There has never been a better time to be a retro gamer than right now. Old games are continually being re-released on download services like Steam and PSN, Amazons opened a retro-gaming store, emulators have allowed thousands of old-school games to be (illegally) circulated online, and bargain bins are jam-packed with the best games of the last console generation. Of course, there are some drawbacks, especially with that last thing. With a few exceptions, last-gen games tend to look terrible on HD TVs, and for those of us whove gotten hooked on Achievements or Trophies, finding the motivation to pick up some overlooked classic or old favorite without the promise of meaningless awards can be difficult.
Thats why HD collections are such a godsend they make older games look amazing (or at least as good as we remember them), bundle them together for cheap, and entice us back in with potentially easy Trophies and/or Achievements. Theyve been on a roll lately, too and in fact, since we last ran an article like this, six of the 13 HD remakes we daydreamed about have become a reality. Seeing as one of those was the Devil May Cry HD Collection, which shipped last week, now seems like a good time to renew our pleas for the ones that havent been made yet and to throw in a few more wed like to see come true, along with mocked-up cover art for good measure.
Silent Hill and Resident Evil are widely regarded as the two best and most important horror franchises of the past decade and hey, look at that, both series recently got the HD treatment. But theres another horror series from the PS2/Xbox era that doesnt come up in conversation quite as often. One thats given us some of the most frightening moments weve ever experienced in any game, ever.
Fatal Frames concept use a magic camera to fight off ghosts sounds silly on paper. However, the series dark, cramped interiors and slow-moving first-person fight sequences seamlessly combined to create a sense of claustrophobic tension, which was only worsened when pale, disfigured specters slowly crawled out of dark spaces and floated forward to menace you close up. The games and their scares still hold up alarmingly well, but as much as their blurriness adds to the ethereal feel of the game, wed still like to see them get a fresh coat of paint and a second chance at life.
Legacy of Kain
From about 1999 to 2003, the Legacy of Kain series became a widespread obsession with gamers. Known for nuanced storytelling, unconventional protagonists, amazing boss fights and rich Shakespearean baritones, the series raised the bar for writing and acting in games, and pulled players along an increasingly complicated narrative that involved vampires, altered timestreams, soul-eating and a centuries-long war between two ancient, alien races. And then it just sort of went away.
Now that thereve been rumors of a possible reboot, however, interest in the series has picked up a little, and what better way to reacquaint ourselves with the series than to play through versions of its latter four chapters that dont look muddy (and reward us for our dedication with fatter gamerscores)? Better still, we could go through the whole story in one fell swoop; any cliffhanger endings would just be an incentive to start up the next game.
And yeah, realistically, we probably wouldnt get the original PSOne/Dreamcast Soul Reaver (as depicted in our mockup box art above) if this actually happened which would be a shame, because it was arguably the best game in the series, as well as a much better entry point than Soul Reaver 2. But hey, this isnt about what we think well see, its about what we want to see. (And while were on the topic, we wouldnt say no to an HD-optimized version of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, either.)
Another example of a series that once captured our imaginations but hasnt been heard from in years, Onimusha is overdue for a comeback. Blending Resident Evil-style exploration and horror elements with Devil May Cry-esque hack-and-slash and leveling up, Onimusha followed multiple samurai protagonists through demon-fighting adventures in feudal Japan (with a quick, lavish-looking detour through modern-day Paris thrown in toward the end).
Ideally, an HD edition would bring together at least the original trilogy (preferably with the Genma Onimusha version of the first game, which featured added content, greater difficulty and a creepy doll that chased you relentlessly through the game), but because this is a wish list, wed love to see it bring in Dawn of Dreams as well. The fourth Onimusha game, it took place about 15 years after the events of Onimusha 3, featured a new protagonist and had the misfortune to ship in March 2006, when everyones attention was focused on the just-released Xbox 360 and the impending PlayStation 3 and Wii. Tossing it into an HD collection would give it a second chance at life and more importantly, give those who ignored it the first time around an excuse to play through it.
Oh, and as long as were dreaming? Hearing Jean Reno record his own English lines in Onimusha 3, instead of stand-in Paul Mercier, would be fantastic.
Back before all shooters had to be ultra-serious and ultra-realistic, TimeSplitters carved out a niche for itself with a blend of overt silliness, wildly varied action, excellent multiplayer and three games that didnt really have much to do with each other aside from a habit of jumping around through different time periods. The series was with the last generation from its start (the first game launched alongside the PlayStation 2), making it seem especially worthy of HD preservation.
