Remakes and updates of older games have grown increasingly common in recent years, and no wonder. Designing and marketing new games is expensive and time-consuming— why not put out an upgraded version of a game people already like so they can buy it all over again?
If the game is poor or the remake is shoddy it can feel like an insulting cash grab. But when care and thought are put into the update process it’s not so hard to take the plunge again (and it’s even easier if you’re new to the games on offer).
The “God of War: Origins Collection” for the PlayStation 3 is more a repackaging than a remake, though it’s not without enhancements. It collects both of the “God of War” games released for the PlayStation Portable— 2008’s “Chains of Olympus” and last year’s “Ghost of Sparta”—upgrading their visuals to 720p high definition and including a stereoscopic 3-D option for those with equipment capable of supporting the feature.
Both titles looked terrific on the PSP (particularly “Ghost of Sparta”), and here they are about on par with the “God of War Collection,” which provided a similar upgrade to the first two games in the series, originally released for the PlayStation 2. The graphics don’t match those of “God of War III,” but little does; regardless, this is a good-looking pair of games.
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Visuals aside, “Chains of Olympus” and “Ghost of Sparta” differ little from other “God of War” games, aside from the special abilities and equipment unique to them. And they’re just as packed with extremely intense, gory violence, and occasional sexual situations and nudity.
“Chains” occurs before any of the other “God of War” games, during series anti-hero Kratos’ days as sort of a hit man for the gods of Olympus. After an opening level spent in Attica battling invading Persians and their monstrous pet basilisk, the sun god Helios plummets to ground, plunging the world into darkness. Kratos must discover what is behind Helios’ fall and disappearance, and restore the sun to the sky.
“Ghost of Sparta” takes place between the first and second “God of War” games, with Kratos having taken Ares’ place as the god of war but not yet begun his campaign against Olympus. Haunted by visions, Kratos journeys to Atlantis in hopes of learning more about his past, battling his way past the sea monster Scylla to reach the legendary city.
The chief aspect of the games is their combat, with occasional puzzle solving. In battle, Kratos swings blades attached to chains wrapped around his arms, and he will find other weapons and a variety of spells to use in his quests, all of which can be upgraded into more powerful forms.
“Star Fox 64 3D” for the Nintendo 3DS gives the classic Nintendo 64 game a major visual overhaul compared to the 1997 original, similar to the recent re-release of “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time,” which was given a similar treatment.
Aside from the effective (but optional) 3-D aspect of the visuals, everything has been given upgraded models, better textures and more vibrant effects that look far better than the graphics the N64 could produce.
The game is mostly a rail shooter—you pilot a small fighter craft called an Arwing through missions in space and over land, moving automatically through each level while maneuvering your fighter around obstacles and destroying enemy ships, robots, monsters and so on. Some levels have branching paths that lead to different areas than the standard route through, and there are some free-range portions in which you have a decently sized arena to fly around in. You have three companion pilots who offer support and special skills; if they’re shot down, they’ll be unavailable for the following level while their ships undergo repairs.
Your Arwing is equipped with rapid-fire lasers that can be charged up for a powerful single shot, nova bombs that can clear the screen of foes, and a variety of nimble maneuvers, including a barrel roll that can deflect incoming fire. A couple stages put you in a comparably armed tank or submarine, but most of the game is spent in the air.
Aside from the solo campaign, the game also features a four-player competitive mode that can be played with multiple 3DS units using only one game cartridge.