With dozens of re-releases and ports over the decades, it's no wonder some classic games have gone from retro nostalgia to tired enterprise. Nevertheless, we continue to buy remakes and bundles whether or not Mario jumps with the press of the B or 2-button, and 16-bit sprites only gain a shade of brightness and clarity on HD setups. On the other hand, this trend also means each generation has an opportunity to easily access the earlier's catalog of favorites—but it's the noticeable efforts of updating and re-rendering which separate the mediocre rehash from thoughtful remaster.
This is a concept Sony Computer Entertainment seem to grasp as they cherry pick past accomplishments and give them the high-definition treatment. SCE Santa Monica Studios' God of War series was the first to get the Blu-Ray port by way of Bluepoint Games' handiwork, and now it's Sucker Punch Production's beloved Sly Cooper saga being packaged as a collection thanks to Sanzaru Games. Like The God of War Collection, The Sly Collection doesn't attempt to mess with core gameplay; rather, each of the Playstation 2 releases get a facelift to 720p. They're not perfect transfers, and some new additions are pushy efforts to capitalize on emerging technology, but would you bypass three acclaimed games on one disc for an MSRP of $40?
Naturally, the first game on the disc is the first of the series. Released in 2002, Sucker Punch brought Sly Cooper and his gang onto the Playstation 2 with The Thievius Raccoonus in a time when duos like Jak and Daxter and Ratchet and Clank culled most of the platforming sales. Still, it was appreciated for its old-school design. The same sometimes-merciless-but-usually-accessible gameplay can be replayed once again, joyfully suitable for both aged Master Thieves and new bandits alike. Linear progression is varied and the once en vogue cel-shading pops in HD. The mini-games interspersed are now a well-trodden concept and less exciting nowadays, but they fit in an overall fairly paced game. The major pitfalls of Sly's search for his family's secrets in this generation, though, are game crashing hardlocks and unforgiving checkpoints. Luckily levels are short and easily replayed.
Gaining a platinum trophy in Thievius Raccoonus turns out to be an easy affair in a solid 6-hour trek, but both difficulty and game time are increased when Sucker Punch take Sly to a hub-world setup in both Band of Thieves and Honor Among Thieves. In each of the sequels even more varied gameplay opens up as other characters become playable and Sly learns new thieving skills. Both games play more stable than the first and still look good amongst the current landscape of adventurers—dated, but cartoony enjoyable. Also, over the years, their incorporation of more modern design techniques continue to lend to games that may be easier for older fans, but are nonetheless thankful tweaks.
While the core content remains happily untouched, the newer content seems fairly last-minute and just-because. Whether or not you can utilize it, stereoscopic 3-D compatibility is here, which logically replaces Honor Among Thieves' use of the old red-blue film glasses (no longer used); but it's also instituted in added Move-supported mini-games as well. Truly living up to the “Wii HD” jabs, the Move content is entirely forgettable, amounting to simple games of target practice, flying through hoops and the like with motion controls. They're certainly not the reason to buy the compilation.
Though some cutscenes still use their original assets, making for grainy, pixelated graphics and distorted sound, and you can't switch between series games without completely exiting from the disc, The Sly Collection continues to exhibit why good, older generation titles do well to bundle together in quality remastered editions. Obviously this isn't a trend every series could or should follow, but if film can do it for every new format, there's no reason successful games need to stay cemented in inferior resolutions.
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