High-Definition re-releases of classic videogames are a relatively new trend in recent years, and there are very good reasons why the industry is embracing this practice; of course there is money involved, this is why we call it “an industry”, if a game sold well before during its original release, there’s a good chance it will also do it a second time around.
On the bright side, HD re-releases are a good way to keep old classics still available for the audience that may have not been capable of getting this game before, and considering how much the industry loathes practices such as emulation and used games, reintroducing a game to a new market is a perfectly valid way to keep players on the loop.
High-Definition Re-releases come especially handy when you’re looking forward to catch up with titles you didn’t have the chance of playing before; in my case, I enjoyed playing the HD versions Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater and Peace Walker; since they were re-released on the Xbox360, I didn’t have to look for an older console or dig in used-games bins to get them (like I did when I wanted to get a copy of Metal Gear Solid: the Twin Snakes, and finally I had to give up and ended up emulating the original on my computer; why didn’t they re-released this one for Xbox? I guess they don’t like money that much.)
But then, publishers are always trying to target even the most hardcore fan of the series, and make them care about their re-releases, because it’s the same game you love and care… Now in HD!
Coming up next, I’m going to talk about some of the games that had made me wonder if we should bother about HD re-releases.
Hitman HD Trilogy
This… this is the main reason why I’m writing this article. I had a few issues with my Xbox earlier last year, so I had to rely on other sources of gaming while I got my console back (guess what? cartridge-based consoles still work like a charm after more than a decade of being stored), but once my X360 console was up and running again, instead of buying a new game, I bought Hitman HD Trilogy.
Hitman HD Trilogy is the compendium of the three best games of the Hitman series: Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, Hitman Contracts, and Hitman Blood Money, and the main selling point are the new high-definition rendition of the former two games (from the previous console generation), while Blood Money just makes this title (as it implies) a trilogy.
Excited as I was for getting my Xbox back, I popped in Hitman 2: Silent Assassin into the console, looking forward to reunite myself with my fond memories from ten years ago; this game was the one that introduced me to the series, so seeing this title in high-definition would surely level up my love for it; unfortunately it didn’t go that way, the excitement over this game started wearing off as I progressed through the game.
The new visuals are now in higher resolution, as well as they offer widescreen, but the improved graphics kind of remark how empty and barren the world in Hitman 2 is; houses now look emptier than before, the movements of old Agent 47 feel slower and more staler than I remember, and even that Japanese valley from later missions looks barren and barely populated by trees… high-definition rendered trees but still, not enough to make me feel like I’m out there in the wild.
I still enjoyed the game, but the updated graphics felt a bit off compared to the outdated character models and environments; it feels like they just added a bunch of new colors over an old painting, its like… like…
I know the developer tried to preserve most of what the game already was, but would it hurt to do an extra little bit? How about animating Agent 47’s mouth and gestures when he’s talking? High-definition or not, his expressionless face is enough to pull me back to the generation where this game really belongs.
On the other hand, Hitman Contracts was the main reason I wanted this trilogy so bad, it was the only game of this franchise I hadn’t played before, and probably that’s why I absolutely loved it; the HD graphics seemed new to me, and I managed to compare the title’s gameplay –not with its previous release, but– with Hitman 2 and Hitman: Blood Money, seeing it as the missing link between these two, and loving it even more!
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo64 is easily one of the best games ever made, so a re-release of this classic should be nothing less than glorious, but I beg to differ. While the 3D effects on the Nintendo 3DS are amazing, and the amount of detail on some scenarios is beautiful, I can’t help but wonder how much more they could have done.
I love the original game for what it is –a cornerstone in videogame history–, but I wouldn’t have minded having a few more improvements beside a graphical update now that the game was being introduced to a new market, I (a long-time follower of the series) do find the combat system a little stale after all these years, and newer players will surely impose newer standards upon this beloved classic.
Also, do you remember that mask side quest that wasn’t properly introduced into the game? Why didn’t they work on that this time around?
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
I finally have a good reason to talk about Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, a game I didn’t even bother mentioning during the Halo Retrospective I wrote some time ago; despite all the advertising behind it, this game is nothing else but an aesthetical update, but they still tried to convince every Halo fan out there to go out and get it (because no matter how much they said people wanted this game, Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary remains sit as the lowest sold title of the series; yes, even lower than Halo Wars).
After ten years, 343 Industries could have done a lot more if they wanted my (or anyone’s attention), the franchise has evolved way beyond Combat Evolved, so going back to the limited assortment of weapons, vehicles, and gameplay options was not going to cut it for me. How about reengineering the game to newer standards? What about an extra mission or two? How about fixing the nerve-raking Library mission?!
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Enough Halo, let’s go back to Zelda, let’s talk about Wind Waker HD. If there is one game from The Legend of Zelda series that didn’t need to be updated is this one; its cell-shaded graphics still look beautiful after all these years, so I’m not really that impressed whenever I see the newer blurry lens-flared high-definition graphics of the game. If I look at the graphics from up-close (while in motion) I can admit they (sometimes) look better, and even though they did make some gameplay updates, they’re not enough to make me care about it, and it doesn’t matter if I care for this game or not, the point is that Nintendo’s launching this game and making it look like it’s a big deal when they should be launching killer exclusives for their (now a year-old) new console, whom are they aiming for?
Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD
Finally, talking about another of my favorite franchises, Ubisoft is planning on releasing an HD version of Assassin’s Creed Liberation, a former exclusive for the PlayStation Vita I should be excited about, but I can’t help but feeling quite skeptic. I didn’t had the chance of playing this title before, but from what I have read, Liberation has some serious issues with its pacing, narrative, and overall game structure, that make it feel week compared to its console counterparts.
Hopefully, Ubisoft is not only tackling the “improved graphics department”, but they’re also working on revamping the gameplay of Assassin’s Creed Liberation (according to the publisher’s website); I just wonder how deep will they actually go for this one, the original title sounds like a pool of wasted opportunities, and I’d love to cheer for Aveline de Grandpré not only for being the first female protagonist of the series, but for actually starring in another great entry in the franchise.
All in all, while High-Definition re-releases are a good way to introduce classic titles to a new market, I’d like to point out that newer consoles are capable of doing far more than better graphics; they can also do things old games couldn’t handle before, or even things that the creators envisioned but weren’t capable of adding the first time around.
Graphics are not the only things that age over time; gameplay also does. Videogames are not a passive media, and tough a developer might be trying to preserve that game’s true nature (going as far as not fixing the original game’s bugs and glitches), they might be doing a disservice to the games they want to introduce to a new generation. Why not adding a few extra tweaks now they have the chance?
I know that all of this might sound like heresy to many, but if you don’t like anyone tampering on that game you love, you can always go back to the original game you already owned or played; no matter how polished the new graphics on an HD re-release might be, nothing beats how beautiful the game looks in your memories.