There is some hope on this front, though. In a 2008 interview about Timesplitters 4, David Doak, head of developer Free Radical, mentioned that hed be interested in remaking TimeSplitters 2 widely considered the best game in the series with HD visuals and online multiplayer. That sounds great, and now that Free Radicals been bought out of bankruptcy by Crytek, it could become a reality sometime in the future. But if theyre going to remake one, why not all three? Or at least, you know, throw Future Perfect in there as well?
Hey! We're halfway there. Okami has been revealed to be getting a digital release on the PlayStation 3 with Move support, but we don't want it to stop there. We want it bundled with Clovers first two Viewtiful Joe games, too - and we want it on the Xbox 360 as well.
For the many who ignored it when it appeared on the PS2 Viewtiful Joe 1 and 2, were goofy, side-scrolling brawlers that continually broke the fourth wall, and gave their hero time-manipulation powers that made for some satisfyingly dramatic punching and kicking. Alone, HD remakes of these games would be a curiosity for fans to track down online. Together, theyd be damn near unstoppable. (And while their cel-shaded graphics still hold up fairly well, an HD cleanup couldnt hurt.)
Dark Cloud/Rogue Galaxy
Before Professor Layton became its signature franchise, developer Level-5 did a lot of close work with Sony, creating two noteworthy, PS2-exclusive role-playing franchises: Dark Cloud and Rogue Galaxy. The first two Dark Cloud games (the second of which was released as Dark Chronicle in Japan and Europe) mixed randomly generated dungeon-delving with a unique city-building mechanic, letting players find pieces of villages inside dungeons and place them in the game world. Rogue Galaxy, meanwhile, was more of a traditional Japanese RPG, albeit one with insanely fun real-time battles, bug-raising minigames and space pirates.
Both franchises were fantastic experiences in their own rights, and both have been more or less cast aside since 2007 (although Dark Cloud-esque gameplay resurfaced in the underwhelming White Knight Chronicles series). Wed love to see a sequel to either, but a chance to buy them all again as a set would be the next best thing.
Shin Megami Tensei
The Shin Megami Tensei series saw its most prolific period during the PS2 years, with no fewer than eight games released on the platform between 2004 and 2008. A few stood out above the others, though, most notably SMT Nocturne, Persona 3 and Persona 4.
Set in modern-day Japan, the Persona series' occult themes and high-school trappings set them well apart from other RPGs, and their presence on the PS2 helped the dying system go out with a bang. And while a pair of Persona HD remakes seems a lot likelier than what we're suggesting, it'd be a shame to see SMT: Nocturne, with its post-apocalyptic version of Tokyo and party-bulding through demon recruitment, be ignored. Throw all three together, and you've got an irresistible package for RPG fans. Especially nostalgic ones.
Jedi Knight II/Star Wars Battlefront II/Republic Commando
Given the insane number of Star Wars games released during the last console generation, it's kind of tough to nail down just three that deserve a new life as HD remakes of themselves. If the choice were up to us, though, we'd pick these three games from disparate series as the best of early-2000s Star Wars gaming. (Not counting Knights of the Old Republic, of course, but did that ever really need an HD revamp?)
Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast was arguably the pinnacle of the Jedi Knight/Dark Forces series, with players unleashing devastating lightsaber attacks and fire from assorted blasters alongside light and dark Force powers. (Also it had optional lightsaber dismemberment, which is always a plus.) Republic Commando was a sadly overlooked squad-combat game from the days before that was common practice, and Star Wars Battlefront II offered some of the best online-shooter action to grace the last generation of consoles. In the absence of a true sequel, an online-enabled HD version would go a long way toward mollifying the fans who've been crying out for a new Battlefront for years.
Square Enix has plainly stated that creating a PS2-style Final Fantasy game (i.e., not an ongoing tunnel like XIII) is both challenging and expensive. We could be facing a sad reality in which a full-blown Final Fantasy VII remake is technically improbable, so while we all sit here waiting to see what happens with FFXV, Square might as well gussy up the PS2 offerings and give us a slight taste of how beautiful and engrossing a 90s and 00s FF could be.
Since we last pined for HD versions of these games, Final Fantasy X was confirmed for an impending HD remastering and thats a good start. What wed really like to see is for it to be bundled alongside HD versions of series outcast X-2 (which was, in all honesty, a pretty fun departure from the usual so serious Final Fantasy fare) and FFXII (which should have just waited a year and helped launch the PS3 in the first place). If you missed XII thanks to its dogged determination to get buried under PS3/Wii launch hype back in late 2006, getting it as part of a new bundle would bring you up to speed.
