2017 Remasters: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
We’re no longer strangers to the concept of the HD remake/remaster. Even now that we’re several years into this console generation, there's no sign that the tide will break on the slew of classic titles being shined up and repackaged for a safe and easy physical release. The past few months have borne a significant number of these fruits, with high profile releases such as Skyrim: Special Edition that not only boast significant improvements and command attention for their spot on the release calendar.
There's also the more under-the-radar titles such as Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary that come out of nowhere but provide solidarity for the fans of dormant or underappreciated franchises, and of course, there are the few and far between remasters that appeal to a very limited number of people or simply offer hardly any real noticeable improvements, especially if there are plenty of other games to play. God of War III Remastered falls into this category for me, not because it isn't a great game, but because it seemed so unnecessary as a standalone release that doesn't show off anything about its system that hadn’t become standard by that point.
2017 looks to be no different from any other of this past decade, with several big remasters being shown off recently for their imminent release. In fact, there are enough mixed in with this year’s AAA releases and plethora of exciting budget titles (plus the Nintendo Switch and its incredible upcoming lineup) that it can be easy to forget about them. What we can usually parse out, though, considering that they are games we’ve already played, is what kind of package or paint job we’re actually getting once we have enough details about the game in question, before we even really get our hands on them. With that in mind, here's a look at five of the biggest remasters on the horizon and what we can expect from them.
Good: Crash Bandicoot: The N. Sane Trilogy
Though there's no indication as to when at this point, this year’s biggest dose of fan service is on the way from, of all places, Activision, a company known in some circles as the practitioners of all things evil and money hungry. A complete remaster of the first three Crash Bandicoot games - platforming classics from an era that is basically begging to be fixed up graphically, coming in, surprisingly, below full retail price ($40). Activision hasn't completely avoided its old ways with this package - CTR: Crash Team Racing is being left out, possibly for future DLC because Activision is a vampire that subsists on secondary content purchases - but a lot of early gameplay footage is available at this point and it's looking great. My greatest hope is that the rest of the package stays on this level, managing to avoid feeling sterile or drained of its charm like it often has over the past decade.
Bad: Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition
Now, Bulletstorm was a hell of a game when it was released back in 2011. The problem was, nobody really realized that right away, and it seems like it would have been an even greater failure than it originally was were it not packaged in an “Epic Edition” with bonus content and, more importantly, Gears of War 3 multiplayer beta access (seriously, head out to your local game store and see how many copies they have that aren't labeled “epic”). The game itself deserves praise for its classic FPS action a la Serious Sam and Duke Nukem 3D, along with a crass yet cool sense of humor and focus on creative kills. Despite all this, Bulletstorm quickly became a bargain bin gem, and still is to this day.
So why a remaster? Well, again, the main appeal of the new Full Clip Edition won't be the game itself, it seems, but the included DLC starring none other than our old pal, Duke Nukem himself (the remaster is being handled by Gearbox, the developer behind Borderlands and current license holder on The Duke). This might be a cool project if it were a low-risk, low-fanfare release, not unlike the $20 Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary I mentioned earlier, but coming in at the full retail price of $60 for minimal upgrades to about $20 worth of content, this is one of those things that nobody asked for, and shouldn't be on anybody’s wishlist.
Good: Mario Kart 8: Deluxe Edition
I've raved on and on about Mario Kart 8 since it was released, and I know I'm not alone. Even as an obsessive N64 fan, I genuinely think it's the best in the series, which makes it one of the biggest lost treasures of the Wii U’s unfortunate failure. With other great games like Super Smash Bros. and Bayonetta 2 languishing in the same camp, the upcoming Nintendo Switch has the potential to be a bastion of the remaster trend, with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Edition already announced and leading the pack with an April 28 release.
The great joy of it, of course, is that Nintendo had already proved that they do DLC better with Mario Kart 8, providing almost an entire game’s worth of extra content for an extra $12, and they're likely to prove that they do repackages better, too, with all this content included, plus an all-new battle mode made especially for the new edition (essentially the only thing missing from the original version). And even though we haven't actually gotten our hands on the Switch just yet, Mario Kart 8 seems every bit capable of showing off the console’s capabilities that we’ve been hearing so much about.
Ugly: Kingdom Hearts 1.5+2.5 ReMIX
I'll admit that I'm not a Kingdom Hearts fan, but for the most part I can pretty much say that from most angles this seems like a pretty good package, even though it seems like a bit of port-ception going on here, with even the title admitting that this is a compilation of two compilations. With Kingdom Hearts III on the way and the series being notorious for how often it bounces across so many different consoles, this shouldn't have any problems selling to a fan base that admittedly loves replaying the series anyway.
But it seems to me that this 1.5 + 2.5 business is kind of like the hypothetical house of bricks from My Cousin Vinny - see, Square Enix is building a compilation out of serious, solid-looking bricks - the 1.5 and 2.5 bricks - and they're gonna show you that they've got straight sides, and that they're running at 60 FPS, but there's one thing that they're not gonna show you, and that's the fact that this compilation still doesn't have everything, because the 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue was just released last month, which includes Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance as its main feature, and none of the contents of 2.8 will be present in the upcoming ReMIX package. Maybe I just don't get it, since I'm not interested in the series at all, but doesn't that seem just a bit off, considering that 2.8 isn't really that much content, and the two are being released so close together? Maybe this really is a solid brick bunker of a compilation, but as far as I can tell this release is just a bit odd.
Good: Resident Evil 2 Remake
Regardless of whether or not this project actually gets off the ground this year, we’re almost certain to get our first real taste of it over the next few months, and with the way the franchise has been going lately, the timing couldn't be better. Capcom seemed eager to get Resident Evil back on people’s minds prior to the release of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, dropping quick and cheap ports of 4, 5, and 6 in our laps over the past few months, plus an Origins Collection featuring both Resident Evil Zero and the GameCube remake of the original, or, according to them, the only version of Resident Evil that ever existed. All this was capitalized by a stellar reception for the seventh entry, which has been lauded especially for taking the series back to the same level of horror that made it so special 20 years ago. This bodes especially well, then, for the full remake of Resident Evil 2 that has been in development for a while now. Quite possibly the series’ finest hour, RE2 almost seems overdue for a reimagining a la RE1, and with the time being spent on it so far, it seems entirely possible that a new Resident Evil 2 may very well set a new standard for HD remakes going forward.