While normally I love it when a storied game series gets the next-gen anthology treatment, Konami’s upcoming slew of HD compilations has yet to give me the months-long case of consumer blue balls that a gussied up ZoE or Silent Hill really ought to induce. Seriously: extra shiny, uber-definitive versions of some of my favorite games should be triggering at least a smidge of maladjusted fanboy behavior. By all rights, I should be over on Amazon right now, belting out a falsetto rendition of “Snake Eater” in-between ecstatic sobs, compulsively hitting refresh every thirty seconds in case Konami decides on a larf to bump up the release dates by six or so months -- not on Destructoid, whining to you guys as though you’ll read this, start slow-clapping at your computer, and a few small steps from there, ¡Revolucion!
My main gripe is that for a bunch of compilations, the respective Silent Hill, Zone of the Enders, and Metal Gear sets do a really shit job of compiling. A good compilation can either be comprehensive, and include everything in the series, or it can be cohesive, and have some internal logic by which yon handful of games make sense as a single volume. But rather than designing each compilation around the needs of each individual series, Konami seems to be cramming fuck-all onto a blu-ray disc and asking upwards of $40 for it.
Let’s address this game by game…
…Starting with the most egregious offender, the Silent Hill comp. Now clearly, any collection that leaves out half the series isn’t trying to be the definitive franchise retrospective, and that’s fine, it’s just that the games they left in don’t really make for a definitive anything. Say you’re one of those Johnny-come-way-way-latelies who’ve decided after twelve years that Silent Hill is suddenly relevant to your interests, and Silent Hill HD precisely the caboodle with which you will Experience The Majesty.
The compilation contains SH2 and SH3, which means, as a newbie, that you’ll be introduced to the series with one standalone narrative and one direct sequel to a game that isn’t included. The most accomplished narrative and design the series ever achieved, followed by a game very, very similar to it -- albeit with a hearty dose of diminishing returns -- with a story that will probably play out like the 10-year reunion episode of a TV show you never watched. Hell, from a story perspective, packaging SH1, SH3, and Origins together would’ve made more sense. It would’ve been a crappier compilation, but again, it would have some semblance of cohesion.
But whatever, so your first impressions will be a tad disjointed. The series has never been real big on that whole “making literal sense” thing, so chances are you won’t notice this little hiccup. The important thing is you’re getting the best they have to offer, right? SH2 and SH3 are often said to be the series’ peak, and surely that’s the rationale behind this collection: an HD victory lap highlighting Team Silent’s very finest? Well, if Metacritic is the final word, then sure, these are the highest percentile quasi-metaphorical Japanese mindfuckings you can buy outside of some very obscure, very dark mail-order catalogs. But before dipping into the ol’ mercurial nightmare fund, you may want to ask around. Very few Silent Hill lifers I know would call SH3 the second best game in the series, and if they do, it’s usually by default. SH3 is the most staid, least memorable, by-the-numbers SH, and though it doesn’t get much wrong, it certainly doesn’t distinguish itself outside of Heather’s very happenin’ hoodie-vest. Similarly, you’ll never hear anyone say SH4 is the best in the series, but the token compliments usually conceded to this black sheep are quite telling. “It’s the most disturbing,” “it’s the creepiest,” “it has the best story,” etc. There is something genuinely unnerving about SH4, something belied by its so-so metascore. It’s a warts-and-all experiment that gets a lot wrong, but will likely stick with you for months all the same. One of those odd titles that manages to be a great game even though it’s not a very good game. That to me is still more worthwhile than a competently executed ten-hour shrug that features an awesome hoodie-vest.
Functional, comfortable, and fashionable? Now there's a garment I would barf up the Messiah for!
So are you actually getting the best of Team Silent in this comp? Sure, but with the emphasis on only, and only in the broadest definition of “best”.
Now if this comp doesn’t make sense as a story primer, or as a legacy-fluffing prestige title, what exactly is it trying to do?
To me, it feels like someone at Konami saw that the God of War Collection sold well, gleaned that gamers would buy two PS2 games for $40 as long as they had spit-shined graphics and trophies, and thus an entirely half-assed, superfluous compilation was born. Perhaps this is an overly cynical assessment, and one based on nothing but my own hateful grousing, but I really cannot fathom why they wouldn’t include SH4. And not even because of my personal druthers, but because the product they’re left with is barely deserving of the word “collection”. It would be like Sucker Punch announcing that their upcoming Sly Cooper HD Trilogy is leaving out the second one because the prevailing taste consensus has deemed it merely “okay”. It's seems like a ludicrous thing to do, it seems like a cheap thing to do, and it makes for a Silent Hill compilation so scant, so perfunctory, so loveless, that it offers nothing besides nicer graphics to those who already own the games (like me) and is an overly expensive, overly abridged place to start for those who don’t (hypothetical-you).
