Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Neo Retro: Chief’s Big Day

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CAM00848This morning I got up and instead of immediately heading to work I dropped by the old big box retailer to pick up a title I had been highly anticipating: Halo: The Master Chief Collection.  Here on the left you can see a photo of me with the item, big dumb smile in tow.  It’s kinda surreal picking up a collection of games that you have already played.  None of that wonder of what the mechanics, game design, or story remain because you’ve experienced it all before, and yet I find myself just as excited as I was the day I first picked up a copy of Halo or the three sequels that share space on the disc.  If you’re not a Halo fan then you probably won’t pick this up, and I expect that there will be either a slew of negative talk or more likely no talk at all regarding this package, but mark my words this is going to be a popular release.  Whether you first started playing Halo at college LAN parties, shared one of the earliest experiences on Xbox Live, or just took Master Chief for a spin or two during the Halo 3 Beta zeitgeist that existed early in the 360’s life cycle (and you can hear about many more on tonight’s podcast), there’s no denying that those who have owned Microsoft consoles can’t help but notice Halo.  That’s when it got me thinking about the state of re-releases these days – especially on this generation of consoles – and how as hard as I try to avoid them, I just can’t help buying into them (literally).

The Master Chief Collection isn’t the only game to make an updated appearance this year.  Tomb Raider received its re-release early into the year, followed by Fable Anniversary giving that game an update no one asked for, Resident Evil 4 got a third revision on the PC bringing it to 1080p, Final Fantasy X/X-2 received face lifts, Metro 2033 and Last Light received semi-controversial reduxes, The Last of Us came to PS4 after only having been on retail for just over a year, Sleeping Dogs got the Square “definitive” treatment in October, and we can expect GTA V next week.  This doesn’t even touch the slew of portable and downloadable games that were “HD-ified” and who knows how many ports I’m not considering to be actual re-releases to the PC, Xbox One, and PS4.  Hell, I even dropped a dozen hours re-playing Bayonetta on Wii U (review Thursday) because the sequel came with it.  It’s kinda hard to argue that this whole retro thing may have been the correct route to go because it seems clear that whether audiences want it or not, what’s on store shelves is at least partially games you already know.  The big question is whether or not this is a good thing.

2033_reduxSome would argue that it depends on whether or not these games sell, but I assure you they do.  I’m guilty of picking up most of these re-releases; some of which I knew I wanted right out of the gate like Final Fantasy X-2Resident Evil 4, and Master Chief, but also others I swore never to get like Metro Redux and The Last of Us.  Granted, the latter of those releases I took advantage of only because having the old version netted me the new one at half price and my urge to grab the DLC evened out the numbers for me, but it’s still an old dog trying to show me new tricks.  In a perfect world there will be new and exciting IP coming out every day, but we all know that’s a subjective and fragile wager.  2014, for me, has been filled with games I highly anticipated that disappointed, games I planned to ignore that I adored, and a whole metric ton of games I simply haven’t had the time to touch.  Given those factors you can see why it may be more tempting for me to proudly grab 4 great games I loved over the last nearly 15 years all re-hashed with better graphics and the kind of online support I was hoping I would eventually get, rather than taking a chance at Assassin’s Creed Unity.  I’m also sure the developers like it because there’s a high probability that what they put in will also net them at least what they get out, so the gamble of this over these aforementioned sequels or new titles is probably lower.  When I think about how geared up I am about playing The Master Chief Collection, however, it reminds of what never came about that I feel would be far better for the industry than a super-hyped boxed product that is advertised during NFL games.

gunstarI remember back in 2006 when Nintendo was talking about the virtual console, Sony was discussing PS1 and potentially PS2 titles coming out on the PSN, and Microsoft was releasing $15 digital versions of original Xbox games on a regular basis.  While I was psyched about not having to hunt down working original versions of Psychonauts, Final Fantasy VII, and Mega Man II, those of us in online boards and on podcasts couldn’t help but dream about what these new digital landscapes could bring.  Believe it or not, when Halo: Combat Evolved hit Games On Demand in the holiday of 2007, we were back then hoping that this game would finally receive some basic net code and allow the entire Xbox Live community to play against each other online for the first time with gravity-defying warthogs and a pistol that acted like a sniper rifle.  It never happened.  That release was nothing more than an ISO dump directly onto the marketplace, complete with all compatibility errors you could expect from playing the tangible copy of the original.  Not only that but we were getting bombarded by Xbox Live Arcade games (ContraDouble DragonSmash TV) that proved it could be done, although I am quite aware that those games were much easier to integrate net code into versus the full Xbox games.  Later the release of Halo 2 on Xbox Originals had all the ghosting effects and broken visuals, not to mention the turned off online play, that I realized this was going to be a wasted opportunity.  The same was true over on Virtual Console, where you couldn’t even play Gunstar Heroes or River City Rampage with friends online, and again we saw nothing more than a ROM dump of the original carts.  Surely, I thought, with Sony giving both a push to be more of a comprehensive online experience over Xbox (which it still isn’t if you ask me) and far more ahead of the curve than Nintendo that we might get an opportunity to team up in Twisted Metal or Contra: Shattered Soldier, but alas that was not to be either.  I imagine a world where all mutliplayer games are enhanced with online functionality and I can promise you I would own Halo and Halo 2 on the 360, given Microsoft $15 apiece for those games, and the development budget would have been staggeringly less than Master Chief Collection.  I also would have spent infinitely more on Virtual Console than the hundreds I already pumped into it, all at nearly no cost to the publishers.  Don’t tell me it’s all that difficult or expensive because emulators have been able to do it peer-to-peer for over a decade and those guys program this stuff for free.

So as I pop my Halo collection into my Xbox One (and while that massive 20+ GB patch downloads) and begin to play gorgeous upgrades of the beloved originals (I’m kind of a fanboy), it’s good to reflect on what could have been.  Oh well, looks like I’ll have to “suffer” through this package instead.

Written by Fred Rojas

November 11, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Posted in Blog

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