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Gaming #hottake: Why so many HD remakes?

For this series, I identify various phenomena found in the modern gaming world and explore their existence, particularly what’s wrong about it.

I recently just played Red Dead Redemption for the first time on my Xbox One, and did so mainly because of all the media attention surrounding its new backwards compatibility on the Xbox One. As far as I could tell, the graphics didn’t really seem updated at all, the controls were exactly the same, and (so I’ve read) no features, gameplay elements, or sequences in the game were removed, replaced, or altered. The game provided an excellent all-around experience and showed close to zero signs of aging.

Still, the thought that kept circling around my brain as I played Red Dead Redemption was “are they going to issue an HD remaster of this anytime soon? Do they need to?”

Remakes and remasters have recently started taking over the video game landscape in ways that once were welcome and now are beginning to become off-putting. Clearly, a title such as Red Dead Redemption was so masterful when it came out six years ago that it doesn’t really need any changes, but didn’t we all think the same way about Resident Evil 4, Batman: Arkham City, and BioShock? Nearly ever game that people like in the last decade is up for a remake, and while I understand the full generational jumps for games like Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, at what point do we have to start questioning the validity of re-issue?

I’m not here to ramble on about why HD remakes are “bad” for gaming or anything, because I don’t think they are. I just think they’re mostly unnecessary and often serve as more expensive versions of console ports. Red Dead Redemption plays just as well on the Xbox One as it did on the Xbox 360, the same way that Donkey Kong Country 2 plays just as well on the Wii U Virtual Console as it did on the Super Nintendo over 20 years ago. Those games were so excellent that just their availability was enough to warrant a purchase on a new console without any updates.

When I was growing up, a remake or a port usually had to serve some kind of additional purpose, either as a new version of the original game or making it available in new kinds of ways. Super Mario All-Stars on the SNES features graphical updates to all the original NES Mario games as well as the ability to actually save your progress, something that wasn’t always possible before. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past/Four Swords on the Game Boy Advance let players experience a lengthy Zelda game on a handheld for the first time and also provided them the opportunity to play the franchise’s first multiplayer mode. Wind Waker HD changed many elements from the previous game, including adding a better camera, online functionality, and an altered triforce shard quest that makes the game smoother than before. Wind Waker HD, A Link to the Past/Four Swords, and Super Mario All-Stars actually appeared to provide new experiences instead of re-hashed versions of older ones.

Today, a game can be released as recently as 2011 and get a tune-up. Why? Can’t you just buy the original game for cheap? Do you really need Skyrim or BioShock Infinite again? Did you even like Resident Evil 6 in the first place?

Games from the previous generation of consoles (PS3, Xbox 360) flat-out don’t need remakes. Period. The only exception is if the remake provides features, modes, or additional content not available in the previous iteration. Otherwise, we’re just wasting our money on the same experiences, only they look a little bit nicer. If you haven’t played the original before, there’s no reason to avoid the HD re-issue (as long as you don’t mind paying a little extra). It’s just ridiculous to me that we’ve reached a point where a remake of Skyrim or Resident Evil 5 garners as much as hype as, you know, an actual new game.

Every single month, the gaming community sees a myriad of brand new titles aiming to bring gamers to new worlds to experience unique stories. Just this year, we’ve seen Inside, The Banner Saga 2, and No Man’s Sky ambitiously explore uncommon grounds, while the recent Doom and Overwatch put new spins on established genres. Later this year, we can look forward to a new vision of Pokemon with Sun/Moon, Gears of War 4, Call of Duty in space, and countless other new experiences. With all those new titles available, do you really want to play through the Batman: Arkham games again?

I’m all in favor of celebrating gaming classics. Just…let some time pass, will ya?

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