The Metal Gear Solid Collection has a different problem, stemming from having just had a compilation released a few years ago that’s still widely available. A miniscule bump in graphic fidelity probably won’t win over a customer who already ponied up for Solid in toto, so Konami needed to sweeten the deal on this one. Shake things up. Keep things fresh. Then charge $50 for all the extra shaking and freshness.
The end result: along with MGS2 and 3, gamers will get an HD version of the PSP title Peace Walker. Now, I can understand not including the original Metal Gear Solid, as seeing PS1 graphics in high definition is probably like finding a photo of Jim Henson wrist-deep in Kermit the Frog for the first time -- sometimes a more revealing picture diminishes the magic. And I can understand why they didn’t replace MGS with its Gamecube alter-ego, Twin Snakes, on account of it being one of the most haltingly stupid things to ever come out of the series -- a series whose last installment, mind you, featured sexy boss fight photo shoots.
This should not be giving you an erection.
What I can’t understand is how they decided on Peace Walker. Just Peace Walker. There are four Metal Gear PSP games out there, two of which fit into the series’ increasingly whack-ass canon, and none of which have ever been collected or ported to consoles. And here, in the first attempt to do so, we get a single, stray PSP game, slapped onto two other games that aren’t chronologically or numerically adjacent to it.
The fuck is this? I mean, I do realize this whole article is born out of my own raging nerd OCD, dwelling over shit that most well-adjusted folk will rightfully not notice or care about, but can no one at Konami count? Are they the victims of a novelty abacus prank that has spun horribly out of control? Nobody buys a DVD boxset that contains episodes 2, 3, half of 4, 9, and the Christmas episode from two seasons later, so why is Konami running their business like an eighties anime bootlegger?
Maybe I’m just pissed that MGS2 and 3 got trophies before MGS4. There’s something borderline spiteful about that. Team Mustache Dad gets no respect.
And finally we come to the Zone of the Enders comp, which should be exempt from my bitching because it actually does contain all the games in the series (with the exception of a GBA title that, if you miss your opportunity to play it, likely won’t be showing up on your death-bed regret list. On the off chance you do use your dying breath to cry out “The Fist of Mars!”, your assembled loved ones will probably just make rash assumptions about grandpa’s private life and that will be that). Unfortunately, it’s still not a good compilation, because only half (that is, one) of the ZoE games are even worth all the HD hullabaloo and monies therein forked over. Second Runner is one of my favorite games ever, my go-to example for everything a sequel should be, one of the prettiest games of the last or any generation, and the best giant robot game that doesn’t require a massive cockpit/controller apparatus so expensive and so nerdy that having one sitting in your living room automatically reinstates your virginity. Second Runner is a great game that I would happily purchase again.
ZoE1? ZoE1 is best remembered as the box the MGS2 demo came packaged in. It was a passable game, mechanically sound and technically impressive for its time, but with severely undercooked gameplay that slumps into an endless string of monotonous battles, saddled with a story that didn’t end as much as it stopped. There were a lot of good ideas in there -- an exemplary control scheme, incredible mechanical design, a haunting score and melancholic atmosphere, a typical-but-appealing sci-fi world, gratuitous amounts of Freudian cockpit placement -- but so much of that promise wasn’t delivered until the sequel.
Jehuty did not heed my last caption.
The first game was the rough draft, the blueprint, little Bambi’s first awkward steps before growing into the king of the forest. The giant robot forest. As the second most prominent selling point in a $40 compilation, ZoE1 just isn’t going to pull its weight. The God of War Collection had two terrifically dumb, grandly entertaining action games to its name. The upcoming Ico/Shadow of the Colossus comp brings together Fumito Ueda’s twin masterpieces of atmosphere and understatement. ZoE HD feels a game short of justifying the same price tag these other collections are swinging, which is especially a shame if said game’s existence hinges on how well this comp performs.
And there you have it. How Konami has talked me out of buying spiffed up versions of some of my favorite games. I should probably emphasize that this isn’t a call to arms or a boycott or anything approaching a principled stand, unless my own sense of entitlement can now be considered a principle (pleasepleaseplease). Each of these releases just struck me as being off in various ways, and I wanted to see if you guys were similarly vexed, or if I’ve finally hatched into the kind of gamer so impossible to please that nothing short of a solid gold copy of Chrono Trigger 2 -- one that does your taxes, cuts your hair, vents housebroken puppies from its exhaust ports, can turn you into a bodhisattva depending on which ending you get, and dispenses hand jobs if you talk to it about comic books for long enough, MSRP $14.99 -- will ever be deemed worthy of attention, at least until it’s revealed that Marle’s hair color is different and there’s no trophy support for players who’ve attained enlightenment, because “desire for the trophies would inevitably lead to attachment and suffering, denying the true transient nature of existence and thus prolonging the karmic cycle of death and rebirth”, yadda yadda, freaking ripoff. And no one wants to be that guy.