More often than not, where there’s smoke there’s fire. This is true for the wilderness and typically for the Game industry. Although not officially confirmed by Warner Brother’s Interactive, IGN Italy recently reported that a Remastered release of the first two Batman Arkham games might be headed to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sometime later this year. Such timing would make sense given that Arkham Knight, the last chapter in Rocksteady’s Batman trilogy, is scheduled for release at the end of June.
While the actual existence of the remaster remains uncertain, the mere notion of such a collection has caused a stir in the “gaming world.” Various journalists have wholly rejected the idea of an Arkham re-release, with Kinda Funny Games’ Colin Moriarty even declaring that “this shit is out of control.” “This Shit” of course referring to the continued release of older games on newer consoles as a somewhat popular practice for this generation; The Arkham collection would be the second Remaster reveal in a week, after God of War 3 Remasterd was announced on Friday.
It would be easy to consider this trend a recent problem, yet such a conclusion would be incorrect. One could easily look back at the days of the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 to discover a library of HD Collections consisting of Ratchet and Clank, Splinter Cell, Sly Cooper, and Halo: Combat Evolved just to name a few. Those very familiar with the practice could even cite 2002’s Ocarina of Time/Master Quest promotion, as well as the following year’s The Legend of Zelda Collection which contained four previously released Zelda games.
The truth is, this practice is not recent nor is it truly a problem and those who take issue with the concept seem to be ignoring the fact that releasing older games is a greater benefit to the industry than it is a detriment.
Lorne Lanning of Oddworld Inhabitants once declared that video games are largely a “disposable medium” based on how games are affiliated with their respective generation. In the years passed, a Super Nintendo game stayed a Super Nintendo game, locked into a cartridge intended for a specific media player. Classic games required classic systems and it was up to the hardware’s owner to keep and maintain these machines. Video games have always progressed in a linear fashion, dealing with the contemporary and lending attention to what is present and new, over what is old and retro. Other various mediums, such as film and text, celebrate their watershed releases outside of simple nostalgia, opting instead to keep their greats current and relevant with subsequent releases. Great books are reprinted and films are doctored for better quality depending on the most recent format available.
As it stands, video games are no longer attached to a certain generation and in several examples, such as last month’s Majora’s Mask rerelease, the classics can still maintain significant sway with fans. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, a decade old game, is granted a new life on the WiiU in a similar fashion Star Wars is when released on Blu-Ray. Both can be enjoyed by a newer, younger generation. In this fashion a remaster can guarantee longevity and legacy, thus allowing a great PlayStation 2 game the ability to remain great 15 years later, sans PS2.
Of course there are personal benefits of the remaster as well, especially in the case of the Arkham series. As noted earlier, the last chapter in the trilogy, Arkham Knight, is set for a summer release of this year. Having enjoyed both Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City last generation, the notion of experiencing them in with better quality isn’t unappealing. Not only does a re-release guarantee technical advancements, it offers the conveyance of an entire trilogy on one console. More importantly, the greatest benefit isn’t to someone who has already played the Arkham games but is instead for the newcomers fresh to the series.
Offering all the Arkham trilogy on one console allows someone to catchup on the series before the ultimate installment. Such an approach is beneficial not only to the consumer, but the developer as well. Too often, the rhetoric of “not needing to play the previous installments” has been promised in regards to story, resulting in a narrative that is crafted to protect the interests of those unfamiliar with the series by either boring the player with exposition or minimalizing the impact of the previous game’s effect on the latest sequel. By allowing someone to play all the installments of a franchise without the obstruction of different hardware a developer can craft a game based on the immediate story as opposed to worrying about bringing audience members up to pace with the installment itself.
It’s worth noting that this console generation is balanced differently than its predecessor. Numbers and internet chatter can easily indicate that a fair share of PlayStation 4 owners migrated over from the Xbox 360 and vice-versa. An Xbox owner last gen turned PS4 user would have missed out on titles like The Last of Us, releasing the game gives it a new life with new fans. Continued franchises like Uncharted 4 and the semi-announced God of War 4 can extend their fanbase by allowing fans the ability to catchup before a new release, hence why we are perhaps getting God of War 3 and not another installment.
Perhaps the most damming misconception by critics of the practice is the fear that a remaster somehow takes resources away from a new game. There is no evidence to suggest such a fear has any bearing on new releases and in reality the exact opposite might be true. 4A Game’s re-release of their Metro games, dubbed the Metro Redux, has gained the series better exposure and allowed the developer the resources needed to continue development on the franchise. Remasters and re-releases can often be used to gauge interest in an older franchise revival, such as the case of Beyond Good and Evil and how it ignited interest for a sequel.
The benefits of game remasters certainly outweigh what few cons are present. While the practice has, and will continue to have, critics it is important to acknowledge that re-releasing games offer fans a look back into the past as well as a glimpse into the future for a particular franchise or studio.