Glory HDays: HD collections Sony must release before the PS3’s end

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Perhaps no better deal currently exists in gaming than Sony’s HD collections. In the aftermath of the announcement about the God of War Saga HD and inFAMOUS collections being released this August 28th and the promise of more HD collections coming this Fall, we review what titles need to be released by the company in the PS3‘s last year as Sony’s flagship console. With the impending arrival of next-generation consoles, what better way to commiserate than to celebrate?

Since Sony has confirmed we’ll be seeing more HD collections released this Fall, my speculations are fueled by reasonably logical conclusions about how Sony will slowly move away from the PS3 into the next console cycle. And fair warning – there are some spoilers ahead.

5. The Dark Cloud and Rogue Galaxy HD Collection

As a lover of RPGs, I played these three games until I broke my Dualshock controller (no, really – the left analog stick broke off after I finished Rouge Galaxy for the second time). The first Dark Cloud was the closest experience to Majora’s Mask I could find on the PS2. Consequently, when Level-5 announced a follow-up, I expected more of the same (which was the case for part of the game). Yet Dark Cloud 2 was undeniably its own entity, featuring an action dynamic, dungeon creator, and storyline vastly improved from the first title. The games scored comparably favorable to Final Fantasy X in many reviews, despite featuring a cel-shaded artistic style that reminded many people of Wind Waker (though that game was released after Dark Cloud 2). Rouge Galaxy, however, was little noticed beyond the Japanese market.

Despite earning a 36/40 from Famitsu and selling extremely well in its year of release, the game managed lackluster sales in the US and Europe, leaving the title in the curiously rare place of being a critically acclaimed RPG that failed to translate well beyond it’s home market. Yes, I was being a little sarcastic there, but the game was released near the end of the PS2‘s life-cycle, ensuring that it would manage only a modest return. Regardless, these titles all seem primed for an HD release as parts of a collection. The tenth anniversary of Dark Cloud 2’s Japanese release is coming this fall, and Level-5 has repeatedly expressed interest in releasing a sequel to Rouge Galaxy. The timing is perfect, and I hope that Level-5’s classics are able to find and create a new audience.

4. Legacy of Kain HD Collection

Beyond reluctantly admitting that I’ve yet to actually play one of these games (don’t stop reading, please), Legacy of Kain is a series that, beyond all else, furthered the effort to import sophisticated narrative to the gaming genre. Granted, it’s a series about time travel, apocalyptic vampire gods, and dual realities. But, like George Martin’s excellent Songs of Fire and Ice series, Crystal Dynamics (and Silicon Knights initially) implemented a narrative structure that grounded the game’s characters in a plausible story within its own boundaries.

I’ve read the plot summaries for these games numerous times, and as a lover of narrative in gaming, I can’t understand why the series was discontinued. There have been recent rumors about a new game, yet it seems foolish to release a new Legacy game when none of them have been released in this generation of consoles. An HD collection would not only confirm interest in a new title, but would provide a younger generation of gamers the chance to experience a series they might otherwise only encounter in an Xbox bargain bin.

3. Timesplitters HD Collection

Unlike the Legacy of Kain series, I’m extensively familiar with the Timesplitters series. Before I could afford to play online, Timesplitters allowed my friends and I to play first-person shooters on the PS2 until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore. A quick list of the game’s innovations: substantial map-maker mode, a challenge mode, over 100 playable characters (in Future Perfect), and a source of amusement that you couldn’t stop trying to kill – monkeys. The games prioritize enjoyment over plot (but doesn’t neglect it), and the blend of time travel, ancient artifacts, and seamless action provides far better prospects for success than shooters seeking to emulate the Call of Duty model.

Levels are both frantic and fun, sporting a blend of speed, powerups, and level design that hearkens to the age of Unreal Tournament. An HD collection would undeniably sell well, and like Dark Cloud and Legacy of Kain, the collection could be a final barometer of fan interest in a new title. Fans of the series have already begun a Facebook campaign to convince Crytek to release a new game, and an HD collection could only serve to heighten interest that much further. Plus, who doesn’t love ninja/zombie/robot/insane/nurse/virus monkeys?

