The Interesting Position of HD Collections and Reviews

If you look around the internet, many professional gaming sites seem to have problems when reviewing HD Collections. After all this phenomenon is relatively new, and there isn’t a set criteria for reviewing them yet. IGN gave Silent Hill’s HD Collection a 9.0 and Devil May Cry’s HD Collection a 7.5 purely on the strength and weaknesses of the original game. Other sites base their reviews purely on the changes that the HD Collection makes to the originals. Both of these approaches are good for various reasons and both have shortcomings. The main purpose of a review is to tell people about the quality of a game, and both of these points are vital, but what amount of the review should focus on the main game, and what amount on the new stuff, and how do these factor into making a score?

And how much should bad covers influence the score

HD Collections are new, but rereleasing games certainly is not. Games have been ported to other systems all the way back to the original gaming systems, which would receive arcade ports. In the current generation of consoles, home and handheld, ports and rereleases are pretty much an industry in and of themselves. The PSN, Xbox Live Arcade, and the Virtual Console are full of ports, and handhelds perpetually subsist on console ports, old and new. However, ports are very easy to review. Ports, by their very nature are the exact same game adapted to new hardware. The only thing that needs to be amended to the original review is if there are any problems or advantages to the hardware change, such as new bugs, or if it runs better/worse.  Enhanced ports are similar, but generally have things added such as extra characters, dungeons, or items depending on the game. These games usually need a brief overview of the new features but these additions very rarely affect the original score.

It’s a good thing too, the new dungeons in these games could only hurt the score

Somewhat newer to gaming is the idea of a remake. Video games themselves aren’t very old so remakes are a very novel idea at this point, and something that many fans clamour for. The first actual remake I remember was the Resident Evil REmake for the Nintendo GameCube. Remakes are categorized not simply by revamping the graphics (Enhanced ports can do this too), but also expanding the game in a meaningful and substantial way. Actual remakes are extremely rare because of this, as it is much easier to slap a new coat of paint on a game and call it a day. That being said sometimes there can be confusion concerning the line between enhanced port and remake, as some enhanced ports go very far in their redesign and some remakes don’t go quite far enough. When dealing with a remake, a reviewer must completely re-review the entire game with comparisons to the original material. This is the only effective way of reviewing a remake, as it’s important to note the similarities and differences between new and old, but the newer game has to be able to stand entirely on its own merits.

This remake was ported to the Wii, and the cycle was complete.

So what are HD Collections? They are more akin to ports than remakes. They don’t usually add any substantial features. Generally, all they do is upscale the PS2/Xbox game to HD and add trophy/achievement support. I’m not sure that’s even enough to qualify as an enhanced port. What is different is the fact that it is a compilation title. There have been compilations released in the past, but they are rare and usually crap arcade titles, crap Genesis games (Sorry Sonic fans, I had a Genesis and I really don’t acknowledge a single good game on the system) and occasionally a series compilation like Mega Man. HD Collections are based on the series compilation type game; however, by virtue of upscaling and trophy/achievement support, HD Collections bring a lot more to the table. What is key when reviewing an HD Collection is to remember that it isn’t simply a quick cash-in port. HD Collections are profitable, but they allow new fans to readily access last generation classics that may otherwise be inaccessible, and it allows them to access these classics in a far more palatable form with all of the current-gen trappings. A port requires no added effort in reviewing, but an HD Collection should be weighed properly in order  induce or warn a whole host of interested new gamers about a purchase.

I even platinum’d this out of nostalgia. Not a single decent game on the system.

