A few months ago, Aaryn Flynn, one of the big wigs at BioWare, took to the NeoGAF forum and made a few unconvincing, “hypothetical” statements about what a Mass Effect trilogy HD remaster “might” be like, “if” it ever appeared on the Xbox One and PS4. Of course all that is just cautious, unofficial PR management for “Yes, we like money, and are going to bring our bestselling series to a new generation of consoles to add more bills to our Scrooge McDuck-style swimming pool of cash.” With HD remasters being so fashionable now, it’s naïve to believe that BioWare wouldn’t like to make some extra profit with “minimal” effort.
However, as Capcom has shown with the record breaking sales on the GameCube port of Resident Evil Remastered for new consoles, older classics brought up to modern standards sell really, really well, especially if there’s nothing quite like it on the market today. This is where it’s time to look at BioWare’s classic library, in particular, one of the all-time great Western console RPGs, 2003’s Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic, originally released for the Xbox. The game was published by Lucasarts, and versions of it have been ported over to mobile iOS and Android devices which says a lot about how “small” the game is by today’s standards.
But for many gamers, this is their version of Sixth Sense or Se7en, with one of the best twists in gaming, or any medium for that matter. This was the very first game BioWare ever produced outside of PCs, so console gamers with no familiarity with their Baldur’s Gate games had no idea that some of the best writers in the industry were pulling out all the stops for their console debut. Since its release, KOTOR has been both critically and commercially acclaimed as one of the all-time great Xbox games, and while it’s available on a wide variety of platforms now, there’s one thing this game would greatly benefit from; an HD facelift in the same way that Halo and Resident Evil have received one.
KOTOR is, after all, a sixth generation console title, and it was put out at a time when Microsoft was only just starting to gain a foothold in that sector, so there’s a sizable number of PS2 and GameCube owners from that era that missed out entirely on this classic. Add onto that the fact that the game is over 10 years old, and it’s clear that there’s an entire generation of gamers that have probably also missed out on this game in the intervening time. By today’s standards, it’s not a pretty game to look at; take off your nostalgia goggles and look at the mobile version or look at any screen shot, and you’ll see how far BioWare has come with Commander Shepard and the Inquisitor. The player-made Jedi, and the standard definition, comparatively low polygonal, standard definition galaxies of Star Wars as envisioned in a pre-HD era don’t hold up so well to modern eyes.
However, the story is still just as riveting as ever, it’s only let down by technology that was only just emerging from the primordial, prehistorical soup of early 3D graphics. There’s also some practical business at work in a move like this. Disney has partnered with Electronic Arts to produce Star Wars games. EA owns BioWare. A KOTOR remake is a license to print money that doesn’t need to rely on remaining “true” or “loyal” to whatever plot will unfold in the JJ Abrams continuation of the film franchise.
And, as a gamer who was lucky enough to borrow an Xbox to play the game exactly ONCE, many years ago, I personally am excited by the changes that an HD update would bring. First and foremost, if it gets the Halo/Resident Evil treatment, then it will essentially look like a brand new game. To be able to see my created Jedi looking as good as my Commander Shephard or Inquisitor would be fantastic, in addition to see finally seeing characters like Bastila Shan and HK-47 rendered in gorgeous, futuristic, Mass Effect-y glory, complete with superfluous lens flare. 1080p would be mandatory, 60 frames per second would be nice, but not required. Perhaps just as importantly, BioWare has had years more experience with console user interface in the years since their Xbox debut, so it would be nice if they could tweak the combat and other user aspects to more accurately reflect the smoother user experiences of Mass Effect and Dragon Age.
Bringing Knights of the Old Republic to modern consoles certainly wouldn’t be easy, but it would be easier than making a new game outright. The mechanics, levels, character designs, animation, voice acting and other gaming foundations are all there, and don’t need to redone. It’s just the characters and environments that would benefit the most from an update. For fun, BioWare could even include the “Old School/New School toggle switch” that other games like Halo: Master Chief Collection have built in to see the world of difference between the original game and its new face.
Now, I’m not saying BioWare IS going to make a KOTOR game, but honestly, if they or their owners like money, this is a safe way to make a bit more.