A Heavy Dose of Nostalgia / 30th of July 2014
Nostalgia, it’s something that’s far more prominent in videogame culture than possibly any other entertainment medium. Maybe it’s a result of the ever changing hardware, making it more and more difficult to access those fondly remembered games with every passing generation. Or maybe it’s some mild affliction to which fans of videogames are particularly susceptible. Whatever the reason, the demand to have classic games, whether it’s in their original form or remastered to include an array of modern features, has never been higher. And it’s not ridiculous to consider that should this trend continue the number of re-releases available may well exceed the number of new IPs being developed.
Is that a bad thing though? Is the games industry simply giving fans what they want, or is it a case of studios being content to take advantage of the love fans have for their favourite franchises? If you’re being given the chance to buy a quality game, something that you thought you’d never see again, should said developer or publisher’s motivations even be called into question? It’s a delicate matter, balancing the desire to accommodate fans, while justifying paying again for an old game, especially to those who have bought said game in its previous incarnation.
The success of Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Online Store could be considered the catalyst for driving the re-release of classic games. Both services have had great success launching remakes like Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, or by simply making some games such as Beyond Good & Evil available again. From there, re-releases then became available as full titles with Resident Evil 4 HD or the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. Proving that fans were happy to part with their cash for a chance to play the games they used to have and still remember fondly.
But not every game that fans are longing to see return gets a remake, no matter how many online petitions developers are bombarded with. For example many fans of Square Enix’ Final Fantasy series have called for Final Fantasy VII (originally released in 1997 on the PlayStation) to be given a makeover and see it released on current hardware. But as of yet it hasn’t happened, and earlier this year original director of FFVII Yoshinori Kitase commented on the issue stating; “I cannot picture an outcome where a remake of Final Fantasy VII will be better than the original as long as Square Enix is behind it. Have you played Lightning Returns? Even I thought that game would not receive good reviews and I produced it”. It seems the risk of tainting the memory of the original game currently outweighs the pressure to remake it. A commendable stance to take, and Kitase does go on to explain that if it were possible for another studio to oversee the remake, then he would be more inclined to provide fans with what they desire. Unfortunately for anyone eager to delve back into the world of Midgar, it’s not something Square Enix is likely to consent to anytime soon.
The Halo series by contrast, is in line for yet another re-release. Announced at this year’s E3 conference, Microsoft confirmed the previous exploits of the Master Chief will be coming to Xbox One in the form of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Consisting of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo 3, and Halo 4, the collection will run all four games in 1080p and 60 frames per second. Having released Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary as recently as 2011 as well as Halo 4 in 2012, one could be forgiven for being cynical with regards to Microsoft’s decision to announce such a collection less than two years on from the release of the last game in the series. The reason behind it, according to head of Xbox Phil Spencer, is due to Microsoft’s willingness to take customer feedback into account, further justifying the decision by describing Halo as the “reason Xbox is here today”. Halo 2 is widely considered one of the most popular Xbox games of all time and fans will be happy to see the game return just for the chance to play the multiplayer alone, not to mention - for those who will be bothered by it - the collection will offer players the chance to add 4000 points worth of achievements (1000 per game) towards their Gamerscore. Still it’s hard not to be even a little sceptical with regards to Microsoft’s true motives, especially when the announcement is laced with incentives such as new achievements or a beta key for the upcoming Halo 5. But then its announcement at Microsoft’s press event was greeted with the biggest cheer of the day, so if it’s what Xbox owners want then who cares why Microsoft have decided to re-release the series, so long as they continue to develop new games for the next generation.
The effect nostalgia has on videogame fans is obvious, and is something the likes of Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo and even Steam are acutely aware of. I’m still hunting for a slanted, top-down shooter I played on the NES almost twenty years ago (unfortunately I’ve no idea what it was called). I just remember a purple jetpack riding warrior tasked with defending the Earth from an alien invasion, who had occasional access to some sort of hover bike. And should it ever appear on any new platform I won’t be able to input my debit card details fast enough, nostalgia’s that easy to exploit. But publishers need to be aware of exactly what constitutes fan service and bowing to popular demand, and ensure they don’t get too carried away with just churning out cheap remakes in order to make some quick cash. Especially when the game in question has been available for less than a few years. Whenever a badly made re-release is launched the backlash publishers can face is often worse than it would be had they made a bad original game. The Silent Hill: HD Collection for example, was heavily criticised for the standard of graphical upgrade, framerate issues and consistent crashing. And as a result Konami were forced to issue refunds to all Xbox 360 players.
These kinds of botched jobs do nothing other than infuriate fans, often ruining not only the chance to enjoy the remake but also angering a vocal community whenever something they cherish doesn’t get treated with sufficient care. If publishers do wish to remake old games and release them as new and improved versions, then they have to do it carefully and with the proper tools, otherwise it’s like trying to steal honey from a bees’ nest while naked, there’s no chance they’re getting away with it without being heavily stung.