Retro Round Up is a regular feature that takes a look at what’s new in the world of old games. This week I’ll discuss the reception that Final Fantasy X HD and DuckTales HD have received since they were announced, and ask the question: what do people expect from a retro re-release?
2013 is going to be a good year for people who like old games: the Wii U Virtual Console service has just launched, Sony is promising to stream their sizable library of classic PS1 and PS2 games onto the PS4, and there are tons of third parties re-releasing or remaking their most beloved classic titles, such as Sega’s upcoming remake of Castle of Illusion.
Of course, a cynic would point out that video game companies are merely cashing in on gamers’ nostalgia, selling them repackaged old products because they’ve run out of ideas for new ones. That view probably does have some truth to it, but honestly, I don’t mind: given the choice, I’d rather people spend their money on good old games (or on Good Old Games,) rather than on the latest, shiniest piece of crap lining the walls at Gamestop, like Walking Dead: Survival Instinct or Aliens: Colonial Marines. While a lot of retro re-releases and retro-focused download services aren’t perfect, I will still gladly pay money for the opportunity to play classics like Earthbound, Vagrant Story, or Okami again. Given the popularity of HD compilations and downloadable re-releases, a lot of other people feel the same way too.
Which is why I’m surprised that two upcoming titles, Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy X HD and Capcom’s DuckTales HD, have been met with such a negative reception from fans of the original games. FFX HD and DuckTales HD have been lambasted for two very different, but equally pointless reasons: FFX HD has been accused of looking too much like the original game, while DuckTales has been criticized for being too different. I find both complaints to be spurious, but it brings up the question:
What do people want from their retro re-releases?
The complaints about Final Fantasy X’s re-release are especially surprising. A lot of companies have released “remastered” HD versions of their last-gen games over the last few years: Sony has re-released most of their best PS2 titles in a number of excellent compilations, as has Capcom, and Konami is even planning on releasing another HD Metal Gear collection on PS3 later this year (a re-re-release?) While these HD compilations have been of varying quality (good: the Ico/SotC Collection, bad: Silent Hill’s “HD” Collection,) fans have generally responded to them positively.
Yet when the first footage of Final Fantasy X HD was shown — which features the same kind of upscaled, HD remastering that other companies have been doing for years — a lot of fans immediately branded the title as a lazy “rehash.” Now, no other company, not even Nintendo or Capcom, loves remaking their old titles as much as Square-Enix does, so perhaps fans were expecting a full, big budget remake with brand new content and graphics on par with FFXIII. It’s an unrealistic expectation (especially if you consider the budget that such a project would need, coupled with Square-Enix’s recent financial problems,) and I don’t think it’s fair to criticize Square for creating an HD port when gamers have routinely showered acclaim on other publishers for doing the exact same thing. Everyone applauded Kojima Productions when they put a lot of care into their HD ports of MGS2 and 3, so why is Square’s port of FFX (which looks like it features a similar amount of effort,) being judged so differently?
The backlash against DuckTales HD has been a little more predictable: people are slow to accept change, even if the changes are for the better, and DuckTales HD looks like it changes a lot from the classic NES game it’s based on. People who have actually played Capcom and WayForward’s remake say that despite the new aesthetic, the game plays and feels like classic DuckTales, but of course, despite those reassuring impressions, there are still people out there who are angry that Capcom had to gall to tamper with a classic (cue the usual hyperbolic posts about a company “ruining my childhood,” as though a remake somehow negates the existence of the original version.) While I’m not a fan of the game’s polygonal, 2.5D backgrounds, as a fan of the original game, I’ll still do my best to approach the remake with an open mind. It’s a shame that so many other fans of the original aren’t willing to do the same.
Gamers’ willingness to prejudge FFX HD and DuckTales HD prove that (just like with sequels,) there’s no way to make everyone happy. It’s a no-win situation: if you keep the game the same and provide an accurate port, people will complain about the lack of anything new and accuse you of rehashing your old games. If you change things, and try to update the game with modern graphics and features, people will complain that it’s too different and they’ll accuse of you ruining your old games.
I’d like to posit my usual stance on matters like this: it doesn’t matter if they change everything or keep it exactly the same, as long as the game is still good (i.e. fun to play,) then the developers have succeeded. Now, I’m not saying that FFX HD and DuckTales HD are guaranteed to be great games — there’s always the chance that Square or Capcom will completely screw things up — but you’re not doing anybody any favors by dismissing these games before you play them. It’s a matter of personal preference if you feel that retro re-releases should be faithful, 100% accurate direct ports of the original titles or if you think they should be completely remade to take advantage of new technology, but if you’re refusing to play something because you’ve prejudged it as being “too different” or a “rehash,” then the only thing you’ve done is deny yourself a possibly entertaining experience.
This Week’s Retro Releases:
Fatal Frame 2 (PS3, $9.99)
All of the games in the Fatal Frame series are pretty good, but Fatal Frame 2 is widely regarded as the best. FF2 manages to maintain the creepy, unsettling atmosphere of the original game while featuring more polished enemy encounters, more locations to explore, and multiple endings to unlock. Despite the now dated graphics, the game is still scary as all hell, and it’s definitely worth the $10 to download, especially when you consider that PS2 copies of the game usually go for three or four times that price. Fatal Frame 2 is definitely the best retro release of the week.
Balloon Fight (3DS, $4.99)
Balloon Fight was a great game when it was originally released (think of it as Nintendo’s version of Joust,) and while it’s still fun today, it’s hard to justify the game’s $5 price when there are meatier, deeper games on the 3DS e-Shop for the same price (or less.) It might be worth picking up if you’re looking for a simple, arcadey title to kill a few minutes at a time with, but anybody looking for an experience with some longevity might want to look elsewhere.
Mega Man 4 (3DS, $4.99)
Mega Man 4 gets a bad rap: sure, it’s not as good the three Mega Man games that came before it (or 9 for that matter,) but it’s not a terrible game either. While Mega Man 4 is definitely lacking some of the charm and polish that made the first three games so memorable, it’s still a solid, well made platformer by most standards. Since the game originally came out pretty late in the NES’s lifespan, it’s also one of the most technically advanced and visually impressive games for the system. You should definitely pick up the first 3 Mega Man games first, but if you’ve already played those games to death, MM4 makes for a decent diversion. At the very least, it’s substantially better than some of the Mega Man games that came after it…
Xevious (Wii U, $4.99)
Xevious was a technical marvel when it originally hit arcades 30 (!) years ago, but nowadays, it’s a hard game to recommend, especially with the Wii U Virtual Console’s inflated pricing. The gameplay still provides some simple, primitive fun, but shoot-em-up’s have come a long way since 1982. If you simply have to have Xevious, I’d recommend picking up the 3D Classics version of the game on the 3DS instead: you get the same game with some added bonus features for about the same price.
Solomon’s Key (Wii U, $4.99)
Solomon’s Key is a puzzle-platformer originally released by Tecmo in 1987. The game’s main gimmick is based around the main character’s ability to create and destroy blocks that he can use as platforms: you’ll need to carefully use the blocks to create a path from the entrance of each stage to the exit. Like Xevious, Solomon’s Key was a pretty great game when it was originally released, but I’m not sure most modern gamers will feel like they’re getting $5 worth of entertainment out of it: puzzle-platformers have evolved a lot over the last few years, and Solomon’s Key just feels kind of simple and plain by comparison.