I can clearly remember where I was when StarCraft was released: coming home from the UK. There it was, Blizzard's long-anticipated sci-fi RTS, sitting on the shelf of a Heathrow airport game-and-video shop. As much as I wanted to grab a copy right then and carry it with me back to the States, I knew it was the wrong video format so I had to wait several days before diving into what would be one of the most important games in the genre. In addition to energizing the growing eSports phenomenon and becoming South Korea's national sport, StarCraft's three precisely balanced races became the template for a decade's worth of RTS games.
StarCraft Remastered changes nothing about the core gameplay of the original. The units and their sometimes wonky panthfinding are the same. The tactics, AI, game speed, maps and lack of refined hotkey assignments remain unchanged. This isn't StarCraft with all the refinements of the sequel bolted on, but a graphical and interface dust-off that aims to bring a nearly 20-year-old game a little bit closer to recent standards.
The ability to switch between modern widescreen HD and the original's 4:3 aspect ratio alarmingly reminds us how much we romanticize and mis-remember the past. Remastered's graphics are much sharper and refined than the original and the music, voices and sound effects sound scrubbed clean and fresh, with a bit of new dialogue tossed in. Still, there's no getting around that, zoomed in close, the textures, units and animations look and act their age.
Compared to the sometimes absurd and off-putting number of units, upgrades and complexities that came to characterize RTS games post-StarCraft, the original seems both simplistic and elegantly simple, with a near-perfect balance between races and weapons that has rarely been matched--except perhaps by Blizzard with StarCraft 2. Although Remastered tweaks the multiplayer lobby, StarCraft multiplayer -- except, perhaps, with friends of equal ineptitude -- is a brutal reminder that some people have devoted a lot of time to the game over the past two decades.
StarCraft is a masterpiece, a landmark game that remains as entertaining as it was in 1998. The question is whether Remastered's cosmetic upgrades are worth the $14.99, as the unvarnished original and Brood War expansion are already free from Blizzard. There are fans that would like to see the original game entirely remade with StarCraft 2-quality units, effects, and graphics but until that unlikely event happens, StarCraft Remastered will have to do.