HD Remakes or Reboots?

Nostalgia can be a powerful emotion, especially among gamers. The thoughts and memories of special games we carry with us from childhood to adulthood often means that we end up remembering them playing better, and certainly looking better, than they actually do today.

Let’s face it, the HD era of video games has spoiled most of us beyond repair, and classics like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, GoldenEye 007 and even Halo: Combat Evolved are kind of hideous by today’s standards, and don’t really live up to our fond memories. Thankfully, someone realized that remaking classic games in high definition was a good idea, and that people would buy them.

Just about everyone has their own list of old favorites they’d love to see remade in HD for today’s consoles, and more and more game developers are beginning to realize their importance by supporting their development. But why is this important?

HD remakes serve many purposes for both gamers and game developers alike, but gamers, almost more than anyone, desire validation — validation that their favorite games are liked by others, and validation of their gaming hobby through the years. What better way to validate someone’s favorite game than by re-releasing it in glorious HD?

perfect dark

Graphically speaking, it’s always nice to see an older game the way it was meant to look. Perfect Dark for the Nintendo 64, for example, was a great game for its time, but it was plagued with horrible slowdown and blurry graphics. It was a great example of something way ahead of its time that pushed the absolute limits of what the console could do. Ten years later, however, Perfect Dark was remastered in HD for Xbox LIVE Arcade, and it encompassed everything an HD remake should be. Besides having HD graphics, the game featured modernized controls, online multiplayer, and a smooth framerate of 60 fps. Everything else about the original game was left intact, making it the definitive version that played and looked like it was originally intended to.

HD remakes are also a great and useful way to revisit a classic game or franchise without the fear of having our beloved memories getting crapped on. Bionic Commando: Rearmed, the HD remake of the original Nintendo game, featured the same levels and arm-swinging mechanic the game was known for, while at the same time updating it with a gorgeous new art style and modern mixes of the classic NES soundtrack, among other things. It was fan service at its best. Unfortunately, Capcom also decided to reboot the franchise right after Bionic Commando: Rearmed was released for XBLA and PSN. The reboot game, which was once again titled, simply, Bionic Commando, was set in the same universe with some of the same characters, but featured a fully 3D world and a heavier emphasis on story and character development. It was terrible. The controls were complex and difficult to get used to, the characters were clich√© and uninteresting, and the story was… something else. The arm is his wife? Seriously? It was a prime example of how HD remakes can rejuvenate interest for a beloved classic, and how a reboot can instantly ruin it.

bionic commando rearmed

Of course, the power of nostalgia in HD remakes really only applies to gamers who grew up in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s playing the original games. There are plenty of people whose first game console is a Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, or PlayStation 3. For them, the appeal of HD remakes may lie in the opportunity to play a classic game updated for the modern gamer, all within the convenience of their console of choice. Without trying to sound too much like Grandpa Gamer, playing an HD remake is a good history lesson for you kids: it gives you perspective, and respect for how far games have come in this day and age. It’s good for you to explore your roots.

From a business standpoint, HD remakes such as the God of War Collection on PS3 (which sold more than 900,000 copies) have proven to be a big success. And what better way to generate excitement for a new game in a classic franchise than to release an HD remake? It’s the best form of advertisement. Consider the rumored HD remake of Halo: Combat Evolved. If an announcement for Halo 4 were to happen soon, what better way to rally the fans than to re-release what many believe to be the best Halo game… in HD? It’s a boatload of money waiting to happen. Not than an announcement for Halo 4 would need any help generating buzz among gamers and Halo fans, but an HD remake of the game that started it all certainly couldn’t hurt.


As with the Bionic Commando reboot example above, it’s also easier for developers to make and plan for an HD remake rather than a reboot, seeing as how the basic groundwork for the game is already there in the case of a remake. Treading reboot territory is dangerous for developers because they risk wasting a great deal more time and money creating something that could quite possibly end up alienating the people they’re trying to appeal to. At least with HD remakes, the feeling of nostalgia is mostly on their side. You could argue that HD remakes aren’t good because they aren’t really a new idea, and don’t allow for enough creativity. At this point the developer would have ask themselves and their fans what they really want, and what the particular game deserves — an HD remake or a reboot?

For all the HD remake naysayers out there, I can understand your worries and concerns. There have been plenty of times when HD remakes seem like cash grabs. And yes, sometimes it would be nice to see a new sequel rather than an HD remake of something we’ve already played, but what if that HD remake sparked the developer’s or publisher’s interest in making a sequel? There are clearly downsides to remaking an older game, but I believe that the pros outweigh the cons in the end.

Ultimately, it depends on the content the remake provides. HD remakes hastily thrown together are nice in principal, but without any extra features to appeal to fans of the original, there isn’t much reason to purchase it other than for a trip down memory lane. As for all the remakes that have gone above and beyond to appeal to fans old and new, however, they set the bar for everything to come. I say bring on the HD remakes.


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Author: Tyler Cameron View all posts by

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