(Includes TimeSplitters, TimeSplitters 2, and TimeSplitters: Future Perfect)
You’ve probably heard Daniel and me gush about the series ad nauseum on Dual Wielding, so it should come as little surprise that the studio-formerly-known-as-Free-Radical’s signature franchise would top this list. In an era where the FPS genre unequivocally dominates the marketplace, it’s astounding that not a single title has managed to capture the humor, charm, and wild antics of the TimeSplitters series.
In a market saturated by brown military shooters that all look the same, what better way to stand out than a time-traveling romp through several iconic eras in a whimsical adventure that constantly pokes fun at itself? The style of gunplay is familiar to any gamer weened on GoldenEye or Perfect Dark, the art style falls between Pixar and realism, but no other franchise has yet duplicated the series’ panache. Aside from genuinely funny writing, gallavanting monkeys, and period piece levels that are as distinct from one another as you could possibly imagine, TimeSplitters was a franchise far ahead of its time (pun intended), particularly TimeSplitters 2. A robust multiplayer suite unlike any existing in its day provided for countless hours of fun and included over a hundred playable characters, a whole stable of themed challenges, and included one of the most robust map editors ever produced for consoles (Forge has nothing on TS2). Throw in up-res’d assets and network functionality, and you have an amazing assortment of fun that stands out just as much today as it did over a decade ago. And hey, with long-gestating TimeSplitters 4 on hold at Crytek, an HD Collection would be a welcome bone for fans while simulateneously drumming up support for a new installment.
2) STAR WARS: ROGUE SQUADRON
(Includes Rogue Squadron, Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II, and Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike)
Battlefront gets most of the love from new-school gamers and X-Wing grabs the hearts of the old guys, but for my money the Rogue Squadron series stands tall as the quintessential video game incarnation of the gargantuan transmedia franchise. In fact, it’s gotten to a point where the Rogue Squadron series seemingly never comes up when talking about the greatest Star Wars video games, which is mind boggling to me. As a kid growing up watching the classic trilogy, two things stuck out more than any other: Jedi and space combat. Factor 5 (may they rest in peace) knocked the latter out of the park in all three iterations, even if Rebel Strike was diluted by poorly-conceived on-foot segments. Rogue Squadron as a series does a fantastic job of making you feel like a starfighter pilot; controls are intuitive and fittingly arcadey, while its objective-based mission structur is well-paced and tightly orchestrated. The missions themselves consist of both scenes from the movies and, more frequently, original levels and firefights set amidst the backdrop of the legendary films. Replayability is very high as there are different medals to earn per mission, unlockable fighter classes, and even secret ships and levels. Rogue Leader adds further depth with a mechanic allowing you to dole out support commands to your squadron as well as subtle details that add greatly to the immersion (for example, in one mission where you take down a Star Destroyer, the number of guns you eliminate during the mission carries over to the next mission on the planet’s surface). Finally, the two GameCube games remain among the prettiest on the system–despite Rogue Leader being a launch title–and both are among the few titles that truly exercise the GameCube’s then-impressive power.
3) RESIDENT EVIL
(Includes the GameCube remake of Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, Resident Evil Zero, Resident Evil: Code: Veronica X, and Resident Evil 4).
How does this not exist yet? With HD Collections permeating the landscape, how does one of the industry’s all-time iconic franchises sit on the sidelines, despite a new entry releasing just last year? Even in Capcom’s own house, Devil May Cry–which started off as an early Resident Evil 4 prototype–got an HD set last year to promote the recently-released DmC…and that was a reboot! Now, to be fair, RE4 and Code: Veronica X are already available as standalone downloadable HD releases, but even those were put forth with minimal effort (then again, perhaps that was foreshadowing RE6 after all). Hell, the Resident Evil 6 Anthology collector’s edition for PS3 even includes downloadable versions of all the listed titles for our collection save Zero, but 1-3 are merely the classic PS1 versions. No, Capcom needs to step up to the plate and give proper HD treatment to its biggest series. I’m not even talking full-fledged remake on the level of the GameCube’s Resident Evil (how awesome would that be?), but at least a proper HD Collection with high-resolution graphics, 16:9 support, and whatever other bells and whistles could be applied. Additionally, Capcom should not make the same mistake Konami did with its Metal Gear Solid collection: give us the glorious remake of the original, not a downloadable version from the original PlayStation. The GameCube remake of Resident Evil 1 is often heralded as one of the best recreations ever pulled off in the game industry and the definitive way to play the first installment–so give us that, not the polygonal mess from 1996. A more aggressive collection could always throw in RE5 and 6 for good measure, but the listed titles would be sufficient if handled properly.
4) METROID PRIME
(Includes Metroid Prime, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption)
Retro Studios revitalized the dormant Metroid series with 2002′s sublime Metroid Prime on the Nintendo GameCube. The stellar first entry–arguably among the best games of all time–was followed by two further strong games in Echoes on the GameCube and Corruption on the Wii, after which the entire Prime trilogy was collected for a limited print anthology retrofitted with Wii motion controls. However, the steelbox Metroid Prime Trilogy, despite some additions, is not the full HD remaster that Nintendo’s beautiful sci-fi adventure deserves due to the Wii’s SD-only technology. Metroid has always been an exotic game with beautiful art direction and locales that would come to life in the clarity of high definition. Retro’s use of fancy visual effects like bloomlighting and the in-helmet perspective also lend themselves well to a higher visual fidelity. Furthermore, the touchscreen of the Wii U’s gamepad could make managing Samus’s numerous powers more manageable, while full motion control support could be maintained from the Wii compilation for those who prefer it. The series has also been known to heavily feature scanning of objects and enemies as a means to unlock new entries of lore–two more features that benefit from the technologies aboard the Wii U GamePad. With Nintendo clearly trying to redefine the Metroid series post-Prime (see: Metroid: Other M), an HD Collection of Samus’s most celebrated 3D adventures would be a good way to placate fans for the meantime and keep the bounty hunter in the public mindset.
5) STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC
(Includes BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic and Obsidian’s Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords)
BioWare Austin met mixed levels of success with the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic, which was notoriously hyped as the narrative equivalent of KOTOR 3-9. With SWTOR staggering during its transition to a free-to-play model, EA and LucasArts would be well-served to energize the fanbase with HD versions of the two epics that lay the foundation for the MMO. The original Knights of the Old Republic vaulted BioWare from a celebrated producer of digital Dungeons & Dragons properties to arguably the preeminent Western developer of RPGs and interactive storytelling. KOTOR was a big step for the company as it expanded its resume into sci-fi while simultaneously corralling one of the biggest entertainment properties of all time and injecting it with a unique, wholly original direction. KOTOR was the first time many gamers had a reason to own an Xbox other than Halo, and it instilled in BioWare the confidence to further expand into original IPs such as Mass Effect, Jade Empire, and Dragon Age. In short, Knights of the Old Republic was a cornerstone title for one of the best developers in the industry. Obsidian’s sequel, The Sith Lords, was also a high-quality Star Wars RPG in the same vein and spirit, despite being rushed out the door short of all its planned content. With the original Xbox’s lifetime sales a mere shadow of the 360′s (not to mentioned the combined installed bases of all current generation platforms), there are plenty of gamers who have missed one of the best Star Wars experiences out there–and could serve as a potential launching point into the MMO.
(Includes Onimusha: Warlords, Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Destiny, Onimusha 3: Demon Siege, and Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams)
I don’t pretend to know much of anything about Onimusha; as someone who never owned a PS2, I completely missed out on one of the system’s signature series. The samurai-themed action-adventure covered a thematic genre that is frankly not as treaded in gaming as it should be. Despite the heavy crossover between gamers and admirers of Japanese culture, and the immediate attraction of a sword-based combat system, samurai games are not exactly a common ilk. Still, Onimusha commanded a lot of attention on the PS2, even to those who couldn’t play it. Capcom has been struggling in recent years with its public relations with fans and the general quality of its biggest games; surely they could use a callback to better days, especially with a franchise that still stands as unique and iconic amongst both its portfolio and the industry as a whole. Nostalgic fans starved for samurai-themed action are sure to eat it up, while a new generation of action fans are given a fresh opportunity to dive in. Perhaps an HD Collection could even fuel a revival for those who may want it? Capcom could sure use a new star.
7) THE LORD OF THE RINGS
(Includes EA’s film-based The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)
Some of you reading this are probably scratching your heads right now. Surely, how could licensed adaptations of a now decade-old movie trilogy–without license rights to the literary works, no less–manage to snag a spot in the coveted Top 7? Well the truth is…these games were actually good. Forget what you think you know about movie-licensed video games; EA’s efforts to adapt Peter Jackson’s breakout phenomenon actually resulted in thrilling games that captured The Lord of the Rings in a rompy, hack-and-slash style that is still arguably the best game representation of the classic trilogy to this day. The Two Towers was begat as a late bid to capitalize on the films’ popularity and as such incorporated parts of The Fellowship of the Ring into it, but it delivered mightily on its cinematic battles. For the closer, EA expanded its approach aggressively, going with three branching campaigns, co-op support, and several extra goodies like new unlockable characters from the movies. With a bit of visual sprucing up, an addition of co-op to The Two Towers, and an injection of modern network functionality into the whole package, The Lord of the Rings HD Collection could easily draw excitement today–surely moreso than recent efforts of wide-ranging quality such as LOTR: Conquest and Guardians of Middle-Earth. The only real hangup here is that the LOTR license has since passed on to Warner Bros.; though recent litigation suggests that the Tolkein Estate wouldn’t be completely opposed to returning its crown jewel to its most successful game publisher.
There are several other candidates that didn’t quite make the cut but I couldn’t leave out without at least a word or two–it’s likely you all reading this are shouting at the screen for some of these anyway. First off is the pair of Super Mario Galaxy games, which have already been hacked into HD via the Dolphin emulator to stunning effect. While assuredly awesome, these games already look so beautiful on the antiquated Wii that I honestly don’t feel retouched visuals alone would add substantively to the experience. The Grand Theft Auto III trilogy (GTA3 + Vice City + San Andreas) is likely a curious omission for many as it was the best-selling franchise of the PS2/Xbox/GameCube generation, but they all already exist in some combination on the 360, PS3, and even smartphones and tablets. Shenmue, on the other hand, would have been fascinating as the Dreamcast-era pair of titles is revered by its cult following; their omission is due to the simple fact I know next to nothing about either game. And finally, I was tempted to throw Star Wars: Racer (as in podracer, not…this crap) into the mix, which would span the original Episode I spin-off N64 game and it’s PS2-only, Sebulba-focused sequel, Racer Revenge. However, with two Star Wars series already making the list, I could not justify another that so pales in depth compared to its cousins.
So there you have: the 7 HD Collections that haven’t happened yet, but should. Did we miss any of your favorites? Be sure to sound off in the comments!