In the gaming community, remastered re-releases come with a bit of a stigma. Many people believe that releasing a remastered version of a game can disturb the originalís legacy in some way, as if the updated graphics and bonus mini-games in Super Mario 64 DS
are akin to the widely detested changes to the remastered Star Wars
films. Regardless of any indignation expressed by gamers over remastered re-releases, they continue to sell; in fact, this year alone will see re-releases of The Last of Us
, Grand Theft Auto V
, †Metro 2033
, Metro: Last Light
, and the original four Halo
games, among several others. Itís abundantly clear that HD remakes and cross-generation ports arenít going anywhere.
But why should they? Remastered releases present older titles to new audiences, make them play better than ever, and help to establish a legacy of culturally important video games. More importantly, remastering and re-releasing old games is the industryís way of preserving the heritage of video games for this and future generations, a necessary step for a growing medium.
The implied premise behind many of the arguments of re-release naysayers is that studios are wasting their time remastering old games when they could be making something new, but this is false logic. The amount of resources utilized in remastering an already existing game are not equatable to the amount used in the development of a brand new title, and even if it were, there is no guarantee that a studio would be working on a new game instead. This argument also assumes that everyone has already played these games, and so re-released versions are unnecessary, but this is simply not true--even the PlayStation 4 re-release of The Last of Us
, a game released in 2013, will open the title to a new audience. Remastering games is an important process for this young industry looking ahead. The games of yesterday and today should not disappear with their old hardware, and developers deserve to have their work preserved for the future.
Older video games carry with them several barriers of entry that donít exist in other mediums: hardware requirements, shoddy controls, outdated graphics and game mechanics, etc. These issues can prevent new players from playing older titles, but they are often addressed in the remastering process, giving old games cleaner visuals and smoother play-styles. The argument could be made that altering the original too much defeats the purpose of remastering as a game preservation model, but very few re-released titles have this problem. In fact, consensus is usually contrary to this point--consider The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
, the re-release of a title often considered one of the greatest games of all time, which was lauded for looking and playing better than ever on 3DS. Even still, some studios directly address the issue of updated visuals by allowing the player to choose between original and remastered graphics as in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
; itís a smart solution, but it should also be noted that it isnít a viable option for most remastered games.
But remastered re-releases donít need to be strictly long-past games. For titles released last year like Grand Theft Auto V
and The Last of Us
, re-releasing on new platforms can help extend longevity substantially, ensuring that ten years from now everyone will still be able to play these titles on major hardware. For games that were released at the end of a console cycle and have some significant artistic or cultural value, giving them a longer lifespan early on ensures that their legacy wonít be cut short.
All that said, the culture of remastered re-releases does have a potential major failing. The argument could be made that only games with a well-established legacy and/or a well-established fan-base get the re-release treatment, which is an issue considering that this would only serve the established canon of important video games, leaving underappreciated smaller titles to be forgotten over time; luckily, this is changing. Games like Ico
and Shadow of the Colossus
werenít big commercial hits like Grand Theft Auto
, but they had enough artistic value to the medium to warrant an HD re-release of both titles in 2011. Similarly, cult-classic adventure game Grim Fandango
was recently announced to receive an HD remaster for release on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and PC, a title even further from the popular successes of games like Ocarina of Time
and Halo: Combat Evolved
. These games may not have a lot of intrinsic commercial value, but they are no less important to the medium. It shows that remastered releases are more than cynical cash grabs from money-hungry corporations--they are a way to preserve the art of video games for the future.
Of course, not every game that gets a re-release may ďdeserveĒ it, and they wonít all look or feel as great as The Last of Us
†or†Ocarina of Time 3D
, but they are still a necessary part of the art. Books are reprinted, films are cleaned, rescanned and released on new formats, and games too must be preserved. This medium is at a disadvantage because most games go out-of-print within ten to twenty years of their release--try finding an affordable sealed copy of Super Mario World
, for example. People should be able to play Grim Fandango
in 100 years without scouring for outdated hardware on eBay, but for that to be a reality, the culture of re-releasing must continue. It may seem like a system that rewards cynical cash grabs in the moment, but itís an important step if we want to preserve the cultural legacy of video games for future generations. With a slew of remastered re-releases on the way this holiday season, we need to remember why the back-catalog of video games is important and think about how we can make it more accessible for the future. read