As far as reviews go, we spend an increasing amount of our time playing old games here at Eurogamer. Some companies, like Nintendo, have always been keen on repackaging their classics for new audiences. But the current fad for high definition (or portable) "remasters" is rapidly turning what was an occasional, indulgent cash-in into an important subsector of the industry, complete with its own development specialists and standards.
Just this month sees the release of new HD re-versions of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, the first three Splinter Cell games, the two PSP games in the God of War series and Resident Evil 4 and Code Veronica. Nintendo's Starfox 64 3D might not run in 720p, but like the recent reissue of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it has had no less care expended on it in rendering a relic from the dawn of 3D gaming surprisingly fresh, pretty and playable. We hope the same for the forthcoming iOS version of Eric Chahi's minimalist 2D classic, Another World, also out this month.
Before the year is out, we'll also be treated to HD versions of the Metal Gear Solid series, the first Halo and, as Rich discovered recently, an astonishingly lavish reworking of Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath. It's the games industry's equivalent of reissuing a film back catalogue on Blu-ray - with the important distinction that the original versions are no longer available and only run on obsolete hardware.
When I started as reviews editor last year, I was inclined not to spend too much time or effort covering such reissues at the expense of brand new games. And I still prefer to award game of the week to something new, as when I recently chose 9/10 Child of Eden over 10/10 Ocarina. I might even have done so this week if our TrackMania 2 review had made the cut. (We just need a bit more time on live servers; look out for it next week. We're really enjoying the game.)
But I'm changing my mind about this. As Dan pointed out recently in an excellent Saturday Soapbox on the subject, we all have a vested interest in the success of the "retro" marketplace. If gaming classics can survive commercially, our medium and hobby will be all the richer for it.
It's also important for us to praise the good remastering work and criticise the bad: the difference between the slapdash Splinter Cell Trilogy and stunning God of War Collection Vol. II, both released this week, is night and day. (It's an odd challenge for game reviewers, though, who ultimately need to consider the games themselves before the technical side: if you've never played Splinter Cell, the new version is certainly better than nothing.)
Mostly, though, we run remaster reviews because these games wouldn't be getting the treatment in the first place if they weren't brilliant and fascinating. They deserve to be discussed in more depth and promoted to an audience that might have missed them the first time. None more so, perhaps, than our game of the week.
Treasure's Sega Saturn shmup has been an almost mythical phantom haunting the classic game canon for over 13 years now. A Japan-only release for a fated console, its critical stature was matched and then outstripped by its coveted rarity and inflated trading price. That made it the ultimate in geek collector chic, but a frustratingly difficult game to track down and play - and its genius was spoken about more than it was actually understood.
That's why its release in a fine new version on Xbox Live Arcade this week is cause for true celebration. That's why Simon Parkin (who has an original arcade board of the game in his house, by the way) emailed me the day the release date was announced (subject: "OMFG RADIANT") requesting the review, saying, "I have been waiting my entire life since 1998 for this moment!"
That's why Martin was sending me excitable messages from Tokyo this week after a rare opportunity to visit Treasure's offices, fizzing with as much excitement at meeting these reclusive and eccentric masters as if he'd been pressing the flesh with Shigeru Miyamoto at Nintendo EAD. Look out for his report soon.
That's why Simon wrote, in our Radiant Silvergun review: "Radiant Silvergun [brings] together all of the themes of boutique developer Treasure's oeuvre into one glorious, tightknit experience that invites long-term study.
"It combines the colour-coded puzzling of Silhouette Mirage with the weapon mixology of Gunstar Heroes and the giant multi-part bosses of Alien Soldier in a way that transcends tribute, instead making a bold, singular statement of its own. It is mesmerising, fascinating and without question one of the only games of the 32-bit era that is still relevant today... a master class in game design."
Oh, and one more thing. It possesses what might be the finest title in games, two words that transcend the typical charming Japlish nonsense to become sheer poetry, expressing all the optimism, beauty, thrill and rakish danger of an irrepressible young art form in the raw.
Radiant Silvergun! Say it. Sing it. Above all, play it. Because, at long last, you can.
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