INSiGHT | The Best Way to Re-Release a Game

By Aria DiMezzo 28.02.2016 8

It's sometimes disheartening how many re-releases, remakes, reboots, and HD remasters we've seen in the past few years, and one might wonder what in the world the PS2/GameCube/Xbox generation did to videogames that forced the industry to reboot an absurd number of franchises. That was a terrific generation, though, and truly represented a watershed moment for the industry. Are we seeing remakes, reboots, re-releases, and remasters, then, just because the industry is trying to capture bottled lightning once again, or because developers and publishers simply didn't know what to do next? Welcome to the latest INSiGHT...

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That's certainly a topic worth exploring, but the reality of the situation is, for better or worse, gamers are seeing a lot of re-releases, remakes, reboots, and remasters (which we will simply refer to collectively as "re-releases" going forward, to avoid all this rediculous repetition). There's a large gap, though, between the best of the re-releases and the worst. Some have a great deal of love and effort put into them, while others are barely more functional than an emulator is - and still others less so.

The ports of the re-releases of the remake of Final Fantasy IV, for example, are fantastic, but there is still the issue that there's no reason to purchase the Android version when it actually has less content than the original remake that graced the Nintendo DS, thanks to the exclusion of Whyt.

Given the recent re-release of Tales of Symphonia to PC and the almost unanimous agreement that it's a "no effort port," this is a terrific time to discuss what these re-releases mean, why gamers want them, and what some developers and publishers may be doing wrong.

As I said in my review of Final Fantasy V on PC, simply bringing a game over to a different platform isn't enough; getting the game to work isn't enough, not for a product that people are expected to pay for. Whether the AAA industry is happy about it or not, this is because it is possible for someone to play Tales of Symphonia on PC at no additional cost, and this has been the case for years. That this is shady (and illegal, in the case of downloaded ROMs) doesn't change the fact that it's true.

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With the addition of several enhancements aimed at streamlining the gameplay and improving the graphics, the PC version of Final Fantasy VIII stands as a great example of what should be done when a game is re-released. There are enhancements here that simply aren't possible using an emulator. The sound is shoddy and should have been fixed by now, but that's really the only issue; overall, it's a great example of a good re-release.

Will players have a perfect experience with the PSX re-release of Final Fantasy V if played on PC with an emulator? Certainly not. Emulators are not perfect, after all. It's worth mentioning, however, that this avenue does have a number of benefits: save states, easy cheating, graphical enhancements, and others. Did I mention that this experience, of playing the game with an easy way to cheat, the ability to save at any point, and improvements to the graphics, is free? Yes, it's illegal to download the games and share them, but this doesn't change the fact that emulation happens, it exists, and it's not going anywhere.

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That is a screenshot of Tales of Symphonia captured from WolfieGGnS' playthrough using the Dolphin emulator, which could easily have been accomplished by inserting the Nintendo GameCube disc into the PC's CD-ROM tray. It's beautiful, and WolfieGGnS didn't have to pay a dime in order to play the game on PC. The legality of this can be debated all day, but this doesn't change the fact that it's possible. It happens, and developers and publishers are going to have to face the fact that their re-released games may very well already be available - and in a form that is superior to the official re-release.

Let's not get into the fact that it took legendary modder Durante a total of fourteen minutes to fix the terrible port that is Tales of Symphonia on PC. Fourteen minutes. People who actually were paid to make their game were shown up in fourteen minutes by a person who did it for free. To say that the people who released this botched port, which was noticeably improved by a measly fourteen minutes of effort, should be ashamed is an understatement.

Comparing WolfieGGnS's emulated version to the official release is a joke, and everyone stopped laughing the moment that Durante needed only fourteen minutes to fix the official release's biggest problems.

It sounds great when we talk of bringing classic games to modern systems and experiencing them again, and, generally speaking, we all want to relive these wonderful games and feel their magic anew. In many cases, though, this is already possible, and one has to wonder how Bandai Namco could have considered the official release acceptable when the emulated version is vastly superior.

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That's the thing, though - we do love playing these games again, and publishers know it. This taboo on emulation, where we're throwing the baby out with the bathwater by blanketing all emulation as piracy despite there being entirely legal (in the United States, at least) ways to do it, is precisely what allows shoddy re-releases like this to exist. How would Tales of Symphonia really fare if it had to face the emulated version, if the two were stacked against one another? Even after Durante's fixes, it's no contest: being free for those who already own the disc, the emulated version wins hands down, and it doesn't really matter whether it's shady or even illegal; it happens.

