Now before you decide to blow my head off with an RPG; just hear (or, read) me out.
REMASTERS - they're nothing new. They've existed from since we started upgrading our media peripherals. Music, movies, TV shows, and of course - games - have all gotten the "remaster-treatment" over the years. Think of how we see old songs from legendary artists re-made in modern-day quality. What about how Disney has re-released their same popular movies countless of times in new formats? Old TV Shows making their way to DVD and of course, on-demand services.
Yep; remasters are great. They offer a way to enjoy old content in a new light; on devices that we actually have and use. It also allows those of us who didn't exist or didn't know about it, or simply couldn't have access to these things in the past. It introduces new generations to old classics and allows the old generations to enjoy it all over again.
As it relates to gaming; the 7th-gen saw a lot of remasters on all 5 of the major systems. Wii introduced the Virtual Console service; allowing Wii owners to play old classics, dating all the way back to the NES and more. PSP got a few games re-made from the PS2 era. DS got titles like Super Mario 64 DS. And of course, the PS3/360 got HD remasters of classic titles from their past generations.
We're only 1 year + into the 8th-generation (it actually started with the Wii U for the home console category, just in case you forgot) ~ and we're already seeing these "remasters" and "definitive editions" pop up.
So far there's been two remasters which I can genuinely say made sense and fit the bill. Both of which are found on Nintendo's system. From Capcom - Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for Wii U and 3DS, which was a remaster of Monster Hunter Tri, which released on the Wii. And from Nintendo's own house; The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD - a remake of the Gamecube classic - which also released on Wii U. In both these remasters; not only were the graphics improved (Wind Waker ESPECIALLY) ~ but they added new features which improved the gameplay and enhanced the experience.
Sounds great right? Of course it does! It wasn't just a simple port over to the newer systems, with it displaying in a 1080p signal @ a 16:9 aspect ratio. Both these games had improvements inside and out; which in my opinion, is a proper way to do a remaster.
Alright, so what exactly am I getting at?
I'm getting at the fact that both of these remakes were warranted. They were upgraded versions of their past selves. Almost like they went through puberty.
Now then, compare it to two other games; Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition and The Last of Us: Remastered.
Unlike Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Wind Waker HD - both of the aforementioned titles are new. Like, really new. Monster Hunter Tri was 3 years old when it was remastered; Wind Waker was even older - being 10 years old when it got remastered. Compare this to Tomb Raider, which was slightly less than a year old when the "Definitive Edition" came out, and The Last of Us which will be a little over a year-old when it gets its "Remastered Edition."
Now, here's the problem that I have with these two newer-remasters; They're HD titles, getting remastered into HD.
- WHAAAAAAAA?! -
Both these titles were released on HD systems already, and they both looked pretty decent already. Yet, developers added to the ever-more sensationalist party that is "NEXT-GEN GAMING!" - by bragging about how these new editions would feature improved graphics and better frame-rates than their original versions. Now I like pretty games as much as the next guy, but honestly, the jump from HD to HD isn't as massive as when we went from 8 bit to 16 bit, or 16 bit to 64 bit, or SD to HD. It's a MUCH smaller gap that, while the difference is noticeable, it isn't this new, previously unseen level of detail.
Outside of their small visual enhancements, these new editions featured/will feature all of the DLC that was released for the original. Now that one, right there - is what annoys me. DLC is already a severely misused part of the modern-game world. Many developers have opted to turn DLC into a paywall. They charge you full price for the game, and purposely cut out content, just to give it back to you, but for an extra price. Oh wow, now we get to have it for "free"! Believe me; the price of that DLC is added somewhere in that price-tag.
And that's basically where it ends.
- "Improved" graphics
- "Included" DLC
Okay...And? Nope, nothing. Nada.
THAT'S what I'm getting at, here.
These developers are re-releasing practically sub-new titles for the newer systems, for high prices. How and when is this a good thing? It's a blatant cash-grab maneuver, and the sad part is - the community is not only praising them, but they're kindly dropping their money into the already filled pockets of these big corporations, all to scream stuff like: "Oooooh! Now I can see all the detail in that hair in 1080p!" "Oh wow, these landscapes look sooooooo much better!" "Look at that anti-aliasing! DOWN WITH THE JAGGIES! W00T!"
In Tomb Raider's boat; it was already a multi-platform game. It launched on the PS3, 360 and PC. The PS3 and 360 alone have an install base of well over 100 million. With that being the case, the sales that were made again on the PS4 and XBOX One were MORE THAN LIKELY - not mostly made up of new buyers. The Last of Us is a little different; as it was exclusive to the PS3. This means anyone who was gaming on the XBOX 360, PC or Wii U did not have a chance to play it. Alright, that's fair enough; but once again, the PS3 alone has an install base of 70+ million. Okay, so what about the gamers who were on the other platforms? Surely now they'd have a chance to play it, right? While that is true; let's be honest - if they really wanted to play it that much; how hard is it to find a PS3 for a cheap price these days?
You can be sure that with the critical-acclaim of Naughty Dog's latest game, combined with the hype-fest that is the "NEXT-GEN GAMING!" party; just like Tomb Raider, this "remastered" version of The Last of Us will probably sell 1 million copies in a very short period of time. After all, the PS4's install base will no doubt be even bigger by the time it releases; increasing the chances of it achieving a solid number of sales.
In the end, I don't see this being a very good thing. Similar to how major use of DLC became a large trend here in the 7th-generation; it's no doubt that after seeing the success of both these titles, more developers are likely to try releasing their HD titles into "enhanced" or "definitive" versions for the next-gen formats. For instance, it wouldn't be surprising of Rockstar decided to re-release GTA: V for the PS4, XBOX One and PC, despite already making over 30 million unit sales. It should be interesting to see how much this trend will grow over time.