But the biggest improvement, says Eiji Aonuma, director of the original and the remastered Ocarina, is “the overwhelming presence of the world that sprawled out in 3-D space … a new, more convincing world enhanced by the stereoscopic vision of the 3DS.”
Publishers often re-release games for new systems years after their first appearance. But fully remastering games is a newer trend that might pay off as players with HDTVs want games with high-definition graphics, says Ricardo Torres of news site GameSpot.com.
“They are beginning to use the language you see in music and movies. It’s a lot sexier to say ‘We have this remastered thing,'” Torres says. “There’s a desire to play old games with better visuals; the classics don’t hold up too well on an HDTV.”
Though the practice is unlikely to match the millions of dollars studios and labels make by re-issuing older titles, video game remasters “are a way to get more revenue out of their titles,” says Cowen and Company analyst Doug Creutz. “Console makers have a few really big franchises, and they are happy to get as much mileage out of them as they can.”
Upgrades in the works:
Star Fox 64 3D ($40, Sept. 11). Like Ocarina, this 1997 N64 game is being remastered for the 3DS handheld. New features let you control your aircraft by moving the 3DS, play head-to-head and put your image in the game — even sending a live video feed of your face as you battle. “As a way to play a flying game, it is fantastic,” says Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary ($40, Nov. 15, for Xbox 360) will look and sound better than the 2001 Xbox original. Remastered in HD, the game also gets a surround-audio upgrade from Skywalker Sound. Other additions include Xbox Live achievements, multiplayer features and a classic mode that lets you switch between the enhanced graphics and the game’s original look. While “the controls don’t change and the gameplay doesn’t change,” says Halo franchise development director Frank O’Connor of 343 Industries, the new graphics make it “feel like a brand new shooter.”
Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection ($40, Sept. 27, for PS3) bundles a pair of PS2 releases — 2001’s Ico and 2005’s Shadow—on one Blu-ray with 3-D compatibility. Both games, from Team Ico, Sony’s Japanese development team, were heralded as artistic landmarks.
God of War: Origins Collection ($40, this fall, for PS3) packs two PlayStation Portable games, 2010’s God of War: Ghost of Sparta and 2008’s God of War: Chains of Olympus, onto one PS3 disc. The games’ graphics have been updated and can be played in 3-D; players can earn PlayStation Network trophies, too (as they can with the Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection).
Remastering remains rare, but “it’s possible five years from now, we’ll see more of it,” since more recent games will hold up better to HD remakes, says Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Securities. And as new players enter the market, remastered games offer “the chance to play a game you missed the first time around. Some games never get old.”