The Art of Video Game Re-Mastering – When the Great is made Greater

The logic behind the PlayStation 3’s backwards compatibility (or lack thereof) has become apparent to me recently, upon hearing about Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (due for release on Xbox 360 as well).  As most will know, the current PS3 consoles are incapable of running the older PlayStation 2 (sixth-generation, 128-bit) games (though I’m certain an easy firmware update would remedy this), however, it has no problems whatsoever with running the ‘ancient’ (fifth-generation, 32-bit) PSX titles.

So why prevent PS3 owners from playing an entire catalog of (arguably) some of the best games in existence from the previous generation video-game console?  Especially when considering that the PS2 is the best-selling console to date, having sold 154.59 million consoles worldwide as of January 31, 2011.

Well the answer is simple, high-definition re-releases of classic games.  Now I’m not sure if the lack of PS2 backwards compatibility was intentional or that the re-releases are a result of recent increases in technology (allowing the ‘restoration’ of classic games), but I’m pretty certain that gamers would have been somewhat reluctant to purchase a game they already own on PS2 for the sake of playing it again in 1080p high-definition.  So what developers are doing now, is remastering classic PS2 games in HD by up-rezing the content to full 1080p (1920 x 1080 resolution) HD and having it run at a steady 60fps.  The result of this up-scaling is rather impressive, and the differences between the original and remastered versions is quite apparent, such is the case with God of War Collection.  However, I imagine that there is a limit to this remastering as the up-scaled games are all of PS2 origin, and now recently PSP with the forthcoming – God of War: Origins.  None of the PSX games have been given the same treatment and I believe this is a result of the PSX’s dated 3D geometry engine, the graphics are simply too dated to be up-scaled and would require a complete rebuilding from the ground up.

Pictured above, God of War on the original PS2, and below that remastered in high definition and running at 60fps on the PS3, also notice the increased texture smoothing and addition of anti-aliasing.

I for one, welcome these remastered editions, because I only had my PS2 for approximately five months (due to a botched up mod-chipping), as it gives me the opportunity to play the games I’ve missed out on before.  After playing God of War Collection in beautiful 60fps, high-definition, I stand firmly behind future remastered releases.  Currently, I’m looking forward to getting my hands on ICO, Shadow of the Colossus and Metal Gear Solid HD Collection.  Though Regarding MGS, I was initially very pleased upon hearing about it as I had anticipated that, being a MGS collective, that I would be able to replay the classic PSX Metal Gear Solid but it’s been announced that MGS HD Collection will come with a code allowing gamers to download the classic PSX title free of charge off the PlayStation Network.

The only negative that comes to mind is that when a pre-rendered cinematic is triggered it sort of detracts from the overall experience as the videos are unable to receive the same high-definition treatment.  The developers would have to re-render all the cinematics in full 1080p, basically re-render every frame and up-rez and re-composite all the cinematics, which I imagine to be extremely expensive and time-consuming.  But it’s a small price to pay in order to play these great games, and it’s made even better if, like me, you never got the chance to play these games the first time around.

I suspect that God of War, Metal Gear Solid, ICO and so forth is merely the beginning of a long list of games that will receive the high-definition treatment, allowing those familiar with the titles to play them over once more, and at the same time, provide something ‘new’ for younger gamers to experience.  Bring on the re-releases.