HD versions of games are a morally grey area, you either love them, or you hate them, because you see them as a way for game companies to get some easy money by baiting gamers on nostalgia. Well I hate to tell you, I’m the kind of guy these corporations target. I am a sucker for HD remasters.

Some of you may not know what a HD remaster is, so, allow me to explain. These games are re-released games of games that were released on previous consoles, but now feature an improved graphical output of usually 720p or 1080p, to take advantage of newer console technological capabilities. These games also have new textures and trophy/achievement support. Some of the Playstation 3 HD remasters such as the “Sly Collection”, are improved to include 3D and/or Playstation Move support. The Playstation Move for those who you who don’t remember the Playstation Move; was a motion-sensing game controller, that used a Playstation webcam such as the Playstation Eye or Playstation Camera and sensors in the wand like controller, to detect motion. These HD remasters are available on disk and digital formats.

The main reason I love remasters is pretty simple; it allows me to play games I missed out on playing, at their time of release. Classic titles such as “God of War”, “Killzone” even the “Final Fantasy” series, are all seen as these epic game franchises I’m expected to have played and enjoyed when they were originally released, but I didn’t. Even now I can’t really explain why I never played these games. They are just a handful of the many series I should have played, according to most gamers, but whatever reason, I just simply didn’t. I remember when I received my Playstation 3 for my birthday many years ago,  it was bundled with a copy of “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves” along with a few other titles. I played Uncharted 2 for half an hour before losing interest, taking it out of the Playstation 3 and never playing it again. Uncharted 2 is seen by fans and critics alike as the best in the Uncharted series, and one of the best Playstation 3 games ever. It will surely please some of you, that I have since played through the  Uncharted trilogy as a result of the Playstation 4 HD remaster; “Uncharted: Nathan Drake’s Collection”, and enjoyed the entire Uncharted trilogy immensely.

I can’t  use the excuse of “I didn’t own that console when that game came out, how could I play it?” Because ever since acquiring a Playstation 1 in the early noughties and having made gaming my main hobby, and acquired almost every games console since then (minus the Wii U and Xbox One as of the time of writing) within a year of the consoles’ respective release, it’s pretty odd I’ve never played many of these titles. Well now I have the opportunity to play these titles. These remasters give me the perfect excuse to play these kinds of games that I missed out on, and apparently shouldn’t, have missed out on, plus the HD remasters are usually reasonable priced, even on “Day 1” release, compared to original copies of certain older games. These remasters are also usually graphically superior due to an increased display output of 720p or 1080p, as I mentioned briefly earlier. While I don’t usually care for graphical enhancements for older games, I’m sure some gamers do.

A few examples of HD remasters from my personal collection.

I am a fan of the occasional niche Japanese video game series, like some of you reading this. However some of the series that you and I enjoy,might not even be playable in English without HD re-releases. Last year I tried out the original “Ace Attorney” trilogy available on the Nintendo 3DS and IOS devices . I fell in love with the series, and it’s now easily in my top ten game franchises I’ve ever played. I really like it. But I found out whilst roaming the web that these games were originally released for the GameBoy Advance, and were exclusively released for Japan. Only when it was re-released for the Nintendo DS, did the series receive an international release. I like think the international release worked out pretty well for Capcom, the game’s developer and publisher. The “Ace Attorney” series is pretty popular amongst gamers here in the West, for its interesting characters, well-developed stories, pop culture references and humour, with the “Objection” quote used by many of the game’s characters becoming a pop culture reference in itself. You would be surprised how many gaming  staples and household names, have only come over to the west because of HD re-releases. “Animal Forest” for the Nintendo 64 was re-released for the Nintendo GameCube and called “Animal Crossing”. The franchise has since sold 31.17 million copies worldwide over multiple franchise installments and spin-off titles internationally as a result of that re-release.

I’ve previously briefly mentioned that I own a lot of consoles, and while they all work, I simply don’t have the room to have all of them functioning all at once. This makes it hard for me to replay games from older consoles when I want. That’s where HD remasters come in. You could argue it’s a conspiracy that game developers are making newer consoles instead of allowing owners to upgrade them (like a desktop) because they want your money, making you buy remasters of games you own, but it’s just so darn convenient. Why unplug a newer console just because I yearn to play “Zone of the Enders” or “Ratchet and Clank” again, forcing me to plug-in the old console and set it up, when I can just put in the HD version of the game in the new console with no hassle? And I mean seriously, it gets pretty irritating trying to figure out which electrical cord goes where, especially when you have a lot of consoles and a ton of power and extension leads. I mean it looks like a waterfall of cables in my game area.

