Video game preservation is a weird topic of debate for a lot of people. On one hand, logic would dictate that emulation is a pretty cut and dry issue; having free access to something that was never offered as such is simply theft. But sometimes it’s not that simple.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to defend the plight of the entitled warez kid that believes no one should ever be paid for their work, and maybe that’s a different discussion for another day, but what about the content that is no longer available to acquire? Publishers could concievably make it available again one day, and in fact the whole HD remake model thrives on that concept, but chances are no one is ever going to put out a rerelease of Air Raid for the Atari 2600. That’s where the pirates and the hobbyists come in. Whether we’ve intended for them or not, they’ve become the people that we depend on to preserve the history of the medium; to somehow recreate the original XBox Live or make it possible to play Phantasy Star Online again after both had been lost to the ether. We’re a generation that’s read about films and TV shows that will never be recovered or seen again, determined to prevent that same thing from happening to our games.
P.T. lives in the margins of that argument. Not only was it free to begin with, but it’s about as dead as a video game can be. Much could be written about the plight of the Silent Hill franchise (and trust me, I will at some point) but P.T. in particular is notable for being the most obvious modern example of that inaccessible relic, just close enough to be in our consciousness, but only playable for those lucky enough to have never deleted it from their consoles. As someone that still doesn’t have a PS4, I was initally heartbroken when I realized I’d never be able to experience it myself, but then I remembered, one day, someone will figure it out. They always do.
Independent of P.T.’s troubled history, PuniTy is still an accomplishment, the result of over 100 hours of painstaking work to recreate the game for the PC using reference photos to recreate all of the assets. The whole process is outlined here and is endlessly fascinating for anyone that has even a passing interest in game development. While the demo itself is incomplete (doors won’t open, no cut scenes), the experience is somehow more interesting that way, watching how those limitations are solved with some creative tinkering. Instead of going through an endless loop, it leads you up and down the same hall with audio prompts, triggering those familar set-pieces. Even in that state, it’s a resounding victory for preservation, a sign that nothing is inaccessible, despite Konami’s best efforts to bury a very innovative work.
In that spirit, the creator, Farhan Qureshi has even stated that he knows someone will finish the job. Making PuniTy may have been enough to inspire someone to do that, the same way that P.T. inspired him.
Check out Farhan Qureshi’s current projects here.
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