This weekend, PlayStation held its third annual PlayStation Experience where it showed off the next few months and years on its platforms. Naughty Dog debuted The Last of Us Part II, Capcom introduced Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite, and Activision proudly showed off the next round of Destiny content. There were new games and updates for PlayStation VR, but surprisingly the conversation on VR didn’t permeate the show. We saw updates on Street Fighter V and Resident Evil VII, as well as the final trailer for The Last Guardian before its release. For some reason, we got our first look at Knack 2.
We also saw a lot of games again. A Crash Bandicoot trilogy remaster was announced at this year’s E3 press conference, and we watched the first footage of it in action this weekend. WipEout Omega Collection debuted, a remaster of three WipEout games coming to PS4. Then, Sony’s Japan Studio announced the remastering of Parappa the Rapper, LocoRoco, and Patapon coming to PS4. Yet, not a mention of PSOne Classics coming to PS4.
Remasters are certainly not a new phenomenon in gaming. This generation of consoles has seen multiple releases per calendar month that remaster or reissue a game. We saw it last console generation with PS2 games remastered on PS3, and we’ve seen it all the way back to Super Mario All-Stars on SNES; GameCube’s The Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition and the Game Boy Advance’s NES Classics line. Making something old new again is a profitable market and one that we’ll always wander into with money to spend. We like what we like and we want more of it, always.
In the last week, I started playing Final Fantasy XV. The scope of this game is immense, and it appears to have an overwhelming amount of content awaiting my attention. After a few hours in the game, I realized that this is the kind of game I’ve been waiting for this year. I needed this massive blockbuster to satisfy some craving I wasn’t conscious of, but wanted to experience on my PS4. Simultaneously, and likely no coincidence, I balanced my playing of Final Fantasy XV with its predecessor, Final Fantasy VI. I had started playing VI a few months ago and I’ve toiled away with it every now and then, but I really started yearning for it in recent weeks. There’s something right about that balance of scope and presentation that makes sense.
What I’m finding is that I am equally engaged in both games. It’s no surprise to me, but for as far as games have come and how massive an undertaking development and delivery can be, I’m just as into playing something that was released first twenty-two years ago in its original form.
It’s been ten years since Nintendo launched the Wii, and we’re a few weeks away from the tenth anniversary of the Virtual Console. It was here where a new precedent was set and where we could no longer ignore video game preservation. Not long after, Sony added PSOne Classics to its PlayStation Network on both PS3 and PSP. We’ve had these services for years that allow us to relive the games we once loved or discover new ones for the first time. The issue is that none of them are exactly what they could be.
Due to licensing rights, we’ll never have a complete NES library on Nintendo’s Virtual Console, nor the full lineup of PSOne Classics on PSN. We also can’t seem to get parity with these services across platforms. The Wii Virtual Console rounded out at 398 titles released, from previous Nintendo platforms as well as Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx-16. The Wii U Virtual Console currently sits at 258 games released, lacking Genesis games but adding Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. Even the consoles which games appear on both have varied libraries, the Wii receiving the SNES Final Fantasy games which have yet to appear on the Wii U Virtual Console. Further, the 3DS Virtual Console carries its own unique library which currently hosts a total of 219 games.
I played the demo for the Parappa the Rapper remaster when it was released Saturday night. It looks really nice. It was the equivalent to Ocarina of Time 3D for me, playing through something that looked the way that my mind imagined it to look so many years ago. The thing is, Parappa looked really nice when I played it six months ago in its original form, and there’s a certain charm to the chunky polygons of Ocarina of Time on N64. Final Fantasy VI looks outstanding, and so did Patapon when I felt the urge to play it earlier this year.
Nintendo will release the Nintendo Switch in March of next year, and we’re just shy of a month away from learning more about the console and its launch. The reveal trailer that we watched in October showed slightly different versions of Mario Kart and Splatoon. Nintendo too just released Super Mario Maker for 3DS and the console’s next big release is Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World.
I know the tone of this is making it seem like I’m about to condemn all remasters or rereleases, but I’m not. I think that these are necessary. They help to get these games into the hands and hearts of people who have not played them before. They show us something new about the games that we love and allow us to play them again on modern hardware. I would love to see EarthBound remade, and I’m curious to see what Square Enix is doing with Final Fantasy VII. Metroid II’s fan-made remake has made the game a bit more approachable and playable when compared to its original Game Boy release.
My fear with remasters is the amount of time that goes into old ideas. Final Fantasy XV has been so exciting for me because it’s new and it’s challenging the status quo of its franchise. For years, I’ve wanted to see a new Patapon game on Vita. When PS4 was revealed and showed a headphone jack in the DualShock 4, I thought that we might have a chance to see a new Patapon on the console. Now, five years after the last release in the series, and the first game is being remastered.
What I would love to see console manufacturers begin to address and recognize is the necessity for uniformity. Microsoft is eager to end the console cycle with its Project Scorpio, and has impressively built a still-growing list of backwards compatible titles on Xbox One. Nintendo is blurring the lines between its home and portable consoles with Nintendo Switch and hopefully unifying its Virtual Console service along with it, becoming the ultimate Nintendo box with access to all previous platforms. PlayStation has brought PS Now and Remote Play to more and more platforms, allowing players to access games in new ways on devices that don’t necessarily have a PlayStation logo on them. Players on PC have lived for years with platforms like Steam and GOG that allow games to simply exist and thrive regardless of hardware. This has to be the future that we start to work toward rather than away from.
Remasters should be an option but not the answer. I wonder how many hours went into the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and if they exceed the amount of time it would have taken to develop a PlayStation emulator that could run on PlayStation 4 or any other platforms where Sony would like to put its services. I wonder how many of these remasters will lead to greater exposure and eventual new titles in these franchises, but looking over the remasters that we’ve seen just in this console cycle I don’t think these will lead to many.