What does Square Enix's official and rather costly PC release of Final Fantasy V offer players that can't be achieved with an emulator? Certainly, it's illegal to download the game from the Internet, but it's well within a person's rights to insert their physical copy of Final Fantasy Anthology into their PC's CD-ROM tray. That's another important question here: what does the re-release offer that players don't already have, more or less at no additional cost?

The answer is "nothing." This is the case with both FFV and Final Fantasy VI - legality aside, there's no reason to purchase the games when the emulated versions offer more benefits, are typically better, and are free. An official re-release should bring improvements, enhancements, and advantages, and should certainly not be inferior to the emulated game.

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The Android version of Final Fantasy IX serves as yet another good example of how to re-release a game: seven new enhancements are brought to the game, all of which are aimed at making the gameplay more convenient. While I'd rather have seen them as unlockable features, they are still undeniably reasons to get the re-release instead of simply emulating it - and that's a good thing. That's a wonderful thing, in fact.

Tales of Symphonia has brought with it some extortive accusations about PC ports, namely that we should buy it in order to support the publisher and "convince them" that it's worth it to port their games to PC. That's absurd! Years and years of history and sales prove that porting a game to PC is worth it; The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings launched on GOG with no DRM attached, and it still sold very well, for instance. People will buy something that they think is worth their money. It's that simple.

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I think you deviate from the purpose of your own article, which is, What is the best way to re-release a game.

Id say it's three fold - remaster, remake and straight forward port.

When remastering a game I would want a game that is solid in the first place but then receives a lick of paint to sweeten the deal. Games like Twilight Princess HD to me might be good for some but there doesn't seem to be much value added to the game for it to be full price.

A port or digital re-release is also a a fundamental way of releasing games these days, Nintendo's Virtual Console is a shambles if you ask me. It's a nice to have but really lacks any cohesion and personally some games are poorly executed or poorly priced. Paying £8.99 for a 20 year old monochrome Gameboy game is just stupid! Even paying £3.59 is ludicrous! However the Gameboy advance SNES ports at the time were great. Games like a Link to The Past and the Super Mario Bros remakes were a perfect example of how to release a game at full price and get away with it. Likewise with Pokemon Fire Red/LG and SoulSilver/HG , both games to me are definitive versions and offer a much needed makeover from the originals. 

My acceptance level is around remakes, games like Resident Evil for GameCube, Metal Gear Solid Twin Snakes and Bayonetta on Wii U are brilliant examples of how to remake a game. Although I guess Bayonetta is more of a remastered port...these games add value or change the original perspective of how the originals were played out. I absolutely love Twin Snakes and I glad I own the hard copy! 

However my favourite way to re-release a game is by compiling it into a collection. Games like Metal gear solid HD or legacy collections are hours of fun in one package. Uncharted, Mass Effect, Super Mario All Stars are great examples also. My personal favourites are Sonic Mega Collection and Metroid Prime Triology. The latter with the added pointer controls and with 3 near perfect games on one disc is literally the definitive way to re-release a game.

Now if only Capcom would wise up and give us Europeans a retail release of Megaman Legacy for £15 then I'd buy it instead of a digital copy!

Flynnie, that's my fault on the editing - I adjusted the title because I felt it suited the piece better...clearly not, though, from your comment! The focus was more on how to do a bad re-release, hence the emphasis on ToS' recent PC port.

Anyway, very interesting points you make there! I also like the Triology reference you slipped in there Smilie Personally, I'm not a fan of lazy ports or some of the 'remasters' that don't do anything other than upscale the graphics. I also agree the pricing of VC games is ridiculous Smilie

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I don't think I initially even titled it, did I? If I did, I don't think it was a serious title.

But my main point was that the perceived lack of competition is what's keeping the bar so low with these re-releases. It's entirely possible (and easy, actually) to hack a Wii and put NES, SNES, and N64 emulators on it. What advantage does the Wii Virtual Console have to justify it over these emulators? Nothing, except that emulation is blanketed as piracy and illegal from Nintendo's perspective (keep in mind this is the same company who states we don't have the right to make backup and archival copies, which is just completely wrong), so gamers can't ask Nintendo "Why should we buy your VC re-release of x when we can already have exactly the same experience at no additional cost?" In effect, Nintendo et al. don't have to do anything but release the game. They have a monopoly on how we play these games, at least officially, and the result is often bare experiences like the Final Fantasy games I mentioned.

