HD Collections: Innovation or Idleness?

July 7, 2012 5:03 pm

Since 2011, gaming developers have been releasing HD Collections of classic games that are not only very old but those that can almost be considered rarities.  One of the earliest examples of HD re-masters took the ‘Devil May Cry’ series, from way back in 2001, and re-released it in Japan in March of this year. From there, Sony have been bringing out the majority of HD Collections for the Play Station 3 with titles including ‘Metal Gear Solid’, ‘Jak and Daxter’ and ‘Ratchet & Clank.’  Even more are coming out in the near future, notably ‘Zone of the Enders’ and ‘Hitman.’

It’s obvious there are some positive results that come from bringing out HD Collections, such as bring back those classics that may be difficult to get hold of; ‘Zone of the Enders 2’ is a prime example. Also, many improvements can be made to the original versions to make them more enjoyable for gamers. This is best seen with the ‘Devil May Cry’ releases, which are now easier to play than their earlier incarnations. For some, this comes as much needed change; ‘Devil May Cry 3’ was so hard it made it to the #1 position on Steve and Larson’s Top 10 Most Difficult Games Ever and before the HD collection had been considered it had needed a special edition release as a more user-friendly special edition. Most importantly, these high definition versions are bringing classic games to next generation consoles, allowing games once exclusive to single consoles to expand to new audiences. Who would have thought Play Station classic ‘Metal Gear Solid’ would also end up on the Xbox 360?

However, with many game developers now jumping on the HD Collection bandwagon (which has led to so many being released this year alone), it moves me, a gamer in the dark, to wonder: is the publishing of HD Collections an act of preserving classic games that allows new audiences to enjoy old successes or could it be a lack of new ideas and a little idleness on the part of game developers?

Although overjoyed to hear that an HD Collection of ‘Zone of the Enders’ will be released in the fall of 2012, it gave me cause to doubt the creative engine of Konami. I use them as an example as they are responsible for so many HD collections. Their ‘Silent Hill’ series is largely considered to have gone into decline since ‘Silent Hill 4: The Room’, which despite still gaining positive reviews was subject to criticism, namely from 1up.com who commented that Konami was going “backwards” with the game. Their critique came to pass and the newest ‘Silent Hill’ game, ‘Downpour,’ only got a rating of 66% on the PS3 from GameRankings.com, while ‘Silent Hill 4’ scored 76% for the PS2. So can we consider it mere coincidence that Konami would bring out a HD Collection for the three original games which had the highest ratings in the entire series?

The ‘Metal Gear’ series provides more evidence. The next game, ‘Metal Gear Rising Revengeance,’ is set to come out in early 2013. However, the new addition has had a very rocky history: in 2009 the game was originally titled ‘Metal Gear Solid: Rising’ but was nearly cancelled due to difficulties with development. However, in late 2011 it was announced that Platinum Games would step in to help develop the game and would be removing all stealth elements of the original completely. Although I don’t wish to dwell on the subject of changing games for better or worse, this debacle still raises the question of whether the HD collection of ‘Metal Gear Solid’ and ‘Zone of the Enders’ can be considered anything more than filler.

There is another problem and this is seen when looking at the collections a little closer: are they actually any better than the old games? As mentioned, ‘Devil May Cry’ as an HD Collection did tone down the extremely challenging character of the game; ‘Normal’ difficulty is actually something like normal now. Are we left with a game watered down a little too much? Perhaps ‘Devil May Cry’ jumped down from too hard to too easy? After playing through the ‘Metal Gear Solid’ HD Collection, I have to ask: is it just me? Or does loading take a little more time than on the PS2? ‘Sons of Liberty’ seems especially bad.  Then there’s the brightness- or lack thereof. Disappointingly, the game altogether seems appears more dim than before and dim enough to slightly impair my gameplay. Maybe these small points are my cynical mind nit-picking.

It’s not that I think HD Collections are a bad idea. They allow gamers old and new to enjoy the hard-to-find classics and original gameplay that didn’t initially survive the updated hardware. However, I do believe that there must be a certain balance between the classic and contemporary. My advice to gaming houses is this: don’t simply depend on HD Collections for success alone. It comes across as advertising, except it advertises that you’re either bored or out of ideas. Make a show of both old and new gaming ideas. For real success that will appeal to the fans, keep the familiarity of classic games while adding the originality of contemporary games. We don’t want to buy into laziness.
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