Now before some of the more… “PC Elitist” members of the Internet start screaming about emulators, I know emulators are a thing. I’m a perhaps bit odd to the majority of gamers when it comes to gaming. I like my games boxed (if possible) and running on a working, physical console. Call me old-fashioned. Emulators are pretty handy; I’ve got quite a few installed myself. However I only use emulators for the games I own but can’t play on my PAL region consoles. This is due to the occasional case of region lock on some consoles, which forces me to use ISOs I create from my disk copies of the games, to be used on emulators, so I can play the game. Performance of emulators can be an issue on less powerful machines, even emulators for consoles that don’t require a lot of resources such as a Playstation One emulator, can have erratic frame rates , leading to poorer gameplay and immersion. While that’s not an issue for me, the use of the video game emulators, to me, feels soulless. Having grown up with consoles predominantly as a gamer, I am partial to hearing the crack of the opening of a game box, the sound of the console reading the disc and having to make sure you have enough space on your memory card (remember those Playstation One/Two, Original Xbox and GameCube fans?). In comparison, an emulator feels like a cheap copy, which it technically is but that’s beside the point. Basically readers; I know emulators eliminate the need for HD remasters, but I don’t like using them unless I have to.

However I am not a blind defender of HD remasters and there are times where I question the point of an HD remaster. The games I’ve used as examples all preyed upon mostly my nostalgia, whether it be nostalgia for a game I played, or nostalgia for a game I didn’t play, but was released when I was younger. However there has been an increasing trend of HD remasters for games that have only come out within two or three years. “Sleeping Dogs” received a “definitive” edition that contains all released DLC’s and improved graphical output along with some and I quote “…gameplay, setting and audiovisual quality changes based on community feedback.” in 2014; two years after its initial release in 2012. That’s nice and all, but I already own the DLC. I bought the “Game of the Year” edition from Steam during a sale. While that’s nice feature for gamers who never played the game, and get all the DLC in a cost efficient package, for gamers like me it doesn’t mean much. These “improved graphical” enhancements are often, in my opinion rather minimal. There’s only so much improvement that can be made on a game two years old, without making the game in a new engine. I watched comparison videos of the supposed “graphical improvement”  of Sleeping Dogs, and for the PC version I saw little to no improvement, and minimal for the console versions in graphical output. What is the point of this supposed “audiovisual quality change” if I can barely see the difference? Surely these gameplay improvements could have been released as a game patch for owners of the game, as well? I shouldn’t be forced to buy this new version, for better gameplay. Either way I completed Sleeping Dogs without any need for these improvements, So I doubt these changes are essential. In my opinion it was a rather blatant move to make some money by trying to convince us gamers that we needed to get this version other the default version. It was actually cheaper for me to buy the base game of Sleeping Dogs and a complete DLC bundle than this “definitive edition”, and I highly doubt purchasing this newer edition would have drastically improved my already pleasurable experience playing Sleeping Dogs.

Another flaw of HD remasters is sometimes the resources to make it just don’t seem worth it. These developers could be making brand new games, utilising new technologies, creating masterpieces. Instead we consumers get the same games from a year ago, just on a different console. While it’s a good way to gain new fans onto a new console, who missed out on these games originally, this issue could easily be solved by backwards compatibility on consoles. I remember the days when consoles such as the Playstation 2 and Nintendo Wii had backwards compatibility, to their console predecessors. No need for HD remasters, just get your game from a previous generation and put it in your console and *BAM* it works. Ever since the half-arsed backwards compatibility of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, as well of the success of HD remasters in terms of sales; for consoles, we most likely won’t get true backwards compatibility ever again.

HD remasters will always have a mixed reception. Some people will like the idea of a re-release of a game, as a cash grab. While others have played the original version of the game to death, and want to move on to newer games. However I’ll always like the idea of remasters of older titles because it gives me an excuse to replay classics, I’ve loved to death, or to experience new games in the best version. I am however an opponent of newer titles getting remasters. I think those are a cheap way of making quick, petty cash. I’m fine with companies preying on my nostalgia. However I’m not fine with companies trying to test my general awareness and intelligence of whether to buy a £45 “upgraded version” of a Triple-A title I purchased a year ago. That’s not an “upgrade” that’s a way of trying to take more money from me. Not cool.

What do you think of HD remasters? Do you enjoy replaying older games in HD, or do you think that they are  waste of time and money? I’m interested to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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