Back to the main question at hand: how does one properly review an HD Collection. First and foremost the IGN approach is critical. Remember, HD Collections are not just made for fans, they are made for a whole host of gamers who may not have played any of the game, or even heard of them. In this way it is important to review the main game, but there are some serious caveats when doing this. Firstly, do you review the game as it was when it was released or do you review it based on the current market? Should a game with a wonky camera be held liable for it, when it was released at a time when camera controls were not known for their accuracy? The second caveat is how to remove nostalgia from the picture. Nostalgia will elevate even the worst made game to god status in the minds of the player. How does one go about reviewing a classic game such as Silent Hill 2 without succumbing to nostalgia. It would be a little too alarmist to simply say that only those who haven’t played the original should be able to review a game. Instead, it is important for the reviewer to be aware of his or her biases when going into the review, and at times to announce them, as a fan of survival horror may be more or less disappointed in a game than a non-fan. In general, it is always best to take the middle road and that is true in reviewing more than anything else, as you are influencing other people’s opinions. Because of this, when reviewing an HD Collection, it is important to deal with both the game in its original state and the game as it is now in the market. New gamers will want to know about that bad camera as they aren’t used to having to deal with such an annoyance on a regular basis; however, it is also important to give credit to groundbreaking, or exceptional games that may not have aged well. Without taking the main game into account, one cannot properly review an HD Collection.

Above: the wonky camera example

Then there is the other major concern: the new content. This aspect of the review is generally less important than an overview of the main game, as there has rarely been enough added/removed to warrant a change in score. However, many gamers will have already played the original and will simply want to know what has changed. Ignoring this point and simply reviewing the original game isn’t enough when these changes can seriously affect whether a gamer sees the Collection as a viable purchase or not. Most of the time, new additions are minor and wouldn’t affect the final verdict, but even minor changes are important to note for those reading. Some art galleries or behind the scenes material are hardly enough to jump up and down for, but for the hardest of core gamers, sometimes material like that is enough to induce a purchase. Other times, games have seriously improved additions such as Peace Walker’s use of the dual analogue stick, or serious problems such as Silent Hill 3’s slow down. In these cases, the problems or benefits should be very clearly highlighted so new and especially old fans will know what to expect. These major issues could potentially increase or decrease the final score significantly. Other important points to note are the trophy/achievement list, while many gamers couldn’t care less about these features, many others will buy a game for them alone. It is important to know when a game has a robust and fun trophy list like Devil May Cry, and one who has an embarrassingly bad one such as Resident Evil 4. The reason that these new features are less important than the main game is simply that the new features rarely make any significant difference. Most of the time, the transition is smooth, the trophy list is good and the graphics are substantially clearer. However, when there has been a major change, this section needs to be greatly enlarged to properly account for that.

I have beaten this game over 16 times. I deserve a platinum damnit!

HD Collections are still in their infancy and people still don’t really know what to do with them. Ever since the God of War HD Collection, developers have known that these Collections can be very profitable, but the HD treatment goes further than a simple port, which is usually circulated in order to quickly cash in on nostalgia. HD Collections appeal to every gamer, new and old. Old gamers are attracted by nostalgia and new gamers are attracted by the shiny coat of paint on games that, frequently, have huge reputations. Because HD Collections appeal to so many people, it is important for reviewers to properly take into account all aspects of the game when reviewing, and to not simply treat it like any other port. A bad transition such as the Silent Hill HD Collection must be made known, just as much as the excellent transition of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. Review sites, despite what their own forums would tell them, are very powerful and influential in the gaming world, and it is very important that HD Collections are met with sufficient scrutiny.

Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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2 thoughts on “The Interesting Position of HD Collections and Reviews

  1. Very interesting post. One addition I would like to make, for potential games, is FF X HD. It has been said that it will have well, HD, and that is almost it. It should have trophy support as well, but I'm not entirely sure. But, will SE give the world the International version or not. Because I feel that older fans will definitely rage at them (more) if they don't.

  2. It'll definitely have trophy support. I'll admit enough that I'll buy the game either way, but I am seriously hoping that they will bring over the international version. Dark Aeon battles had my mouth salivating years ago. That and the other balance changes are something I want to see. The other question I have is whether there will be crossplay between the Vita and PS3 version. If we can get the international version of FFX, and then the international version of XII, then I'll be happy.

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