And no, we dont want FFXI in there. Not even for free.
Grand Theft Auto
Out of all the awesome games that debuted on the PS2, its hard to think of any wed like to revisit more than Grand Theft Auto III and its two sequels especially if it means they no longer look like blocky ass (and also that we can pick up a few Achievements/Trophies along the way). These games practically invented sandbox gameplay as we know it today, and while GTA IV is fun enough (and GTA V looks like something to get excited about), sometimes we miss the simple joys of jumping motorbikes over rooftops while listening to Flock of Seagulls, or of fighting rival street gangs from the safety of a Vortex fighter jet.
True, the three PS2-era GTA titles have technically already had multiple HD remakes. The Xbox version of the original Trilogy set was 720p-enabled, the PC versions have always looked considerably sharper than anything a console could pump out, and the iPad version of GTA III looks better than it has any right to. If anything, though, that only means an HD remake for current-gen consoles is long overdue. And if Rockstar could maybe modernize the aiming to be more like GTA IVs (or at least bring III and Vice City up to par with San Andreas), thatd practically make the set a must-buy on its own.
We sort of lost track of all the portable entries in the Kingdom Hearts series at some point after Chain of Memories. Let's see there's 358/2 Days, Birth By Sleep, Birth By Sleep Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts Mobile, Coded (which had eight or nine Japan-only episodes?), Re:coded for DS, Dream Drop Distance for 3DS are we missing any other zany subtitles? At any rate, none have quite met the standards set by the original Kingdom Hearts I and II on PS2.
That said, we're still excited for Kingdom Hearts 3D on 3DS, and we'd love to replay the two main entries in the series as a refresher to the notoriously convoluted story. And with Kingdom Hearts III nowhere on the horizon, it makes sense to at least bring KH and KHII to current-gen consoles, where we can enjoy their bright colors and iconic characters in HD.
Although obviously overshadowed by Final Fantasies X, X-2 and XI, the obscure Shadow Hearts franchise carved out its own place in role-playing gamers hearts by somehow blending gothic horror and goofball humor. On one hand, you had sheer terror: demons possessing priests, harvesting of souls, serial killers and the end of the world. On the other hand, you had a fat, alcoholic cat that knew Drunken Fist kung-fu and a flamboyantly gay vampire-turned-wrestler who bludgeoned his enemies with a huge, frozen tuna.
Amazingly, it all worked, perhaps thanks to meaningful characters and epic-yet-personal storylines. Shadow Hearts even had continuity, with the characters and events of one game spawning and influencing those of the next. Sadly, the series third (and admittedly weakest) entry was its last, but all three deserve a second shot at lush, HD-quality life.
Granted, visuals arent really the focus of Harmonixs pre-Guitar Hero/Rock Band releases, so this is more about our personal wish fulfillment than something that could actually happen. There would also probably be licensing hurdles to overcome, what with two catalogs of music that A) contain groups that could ask for more money and B) are songs that could date the series to a specific 2001-2002 time period. However, the gameplay is so alluring, we want to share it with an audience whose only exposure to this type of game includes a pile of plastic instruments.
In a way, you can play Amplitude right now on PSP its called Rock Band Unplugged, and it more or less handles identically to our PS2 obsessions (a similar game, Rock Band Blitz, is due out later this year). The only catch is that its dressed up as a Rock Band game, and lacks the ultra-trippy backgrounds from Frequency and Amplitude, which, to bring it full circle, would undoubtedly look fuggin amazing in HD. Audio may be the focus, but that doesnt mean we cant try to have a fabulously psychedelic seizure.
The Mark of Kri/Rise of the Kasai
Mixing Disney-style animation with M-rated violence is hardly a new idea. But Mark of Kri perhaps did it better than anyone else in the entire decade, effortlessly blending vibrant worlds with gory finishing moves. Kri was a true PS2 gem, offering up a distinct visual style and an amazing combat setup that let you fight groups of enemies with actual combos and skill, not button-mashy silliness. Other abilities, like sending your bird to scout the path ahead, broke up the action and turned it into a Metal Gear-ish stealth affair.
Its sequel didnt turn out as well. While the style and combat remained mostly whole, the reliance on an irritatingly idiotic AI partner (the heros sister Tati) soured the entire experience. In an HD remake, it could be possible to finally add online co-op (or same system, wed take that too!), fixing the games most glaring flaw and perhaps endearing a whole new generation to this shouldve-been-a-blockbuster franchise. Plus, those animated cutscenes would probably drop our jaws all over again.
