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The Right (And Wrong) Ways To Make A Remaster

by Joe Juba on May 30, 2016 at 07:18 AM

In just a few years, remastered games have become a fixture of the gaming landscape. What started with a few experimental releases has given rise to a massive audience hungry to play older games on newer hardware. Remasters are a great way to help gaming history live on, but reproducing the past isn’t enough. These titles should go above and beyond to entice new players and satisfy old fans. However, the development community doesn’t have a consistent approach to making remasters worthwhile. Ultimately, it boils down to giving gamers an improved experience and good value, but hitting that mark is not as simple as it seems. This list runs through the things we want – and don’t want – in our remastered games.

DO: Create New Content
Creating brand new content is the single most effective way to make remasters more attractive. Many players interested in remasters are returning fans, and giving them a reason to buy a game again (beyond basic nostalgia) is critical. The whole game doesn’t need to be redesigned, but adding new modes, cutscenes, playable characters, and control methods can make an old game feel new again. Granted, this requires more work, since it goes beyond simply polishing the original product, but gamers appreciate the ability to experiment with something familiar.

Examples: Grand Theft Auto V, Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty

DON’T: Just Make It Prettier
If the main features of your remaster is that it now looks better and runs smoother, you’re blowing it, since that’s basically just the minimum requirement. The core game might still be great, but this is the sort of move that makes gamers feel like publishers are just trying to cash in without devoting any extra effort. Even something as simple as developer commentary can go a long way toward making a remaster more interesting and appealing.

Examples: God of War III Remastered, Heavy Rain

DO: Include DLC
Lots of games get a variety of post-release content, ranging from costumes to lengthy, narrative-driven missions. Sometimes this is even pre-release content, like pre-order bonuses from various retailers. No matter how they were initially sold, this DLC should be included when the remaster comes along. Part of the draw of remasters is having the complete experience, which should include all of the content produced for the game. That also means that all patches should be included on-disc.

Examples: Dishonored: Definitive Edition, The Last of Us Remastered

DON’T: Make It Worse
This seems super-obvious, but a handful of remasters have exhibited significant performance and graphical differences that actually make them worse than the original release. Muddy visuals, choppy framerates, and pervasive glitches are inexcusable. If a “remaster” is inferior to the older version, you’ve betrayed the trust of your audience, and will have a hard time earning it back.

Example: Silent Hill HD Collection, Zone of the Enders Collection

DO: Address fan complaints
No game is perfect, and a rerelease provides a golden opportunity for developers to fix some flaws. We’ve all played games that we love, but have that one thing we wish had been implemented differently. If the community unanimously takes issue with a particular sequence or mechanic, tweak it for the remaster. Even its just a small touch, fans will relish the chance to play the fixed version, and new players will experience the game with its best foot forward.

Examples: The Legend Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Devil May Cry Definitive Edition

DON’T: Neglect Online
Developing online modes isn’t easy, but if they were part of the original game, they should be part of the remaster. Don’t remove or scale back multiplayer; even if it isn’t the centerpiece of the experience, some fans probably loved it, and will feel burned by its absence. Also – and this should go without saying – make sure it actually works. If matchmaking is broken, the servers are constantly down, or other technical issues prevent people from playing online, that’s no better than omitting multiplayer entirely.

Examples: Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, Payday 2: Crimewave Edition (Xbox One)

DO: Include Multiple Games
Not every possible remaster is well-suited to being part of a bundled collection. But when it makes sense, it should happen. Not only do gamers appreciate the value and convenience of these packages, but it also taps into the satisfaction of having a complete experience at your fingertips. Even so, also give consumers the option to buy the entries separately. Also, don’t skip random installments – that’s weird.

Examples: Metro Redux, Halo: The Master Chief Collection

DON’T: Hold New Content Hostage
When you play a game for the first time, it makes sense to have extra difficulties, modes, and costumes unlock only after finishing the story. However, many people playing remasters are returning fans, so just go ahead and unlock all of that from the start. Don’t make gamers work for it again. The worst offense is when new content created exclusively for the remaster is gated by completion, because that means old fans have to go through the whole experience again before they can access the stuff they really bought the game to see.

Example: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

DO: Give Underdogs A Chance
Remastering blockbusters can be lucrative, since they have massive built-in fanbases. However, those aren’t the only titles that deserve overhauls. Plenty of fantastic niche games have been overshadowed over the years, and remastering them allows these gems to reach a new audience. Publishers should be reaching deeper into their archives for remaster candidates; playing games you know you love is fun, but so is discovering something off the beaten path.

Examples: Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered

For more about remastered games, check out our evolving list of them, including how the news ones improve on the old versions.