10 years ago, the first version of Skyrim was released. And over a century ago, the armistice on the Western Front of what would come to be known as the First World War took place, but people seem more concerned with whether or not the latest Call of Duty is worth playing, if they even remembered one came out recently. I’m here to talk about video games mostly, but I do have to mention the actual significance of the date in history before I get back to funny video game content.
To mark the 10th anniversary of Skyrim, Bethesda released another Skyrim again. This time it’s an update to a previous re-release that mostly just adds some extra DLC stuff. By weird coincidence, it’s also the same day Rockstar released a remastered version of the 3D Grand Theft Auto games, from 3 to San Andreas. I’m not sure how much of it is a mobile port but it’s likely to be a certain amount based on it. The latter is more of a concern when it comes to definining what makes a “definitive” edition.
Anyone who’s had a Steam copy of a 3D Grand Theft Auto game, before Rockstar yanked them from sale probably so people couldn’t as easily criticize this new version and also to try to force people onto their own launcher with a shiny new version, probably knows firsthand about the various updates that mess with the game, as well as anyone who downloaded a patch for a disc copy. The main thing was to remove “objectionable content” such as not-entirely-removed sex minigames or expired licensed music, really more objectionable to lawyers than any typical gamer. In some cases it also broke things like lighting effects and whatnot. Naturally the modding communities stepped in to unbreak and even downgrade the game versions for the sake of compatibility and functionality, as well as completing the soundtrack. Whatever one’s opinion of Michael Jackson, the first song that plays in Vice City once Tommy gets in a vehicle is Billie Jean, which gets interrupted by some report about bridges being out, and any other outcome is apparently blasphemy. And I’d bet that the tracklist is about the same as the last mobile versions in this new version, maybe with a couple more songs removed, or possibly even added.
Of course, graphics are a big draw for these kinds of remasters, and it’s usually the main focus. Therefore it can also be a big contention. From what I’ve seen, the GTA remasters look a bit plastic for the character models. I think the reasoning is that the 3D games compared to the HD ones were still a bit cartoony in style, but I also feel they went as realistic as they could with the graphics they had, so the new result as far as I can tell looks like a weird CGI budget film that spent most of the budget on the environment. Apparently any time fog and draw distance also get changed, there’s also an issue, and the Silent Hill HD Collection is a bad example of “improving” draw distance, as the environments were designed around the heavy fog so areas will visibly get cut off when that’s pushed back. It also might break the illusion of the game world being bigger than it actually is in some cases.
For most games in general, purists are likely to argue that the original release is the best and that any change is bad. However if the issue extends well past purists into the general opinion of players, then there’s a problem with the remaster. There might also be a bit of a pros and cons thing, where there might be actual improvements to gameplay aspects and considerations like throwing in checkpoints where there were none, certain other things distract from the good. This especially comes up when certain things aren’t just upscaled or polished but totally changed. Things like certain flags being removed or redrawing a country’s borders on a map or even lines or quests going missing. The probably-Facebook-sponsored Resident Evil 4 VR, one of those Oculus exclusives Facebook/Meta wants to use to strongarm any competition out of the VR space, certainly has those concerns on top of others, such as Oculus exclusivity. Also it’s first-person now because VR, but first-person hasn’t been exactly stated as a bad thing in Resident Evil with the recent games at least, just that Capcom is very spotty with VR support in the series and it seems to stay exclusive to one thing or another.
Of course with all the weird flakiness of if a remaster or port will actually work correctly on top of whatever changes they do make, if any, the end result is the player determines the real definitive edition from what they enjoy best, not the marketing labels, and then they can go argue with others about it. I’m fine playing the original PS1 Tony Hawk 1 and 2 instead of the latest remake since I already had those, with additional reasoning for not buying the remake especially now, yet I went and got a copy of 2X on Xbox anyway because it was cheap. And the N64 versions have funny soundtracks that are chopped up and screwed up. And don’t forget the Joker.