2. Final Fantasy HD Collection

While all of us would be stunned if Square Enix decided to release Final Fantasy VII as part of an HD package, we would welcome the chance to play any three Final Fantasy titles in a new collection. Final Fantasy X, X-2, and XII are all excellent RPGs in their own ways, and the audience for each title would surely purchase an HD collection to play its favorite in the collection. While I enjoyed X-2 and XII, Final Fantasy X ruled the RPG landscape of my high school years. Along with Chrono Cross, the game showed a remarkable approach to open-world exploration, enemies, character development, and a complex plot that few RPGs have since managed to capture. It was, from beginning to end, an operatic achievement of diverse encounters and playability, feats that largely carried over to its sequel X-2 and XII.

However, Final Fantasy XIII was released to far less critical acclaim than either X or XII, leaving us wondering why Square Enix has yet to announce a collection to boost interest in a next-generation Final Fantasy. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Square Enix needs to release an HD collection to convince it’s audience to return to Final Fantasy. But perhaps an examination of where the series has been would help the company in shaping a new title that retains the magic of earlier console releases. The company doesn’t owe this or any other collection to us, but the gesture would certainly be appreciated and undoubtedly translate into sales otherwise withheld by an audience jarred by narrow corridors and streamlined narrative. We know that Square Enix will eventually release an HD remake of X, but I hope that release is accompanied by these two enjoyable titles. Plus, spending time again with Tidus, Yuna, and the rest of Final Fantasy X would be time well spent.

1. Star Wars Battlefront and KOTOR HD Collection

If any narrative matched the time I put into Timesplitters and Final Fantasy, it’s by far the Star Wars collection of games and stories. The original Battlefront and Battlefront II offered multiplayer matches that let you combat as a Jedi against – by PS2 standards – an unbelievable amount of characters. The maps were incredible, and Battlefront II eventually earned its place as a game I’ll never be able to permanently stop playing. Its balance, difficulty, and level design attest to Pandemic Studio’s talent with well-designed intellectual properties. Sadly, the company was absorbed by EA in late 2007, leading the company to disintegrate and the series in flux. Similarly, the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games were not only games that many RPG fans consider a substantial reason the original Xbox managed to be so successful, but also titles that have long-awaited a proper sequel.

Before Bioware created masterpieces in the Mass Effect series, it managed to conjure a story that rivals the original Star Wars trilogy’s grandiose, emotional resonance. Yet, after Bioware started on ME and Dragon Age, KOTOR II vanished without word on a proper sequel. Granted, the company implemented much of the KOTOR games into Star Wars: The Old Republic, but the MMO format sacrificed the intimacy of an RPG. To clarify – I enjoy The Old Republic, but narrative was substituted for the necessities required by a new genre. Now that Bioware has concluded the ME trilogy, the timing is right to create and offer a KOTOR HD collection for the first time on PS3. The licensing needed to make the switch from Microsoft to Sony could potentially be difficult to maneuver, but the positive feedback and eventual interest for that collection would be overwhelming. Additionally, offering KOTOR for the first time on a Sony console would advantageously introduce the PS3 crowd to previously exclusive classics and improve the chances we may one day see another title in the series.

 

Honorable collections mentions:

Kingdom Hearts HD (1, 2, and Chains of Memories)

Bushido Blade HD (1 and 2)

Motorstorm HD (Artic Edge, Pacific Rift, Apocolypse, and Motorstorm 1 & 2)

GTA HD (3, Vice City, San Andreas, and Chinatown Wars)

Onimusha HD (1, 2, and 3)

SOCOM HD (1, 2, and 3)

Xenosaga HD (1, 2, 3)

With an array of series to choose, Sony could potentially focus primarily on next-generation while releasing these collections as a proper send-off to the PS3. While we’re not suggesting the system’s finished at this moment, its upcoming next-generation counterpart will quickly abolish it. Like the PS2‘s series of Greatest Hits, the HD collections could create a space where those who appreciate great gaming and, more importantly, outstanding narrative have one last chance to savor what has been an incredible console.

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