I’ve been thinking. With DmC out next week and Tomb Raider not far off, there’s a lot of sneering at these games not because of the games themselves, but in part because they are reboots of popular franchises. Which has me thinking – do reboots and remakes have an unjustly unfair reputation?
This is not me ranting about reboots and remakes.
Okay, maybe it is. You see, I was thinking about the issue of reboots and remakes of games recently after discussing with someone online about the Resident Evil franchise. We were talking about Resident Evil 6 and they said they had heard it was truly terrible and I felt I had to correct them. Sure, Resident Evil 6 is hardly the pinnacle of gaming excellence. But there are parts of Resident Evil 6 which are truly inspired and very, very interesting and could warrant and support a game on their own in their entirety. I said the problem with Resident Evil 6 was that it screamed budget, it threw everything into the pot simply because they could, they had the money and that it seemed like a good idea at the time. In the Jake and Sherry campaign there is an awful, truly despicable Snowmobile segment which handles a bit like a car with no wheels – there’s no response, no tactile feedback, no sense of precision or logic to it. It’s truly an awful segment – then followed by a tense, slow and very interesting semi-stealthy segment which frankly was almost like an apology for how rank the previous bit was.
No, Resident Evil 6 is not a terrible game. It’s got terrible bits in it. But there’s enough good there for it to be worth a blast through.
Anyway, eventually they asked me which Resident Evil game made me truly feel like I was playing a Resident Evil game. And of course, I fell back on the old Gamecube remake of Resident Evil – for me, the pinnacle of what a remake should be. You take the original, keep the design and keep all the good bits and then add new, equally good bits and then polish like hell until you’ve got a game that even today looks terribly pretty – a decade on it still looks amazing. It made me smile. It was Resident Evil. But better.
“Eh, remakes. Reboots. Just an excuse to phone it in.”
So yeah, perhaps conveniently next week sees the release of DmC (the Devil May Cry reboot), one which appears to have split its core fanbase right down the middle. On the one hand, there’s no denying that when it comes to core mechanics, Team Ninja have tried very, very hard to make sure that it stands up to closer scrutiny – there will be problems, but in a brawler game there always are, unless your game is called Bayonetta and is done by a team that takes OCD to a whole new level. I am reliably informed that the gameplay of DmC is actually extremely good, and holds up better than past instalments in the series. However, the new look for Dante, coupled with the reboot ideology and a distinctly darker, more goth-flavoured visual ethos has also turned many off. People liked Dante, and they liked the story and his past and they didn’t see the need to remake or reboot it in any way. Why could they not simply take the original and add the new game mechanics into that? Isn’t that what people really want?
I won’t know for a week or two if DmC is any good. But I can obviously stand here and talk about past remakes and reboots.
There are lots of cases against remakes and reboots. For example, Goldeneye 007 – the remake/reboot nobody asked for, taking arguably one of Rare’s greatest gaming achievements and one of the best games ever made and… well… changing it a lot. Rather than keep with the style and feel of the original game and movie, as well as keeping Pierce Brosnan, they opted to use Daniel Craig – the current James Bond – and modify the game for a more modern audience who expect a more modern-flavour of James Bond. The overall result was… eeurgh. Yes, the game was alright design wise but when you are remaking a game, changing the formula and the feel so dramatically can often turn off the audience that it could most appeal to – those who played the original, those who may not appreciate the change.
Change happens, of course. But it’s little changes like Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig that can often seem the most difficult to adapt to. On the other hand, some remakes are unpopular because they are simply terrible. Shadowrun – sure, let’s take a popular pen and paper RPG franchise that had an awesome isometric RPG adventure on the Super Nintendo and for a modern audience, let’s just make it a generic team-based deathmatch first-person shooter. That’ll work! And… it didn’t. Obviously. Then you have Bomberman: Act Zero. Now, I could tell you about this game but even though this game ACTUALLY EXISTS, when I describe it to people they simply don’t believe me. So I leave people to Google it. And cringe at just how awful it looks, let alone plays and feels.
Sometimes though, there is no excuse at all and for those examples, Sonic the Hedgehog is on hand to deliver us not one example, not two examples but three solid examples of reboots done very, very badly. First up is Sonic 2006, a reboot that was so utterly awful it is regarded as one of the worst video games ever made. It almost destroyed the Sonic franchise. Next up we had Sonic Unleashed, with Werewolf Sonic. Look, when you’re trying your hardest to be cool and edgy and down with the Twilight scene, you’ve got bigger problems to worry about than your frankly poorly-designed game that makes people want to demolish things in the real world with baseball bats and chainsaws. And of course, we have Shadow the Hedgehog. A reboot so rank, so vile, so utterly cynical in its attempt to capture a “yoof” market that it sacrificed any credibility the franchise had, and the best part? It wasn’t even a well-made game! It was hopelessly flawed and buggy and the whole plot and voice acting made even the young market it was pitched at want to take the disc out of the drive, smear it with jam and eat the disc just to ensure it would never again be able to darken their gaming lives!
But there are good examples however. I have mentioned the Resident Evil remake, a truly brilliant game from an era when Capcom were synonymous with quality, craftsmanship and true technical pioneers. I could and will mention the amazing work done on the Klonoa remake on the Wii, I know – a good remake on the Nintendo Wii! Whatever has happened to the world? But you see, Klonoa is a great platformer and the Wii just seemed perfectly poised to swallow up one of the markets most under-appreciated gaming heroes. Big floppy-eared cats are awesome anyway. And just to prove that it isn’t a modern phenomenon, there’s always Ninja Warriors Again, a remake of the 1988 arcade game on the Super Nintendo in 1994. And it was beautifully done, utterly amazing and yes, I spent a lot of time playing as Kunoichi, the female cyborg assassin rocking an enormous blonde ponytail. She needs a modern game all of her own, right now. Come on. Make that happen!
Here’s a question though. Do remakes and reboots get a bad rap?
I’m not talking necessarily about specific games although I certainly would welcome suggestions on the good and bad of the remake/reboot world in gaming. I’m talking in general. Do we naturally tense up when we hear about a reboot or a remake because we’ve genuinely been burned too many times by a cynical industry, or are we perhaps being unfair when we ridicule and mock the idea of remaking games? I mentioned a few days ago some games I’d love to see rebooted – not the safe options either, ones that I genuinely would be thrilled to see return. I’m also the sort of person who is against a Final Fantasy 7 remake as well by the way – trust me, leave that one to your memory. If in doubt, wait for the new PC version to be heavily modded with new textures and models and then play that modded version. I couldn’t trust Square-Enix, as it is now, with the idea of a Final Fantasy 7 remake. I think its time they moved on. Literally, I’m fed up with XIII and Lightning as well.
So yes, I am conflicted as well. Because it’s interesting. I think lots of us can name games we want to see remade or rebooted, but the moment they get announced, do we immediately engage the cynical parts of our brain and look at them with an inherent distrust? It’s like meeting a friend again after a decade apart and wondering if they’re the same person you knew years ago, or there to take advantage of you. Is this inherently awkward situation perhaps making it hard for companies to reboot or remake games, or justify any investment into HD ports? If we’re automatically cynical, why would they bother?
So yeah, here are my questions.
1) Do remakes and reboots have an unjustly poor reputation?
2) What are the best – and worst – gaming reboots and remakes you can think of.
Comments can be left below. Fire away.
I’m genuinely curious.