Ryan Wilson

Gaming Trends: “Enhanced Edition”

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The game so nice they released it twice…or so they want you to believe.

When I say “Enhanced Edition”, I’m not talking a limited edition box with a small resin bust of an auxiliary character and an art book (though that might be the topic of a future “Gaming Trends”), nor am I talking about a “Game of the Year” edition, where late-comers can experience the game and all its expansions on the cheap. No, we’re talking about the “old and improved” re-release: the dusty titles given a fresh coat of paint to appeal to the modern gaming audience, while at the same time pissing off the fans of the original.

How it can go right

Bug redemption

Prior to this current generation of consoles (or prior to the Internet for PC gamers), if a developer made a fatal error in their game, the player had to suffer through it 99% of the time. While some developers offered patched versions of their games by contacting them through snail mail (or, if you were one of the lucky ones with a dialup modem and BBS, slowly download a patch), other companies made you double dip into your wallet to get a their bugs resolved (often hidden under a “Special Edition” moniker).

Those days are gone. What was once an infamous bugs from the original title will likely receive extra special attention the second time around. If a new bug is discovered after release, any halfway competent developer can patch their product and have it available to download within seconds (assuming they aren’t under the stricter console update schedule).

Playable without emulation

There is a reason why such programs as DOSBox and ScummVM are so popular among retro gamers. Unless you have a Tandy Color in your computer room for these types of emergencies, you’re going to have to result to playing your copy of Ultima V with an emulator. Sounds easy, right? WRONG! Unless you’re double-dipping through a digital distribution service like GOG or Steam, you’re going to have to hit the shady and legally-ambiguous areas of the Internet to find a pre-converted copy of the game (one, hopefully, without a nasty virus attached to it).

The beauty with Enhanced Editions is that they’ve done the dirty work for you. That DOS-only game you remember from your childhood can now be enjoyed on your quad-core, dual graphics card, 64-bit beast of a machine.

Improves the game

CD Projekt RED is the epitome of this technique. With the release of The Witcher, the company tries some fresh and risky ideas. After a year of listening to fan suggestions and correcting bugs, they released the Enhanced Edition, a fully patched and heavily tweaked version of the game. These changes only sought to improve an already strong game, and required a minimal (if any) learning curve.

How it can go horribly wrong

Rubs salt on the sequel wound

Recent offender:Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition
PC gamers around the world collectively shat themselves when the quite dormant baldursgate.com changed to a static page of the iconic medallion with a countdown this week. We watched and waited, F5 key at the ready the moment that countdown to bear the fruits of our patience.
HTTP Error 503 Service unavailable

Fast forward a 20 excruciating minutes of frantic refreshing and we finally had the answer that eluded us so long…a remake. Baldur’s Gate 3 became yet again a distant dream.

The “HD” version

Worst offender: The PlayStation 3
How do you solve a problem like backwards compatibility? Well, if you’re one of the dozens “HD remakes” available for the PlayStation 3, you do a quick and dirty upconvert and slap a bunch of trophies on it. Never mind that the lucky PlayStation 3’s with backwards compatibility can do just as good of a job with the original game, you’re paying for TROPHIES!

Loss of licensing

Worst offender: Crazy Taxi
There are few things worst than meeting an old friend after years of no contact only to find they have completely changed for the worse. Well, that’s exactly what we got when they re-released Crazy Taxi for the Xbox 360. Sure, the gameplay was exactly the same, but the lack of a soundtrack from the laughably dated The Offspring just felt…wrong.

The George Lucas effect

Worst offender: Goldeneye 007
Remember how outraged you got when George Lucas retrofitted Hayden Christensen into Return of the Jedi? Well, games are far from safe from “modernization” either. Goldeneye 007 got it pretty bad on its recent re-release, replacing Pierce Brosnan with current Bond actor Daniel Craig, despite Goldeneye taking place later in the Bond timeline.

How to Protect Yourself from Mediocrity

  • Play the original, if possible
  • Watch out for “HD” labeling in the title
  • If it costs more than the original, think about it first…
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