The Old, The New, and The In-between
Back in 2013 I was in an almost euphoric state over the release of DuckTales Remastered. However, once I played it and the credits started rolling, I had a sense that it could have been a more fulfilling experience. And this made me wonder if the whole business of reprising old content or enhancing past works of arguable greatness was worth doing at all.
Remakes and HD ports are fairly regular occurrences in the games industry nowadays. Even so, I always feel a little giddy with excitement when they release. Whether the game reminds me of cherished moments from my childhood, like Goldeneye on the N64; or if it’s a chance to become acquainted with a title I may have missed out on like the aforementioned DuckTales on the NES, I can always place value in their existence.
Perhaps the dissatisfaction I felt with DuckTales Remastered was a result of second hand nostalgia. All around the internet people were hollering about their childhood memories, and some of it must have rubbed off on me, despite being slightly removed from that generation of gamers. So when it turned out that DuckTales Remastered was really good instead of absolutely fantastic, I felt some cognitive dissonance. This was multiplied by the fact that I chose to review the game on my blog, and then scored it with a 7.5. Having evidence of my unfortunate gut feeling, right there on the screen, distilled into a simple number was enough to make me think about what I really wanted from these sorts of games.
People go wrong when remakes are marketed as pure sources of nostalgia. There needs to be an aspiration to bring something to old and new players of a genre or particular series that warrants remaking it, but also serves a purpose beyond reliving an old memory. Basically these games must be able to stand on their own as enjoyable experiences, given the possibility that the player has no experience with the game.
The other key element for a successful remake is that the game, or series in all its forms, has some sort of base potential. There will always be Mario games for this reason. Super Mario Bros hasn’t remained a cultural touchstone across the world because blue overalls are cool. (But they are pretty awesome.) It’s also because from within the foundations of those early games and even the original Donkey Kong in the arcades, there were building blocks for reinvention and re-imagining.
“The other key element for a successful remake is that the game, or series in all its forms, has some sort of base potential.”
As it stands there are multiple series that lay dormant in the pantheon of Nintendo games. It should be said that amongst classic game publishers, Nintendo has been commendable in its attempts to rejigger classic content and provide new experiences regardless of age. In saying so, this could be taken even further.
My personal idea for a HD remake would involve one game series, two games, and one release date. On the 3DS would be an original side scrolling Metroid game that retold the story of Metroid 1, 2 and Super, using 3D capabilities, and enhancing the visuals. This would be in the same vein as The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds was to TLOZ: A Link to The Past. The second game would be a remake of the Metroid Prime series on the Wii U in HD. This would update graphical quality and functionality for the Wii U’s GamePad. In the end both games would release on the same day on their respective consoles… and then I guess Nintendo would call it the year of Samus Aran.
Moving away from large publishers, there needs to be some kudos given to those dedicated independent modders that improve both old games and new. There have been projects where vast quantities of art assets are replaced and improved, and new assets are put in like voice acting and character models.
Ports are also important, allowing games to be played in their original state. Because of this I would like to send an open letter to GOG.com.
As a send-off to this ode to HD remakes, ports, and all the wonderful ways developers and fans maintain the legacy of games gone by, while also improving them; here is a list of my 3 favourite remakes I desperately want to be made. (not including Metroid)
- Bushido Blade (no explanation is needed, just give me this right now!)
- Deus Ex (imagine if the guys working on the New Vision mod were able to finish it without budget and time concerns.)
- Secret of Mana (Keep the music, add Japanese voice acting with subtitles, modernise the art and have an exclusive release for the 3DS. Instantly amazing)