Oooooooooh, this one's a doozy. The ground rules are simple: USG's resident Magical Genie has promised to wave her magical wand over any game you nominate, instantly granting it stunning, top-of-the-line, 1080p HD graphics and state-of-the-art sound.
Whatever your game is, you can be guaranteed that it'll be an absolute beaut.
However, there is a catch: No change will be made to the gameplay at all. This is purely a cosmetic makeover, so choose wisely! While you ponder which old game you'd love to see brought back to life with killer audio-visuals, here are Team USG's picks.
I mean, no surprises here, right? Of course I was going to say Final Fantasy XII. It's a no-brainer for me.
I love FFXII — I spent something like 100 hours with the game, and I'd still be playing it if I had anything like free time. And, er, if my backward-compatible PS3 hadn't given up the ghost. What better justification for an HD remaster than that?
But there's more to it than my own obsessive tendencies and convenience. For starters, Square has reissued pretty much every single Final Fantasy game prior to FFXII — FFXI excepted, given that as an MMO it's still an ongoing concern — so FFXII is next in line. And unlike many HD remasters, FFXII wouldn't break the bank for Square Enix; back at GDC 2007, the FFXII art team showed off the super-high-resolution art assets they used and downsampled for the PS2 game. The HD version is pretty much already sitting there in their servers! They just need to put a fancy PS4 (or Vita, one hopes?) wrapper around it and we're good.
There's also another compelling reason for a Final Fantasy XII remaster: The original game was a bit of a mess in places, and it's already been fixed. In Japan, and Japan only, a revision of the game called the International Zodiac Job Version appeared after the U.S. release of FFXII, and it totally overhauled the class system and license board. By all accounts, it's the definitive way to play FFXII, and Americans have never (legally) been able to play it in their own language. A remaster would be a great opportunity for Square Enix to rectify this wrong.
And really, don't you think I should be allowed to add one last Final Fantasy to my Vita home screen?
I had to think long and hard about this one. There are so many games I'd love to see updated with cutting-edge graphics, but when I really think about most of them - and I'm talking old stuff - their old-fashioned gameplay would probably frustrate or bore me after a while.
However, one old game I do think I'd go back to and thoroughly enjoy is Rare's Blast Corps. It has a difficulty level typical of a Rare game - ie, very hard - but even so, its fundamentals are sound. Keeping your nuclear missile safe as it trundles inexorably towards its goal is still an entertaining concept. The handling and functionality of the different vehicles is geared for fun, and of course, the game's action is still frantic and stressful - in the right kind of way.
When I initially thought about it, my memory of the game was of it having top-notch graphics, so I was concerned that I'd be wasting my "wish." But when I checked it out, I realized the last time I looked at it was probably 16 years ago, and what was good then certainly is not good now. Fuzzy textures, dubious clipping points, a distinct lack of detail and animation: this game looks very dated now. But underneath the smudgy cosmetics is classic, so switch them out with HD buildings and landscape, super-detailed vehicles, and awesome animation and effects, and I think you'd have a brilliant game that'd be just as fresh now as it was back in the latter years of the last century.
Just bring your A-game, because it won't be easy.
If we're mining the past and shining things up at the same time, I'm going to ask for an HD remaster of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Bioware's RPG set in a galaxy far, far away was the game that brought me into their fold. Prior to that, I had heard of the Baldur's Gate games, but I was never a huge Dungeon & Dragons fan, so I quietly skipped them. Having gone back after the fact, I'd say that was my loss.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was a complete eye-opener, drawing players into a galactic conflict of Jedi and Sith with their amnesiac main character at the center. This was my introduction to Western RPGs altogether and it was an amazing one. Strong characters, heady choices, and the romance; KOTOR defined what a Bioware game was for me.
Since then, the studio has undeniably improved their presentation with Mass Effect and Dragon Age and that expertise can be brought to bear on Knights of the Old Republic. Seriously, imagine those great KOTOR moments with the technology and cinematic knowhow of Bioware today. Revan, Bastila, HK-47, Jolee Bindo, Darth Malak, and the rest of the cast with improved character models? The final moments on Taris in full HD? Day-one purchase for me.
And if they wanted to do Knights of the old Republic II at the same time, I wouldn't be opposed.
There you go, Final Fantasy fans. I want a remake of Final Fantasy VII. Feel free to exhume the debate that everyone has been having ever since Cloud leapt off the train in that fully-remastered PlayStation 3 tech demo from 2005. You know which side I'm on now.
I'm now come almost full circle in my opinion on Final Fantasy VII. Back in 1999, I was firmly convinced that it was the finest RPG ever made, and that there wasn't any contest. Then in 2003 or so, I became convinced that it was a fine game, but that it was desperately overrated. Now I'm back to liking it again, if only because I appreciate what it accomplished back in 1997.
While I can admire it in the abstract though, I have a hard time playing it anymore. Frankly, between the disjointed art styles, the bad localization, the somewhat plodding pace, and the nearly impenetrable story (at least for anyone not willing to delve into the source material), it simply hasn't aged terribly well. I've picked it up again once or twice on a lark in the years since college, but I've nearly always put it down again soon after.
A good HD remake would do a lot to bring out the best elements of Final Fantasy VII; provided, of course, that it didn't end up going full Advent Children (always a danger with a remake like this). Apart from the improved graphics, I would love for a remake that could do more to elaborate on the often confusing story, build on the entertaining but somewhat simplistic Materia System, and pick up the pace just a bit. And, of course, bonus content would be welcome as well.
All I would ask would be that they not mess with the ending too much, which was pretty much perfect. Also, let Rufus stay dead, please. Seriously, Advent Children ruined everything.
Anyway, I know that my desire for a Final Fantasy VII remake is mostly me pining for the late 90s, when anime was just being to blow up, there were only 151 Pokemon, and the Star Wars prequels had unlimited potential. I know that a lot of it is nostalgia and that particular moment in gaming history is gone forever. But just once, I would like to play Final Fantasy VII as I remember it: big, beautiful, and incredibly ambitious. In the meantime, I guess I'll just have to settle for the modded version on PC.
Full disclosure: I was going to make my pick Final Fantasy IX, but seeing as Jeremy and Kat already chose installments from this series, I don't want to run the risk of our readers thinking we have secret ties to Square-Enix—or that we're a bunch of hopeless RPG nerds (even if we are).
So, I'll go with choice number two: Katamari Damacy and We Love Katamari, which could presumably find their way into some sort of bundle pack to make the prospect of playing old games more appealing.
Why these two games out of all the others I could have chosen? Well, 2005's We Love Katamari is criminally unavailable on PSN, almost as if the publisher just wants us to forget those brief moments when they weren't a Naruto factory. But really, even with its simple geometry and flat-shaded polygons, both Katamari games pushed the limits of what the PS2 could do, and suffered a little at times for their ambition. I'm not sure if you've tried these games on an HDTV lately, but they seem to run at a resolution even lower than the system's standard, simply for the sake of having a bunch of crazy crap happen on your screen at once. My HD treatment wouldn't be that ambitious: refit these games for the 16:9 aspect ratio, get them running on new consoles and the PC. If Bandai-Namco hurries, they can get this thing out before the 10th anniversary of the sequel.
An HD remaster for Katamari would really be for the sake of preservation. The handful of sequels without the creator's input may make us forget just how much of an impact the first Katamari made, but there's a reason the first two games receive so much praise from press and fans alike. And with our current gen's continued focus on Hollywood glitz and glamour, I think we could all use a little madcap fun with the Prince of All Cosmos and his rolling ball of death.
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