I want to see things like in FF9 and the PS4 FF7 . Even if I disagree with how the additions are implemented, at least there are new features that can't otherwise be had--there are reasons to buy them instead of emulating them. I can put my FF8 discs into my PC and play the PSX version easily, but even using game shark codes, I can't get the convenience, enhanced music (granted, this requires a mod, but still), or improved graphics--or Chocobo World (which is stupid and dumb, but it's a feature and it's there). Then there's Final Fantasy 6, which has game breaking bugs and glitches that I've recorded in action, subpar character models, screen tearing, no speed increases, no save stating... If gamers could openly ask SE "Why should we buy this? Playing it on Visual Boy Advance is superior in every way..." then SE would have to actually implement new features and improvements.

One of the main questions that needs to be answered in gaming deals with this cross platform idea. If I own the Android version of Final Fantasy V, I have the right to modify the files in whatever way necessary to make the game work on PC--a ruling made by the US Supreme Court during the 80s because of VHS, which is that consumers have every right to modify the formats of the published products regardless of whether the publisher intended it or not. And copyright law obviously must include the right to make personal copies or we wouldn't be able to install software (since installing Microsoft Office, or anything else, literally creates a copy of the product). In this article I tried to stay away from the actual legal matters because I'm not an attorney and don't want to give out legal advice under any circumstances, but the precedents have all already been set in the United States, and the only thing that's illegal is distributing the copies. There's a reason that U.S. emulation sites, game patching sites (like the "Second Quest" people are making for Ocarina of Time) continue existing and haven't been shut down by authorities: the whole thing is perfectly legal, but we've allowed the industry to paint emulation itself with the piracy brush. Doing that sustains the monopoly they enjoy, which leaves them releasing whatever they want and setting their own standards, and things like Final Fantasy V and Tales of Symphonia then start happening.

I love playing these games from my youth and childhood. But why should I buy them again when I already have access to them in a convenient way? The AAA industry screams "PIRATE! That's why you must buy them again!" So instead of offering us reasons to buy them, they'd rather try to strong arm us into doing it, regardless of the quality of the re-releases. :/

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Ironically, SE gave us excellent GBA ports of the FF games with lots of new content. I'm in agreement that ports of older games from the PS2 era and before need more than just higher  resolution graphics. Again, I love what FF7-9 have done (and yes, I love that they are there off the bat and not unlockables because I can beat them the normal way any time on other platforms), and think those sorts of things should be standard in most major games - certainly RPGs (3x speed, no encounters, HP/MP max, etc).

I think there's less to add for games from the previous gen, unless adding in entirely new game modes or additions to the story, new characters to play as etc - sort of like what DMC4 Special Edition did. But even speed enhancements are added to remasters of PS3 games, which is great to see (Uncharted trilogy, for one).

Stuff like Symphonia and the likes of the FF5 PC ports are taking the piss tho. I've mentioned before, but even the FF7 PS4 port is not perfect - it even introduced NEW bugs! I think it's very poor that they didn't correct older bugs from the original release on top of that, so the slightly higher res character models and new enhancements help keep it worth spending money on again, but it's remarkable how many PC ports, in particular, get treated like pish. Koei has been pretty bad for them, as well - DOA5 did not and still doesn't have great support, but at least they upped the resolution, added AA and are still actually supporting it in some form.

Oh ok, well that makes a little more sense now.

i think it's laziness on most parts with bad re releases, I think they are in it for a quick buck. Nintendo tar themselves with a paintbrush of quality and use this for some reason as to why games aren't being released on the VC but yet make no changes to the game when they do release it. 

I cant comment on the Final Fantasy remakes or ports because to my recollection I haven't actually played any. 

The only thing I'd say is that we, the customers, are to blame. Companies keep re-releasing games because we keep buying them! The same with DLC and microtransactions, even though it's probably a small percentage it's a profitable percentage. Superlink has pointed out to me that Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow are the highest selling VC titles Nintendo have released and it's selling for an extortionate £8.99.

i do, however agree that if done well then ports and remasters are a great introduction to a game that someone may have missed. A game like Twilight Princess HD is definitely worth playing if you never played the original, but for people who already played and owned the original I can't see much point. Also, full RRP for this is wrong in my opinion! 

