A common theme within the past two generations of gaming is the presence of HD remasters and remakes of games from years past. Whilst plenty of games are deserving of getting a HD makeover, a trend that is becoming increasingly apparent is a lack of time and effort going into these re-releases and giving the treatment to games that never really needed it or no one really asked for. With all of the problems that come with HD remasters nowadays, why do we keep falling for them?
Personally, I’m all for remakes of older games, with the upcoming Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy and Final Fantasy VII Remake being some of my most anticipated games of the next year but HD remasters shouldn’t need to be applied to every single game from the last generation. Critically acclaimed games and cult classics are deserving, but games like DMC: Definitive Edition, Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition and Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Trilogy are often treated with minimal effort and more like game of the year editions than a suitable upgrade. So why do we keep falling for them? Convenience, for both the publishers and consumers, nostalgia for games of the past and getting the ‘full experience”.
Most gamers own more than one gaming system, each with a ton of different games. As each console falls out of popularity and games slowly stop being produced for them, it becomes harder and harder to revisit these older consoles, especially with the jump in quality of gameplay and graphics (if that matters to you) between generations. The convenience of having your old favourites on your newest console is one that most gamers recognise and desire. This is one of the key reasons behind buying a HD remaster- convenience. This also ties into getting the full experience from a game, with all HD remasters also including all of the DLC that was previously released for each game, allowing for those who didn’t buy any of the extra content to get something new from the re-release. Essentially, HD remasters often act as a bundle pack for games that had additional post-launch content.
Another important reason that people go for remasters is, of course, nostalgia. In a generation that relies heavily on hype, many gamers enjoy playing sure-fire hits, games that they remember being great. There’s no disappointment involved when you’ve already played the game before and know what to expect. It also gives gamers a chance to reflect on what made certain games great before newer titles come out. Nostalgia is a powerful tool used by companies nowadays, especially when it comes to long dormant franchises and it allows for companies to gauge the interest in certain series’ before announcing something new.
So what’s the problem? In this past generation remasters have been abundant in each year, leading to not enough new games being developed whilst old ones get a facelift. This leads to less time and effort being put into new titles in a franchise and with the stigma that many people see behind HD remasters, may actually make it seem like people are no longer interested in a franchise. Many games like Dishonored: Definitive Edition, DMC: Definitive Edition and Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition, whilst all being fantastic games, weren’t needing a remaster anytime soon, especially considering that they were all released in the middle of the last generation. Games like Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us Remastered, which were released at the end of the last generation, can get away with it considering the huge cult following that they garnered and the relatively little lack of time they had on the last generation. Not every game needs to be remastered and it’s got to the point that it seems more like filler than any effort to make a game better. Look at the recent remasters, Batman: Return to Arkham and Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection. Both remasters actually made games look worse in some regards and neither made any effort to make the performance of the game any better, only really stabilising it. Sure, they included all of their respective DLC, made some upgrades graphically and bundled great games together, but they weren’t significant enough to justify their existence.
Are we being duped as consumers into buying HD remasters? In some ways yes, but in other ways no. It’s clear that HD remasters are the cheaper, easier way to release a game nowadays and it seems like we can’t go a month without some “cult-classic” being reintroduced with slight upgrades but it also does have its positives. Being able to play the games on a newer console and reminisce on great games is a feeling that often can’t be replicated elsewhere and many remasters actually do make improvements to the game, be it through improved performance and graphics or actually changing things about the game mechanics (the Wind Waker and Twilight Princess remasters do just that). HD remasters certainly have their place in video game history and they’re definitely not the worst thing, but developers and publishers really need to put more effort into these so called “definitive editions”, otherwise risking that these great games don’t get the treatment that they truly deserve.