When are Remakes OK and Can They Live Up to Nostalgia

By Darren Whitham on 20th May 2015

With the recent teaser for the new Doom game being shown by Bethesda it got me thinking about the amount of re-releases we are currently being offered especially since the dawn of the current gen.

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Until recently I was pretty much against all the re-masters of games coming out on PS4 and Xbox One and my reasoning was that the games, while in some cases are incontrovertibly classics, they just hadn’t been out long enough to deserve a re-release as it could be enjoyed on the last gen system, for less money and apart from a slight lack of graphical finesse it’s the same game. As a bit of a purist as well, I suppose I may have some feelings that are hard to fight – that a game was born on that system – play it on there – that’s its home. It’s out to pasture, play with it there.

I always viewed remakes as something that would be bestowed upon games that had stood the test of time and by time I mean 10 years or so not 12 months or whatever ago. I am talking time enough for them to have been recognised as a classic and for at least some yearning desire for a remake to have been garnered from the gamers themselves.

A time period long enough to have established a reasonable amount of nostalgia.

Such as the ever elusive Final Fantasy VII remake so longed for by fans, including myself. For me personally, this game was a new benchmark it set a new standard and offered me a gaming experience I had hitherto never had. I was immersed, I was amazed and I was emotionally engaged. Wow.

I also could not help a growing feeling (the feeling grew with each consecutive announcement of yet another HD re-master) that this was a rather cheap way for the industry to cash in and resell a game to all us silly fools who bought it in the first place.

I started to feel betrayed, as if the game companies were goading me, baiting me if you like to re-buy a game I had already spent my hard earned money on as I needed to play the ‘definitive’ edition on next gen. I got annoyed, I mean, I was there for the original launch, I bought into the hype, I rode the train bought day one and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I think in some strange way I thought that this ‘buy in’ feeling is somehow reserved only for gamers who buy a game within a, let’s say two week window of release. And ultimately is an intangible web contrived by marketing.

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What with, Tomb Raider, The Last of Us, Sleeping Dogs, Rayman Legends etc all being redone in such haste I found myself teetering on becoming another cynical gamer.

It wasn’t until a recent chat with my fellow Lost Spark Antony that I found peace with this situation. We were discussing this subject and I gave my usual diatribe as above and Antony pointed out that there are many people who are diving into this generation of gaming for the first time. They aren’t like me and many of my gaming friends. They haven’t owned an increasingly powerful piece of home video gaming entertainment since the Atari 2600. How dare the whole world that consumes games not follow my template!

So, of course, Games are flourishing, the market is growing and new people young and old are diving in and getting blown away as they start their own gaming journeys.

Casual, Core or one evolving to another, they all have their right to the best gaming entertainment out there and this recent emphasis on more remakes is great for them.

Maybe it’s all a little bit sour grapes from my side as I would love to play GTA V on PS4 but as I already hopped on and completed it on 360 I just can’t justify it again as a full price game.

Maybe if a model such as Minecraft adopted and you could upgrade to the new version if you can prove you owned the last for a reduced fee that would help. I know it would certainly have tipped the scales my end in favour of GTA. Not so much a re-buy as an upgrade…

(I’ll still argue a little bit that they’re running out of new ideas though)

So, I have come to terms with a bugbear that has long annoyed me. I am thinking of the bigger picture and the millions of new gamers hopping on board and having the good fortune of such a great catalogue of new and remade games all glistening in next gen glory and being the best that they could be.

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My other issue has been that for the deserving games out there, can a remake stand up to the nostalgia tied to it. These type of games have such passionate fans it must be daunting to take on the mantle of remaking and delivering a product that meets the expectation of today’s systems and gamers. Just thinking of that alone would make me back away from the prospect. There is a great responsibility therein.

I have many fond memories of the original Doom but to me, none of the new iterations really feel like Doom, apart from one or two nods to the lineage I can’t help myself but seeing them as their own games. Maybe technology has moved on too much for that example (for me at least).

It can be done though, just take a look at Resident Evil on GameCube and more recently on PS4. This harnesses everything we loved (and laughed at) about the original material but brings it up to date in with aplomb. Another contender is Oddworld New n Tasty, a PS One game lovingly brought into the modern age, looking stunning but absolutely the original game at its heart.

So when considering the old classics, maybe it depends on the game. Some lend themselves to be remade better than others, while with some the game style and design just fitted perfectly into the technology of its day but maybe just wouldn’t work in today’s gaming arena with all our expectations and hopes.

I fear Final Fantasy VII may sit in the latter and perhaps that’s why we haven’t seen it yet. Maybe I am just trying to justify my disappointment that we haven’t seen it yet.

But we will see what the Doom remake will be like. I hope it is as great as I hope, though I do have reservations. Fingers crossed and we shall see.

And when we all overload with demand for a remake that we really want but that never appears? Well we now have Kickstarter.

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