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Old 07-26-2011, 08:00 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Remake the Dream

Welcome to Part 2 of what was originally going to be a two part series on reissues, remakes and reboots. As I started writing, I realized that this second part would be entirely too long if I tried to cram both remakes and reboots into it. So, I decided to split it in half and this series will conclude tomorrow with reboots. If you didn't read the first blog on reissues, do yourself a favor and check it out before you start.

Just as in part one, I'd like to start by defining what a remake is.

A remake takes an individual title and changes fundamental traits of that game, while leaving the general story intact. The traits may include, but are not limited to graphics, characters, dialogue, music, controls, game mechanics and story line.

Don't worry, the end boss still looks like Hitler

Remakes are not new to the video game industry and neither are they unique to it either. The movie industry in particular has been telling and retelling the same stories for decades now. There are two main reasons why a company would want to remake a game:

1) Money

2) To promote a new addition to a series

As a subset to the first item, there are two reasons why these games make money.

1) Nostalgia – Remakes in particular are created mainly to get people who played and loved the original to play a retooled and reimagined version. Sometimes this backfires, but nostalgia is a portal to many a man's wallet and the industry knows this.

2) Great Exposure – Younger gamers have often heard of hallmark or key games and franchises, but haven't actually played them due to limited availability of just the fact that it's old and doesn't have the bells and whistles of current generation titles. Remaking titles allows a newer generation to feed their curiosity with greater ease.

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of remakes because they are essentially money grabs – developers and publishers know that they will sell – and a reissue usually will suit a game just fine.

That being said, I do believe that remakes have a place in video game culture and if done correctly can even serve as a saving grace of a series. The following are some rules and considerations pertaining to the creation of remakes.

Remake vs. Reissue

Remakes and reissues are generally created for the same reasons, and as such the rules for choosing a title to remake are just like the ones for choosing a title to reissue. The title should have some kind of historical importance, be wildly popular, influential, etc'. With this being the case you might ask, why bother with a remake? Why not just reissue the game with some slight enhancements and be done with it?

Well, there are some reasons why remaking the game would be preferable to reissuing it.

1) The original control scheme is frustrating and renders it unplayable.

2) The original graphical presentation hasn't aged well.

3) The game's theme or tone needs to be updated to translate into a newer generation.

4) Original game mechanics were in place because of technological shortcomings or poor game design.

There are more, but I'm sure you get the idea – the remake treatment is reserved for important games of yesteryear that you wouldn't want to play today because of some kind of negative design or play mechanic.

A great example of this would be the original Resident Evil. Now, while some of you may be screaming 'Blasphemy!' at your computer monitors, most would agree that while Resident Evil is a historically important game, and would be considered good by the standards of its day, it doesn't hold up very well.

I hate Shark Week at the Resident Evil mansion...

The script was awful, the live action cut scenes were pure cheese, the ribbon save system was ridiculous and the controls'oh the controls, were some of the worst in video game history. They were a product of the technology of the time as there was no duel shock back then, and this resulted in jerky aiming and robotic movements.

While the game has indeed received a simple reissue, it was screaming for a remake which would fix these issues and in 2006 one was granted in the form of an exclusive version on the GameCube. This version completely overhauled the graphics, redid all of the cut scenes in CGI, rewrote all of the dialogue and fixed the controls'a bit'.

These fixes greatly improved the experience while staying true to the soul of the original. But remakes should hardly be satisfied with fixes, they should seek to add additions that will make playing the game a totally new experience for those already familiar with the original. In this respect Resident Evil certainly delivered in the form of the 'red cap' zombies and new and retooled puzzles.

In my mind Resident Evil is the pinnacle of what a proper remake should be.

Releasing the Remake

Releasing a remake is much like releasing a reissue. Enough time should have passed so that the game is no longer at the forefront of the gaming community's consciousness, but is still held in high regard. Generally, I would say that more time should pass since the original release for remaking than for reissuing since a game should generally only have to be ‘fixed' after it's been out for quite some time.

Ideally a remake would be timed with the release of newer titles in a franchise. Three titles come to mind that pulled this off very well:

1) The aforementioned Resident Evil

2) Metroid: Zero Mission

3) Bionic Commando Reamed

Each of these titles was released in proximity of a brand new release in the series (or reboot as is the case with Bionic Commando). By doing this, they've added to the name recognition of the franchise and serve as a way to expose newer gamers to some gems from the past. It's like melting cheese on broccoli so your kids will eat it.

Metroid without cheese/Metroid with cheese

There is one thing I would like to mention before I leave you for today. It is essential that the remake not mess with the core story or soul of the game. If the story is changed on a fundamental level (not talking about small details), then the game is not a remake, but a reboot and I'll go over those tomorrow.

What do you all think of remakes? What is their place in the world? Any particularly good remakes that I didn't mention? Add to the discussion by sounding off in the comments section below!

And remember to join my tomorrow for the conclusion of this blog series – Reboot!

Happy Gaming.
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