HD Remastering Should Be Reserved for Classics

The recent confirmation of Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition brings up a number of serious questions. We’ve seen a number of last-generation games getting PS4 and Xbox One remasterings, leading gamers to wonder what generation we’re truly in. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, as a great deal of these games look phenomenal on the new hardware. Hyperbole aside, these glorified ports are beginning to get out of control.

I can’t deny that I enjoy a quality port, judging by how much I loved both the Vita’s God of War Collection and, more recently, The Last of Us Remastered. Likewise, there is absolutely a place for smaller downloadable games from the previous generation. Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition is outstanding, and games like Flower, flOW, and Sound Shapes provided early adopters with free additions to their PS4 libraries via Cross-Buy. Journey is required gaming as far as I’m concerned, so I don’t have a problem with its  imminent PS4 port either. There is absolutely a place for some last-generation remasterings, but not all of them. My issue with HD remasters comes from what I’ll dub the “GameStop Middle of the Shelf Corollary.”

gamestop shelf
Say you wander into a GameStop on any given Saturday afternoon. After weaving through the mothers asking if the Wii U works with the Wii, you make your way to the pre-owned PlayStation 3 and/or Xbox 360 shelves. Here you find hundreds of lonely plastic rectangles (including those disgusting retail replacement cases) looking for a nice home. Most of these games will cost anywhere from $5-$20, with newer titles commanding a higher price point. The GameStop Middle of the Shelf Corollary states that a gamer will likely gloss over dozens of games without a second thought as they scan for the one he or she wants. The greatest games, whether owned or not, will cause most people to momentarily stop and think about them for at least a few seconds. Maybe they’ll see the name and reflect on it nostalgically, or consider buying it for the first time. These awesome titles demand attention, even for only a moment. That used copy of FUSE? Not so much.

Simply put, if your game falls into this category, it probably doesn’t deserve an HD remastering.

Setting aside my extremely scientific theorems for a minute, porting classic games across generations is totally okay. The Last of Us is a game that every single gamer should play, regardless of whether or not he or she ends up enjoying it. The same goes for the Uncharted Trilogy, the Halo series, the Gears of War Trilogy, BioShock, and any Grand Theft Auto game. I couldn’t be more excited for Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire to apply everything I loved about X and Y to two of my favorite games of all time. Every generation sees a number of first-time console-owners hop into the market; they should have access to classic gaming experiences on their shiny new platforms. Sleeping Dogs and DmC: Devil May Cry are both great games, but are they required gaming? I’m not so sure.

We should be willing to leave some of our great gaming experiences of yesteryear in the past. Killzone 2 is an exciting, beautiful game that was clearly ahead of its time visually. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with remembering it fondly as a game that made our eyes bleed in 2009. I adored the 2012 reboot of the classic SSX series, but I don’t really need to experience it again on my PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. Not every highlight of our past has to come with us into our future, otherwise I’d be playing 4 hours of Snowboard Kids everyday.

Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition also sheds light on a point that a number of gaming media members have been making for months: we’re paying for backwards compatibility $60 at a time. Let’s say, hypothetically, that the PlayStation 4 had a Cell processor built into it, raising its launch price from $399 to $699. Seems like an insane price hike just to play your old games, right? Some simple math actually proves that this wouldn’t be that outrageous if we truly want to play previous generation titles. If you bought a PS4 for $399 and a handful of released or confirmed remastered games (The Last of Us: Remastered, Tomb Raider: Definitive EditionMetro: Redux, the GTA V portSleeping Dogs: Definitive Editionand Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition), you’ll likely have spent about $705 in all. Forget about the quality of some of these games for just a moment (since some of them, as I stated before, are absolutely worthy of ports).Are we being hosed here? If we spent our money on a hypothetical PS4/PS3 combination, we’d be able to play all of these games and more for less money.

Alas, this magical combination device doesn’t exist, so this is the world we live in. If we have to pay full retail price for remastered ports of last-generation games, let’s make sure they’re worthy of our money. Think of the amount of people who walk into a video game store and simply walk by that $20 copy of Sleeping Dogs (which is a hell of a deal at this point). It’s okay to leave excellent experiences, like Sleeping Dogs and DmC: Devil May Cry, in the generation in which they came.  The industry needs to stop remastering the good and the great, saving the fresh coat of paint for the truly transcendent.