Remasters of games have become a popular trend in the modern video gaming era. Publishers love them because they guarantee lucrative earnings with relative effort. Gamers love them because they give the chance to replay famous titles with improved graphics. It is a phenomenon which does not appear to be slowing down.
This 2018 already set us off to a trip down memory lane with various juicy remasters, such as the Devil May Cry HD Collection, but the best is yet to come for gamers. In particular, communities have built up a great hype around two upcoming titles. The first one, due on May 25, is Dark Souls Remastered. The second one, due somewhere later this year, is the Shenmue I & II HD Remaster.
Both will likely be huge successes, and for the same reason. They are remasters of titles that most, not only consider masterpieces, but that also represent milestones in the video gaming history. They helped innovate the concept of videogame. Back in 2000, Shenmue shocked the world with the first real and successful attempt to offer an open-world experience at disposal of the gamer. In 2011, Dark Souls introduced a brand-new idea of third person combat system which revolutionised the RPG genre. Such premises are sure to make fans shiver with excitement for these new releases.
However, while the original games share some similarities, the meanings behind their remasters are quite different. In fact, they sit at the two opposites ends of the spectrum of why remasters are made nowadays.
Back to Lordran
From Software’s decision to bring back the first Dark Souls generated fans’ joy and hype. Yet, it also gave critics enough arguments to confront it. The core is that this remaster mostly satisfy profit needs.
One of the main arguments is that a remastered version of Dark Souls wasn’t so necessary. The game came out seven years ago, not so far back to be outside player’s memory. Plus, a partial restoration had already been made with its porting on PC, Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition released in 2012.
The remaster seems to have completely solved the stability issues that had always affected the original Dark Souls in terms of graphics and frame rate. However, critics noted that the game was not in dire need of restoration. The goal of 1080p resolution with rock-solid 60fps had already been achieved by the dsfix mod on PC.
Another very important reason behind the decision of making this remaster was apparently the issue of retro-compatibility. A PS3 game such Dark Souls is not playable on PS4, condemning it to oblivion on an old console. The critics said that this problem is not solved just by the remasters. In fact, it might easily happen again when Sony will release the PS5. After all, there are still no certainty that the new console will support game from its predecessors.
In general, critics say that all the technical arguments in favour of a Dark Souls remaster can be challenged. The only one that is undisputed is the fact the From Software will see a notable spike in its earnings.
Shenmue is Back
The matter with the Shenmue I & II HD remaster is different. Of course, it’s likely that SEGA thought of profit when it decided to remaster these two titles. But, there are other motivations to examine. For clarity’s sake, let’s consider the same arguments which critics raised when debating the Dark Souls remaster.
Firstly, the necessity of the remaster. Compared to Dark Souls, Shenmue I & II are much older games. While still very famous, they mostly reside in the imaginary of many gamers rather than in their actual memory. Bringing them back will surely rekindle the passion of old fans while sparking the one of younger generations.
In term of pure graphic remaster, it is obvious how the restoration will benefit these titles. After all, although hailed as visually astonishing when released, they are still child of aged technology. From a graphics standpoint, we are talking about pre-history.
As for the matter of compatibility, both Shenmue I & II originally came out for SEGA’s own console, Dreamcast, now a vintage item. Only later they were released for Xbox. In light of this, the argument for re-publish them on PS4 makes more sense than ever if you think about these original platforms.
One last argument is that this remaster is coming as a backup for the launch of Shenmue III. Giving the players the opportunity to replay the first two chapters of Ryo Hazuki story before letting them experience the third one is more than a profitable market stunt.
In the end, by looking at these two remasters, it is possible to detect the entire scope of why they are so popular. In some cases, they tilt towards a profit-biased mindset, in others they serve as tangible user-friendly operations. Every time, however, they seem to be successful.