In my recent review of the Silent Hill HD Collection, I touched upon the more positive aspects of the practice of re-releasing older titles with a high-def facelift, particularly that of a new generation of gamers being exposed to classic titles from consoles past.
However, there is a seedier side to this practice: the quick conversion for a quicker buck that rides on a wistful wave of nostalgia. This has become a far more common practice with the lack of backwards compatibility in certain consoles (PS3, I'm looking at you) as well as a quick primer to catch gamers up in advance of new entries in a franchise. This was partially true in the case of the Silent Hill HD Collection—which greased the wheels for Silent Hill Downpour--but very true in the case of the Devil May Cry HD Collection, a re-release of the original Devil May Cry trilogy to get gamers back into the combo-combat mood for the upcoming reboot DmC.
Loading up the original Devil May Cry is still a sight to behold. While the game itself looks naturally dated, the sense of scale and artistic swagger is undeniable. The mishmash of art styles, mostly a crumbling gothic style with a splash of Mediterranean flair, is still striking even 11 years after its initial release. The combat is just as awesome, demanding a near-zen level of concentration to build up your style meter, making slaughtering dozens of the same enemies fresh and thrilling.
Devil May Cry 2 is still one of the most disappointing follow ups of all time, with a nonsensical, incomprehensible plot—no small feat for a Devil May Cry title—and a strangely subdued presentation that felt stiff and boring in the wake of its over-the-top prequel. Even the additions of a few extra maneuvers like mid-air evasions and attacks do little to make this less than an afterthought of a sequel.
Then there's Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, which is still one of the gold standards for video game sequels. Set chronologically first in the series, it still manages to trump the original with 4 different play styles, the ability to switch weapons on the fly, and a sense of sheer ridiculousness and brash fun that makes the two prior titles seem positively tame.
The downside to the Devil May Cry HD Collection is that it's not all that high-def. The resolution has been kicked up to 1080P and widescreen to at least fill modern screens edge-to-edge, but that's about it. The edges of the fairly low-poly models are crisp, but the textures that cover them are muddy and undefined. These were cutting edge titles in the PS2 era, but they're certainly less than pretty now. Even worse, the pre-rendered cinematics have received literally no updates, covering the normal 1.33:1 aspect ratio, leaving your big beautiful HD screen windowboxed on either side of the murky image. While I can certainly appreciate that there may not be the original elements necessary to update the prerendered cinematics, the lack of care put into the game proper is a little disheartening.
However, there's also the factor of price. While the three games didn't receive the same level of care from Capcom as last year's Resident Evil HD releases, the asking price of 40 bucks is a no-brainer. When some single-player titles can ask 60 bucks for a mere 5-6 hours of playtime, the sheer volume of gaming present in this collection is an unquestionable, if slightly exploitative value.