Nintendo's pricing for remasters is way off base, and definitely so for VC releases.

It's an absolutely fair point to make regarding the enhancements you can get through emulation, and biggest one for me is online multiplayer in classic games.

I've enjoyed countless hours playing online SNES games with people, in 60Hz formats that should always be the norm around the world, so what incentive is there for me to purchase such VC games if they include no enhancements and are even in 50Hz format? It's ludicrous.

I'm not saying it doesn't take effort to make changes like online multiplayer, and I don't know if it's possible to get smooth online emulation across the board running like ZSNES is able to do, but failing a custom emulator for Nintendo's consoles, certain games should be upgraded on an individual basis to add things like online MP.

Capcom did this for one of the Street Fighter Mega Drive games for Virtual Console, which is fantastic. There are plenty of SNES and N64 games I'd be very much inclined to purchase if they put the effort in and added online MP. I'd wager the extra time and development spent on these games to add these functions would pay off in the end. What I wouldn't give for online MK64 Battle Mode. Good lord.

Nintendo Europe eventually listened to our endless pleas and anger at being drip fed shoddy 50Hz VC games (even if we still do, which is a disgrace imo), but it reminds me of another situation and how I believe we're pretty much a minority. We can complain all we want about things like this, but like Flynnie says, it's no one's fault but the people who buy them.

What it reminds me of is the censorship debate. How well did that Fire Emblem Fates boycott go down? It's become the fastest selling FE game in the West. Great effort, people. It shows that the vast majority don't care, or simply don't know, enough for companies to give a shit about overpriced ports, shoddy ports, and content removal/changes. The vocal minority can make change happen, but it's clearly not always worth it when the companies only need to look at their sales and bank balances at the end of it all.

Shoddy port, censorship - it's actually closer related than one might realise in the sense that if customers buy into them, companies will keep doing it.

I'm torn on the matter of being a vocal minority. I know we are right now, but will that remain the case? Smilie I want to believe that consumers won't put up with games being sold to us piecemeal, with full retail releases containing no content, with things being cut from games to be sold as DLC, with the death of expansions in favour of DLC, with pre-order bonuses, with being expected to pay for promises, with pre-ordered DLC, with shoddy re-releases, with glitch-filled games, with always-on connections required for single player games, with games being increasingly homogenized into one genre, with invasive DRM that borders on malware, with the anti-used games mentality, and with all the other customer-hostile things that the AAA industry has done, is doing, and will continue to do... At least not forever.

But then there are people who firmly stand with these companies. I was heavily criticized on the Steam forums for daring to post about a game breaking bug that caused me to lose hours of progress (complete with video footage of it happening). All the excuses were rolled out:

"All games have glitches."
"Don't go looking for problems."
"Works fine for me."
"Don't be entitled."
"It's only $x. Deal with it."
"It's just a re-release."

Of course, none of these are valid, but it just goes to show that the majority of gamers (though this was a sample size of only about 30 people) (this also isn't the only time I've seen this, of course) aren't siding with gamers--they're siding with the companies who vary between "letting gamers down" and "outright and blatantly screwing gamers." I think we're heading toward another market crash, though we're still years away. I'm scared to buy a new release because it's anyone's guess:

... whether it will even work.
... how complete/incomplete it will be.
...how much money piecemeal DLC will cost versus the inevitable Definitive Edition.
...how long it will take to show up on Steam at 75% off.
...and other factors I can't think of at the moment.

I know a lot of people who won't buy a game on Steam unless it's on sale for at least 50%, because a game can go on such a sale at any given moment. I've been burned on this and would have saved hundreds of dollars if I bought games only during sales. Valve helped me out with the most egregious example, but it was still frustrating and I don't want to repeat that. I think the industry is sick, and the primary thing it's doing is punishing gamers for impatience. Simply waiting will save everyone money and seriously harm the developers and publishers. Will people start waiting for Definitive Editions to be sold at 75% off to buy their games? I hope so. Games could be so much better than they currently are, I think. :/
 

( Edited 01.03.2016 21:26 by Anema86 )

Has Anyone Really Been Far Even as Decided to Use Even Go Want to do Look More Like?

Yeah I think she is right in her views

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