Are we trying to improve on perfection? Or are these classics just outdated?

Videogames are shaped by the technology available to developers at the time. This is true for most everything. But while music and movies change more for trends and culture, videogames drastically change every generation.

 

 

Now, this change has slowed down considerably in recent history, I’m of the belief that this generation has been the smallest leap we’ve made in videogame history. We’ve certainly got a big visual improvement. But I’m talking about gameplay possibilities, changes in the way we interact with games.

So, when it comes to revisiting the classics, why are they often considered inferior to the originals? Is it because they’re outdated? Is the magic gone? Did the developers of the remake miss the original intent? Is it looking at nostalgia through an objective lense? I don’t know, but I do think there are some cases that can be looked at.

Secret of Mana is considered to be one of the best RPGs of all time. It’s certainly one of the best I’ve played for the Super Nintendo. I’ve no nostalgic attachment to it, however. My first experience with it was with the release of the Super Nintendo Classic last year.So, if the original is so well-regarded, why has it’s recent remake on PC/PS4 received such a lukewarm reception?

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Secret of Mana for the Super Nintendo (1993)

Well, first off, for a game that was remade from the ground up, it looks very old. Instead of looking like a game from the mid 90’s, now it looks like a game from the early 2000’s. Even Crash Bandicoot and Spyro got better visual overhauls in their recent remakes.

That’s really disappointing, as you’d hope for more care and dedication be put in such a classic game.

Another issue are the performance drops and new loading screens. The original game came in a Super Nintendo cartdrige. That usually meant no loading screens. This remake has a handful new ones, along with some new performance issues.

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Secret of Mana (PS4) released in 2018.

This is almost baffling, as you’d imagine that a game with a level design shaped by the limitations of  20+ year-old hardware would have no issue on the PS4.

Konami’s Silent Hill remakes on the PS3 had similar marks alongside glitches, although that company has had many issues for years now, and they could’ve contributed to the problems in those.

Chrono Trigger had a pretty loyal remaster. It had a pretty ugly “high-res” remake to the sprite art with filter. Outside the weird fact of the moddestly high specs it required to run the game, considering the limitations of the SNES (and even Wii).

Chrono Trigger
Promotional art for Chrono Trigger (1995)

Now, Square Enix has announced they’ll be patching the game to add some features fans have asked for. But why, how did they miss the mark on a game that really needed no touch-ups whatsoever to begin with?

Well, they could then be accused of charging you for a decades-old game. While I personally feel like games always retain a certain value, I can see how it’d be problematic from a marketing stance.

One of my best friends is a huge fighting game fan. Whenever we talk about retro games, he makes a point that online is a huge component of fighting games these days. I completely understand that, as they’re one of the few ways you can casually play against someone potentially anytime.

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Tatsunoko vs Capcom, released on the arcades and the Wii.

So if you look at some classics like Capcom vs SNK 2, most of the Neo Geo games; and even more recent games like Tatsunoko vs Capcom, have lost their online features. So there’s no official way to play some absolute classics online. While it’s acceptable to play old games like this. It’d be a death sentence for a modern fighting game to release without it.

GoldenEye for the N64 is a very influential first person shooter. Many concepts that were introduced there, still echo on our modern multiplayer shooters. The game has aged poorly, specifically talking about the gameplay. That’s why, when Activision released a remake in 2010, it felt more like a Call of Duty than a modern GoldenEye.

I guess you could make a case of “that’s what worked back then” but it clearly didn’t for this particular game. It was critized for that similarity, even then. While I do think that it was closer to what people expected of an FPS, maybe it would’ve been better to simply remaster the original and make it a retro revival.

I propose that to really understand what makes a remake work today, we should look at some positive examples, that have revitalized their source material, and try to list what they made right.

A recent example that comes to mind is Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers. While it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and it was asking for a little too much cash. It’s a great example of a retro game modernized in pretty much every way possible.

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Ultra Street Fighter 2 released for the Nintendo Switch in 2017.
To start, it updated all the art and sound, without trying to make it 3D. Rockin’ tunes, detailed artwork, updated aspect ratio, new sound effects, it has it all. And if you don’t like it? You can play in its original, crisp, pixelated glory.

It also has rebalanced characters, retooled specials, and the small additions of 3 new clone characters. Online features, a digital artbook, customizable inputs, and a few other things. What makes this remake work is that it retains everything the originals had, it only adds to the experience. I don’t think anyone disliked the addition of online, or the artbook.

If you don’t like the lame new mode “Way of the Hado”, or nostalgicaly clinge on the original sprite art and sounds, you can simply ignore the new and play as if this was yet another Street Fighter 2.

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Art for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD for the Wii U. (2013)

Another example that worked great is The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD released in 2013, the 10th anniversary of the original. I’ve talked about it multiple times in the past, but it deserves a mention here.

It updates the graphics in a way it only gets closer to the original intent, it understands what made the original special while trimming the fat. It didn’t oversimplify the game, but it made it more accesible. The Wii U gamepad made for some neat features, but if you dislike them, you can again ignore them altogether.

It’s a tricky line to walk, Nintendo themselves would make a similar attempt with Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD. That remaster didn’t turn as good, even with seemingly more work put into it. Which only makes Wind Waker HD more impressive in my eyes.

We’ve got a handful or remakes and remasters down the line: Spyro the Reignited Trilogy, Shenmue 1+2, Final Fantasy VII. I can’t help but anticipate them with excitement, but also with some caution.

So there you have it, I hope this made for an interesting read. I find these topics interesting, specially when you talk about things like intent and the way things are, how they should be, and if they should be changed at all.

Let us know in the comments what you think of this topic. Has a game you love been retouched? Did you discover a gem through a remake?

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