remaster, or otherwise upgraded port of an older game? If so, have you bought more than one version? Why? What the hell is wrong with you? To tell me what the hell is wrong with you I implore, again, for you to comment below. It is truly the only way I know that you’re reading and that I’m not just talking to myself week after week. I mean, I could just go back to doing that. It’s fine. No, it’s fine! Just– just leave me alone mom, I want to be alone! *sobs*