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Why Are My Next Gen Games from 2004?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on June 06, 2007   |   Episode 127 (Show Archive)  

devil may cry 4 art
Sure Ninja Gaiden Sigma looks like one of the best games of the year, but it's still a port of a three year old game!
When it comes to making games these days nobody is going to argue that it's an expensive proposition. Between hiring dozens programmers, working with voice actors, dealing with real musicians, and making sure the productions are high enough to impress even the most demanding player, video game companies these days have to spend millions of dollars to see their dream come to life. With such high stakes it only makes sense that these game companies would try and find ways of getting the most out of their buck, so we see game engines used multiple times and titles being ported to as many different systems as possible.

But there's one trend that is starting to worry me a little. While a lot of console owners have already complained about seeing their favorite games going to the competitor's unit, there's one cost-cutting measure that definitely feels cheap to me. When it comes right down to it, I'm starting to worry about all of these
If this game was actually real then it would have cost a fortune to make!
last generation games that are getting the next generation make-over.

You don't have to spend too much time waiting for an example of what I'm talking about, just look at Ninja Gaiden Sigma, the PlayStation 3 game scheduled to be released later on this month. Despite its good looks, Ninja Gaiden Sigma is nothing more than a port of a three year old Xbox game. Not the Xbox 360, mind you, but rather the original Xbox, the one that Microsoft officially discontinued last year.

But don't worry PlayStation 3 owners, just because the game is three years old that doesn't mean that
No you silly goose, not this Ninja Gaiden II!
you're getting a completely outdated experience. Of all the games in recent memory I would certainly argue that Ninja Gaiden is one of the best, it was very forward thinking and ahead of its time back in 2004. This brand new PlayStation 3 version will have a lot of amazing new additions, a brand new playable character and better graphics. But even with all of this added incentive it's hard not to be a little disappointed that Tecmo decided to port this old game instead of giving us something new, such as Ninja Gaiden II.

Unfortunately Tecmo isn't the only company doing this. Last month Vivendi Games announced that they would be giving The Chronicles of Riddick a facelift for this brand new generation. The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena would be an upgraded port of the critically acclaimed 2004 Xbox game, only this time with a brand new batch of levels and improved graphics. Like Ninja Gaiden Sigma it's easy to be excited about this
C'mon on, they made two of those stupid Riddick movies, why not just release another Riddick game?
upcoming Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 title, but even with the new areas and upgraded HD graphics most gamers would probably have preferred to see a brand new Riddick title, something that wasn't a port of a three year old game they had already played.

Of course, not every port is a bad idea. Take Valve's upcoming Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 game, Half-Life 2: The Orange Box, which will finally give their brilliant 2004 computer game the console port it deserves. Unlike Ninja Gaiden and The Chronicles of Riddick, Half-Life 2 was never a very good console game. The original Xbox game (released in 2005) suffered from a lot of technical problems, due in large part to the aging console's out of date hardware. While some critics gave the game the benefit of the doubt, anybody who played through the PC original can plainly see that the 2005 console game just wasn't up to snuff.

Thankfully Valve decided to do something about that, and current generation gamers will be able to enjoy Half-Life 2 in all of its splendor, the way it should have been. And better yet, Valve isn't just offering us one of the best games of the
Half-Life 2 is one port that I don't mind seeing, especially if the extra games are as cool as I think they are!
last ten years, they are also adding in two Half-Life episodes, a crazy new puzzle game, and Team Fortress 2 ... all for the same price as Shadowrun! So even if you never go back and touch the original Half-Life 2, there's enough new content here to make this one of the must have titles of the year (assuming it comes out this year). In contrast Half-Life 2 makes Ninja Gaiden and The Chronicles of Riddick look like cash cows ... which may not be too far from the truth.

And this isn't just happening on the graphical powerhouses like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360; we're also seeing this trend happen on the Nintendo Wii. A mere two years after its original release Resident Evil 4 will be finding a new home on the motion-friendly Wii. Unfortunately outside of new controls (and full HD support), the Wii version of Resident Evil 4 isn't all that different. No brand new levels, new playable characters or amazing revamped graphics. Instead we are treated to the
I don't care what anybody says, the conceptual artwork for King Kong really steals the show!
same amazing adventure that we played two years ago on the GameCube, only this time with the same bonus features that graced the PlayStation 2 port. Thankfully this new version will run you a fraction of the price of a new game, but it could be (and will be) argued that you can already play the GameCube original on your Wii.

Of course, this practice is nothing new. When the Xbox 360 launched back in late 2005 Microsoft's third parties were all too willing to offer up ports of last generation titles. One look at launch games like Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, Peter Jackson's King Kong, and Need for Speed: Most Wanted and you will see that a lot of third party companies were more willing to just throw up ports than to make fresh new games. Then again, the difference then was that the Xbox 360 was a brand new system and that these companies were releasing these ports at the same time as the lead SKU. Sure they were just using these games to pad their next generation catalog and make a few more bucks, but given the circumstances (and the console shortages) can you blame them? Ninja Gaiden, Half-Life 2 and The Chronicles of Riddick are being released well after the console launches, in some cases the console will be nearly two years old by the time these games hit. No matter how good they are (and there's no doubt that Ninja Gaiden Sigma
Maybe Super Mario Bros. 3 wasn't the first next gen port, but it does seem weird that Nintendo decided to upgrade the graphisc only three years after its release!
is going to be downright amazing), there's just something unsettling about seeing three year old games being released on what is supposed to be a next generation console.

Believe it or not this trend actually has some historical significance. Back in the early 1990s, Nintendo realized that they could milk their classic 8-bit Super Mario Bros. games in the 16-bit era. With this realization came Super Mario All-Stars, a 16-bit upgrade to four of the classic NES Mario Bros. titles. While most Nintendo fans will argue that All-Stars was a compilation and not a port, it's still worth reminding people that the 16-bit version of Super Mario Bros. 3 was released only three years after its 8-bit counterpart. Thankfully Nintendo has been good about releasing updated ports of three year old games ... if only Tecmo, Capcom, and Vivendi could have learned from Big N's lesson.

Even if you're not outraged by what these companies are doing, it's still important to note that we're getting excited about old generation games that are sold to us at full price. That's not to say that these games are bad, but wouldn't you rather see Tecmo, Capcom, Vivendi and even Valve give us something brand new to chew on? One has to wonder how many other classic from 2004 we're going to have to play again. Is this just the start of it? Over the next few months are we going to be enduring announcements for an updated San Andreas, Metal Gear Solid 3 and Astro Boy? As much as I like those games I sure hope this isn't our future.


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