After watching the trailer for the Okami ‘HD’ version, I have to wonder why there’s an HD trend. Some games—Okami and FFX come to mind—already had such high-quality visuals and stylized graphics that an increase in resolution is barely noticeable or impressive. Is it because consumers need new copies of the game, since older generation consoles are getting cycled out? If so, why wouldn’t a digital release suffice? There are plenty of classics already available on all systems. The answer is, quite simply, the developers and publishers releasing the HD remakes are just grabbing for money.
The graphics of the so-called HD games barely differ from the originals—a texture swap, a slight increase in polygons, and a higher render resolution, and developers call it a day. Let’s be honest, not everyone reading this has a huge TV screen or a projector that can display the games at a resolution where it can be truly appreciated—but even if they did, the differences are minimal to begin with. The graphics upgrade in Ocarina of Time 3DS wasn’t much of an upgrade at all—you can still see the sharp edges of the characters and the textures are still very limited—but thankfully Nintendo didn’t try to market it as HD.
Because developers make more money through half-baked remakes than actual re-releases, they go ahead and shovel out ‘HD’ versions without actually improving the gaming experience. Thinking of the customers, a digital release of the original through PSN, Club Nintendo, or XBLA might be a better use of resources, but instead the remakes are introduced to new consoles in an attempt to gain new players. While that’s not an entirely bad motive—afterall, more fans of the series means more support for the series—the gamers who originally purchased these games don’t exactly have something to look forward to. And yet, games like this continue to be hyped.
Adding more content to the game beyond just graphics does justify it, but none of the Okami, Oddworld, Jet Set Radio, or Final Fantasy X HD versions have had new content announced. The only things we see in their commercials and news releases are simple facelifts—and for some reason this is considered good practice. According to game site Andriasang’s translation of a Q&A session with the Square Enix CEO, Yoichi Wada said that the company would not make a Final Fantasy VII remake until they succeed in making a Final Fantasy game that exceeds its quality. This gives me a little faith when it comes to the Final Fantasy X remake—perhaps they actually will do something to make it worth an extra $40 instead of just better particle effects.
Perhaps its time for other companies to take the same stance when it comes to HD remakes—only remake the games if it’s fallen out of relevance, and only do it to challenge a competitor, not simply for profit. Yes, the game industry does run on money, and game developers might be feeling pressure in the current economy to make money out of stuff they already have. However, the best way to draw in new money is still to make new content—it’s a gamble, but many of these companies and franchises already have so many fans that development costs are already guaranteed to be recovered.