Nostalgia is a powerful thing. And from a marketing standpoint, it is perhaps the most powerful tool the entertainment industry has access to. Nostalgia, of course, leads to the so-called “double dip,” a semi-controversial tactic in which companies convince you the consumes to purchase items you may already own. Movie studios have been playing this game for years, but it’s only recently that the videogame industry has started to emulate the reboot/remake mentality of Hollywood. The collective need to revisit past digital glories has lead to a substantial market of classic titles available on every home console and handheld. Such releases are not necessarily a bad thing, just as long as you realize that you’re being taken for a bit of a ride.
While the practice is only starting to fully bloom, it’s not entirely new to the industry. In 2004, Nintendo released a series of NES titles for the Game Boy Advance known as the Classic NES Series. Consisting of titles such as Super Mario Bros., Excitebike, and The Legend of Zelda, the Classic NES Series was only the beginning as Nintendo would later move from re-release to HD remake, as evidenced by Ocarina of Time 3D. Whether intentional or not, high-definition remakes are nothing more than a form of manipulation, a way to invoke powerful emotional memories. It is indeed a lucrative practice, and a relatively inexpensive one when compared to developing an entire game from the ground up. Most HD remakes on the market consist of last generation titles, simple up-scales manufactured and bundled for today's hardware, and are priced to move; other words, perfect money magnets. Just take a look at the high-definition remakes that have been released in the last year alone: Beyond Good & Evil HD, God of War Origins Collection, Metal Gear Solid Collection HD (both on consoles and the Playstation Vita), Sonic CD HD, Silent Hill Collection HD - just to name a few.
It’s not difficult to spin the whole practice as a greed-fueled corporate move, Scrooge McDuck-ish even. Plenty have bemoaned the entire concept since A Link to the Past made its way onto the Game Boy Advance, but if one were to put the cynicism aside it would clear that it was a necessity – as was say, Twilight Princess' release as a Wii launch title – a Gamecube game with slightly improved visuals and tacked on motion controls. As other forms of entertainment change and shed the old technology for the new, the music and movie industries are much more forgiving and understanding than gaming. It is possible after all to purchase a combo DVD/VHS player, and even a record player. On the other hand, you won't find any modern system that is going to accommodate any of your Nintendo 64 cartridges. But then again, that's what the HD release of Perfect Dark was far, right? And that brings us to the crux of our dilemma.
See, Perfect Dark is a title that is without a doubt worthy of revisiting. Without an endless stream of re-releases/remakes the classic games of old would most likely be lost, and those who were not fortunate to experience them the first time around would be robbed of the most defining moments in gaming. With the advent of digital distribution, and outlets such as PSN and Nintendo’s E-Shop, classic games could live online, forever; well, maybe. It is sure more accessible than trying to secure a physical copy of Final Fantasy VII, anyway. Being unable to let go of the past has bestowed upon us the gift of what we might have missed. Take the Sega Dreamcast, for example. As a system that many never got to fully experience, can now have its time limelight thanks to a handful of re-releases. From Crazy Taxi and ChuChu Rocket, to Sonic Adventure and the upcoming release of Jet Set Radio, Dreamcast titles are getting a second chance. This is however, only one end of the spectrum.
It’s relatively easy to separate the good HD remakes from the poor ones: the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary’s from the Silent Hill HD Collections, if you will. Just because game companies continue to churn out remake after remake does not mean that gamers should be complacent about it. As this practice continues, gaming will inevitably face a deluge of poor remakes and re-releases, our money easily separated from our wallets at the prospect of replaying Glover (please, don’t replay Glover,) and other games of old.
It is very difficult to ignore the blissful pull of nostalgia, even though things may not always work out the way you remember them. It does not mean that creativity is stifled, or that new games will fail to come out in order to make room for remakes. It’s a market that should be embraced, just as long as you can reconcile the fact that you are, for better of worse, being exploited. Because like it or not, it isn't going to stop. From Yakuza 1 & 2, Okami HD, and NiGHTS Into Dreams, to Zone of the Enders, Final Fantasy X HD, and Sonic Adventure 2, there is no end in sight for the HD remake. And with the advent of the Wii U and next generation consoles, who knows where this road will take us. All we can hope is that developers and publishers alike are able to steer us in the right direction.
Post contributed by Rueben Levine. Questions for the author? Send an email to email@example.com.