Over the last month, I’ve had a great experience with an HD reissue of a game, and a typically unsatisfying one.
The great HD port was Okami, where it’s clear that HexaDrive, the studio given the responsibility of porting a great, unsung classic, took that legacy seriously. Okami HD is a game that cleans up the original version, adds in Move functionality that apes the Wii release, with sharper graphics that never fail to meet—and sometimes exceed—the standards set by the original.
Zone of the Enders HD Collection on the other hand, falls into the same trap as the Silent Hill HD collection, surprising dedicated fans with performance issues that didn’t appear in the original games. What does it say about the amount of care and respect for the ZOE fanbase when a PS2 game plays faster and with a higher frame rate than its Xbox 360 and PS3 high definition versions? What does it say about the attitude towards Silent Hill fans when patches had to be issued on the PS3 to fix frame rate and even lip synchronization issues, and those same problems weren’t even patched for the 360 version?
It’s one of those things you’d expect would be a no brainer, but apparently taking a classic game and bringing it into the HD world is harder than it looks. Sony has been consistently good about taking care of their award winning franchises; God of War, Sly Cooper and Ico/Shadow of the Colossus all got an enormous amount of care in their transition to high definition. Microsoft went above and beyond expectations when they gave Master Chief an HD face lift for Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. Even Konami, responsible for two of the worst HD ports in recent memory at least put some effort into making sure that the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection was a worthy addition to the award winning legacy it was representing.
So why did Silent Hill and Zone of the Enders get the shaft?
Personally, I would have been happy with even a mediocre HD port. Ubisoft has not been particularly ambitious about bringing some of their properties to current generation consoles. Prince of Persia and Beyond Good Evil have had decent ports that did relatively little other than sharpen up some graphics. Beyond Good & Evil even retained the irritating control setting from the original version that would only invert the Y axis and the X axis at the same time. But in neither case was there an actual sacrifice in performance.
What is it then about the Konami games that makes them such difficult projects for porting? Did both Silent Hill and Zone of the Enders use hardware tricks specific to the PS2 that are nearly impossible to replicate through emulation? That’s one of the reasons why David Cage’s Indigo Prophecy won’t work properly even on launch 60GB PS3 models, so perhaps that’s the case with this suite of games.
Whatever the case is, it’s disappointing for everyone involved when what seems like a relatively safe assumption is proven to be anything but. You’d think with a last generation game running on current generation hardware there would be far more speed and power for these games to really show what they can do. It’s both surprising and disappointing to see that the ZOE games, some of the fastest, most hyperkinetic shooters of the PS2 era, are so fast that even the hardware of today can’t attempt them without performance hits.
Or maybe Konami just needs to take more pride in their properties, and not leave them to be inadequately ported. Disappointing fans is not the way to earn good will or trust in future products.