Every medium has its pedantic buffs who thrive on pointing out how their beloved obsession has devolved into nothing but sequels and remakes in recent years. You see it with films, TV shows, and, thanks to their increasingly mainstream status, video games.
First off, let me clarify that I’m only going to talk about video game remakes, rather than those of film and television. Typically, discussion of a topic requires knowledge of said topic. So I’ll leave the talks on those subjects to more qualified individuals who are, most importantly, not me.
Aside from the fact that remakes have graced this Earth since before even the biggest of us considered peek-a-boo to be high art, it would be foolish to deny their far more prevalent existence these days. Remakes are, after all, pretty darn easy to make. Just like restoring an old car, the basic shape and style is there, all you’re doing is adding a fresh coat of paint and tweaking some of the inner workings.
Here’s the thing, though. Look back at some of the remakes of games you’ve seen over the years–how many can you honestly call “bad”? I’m not referring to poor PC optimization or anything like that. I mean, in the context of the game running in ideal conditions, what are the aspects–if any–that would prompt you to dismiss the entire title as a failure?
Well let me tell you, I’ve looked through a ton of remakes myself, and I began to notice a trend: while some can be better than the original, it’s almost unheard of for one to be worse.
I’ve played a few I didn’t like, sure, but that’s only because I didn’t like the original to begin with. In some of those cases, I enjoyed the remake more than the original due to improved graphics, streamlined controls, etc. It makes sense, though, doesn’t it? Just like the car analogy above, remakes and ports are building off an already established foundation. It’s not like an original IP where everything from the story to the battle system are built up from scratch.
Developers of remakes are acutely aware of their goal from the beginning. Their product has already been made at least once before, this time it just needs to be a little more shiny.
“Oh sure”, you say, “but there are still too many remakes and ports out there.” Well first, stop interrupting me while I’m typing. Second, unless you’re remaking something made ridiculously recently (what I call “pulling a Spider-Man), the new game is serving to bring in a brand new audience that may otherwise have never heard of the original.
In this respect, remakes and ports are like the Alan Freed of video games.
I’ve seen people criticize Square-Enix for re-releasing or flat-out remaking some of their classic Final Fantasy titles. While some of the criticisms are worth recognizing, such as claiming that they should be spending more time on original titles instead, it’s still important that these older games gain some exposure. If nothing else, this helps ensure the history of the series is preserved for more than just those who grew up with the originals.
Coming from a different direction, reboots can have their importance as well. It’s worth noting that, unlike remakes and ports, it’s more likely that a reboot will not live up to the expectations set by the original. This doesn’t automatically make the reboot a bad game (though some may disagree), but due to the nature of the beast, sometimes it’s inevitable.
Since reboots have to basically be rebuilt from the ground up, but feature important aspects that keep it tethered to the original, one could argue that a reboot is much more difficult to get “right” than a completely new game.
Look at games like Tomb Raider, Mortal Kombat, and Rayman: Origins; while each of these games kept the spirit of their predecessors, they also redefined what it meant to be part of their given franchises. Revamped controls and stunning presentation breathed new life into these classic series. Suddenly, people began to care about Lara Croft’s PS1 adventures. Fans clamored to download the Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection from PSN. Rayman was once again recognized as more than just “that guy from the Rabbids games”.
Like remakes, reboots are an important way of keeping the history of games alive. Unlike remakes, however, reboots are capable of adding their own touches. They’re kind of like that cool professor you had in college who actually understood how learning works and used creative hands-on methods in the classroom. Granted, they’re not all winners. Some reboots are more like that one guidance counselor who claimed to be “hip” with the kids because he listened to “the rap music”.
Even if you don’t personally enjoy a particular re-imagining of a game series or whatnot, just remember, the original still exists. It never went anywhere. Its integrity wasn’t “ruined”. Most of all, you’re not being forced to play it. Just let the new generation have their fun with it, and with luck, maybe they’ll like it so much that they’ll check out the original that you love so very dearly.
Then you can berate them for not being “true” fans.
P.S. Don’t do that.