Fan fiction: The unsanctioned HD remakes inbound
We check out the fan made ‘re-imaginings’ that publishers don’t want you to play.
Publishers love remaking and remastering their old games – it's a relatively quick and easy way to earn a bit of extra cash, and we've even gotten to the point where games which are barely 18 months old are getting dusted off for a next-gen facelift – Last Of Us Remastered, we're looking at you.
However, it's not just developers and publishers who are getting in on the act – the availability of PC-based developers tools such as Unity and Unreal Engine mean that fans are able to get involved too, and as a result we're seen a large volume of unofficial attempts to bring classic titles bang up to date. Some of these have found favour with the original creators – Half Life studio Value nurtured the fan-made remake BlackMesa and even published it – but a higher proportion sadly fall by the wayside. Super Mario 64 HD and Resident Evil 2 HD are two recent examples which have been forced to close due to legal pressure from the IP holders.
There are still some forthcoming fan made HD remasters on the cards though, so we've pulled together our five favourites. We've no idea if these will still be standing in six months, but our fingers are firmly crossed that they are, because they promise to give fans what publishers won't.
Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
When Nintendo recently announced that it was remastering the GameCube and Wii title The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for release on the Wii U next year, you'd imagine that modder Tomoya Hamasaki's face would have dropped. Hamasaki has been working on his own remaster of the classic action RPG, and the news that Nintendo is doing its own version must have come as a blow. However, Hamasaki remains bullish and claims his is arguably the better-looking of the two games, offering features such as screen space ambient occlusion, depth of field, crepuscular rays, motion blur, distant fog, dynamic shadows, reflections and global illumination. The catch is that you'll need a pretty powerful PC to play it, but for fans who only want the very best from their remakes, this is one to watch.
The Kickstarter campaign for Shenmue 3 was a massive success, but even before that took place one fan made it his mission to bring Sega's cult series back to life, remastering the Dreamcast original in stunning clarity. The project has been making slow progress and the creator has admitted that he lacks the animation skills to make the characters move realistically, but the work done so far is nothing short of jaw-dropping; the Hazuki residence looks so real you feel like you could practically touch it. The Dreamcast version was once held up as one of the best-looking games ever made, but this remake is something else – so much so that series creator Yu Suzuki has actually hired the brains behind it, South Korean fan ‘Kid Nocon’, to work on the third Shenmue game. It remains to be seen if he can work on both concurrently, but now he's on board officially, the chances of this remake getting an official blessing is higher than Ryo actually finding some sailors.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 HD
Sonic 2 is widely regarded as the best entry in the entire Sonic the Hedgehog series, thanks to its refined gameplay, colourful visuals, expansive levels and the addition of a second character in the shape of Tails. The fact that the franchise hasn't risen to the same heights since (Sonic CD perhaps excepted) has forced a group of fans to painstakingly recreate the 2D classic in glorious high definition, remastering the hand-drawn graphics and remixing the jaunty, catching soundtrack. They're even looking to include features which weren't possible when the game was originally released back in 1992, such as online multiplayer. Extra levels and another playable character – Knuckles, who wouldn't appear until the sequel – are also promised. The game is still in development, but you can download a pre-release version here.
Metal Gear Solid – and its creator, Hideo Kojima – have been in the headlines a lot recently, thanks to the latter's messy divorce from publisher Konami. Kojima's departure means that he no longer holds the keys to the Metal Gear series, so this fan project is lent additional importance. It's a remake of the game which started it all, the 1987 MSX title Metal Gear. Originally viewed from a top-down perspective and utilising 2D visuals, this new venture updates Solid Snake's first mission using Unreal Engine 4, and will adopt similar gameplay to that seen in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The fact that Konami shut down a similar project not long ago – one which had the involvement of original Solid Snake voice actor David Hayter – doesn't bode too well for Outer Heaven's long-term prospects, but we're crossing our fingers that it makes it to the finish line.
Bully HD might not be a fully-fledged remaster project, but we sure hope the positive reception which has greeted it will encourage further development. Built in Unreal Engine 4 by prop artist Wesley Arthur, this recreation of Bully's iconic Bullworth Academy is bursting with detail – Arthur states that the work is intended to show off his prop designing skills, and that every item has been recreated from scratch. Rockstar Games – the developer of the 2006 original – says that it currently has no plans for Bully 2, but the trademark was renewed in 2013, so there's a fair chance we could see a sequel before long. Perhaps Rockstar should get in touch with Arthur and get him to design the environments; based on this amazing work, he's more than up to the task.