The End of a Generation - Play it Again


I'm writing a series of posts about the games and consoles of the seventh generation (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PSP and DS). This will include a Top 20 countdown, thoughts on the industry, silly pictures and whatever else comes to mind.

Seventy per cent of games released between 2005 and 2013 included the words three, five or HD in their title. A shocking and wildly inaccurate statistic, but you can't really blame publishers for wanting to capitalise on our longing for nostalgia and familiarity. Basically, once we'd agreed to pay £7 for a digital copy of Old Super Mario Something, we were fucked.

Iteration was trendy, retro re-releases were in and HD collections were everywhere in the 7th Generation, and I was part of the problem.  While I pined for exciting new IPs, I still lapped up rehashed versions of old favourites and paid premium coin to enjoy new (for me) experiences from previous eras. Some of my favourite games this gen have been of the recycled variety, and since they won’t feature in my Top 20 Favourite Games of the 7th Gen (see Rule #3), I'll name-check a few of them here.

Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions (PSP-2007) is the definitive version of one of my all-time favourite games. It added beautiful cel-shaded cut scenes, new episodes, characters and classes and also benefited from a new, less Jenglishy translation. The move to portable was a welcome one, as it is the exact kind of deep and nuanced experience that I like on my handhelds, and I’d love to see the series continue on either 3DS or Vita.

I also adored the enhanced port of Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together (PSP-2011). Yasumi Matsuno, director of the SNES original and classics such as Vagrant Story and of course FF Tactics, reunited with the original development team to work on this critically acclaimed re-release. I found Tactics Ogre to be even more of a challenge than FF Tactics and the story even more obtuse, but I was still enthralled. If I were to include remakes and ports in my Top 20, Tactics Ogre would have been in the running for one of the final places, and FF Tactics would have challenged for the top spot.

My PSP and DS collections are full of ports. EA Replay (PSP-2006) allowed me to relive the 90s with two of my favourite Mega Drive games, Road Rash 3 and Desert Strike, and the Sega Mega Drive Collection (PSP-2006/7) was a chance to catch up with a few more old friends. The much celebrated Chrono Trigger (2008/9) and the oft forgotten Final Fantasy III (2006/7) were two of my favourite DS games; if it was Square-Enix, unoriginal and on a 7th Gen handheld, I probably played it!


Nintendo was on to a winner with the Virtual Console service, and the retro love soon spread to Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. Before long we could download everything from Super Metroid to Final Fantasy VII, Alex Kidd in Miracle World to Metal Slug. Whether you wanted to reminisce about a game you played years ago, or take the opportunity to play something you missed the first time around, the 7th Generation had you covered.

The HD update was a popular feature of the outgoing gen, and was applied to games and series that ranged from the sublime to the thoroughly forgettable. The Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (Various-2011/12) was a beautiful thing. It was an excuse to fall in love with Metal Gear Solid 3 all over again, remind myself that MGS2 is a lot better than I give it credit for and to be severely disappointed by Peace Walker – that is a game I really should have played on the PSP first, with friends.

Rez HD (2007) was a good reason to turn on my 360, and while it was not running in high definition, Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition (2007) was excellent and worked surprisingly well with motion controls. I didn't bother with the proper HD version of RE4, but then how many versions of the same game do really you need? Two maximum, unless it's Snake Eater in which case the correct answer is at least five. Thanks to the Team Ico Collection (PS3-2011), I finally played Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, two games that I had missed on the PS2.  While I could appreciate its importance, I wasn't totally enamoured with Ico, but in SOTC I discovered a quiet masterpiece, one that I would probably have missed if not for the HD re-issue.

Rest assured, re-masters, updates and vanilla re-releases will continue to feature in the next gen. With a thinning launch line up, Sony are already talking-up prettier versions of older games on their new hardware (Flower etc.) and Earthbound's appearance on Wii U Virtual Console was a rare bright spot in a difficult year for Nintendo's home console. I will groan when the Uncharted PS4 Compatible Collection is released in 2015, and roll my eyes when Microsoft unveils Halo: Even More HD in six weeks’ time, but hey, that’s video games. And besides, I'd definitely pay £20 for Uncharted 2 on the PS4.

Comments

  1. Playing Shadow of the Colossus in 3D was the high point of all this for me, since I also missed that in the ps2 era. I wanted to like ICO, but the fights were just so awful, and so frequent. (I actually had the exact same complaint about Bioshock Infinite. Stop shooting at me for 2 minutes and let me explore the amazing city! Apparently this is not a trend I'm going to escape any time soon.)

    I wish I still had the patience for Metal Gear games. I start them, remember what a huge investment they are to play correctly, and end up shifting them to the "I will watch a more dedicated person play this later!" list. Probably how a lot of people feel about Monster Hunter. haha

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I don't tend to enjoy 3D, but SOTC is a game that I wish I could have played in an extra dimension.

      That bloody stick ruined ICO.

      Better off playing the MGS games incorrectly than not at all!

      Cheers

      Delete
  2. I'm still waiting for Knights of the Old Republic to jump to HD. My high point with HD so far actually isn't from this gen, it's Wind Waker which is the best HD update I've seen both graphically and in gameplay improvements. Highlights I played for the first time were Metal Gear Solid 3 (first by a wide margin) Chrono Trigger, and Perfect Dark. Highlights I replayed would be Pokemon Heartgold (again first by a wide margin), Phoenix Wright HD, Resident Evil 4, SotC, Ratchet and Clank: UYA, Halo, and Metroid Prime.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Think I'll probably pick up Wind Waker HD at some point. I should play Ocarina of Time too, or any Zelda game for that matter. An hour with OoT is the extent of my experience with Zelda, to my shame.

      You can't beat Snake Eater!

      Cheers

      Delete
  3. It's always fun to hear how people feel about re-makes, HD collections and remastered editions. I loved the idea of HD collections because it lets those who weren't of that generation play games they missed out on and for those like you and I it lets us relive some great times and see just how much we've grown.

    I loved the MGS HD collection because I got to finally play Peace Walker and Tomb Raider was an all new experience for me. I hadn't played a Tomb Raider game since I was no more than 8 on the PC. I still remember my brother helping me get past a very hard puzzle and accidentally saving over his own file in the process. He was so mad and I felt so bad that I got my file to were he had left his off and gave him my save.

    But as great and as much fun as I had with HD collections I too wouldn't be able to put them on an all time top 20 list.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I have great memories of playing the original Tomb Raider on the Saturn. I played it again a few years ago, on the same console, so I didn't feel the need to bother with Anniversary. Really enjoyed the reboot though.

      Cheers

      Delete
  4. This made me think about how most of the HD collections/remakes I got were of games I already played... haha. Not sure what that says about me. I know I partly bought them to support franchises I loved. It obviously helped in some cases. I mean I bought that Team ICO collection and they clearly fast tracked The Last Guardian as a result so that was a plus. Unfortunately Ico's stick did not improve by being in HD.

    My favorite legitimate remakes (not just HD updates) were Tomb Raider Anniversary (though I got this on PS2 first so maybe not a 7th gen game) and Prince of Persia Classic. Both helped make a couple games I loved back in the day a little more enjoyable since they hadn't aged great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! Perhaps we should have bought more copies of the ICO collection? If we ever get The Last Guardian, I'll be pleasantly surprised. I'm setting my expectations very low. Coming 2017....

      Cheers

      Delete

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