In case you missed them, Primal and Ghosthunter were a couple of relatively obscure games made by Sonys European arm (although Ghosthunter was published by Namco in the US). Primal, released in 2003, was an adventure starring a gothy young woman with a gargoyle sidekick and the power to transform into different species of demon (something that may or may not have been influenced by the legendary SNES game Demons Crest). Ghosthunter, meanwhile, was an alternately goofy and horrifying adventure that had a lot of similarities with the 80s Real Ghostbusters cartoon.
Aside from their paranormal bent, the two games had a few things in common: neither of them had spectacular gameplay, for starters, but they made up for it with gobs of creepy atmosphere and some high-end stories and presentations (particularly Ghosthunter, which featured Sir Michael Gambon voicing one of the most fascinating game villains ever). And both ended up largely ignored and forgotten at retail.
Its a shame, really, because in spite of their flaws, these are both top-flight productions. An HD makeover would be a perfect way to highlight that, while giving them a second chance with a new audience that might be a little more accepting of subdued adventure games. Sure, its wildly unlikely, considering that neither game sold well enough to merit further attention from Sony, but again, this list is about what we want to see not what we think we will.
The ones that came true
As we mentioned on the first page, six of the collections we imagined back in 2010 have since become reality, so its not too much of a stretch to think that it could happen to more of the ones weve mentioned, if we just wait long enough. In the meantime, though, we thought itd be fun to compare the ideas and boxes we came up with two years ago to the ones that actually came out. Over the next few slides, our old mockups will be on the left; the real ones will be on the right.
Let's start with the Devil May Cry HD Collection, above, since it's the most timely. We cheated a little here, using an existing box for the PS2 Devil May Cry 5th Anniversary Collection and just changing the number. The actual HD collection box has more of a sense of immediacy to it, but it also uses the slightly perplexing "CLASSICS HD" motif (which nearly all European versions of HD collections seem to use), which means it has "HD" in big letters twice, almost right next to each other. Also, that's kind of a janky font they used for "HD Collection."
The Silent Hill HD Collection
Wow, we mis-predicted this one on three counts. First, we assumed it'd be PS3-exclusive (although to be fair, HD-remake collections hadn't really been done on the 360 in 2010). Second, we garished up some art of the iconic Pyrmaid Head and a couple undead nurse-things, while the actual box uses a much more understated, tasteful portrait of Maria from Silent Hill 2. We also figured Konami would include all three last-gen Silent Hills, when in fact it stopped short at SH3, ignoring the oft-maligned SH4:The Room. Oh well.
Jak and Daxter Collection
Hey, we were actually kind of close on this one. If we'd just zoomed out a little more on that city, thrown an angry-looking Jak 3 version of the heroes on the right and shuffled the boxes a little, we'd have been even closer. At least Sony saw fit to include all three games in this one.
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
Dammit, Konami, is it too much to ask for a little consistency in what you decide to re-release? Don't get us wrong; we're grateful to have a version of Peace Walker that doesn't require us to lug around our PSPs. It's just that we would have liked to see the original Metal Gear in there, too. It's still a pretty fantastic game. Art-wise, we cheated a little, using the box for the existing PS2 Essential Collection for our mockup (we also wrongly guessed that any new collection would be similarly PlayStation-exclusive), but, uh... at least the art for Metal Gear Solid 2 is the same?
Prince of Persia Trilogy
While the basic composition of our fake box is somewhat similar to the actual Prince of Persia Trilogy, we went in the completely wrong direction with our background, thinking "Arabian Nights" instead of "Desert with lots of sand, and also the Prince in silhouette." In any case, we're happy we finally got it. (And while the real box doesn't advertise this, we would have been right about it being PS3-exclusive, had we actually guessed that would happen.)
Ratchet & Clank Collection
The box at right obviously isn't the final one for the recently announced Ratchet & Clank Collection, but based on the logo alone, we already got something wrong (although the fact that we got the word "COLLECTION" in white text right is pleasantly surprising). And our use of somewhat ropey concept art from the first game probably won't be repeated by Sony. But at least we'll see all three games (that we care about) when the Collection finally arrives this fall.
Obviously, there are a lot of favorites from the last generation that we've left out of this list. Want to tell us which ones you'd like to see made? Let us know in the comments below.