Are HD remakes what gamers need or just a cash cow? Case Study: Square Enix

Are HD remasters worth your hard earned cash? It depends on what the studio are offering.

It’s been a bit of a Square Enix frenzy this week, with the studio releasing the first glimpses of Final Fantasy XV, and the last phase of the Final Fantasy XIV beta happening at the weekend. But these aren’t the only tricks up the famed Japanese developer’s sleeves, as soon we will see the HD remastered re-releases of three of their most successful PS2 games; Final Fantasy X, X-2, and Kingdom Hearts. 

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Square Enix has often been accused of being a bit money-grabbing, especially after their colossal losses from flop feature film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. It’s this that prompted the merger between ailing Square Co. and Enix to save the former’s bacon. Capitalizing on fan loyalty of its renowned series, they’ve managed to keep up the cash flow. But some players claim that this has come with a sacrifice of quality.

Looking ahead to these makeovers, are they something that gamers need, or is it just another example of developer greed? 

Pretty Polly(gon) 

When Final Fantasy X came out, the first of the franchise to appear on the PS2, the graphics were utterly mind-blowing. Though the CGI cinematic sequences were as impressive as they always have been, we were now seeing the in-game graphics almost match them. But at the heart of the game was still very solid, deep, and twisting story that captivated millions. It was, and still is, an excellent game.

Kingdom Hearts, however, was less about the graphics and more about the synergy between the Final Fantasy and Disney universes. Cynics, like myself, were really wary about what looked like a pretty cheap and cheesy novelty. But Square Enix surprised the world in creating an involving story and intuitive gameplay that was actually very good. 

Prettier Polly 

I admit that, despite how impressed I was with the graphics for Final Fantasy X back in 2001, I’m incredibly astonished with how the new graphics will look for the HD rerelease. They are pretty fantastic, but still, not as ravishing as the graphics for recent titles like Bioshock: Infinite, and L.A. Noire. But, apart from the promise of a few small gameplay tweaks, this is all the re-launch seems to offer. As mentioned, the game’s success was always about the epic plot. Tarting the game up is certainly not a bad thing, but it’s essentially still the same game, and one that we don’t have to wait until September or pay extra to play it if we really wanted to. 

A more Epic Mickey?

Polly Can Haz Extras? 

A while back, Sony Entertainment rereleased iconic games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus remastered with HD graphics for the PS3. This is something I was very excited about, despite already having copies of both ready to play at no extra cost on my PS2. They, too, were knee-weakeningly dazzling when they first came out, but looked even more amazing re-rendered. But the main pull for me was that they also could be played in stereoscopic 3D on televisions that could support it. This is what convinced me to part with my cash and re-buy them as this seemed a unique and significant addition to the game. I was not only able to rediscover these games in a crisp definition, but the 3D added a whole new depth and dimension (pun intended) to how the games look and feel. 

Final Fantasy X & X-2, as far as we know thus far, won’t be in 3D. Therefore, why would I spend £40 on something I essentially already have, just not as pretty? Including X-2 in the bundle, also remastered, doesn’t seem like much of a bonus. Given its campy feel and lack of summons that disappointed many gamers, only hardcore fans may see this as an enticement. 

Pieces of great 

Kingdom Hearts, however, sees Square Enix throwing a bevy of extras at players. Under the slightly verbose title of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix, this version will include; the previously unreleased outside of Japan Kingdom Hearts Final Mix as the core game; Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, which has yet to touch the shores of Europe and Australia; and a 2 hour 50 minute cinematic retelling of Nintendo DS Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. 

In short, the HD version is offering players a markedly different experience to before, moreso than Ico and Shadow of the Colossus does.

Verdict 

It’s a little mean to accuse Square Enix of outright greed, especially when they still make great games other than Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts, such as the hugely successful reboot of Tomb Raider. 

But it does seem odd that the company seem to offer two very different packages. Kingdom Hearts will have a definite appeal to gamers already versed in the franchise, providing an opportunity to revisit it in a way that was previously impossible. Whilst Final Fantasy X & X-2 may potentially only appeal to avid Final Fantasy lovers, those who never played them when they were first released, or those with cash to burn. 

Are these what gamers need or just a cash cow? It seems it’s an HD 1.5 mix of both.

Final Fantasy X & X-2 HD will be released later this year. For more information, visit www.finalfantasyxhd.com. Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMix will be released on 10 September 2013 (US) and 13 September 2013 (EU). For more information, visit www.kingdomhearts.com.


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Image of Destrolyn.Bechgeddig
Destrolyn.Bechgeddig
Bearded British game-bear. Likes his JRPGs accompanied with a G&T. Lives in London, UK. Also writes a lot about theatre and film. *jazz hands*