In a year that will see some high profile releases from beloved franchises, one Game Rant writer addresses the growing fatigue surrounding classic series in gaming.
One of the oldest joke concepts regarding the gaming population is that we will, if a developer ever releases the closest thing possible to an objectively perfect game, argue that it is “too perfect”. It’s no secret that the community as a whole can have some pretty divided opinions, and that those opinions can shift in an instant for seemingly no reason at all. I’m certainly guilty of this – I was one of the millions losing my mind over the announcement of the Final Fantasy 7 HD Remake, yet the Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection that released earlier this year barely even registered on my radar. That isn’t a perfect comparison, as Final Fantasy 7 originally released before I could pronounce its title and Uncharted still feels like it only came out a few years ago. Yet it still shows how some games practically beg to be remade while others don’t seem to need it, and it’s difficult to quantify exactly why.
For those unfamiliar with recent sentiment regarding the number of remakes and inevitable sequels to popular gaming series, it can be summed up best as somewhat apathetic. There are detractors on both extremes of the spectrum: some argue that remakes of great titles are better than the average new video game release, while others suggest that nostalgia and game remakes are stifling industry innovation. Somewhere in the middle, however, buried under an avalanche of appeals to our childhoods, lays the casual gaming fan wondering why developers keep returning to the tried and true favorites.
First, let’s get this out of the way – HD remakes are a part of gaming now, as much as the increasing focus on mobile platforms and the annual massively awkward silence during a E3 presentation that was expected to generate more hype than it actually did. Some companies, like EA, have stated they have no interest in HD remakes, but if the current insatiability for classic releases fails to sway the publishing giant, it will only need to look at the sales figures for Final Fantasy 7 HD Remake to decide its worth a shot. We don’t have to like it, but it’s happening.
However, that isn’t where the fatigue around classic gaming franchises seems to be stemming from anymore. Instead, the growing sentiment seems to be that games need to do something fundamentally different in each iteration outside of making the obvious improvements that come with customer feedback. That’s not always the case – Game Rant’s own review of Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest praised the game for feeling like an extension of its predecessor – but it has become more noticeable in recent years. I hear it whenever people discuss the newest Call of Duty title that’s been announced, the inevitable comment that goes something like “it’s already been done a thousand times, why can’t they just make something new?”
My question, in response, is this: why would “they” want to?
It’s not that I am particularly fond of the Call of Duty franchise, because I personally play each title approximately twice before the next one is released, whenever I find myself at a friend’s place with too much time to kill before heading out for the night. I don’t really enjoy the gameplay, and I’m not a competitive player when it comes to shooters anyways, mostly because when other gamers were honing their trigger-fingers playing Quake and Halo I was plodding through tall grass for hours on end to train my Pokemon team. The fact I don’t like the series doesn’t change the fact I never blame Activision for making another Call of Duty, though. It’s simply too profitable to ignore.
We need to stop getting upset that successful game franchises are releasing titles that return to so many series-defining mechanics, however. The reason these games got popular was because they discovered, or stumbled, onto something that worked – and it worked well, given how long Call of Duty, Pokemon, and Final Fantasy have been around. It is completely unreasonable to expect a game like Pokemon to abandon the tale of one child’s journey across a nation, with only their wits and trusted companions to help them achieve their goal to be the best. It is also unreasonable to expect every game, regardless of how popular said game’s predecessors were, to be ground-breaking or innovative.
Think of it like this: I love pizza. I have a favorite pizza shop that I go to frequently, and always enjoy. Whenever they release a new topping, or a new sauce, I don’t complain that the bread, cheese, and other ingredients are still the same. If all of those changed, the final product would be unrecognizable to me, a completely different experience that I could’ve found pretty much anywhere except my favorite shop. Games, like pizza, are great. But games, like pizza, can only change so much before they become something new entirely.
It comes down to something Game Rant has covered before. Some games are simply going to be fun, emotional experiences that aren’t going to leave a gamer fundamentally changed at the end of them. It’s okay for games to give players a character who is likeable but shallow, gameplay that is fun and engaging, and a plot that is entertaining and have that be the end of the experience. Likewise, it’s okay for games like Pokemon, Call of Duty, and Final Fantasy to stick to what’s made them popular at this point and simply appeal to their large fanbases while hoping some other gamers are interested in the newest installment.
I considered ending on something hyperbolic, like stating that it isn’t a crime to repackage the same gaming experience that won fans over in a given IP with new surface aesthetics and the odd minor innovations, but video game fans already know that. This isn’t an appeal to the people who occupy those extremes I discussed earlier – this is a conversation with a community that is starting to argue against a good thing. I agree, we should expect new gameplay and experience with each coming year in the game industry, but with an understanding that sometimes, revisiting an old friend like Pokemon with a new look is just as exciting.