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Nostalgia sells: MGS continues HD collection boom

Last week's release of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection sees continued success for remastered collections, and not just for nostalgia's sake. Johnny Cullen explains all.

The HD Collection ticks all the boxes: nostalgia gold for fans; something new for those who've never played MGS2, MGS3 and Peace Walker; a hype vehicle for Platinum's Rising; potentially getting a feel for a Boss-led MGS5; and a celebration of the series's anniversary.

The remaster boom really started two-and-a-half years ago. In August 2009, following some rumour, Sony announced its first HD retrospective: God of War Collection, featuring PS2 remasters of the original God of War and its sequel, had an ulterior motive besides nostalgia.

The collection's release in the US primed the launch of God of War III, the first all-new GoW game for three years, and the final part of the trilogy for Kratos (or maybe not if recent chatter's anything to go by). The collection didn't come out in the UK until a month after GoW3's release - and even then, it was exclusive to the wallet-wilting £110 Ultimate Trilogy Edition - but this was the start of an increasingly commonplace marketing trick in games.

Hooking in the fanboys

Nostalgia sells. Series fans are the most susceptible to these products, of course. As an example, the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection released last week in the UK. I bought it. Twice. I'm a big Metal Gear fanboy, so much so that when the EU release was delayed last October, I imported the region-free PS3 version from Videogameplus.ca after the US launch in November.

My love of all things Metal Gear knows no bounds. I had to drive around Derry for an hour-and-a-half last week to find the 360 EU version. And I'll buy the Vita version too, whenever that arrives.

My point is that HD collections are essential for fans. For one, there's the content. You'll typically get two-to-three games in these packs. But how much work has been done to restore them without touching core principles? Is it worth parting with £30?

Quantity isn't an issue. The Metal Gear pack provides two incredible games in PS2 classics Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater, as well as the HD console debut of the previously PSP-exclusive Peace Walker. Bluepoint Games, who've worked on the remasters for the original God of War Collection and the Team ICO pack, have done some excellent work once again in staying true to the originals while bringing them up to snuff. The HD Collection is strong value.

Of course, these collections aren't always so smooth for the publisher. The Silent Hill HD Collection, due in March, was supposed to come with new voicework for Silent Hill 2 and 3 (this may have to do with the actor behind James Sunderland in Silent Hill 2 seeking compensation for his role in the collection). After much fan demand, though, you'll have the old voiceovers in Silent Hill 2 as an option alongside the new work. No such thing for SIlent Hill 3, though, due to tech and logistical constraints.

New blood

Whatever the potential technical issues, though, HD remakes can be hugely beneficial for reasons other than selling multiple units to hardcore fans. They're also a cheap, high value entry point for those who want to try out a series for the first time. The Metal Gear Solid pack easily illustrates this: even if you've never owned a PS2 or PS3 in the past 12 years, you can now play MGS3 and Peace Walker. MGS2: Substance came out for Xbox in March 2003, don't forget.

There's a third obvious reason remasters get made: building hype for upcoming releases and gauging levels excitement surrounding the series in general.

The MGS HD Collection.

A few examples. A Sly 4 teaser was discovered in The Sly Collection after it came out in late 2010. We know now it's tied into Sly: Thieves in Time from Sanzaru Games on PS3 later this year.

Another: the ICO and Shadow of the Colossus remasters were announced at TGS 2010 at the same time as a winter 2011 date for The Last Guardian. While Last Guardian has been delayed since, the remake was clearly designed to build excitement for TLG. Capcom's Devil May Cry HD Collection, which will consist of all three PS2 installments for PS3 and 360, will serve a similar function: it'll release in April ahead of Ninja Theory's series reboot later in the year.

As for testing the waters for a new title in a dormant series, the best example is Zone of the Enders. I love these games. I could go on all day about how good ZoE1 was and how amazing ZoE2 was, but even I have to be realistic: Jehuty didn't do big numbers. The upcoming ZoE HD Collection will give Konami a decent idea of whether or not a full production will be worthwhile.

It's not just Kojima using remakes in this way. It's unlikely Sony's releasing a Jak and Daxter HD Collection in the US this week for "some sales". Naughty Dog co-president Evan Wells said yesterday the studio was looking at making a new Jak and Daxter instead of a new IP like The Last of Us, but eventually decided against it. Wells said that completely closing off the door to a new game would be "crazy": strong sales of the new versions are sure to keep the prospect on the table.

Happy birthday

Of course, the release of HD collections doesn't have to be about anything as cynical as prepping a new release of dragging in new punters; they can be made for something as simple as celebrating a particular milestone for a series. Three recent examples pop up on that front. 343's Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary update is a good example, set up for the tenth anniversary of the Bungie original.

Another is Final Fantasy X for PS3 and Vita, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in Japan and the US last year, but turns ten in Europe in July. It's also the 25th anniversary of the entire IP this year.

Coming full circle, a third classic is also celebrating its 25th birthday this year: Metal Gear Solid. The HD Collection ticks all the boxes: nostalgia gold for fans; something new for those who've never played MGS2, MGS3 and Peace Walker; a hype vehicle for Platinum's Rising; potentially getting a feel for a Boss-led MGS5 (complete MGS3 and then read this - you'll get it); and a celebration of the series's anniversary.

Get used to HD remakes. You're going to be seeing a lot more of them.

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