Certain games of generations past hold special meaning to gamers. Like a classic movie, a classic video game is an interactive body of work that is held in high esteem amongst those who experience it. Also, like a classic movie, studios may be tempted to remake, re-release, or add a sequel to the franchise in an attempt to cash-in on nostalgia or introduce a whole new generation to the experience.
Through the Wii Virtual Console, the Playstation Network, and Xbox Live (with the upcoming Game Room), we are allowed to relive games of yesterday on the systems of today.
Remakes and sequels are dangerous because decisions must be made. What do you add to the game? Should you change anything about the basic structure? How do you reach a new audience without alienating the current fans of the franchise? To some gamers, old-school graphics are unappealing while others delight in the throwback nature of the visuals.
Many merely want their beloved title to be graphically updated while others want a complete re-imagining. You also have to take into account the high expectations bestowed upon games that we hold dear, even if those expectations may be skewed by time.
Case Study: Vigilante 8 Arcade
I loved the original Vigilante 8 on my Nintendo 64. It was one of my favorite games. Friends would come over and we would jump right into the multiplayer madness. I was a huge fan of vehicular combat games like V8 and Twisted Metal.
So, when it was announced that an updated version would be hitting the Xbox Live Marketplace, I immediately got excited and readied my Microsoft Points for the purchase. As soon as it was released, I jumped right in and for awhile had a great time.
However, the fun faded, as it began to be increasingly hard to find opponents online plus the single-player experience became less and less fun as time went on. The gameplay was buggy and the cars were much more loose and floaty than I remembered. You could end up stranded from your car being flipped over and be a sitting duck for opponents to ravage. My love for the classic game motivated me to power through but eventually I began to question my purchase of 800 MS points and my memories of the original game.
Can you trust your memories? Are they flawed? Or is it that, because of higher quality games and systems, our palate has become more sophisticated over time?
Tecmo Bowl Throwback
Now, prior to Mass Effect 2 blowing my mind, my long-time favorite game of all-time spot belonged to Tecmo Super Bowl, the ’91 sequel to the original with actual NFL teams. The original NES Tecmo Bowl, released in 1989, will be getting an updated release this year on Xbox Live and the Playstation Network.
I don’t want much to be changed from a gameplay standpoint. I don’t like when people try to reinvent the wheel, when the wheel was awesome to begin with. Tecmo Bowl Throwback will be 3D but will contain the option to go back to 2D graphics, which I promise will be my choice. I want the music the same or similar. How much do I love the music? Whenever I get a business e-mail on my phone, the Tecmo Super Bowl end credit music plays.
Nostalgia is a beautiful thing when it sends you to your happy place. I can tell you right now that I will be purchasing this, hoping that my memories of the original classic will not forsake me or be forsaken. From the looks of screenshots I have seen, it looks like I can put my trust in Tecmo.
However, we all know how screenshots are not the same as playing the game.
Revival For Redemption: Sonic 4
Don’t call it a comeback. He’s been here for years. Our favorite blue hedgehog is returning to his roots with Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, a direct sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles.
Some of the recent Sonic games, although still big sellers, have not recieved critical acclaim. Many saw Sonic’s move into three-dimensional space as a declining point for the franchise. I consider the glory days of the blue blur to be the Sega Genesis era. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was my favorite of the series and I am glad he is returning to his 2D side-scrolling platormer roots.
Sonic 4 is not a remake but an important sequel. Going to back to where the franchise was most successful is a smart move. Also, releasing the game in episodes will keep gamers engaged in the story and thirsty for more – like a limited comic book series or television mini-series. The teaser trailer and gameplay videos have people primed and ready to take the spin in the familiar.
Remaking or reviving particular games and franchises can either end in bliss, as it was with Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix (say that three times fast!), or disappointment, as was my experience with Vigilante 8. So, people who shout for a remake of Final Fantasy VII or other classic games should be warned that it could end in tragedy.
Game developers need to realize that, if choosing to revive a game, they have a responsiblity to the gamers to not only update the graphics but improve gameplay elements where needed. Putting a fresh coat of paint on a Betamax still makes it a Betamax. Knowing what to change and what not to change is not an exact science because no game is loved by all.
With many new and established IPs on the market, a remake/revive project needs to stand out as worth gamers time and effort. If you can do it right, we would love to have it back. If you can’t do it right, leave it alone and don’t turn our memories into nightmares.
What games would you like to see remade or revisited? Which ones do you wish developers would leave in the past?