Wednesday, May 29, 2024

In Defense of the Era of Remakes and Remasters

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I know we are all sick of Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto V being resold to us on new consoles. We wonder why we must pay twice for a rerelease of Spider-Man on the Playstation 5. Video game publishers have come to love the double dip, where they take a recently released game and “remaster” or remake it for a new console. The practice certainly isn’t new, and you only need to look at how many Super Nintendo games were packaged to resell on the Playstation to know that, but rereleases seem to come more frequently than ever these days.

It is basically a guarantee that any big game is going to have some “special” version that we cannot even know will be as good as the original, let alone improved.

Somewhat lost in the weariness and hostility towards the latest GTA repackaging is the number of incredible remakes and remasters that bring classic games to an audience with no other way to play them. Video games have a long, rich history and, unless you manage to maintain an extensive collection of functioning consoles, discs, and cartridges, no way to experience it.

remake resident evil 2

In the past two years, Capcom has released remakes of both Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. They are remaking Resident Evil 4 now. Back in 2002, they remade the original Resident Evil for GameCube and have since remastered the game for PC, Playstation, and Xbox. On the surface, this looks like a cheap way to keep selling games they already made. It looks like Capcom is doing too many remakes and exploiting fans of the series.

Looking at each game individually says much more. The original RE remake not only brought a classic game to Nintendo, it rebuilt the game and added content. Resident Evil 2 and 3 went even further in remaking classics that were terribly dated after 11 and 12 years. Even the remaster of the original RE remake improved on the controls and made the game available to those who do not own a GameCube.

And that is my main argument. Remakes and remasters are providing improved versions of classic games to gamers who otherwise would not be able to play them.

Entire series, such as the original Spyro and Crash Bandicoot trilogies, have been rebuilt and rereleased. Final Fantasy VII is getting an entire reimagining. Link’s Awakening and Metroid 2, games only available on the original Game Boy, have gotten full-scale remakes. While there were options for playing these games before these remakes, rereleasing them now, in improved fashion, has expanded their audiences in ways that otherwise would never exist.

Not all of these remakes and remasters are handled with the love and care these examples received, of course. The Silent Hill and Devil May Cry collections are notoriously inferior to the originals. The recent Mario 3D All-Stars collection is a perfect example of a cynical cash grab. Between the limited release window and the complete lack of updates to these games, people are rightfully upset at the lack of effort put into the project.

(Though I would argue that the point about limited availability especially applies to these games.)

Even collections of games that have not changed a bit have great value, though. Just look at the Kingdom Hearts series. Before the various collections bringing the entire series onto the PS5 and Xbox One, you would need to own six systems in order to play all the games necessary to understand the story. The God of War Saga collected all five games across the Playstation 2, Playstation 3, and PSP into one purchase on one console.

Right now, gamers are looking at the PS5 and eying the remasters and remakes with skepticism. One of the biggest remakes and remasters coming out on the console is Demon’s Souls. It is everything I love about remastering and remaking games. Demon’s Souls was certainly a sleeper hit on the Playstation 3, and the game that made Dark Souls possible, but many Dark Souls fans have never played it. Where Dark Souls is available on PC, Xbox, Playstation, and even the Nintendo Switch, Demon’s Souls remains available on the PS3 alone.

Demon’s Souls did not have the word of mouth that made Dark Souls so popular and eventually led to the larger Soulsborne franchise that made From Software a renowned developer in the industry. It had to create that word of mouth that later games benefited from. Only now, with this remake, will the game that started an entire franchise finally receive the benefit of the reputation it started.

On top of that we get a graphically rebuilt version of the game that runs at 60 FPS and can make many of the game’s more obscure systems more accessible.

remake demon's souls knight

Now, publishers have most certainly let remakes and remasters get out of hand. What does it say that we all expect every game released this year to get a double dip release on the next-generation consoles? What does it say that some already have confirmed rereleases on these upcoming consoles, and that we know they will be successful?

There is absolutely something wrong with making people pay again to play a game on a new console that they already own on the previous generation’s console. I should not be paying full price to play The Last of Us on PS4 if I already bought it on PS3. I should not be buying Assassin’s Creed collections without real change on the Xbox One if I bought them on the 360.

Cross-generational releases have become an easy way to eliminate backwards compatibility and make money off the old library. One of the best-selling points for the Xbox Series X is the news that it will be backwards compatible with the Xbox One, including those games from the original Xbox and 360 that were backwards compatible on the Xbox One. PS4 games will mostly be playable on the PS5. Hopefully, we can get back to backwards compatibility being the standard, rather than using services or reselling games as the only way to play them on a new system.

Still, there will always been a need for remakes and remasters because of the limits to backwards compatibility. You cannot exactly have backwards compatibility for Chrono Trigger on the Playstation or Super Mario World on the N64. The PS3 was a hardware nightmare for games developed on the system, let alone anything you wanted to make backwards compatible from the Playstation or PS2, or any PS3 games you want to be playable on the PS4.

So, while this practice of remakes and remasters is certainly a problem and a way for gamers to be exploited, it will always be necessary. And I think that is a good thing. There are so many games throughout the industry’s history that deserve to be played but will not be played because they simply are not available now.

Call me a shill, I guess. I happily pay for remakes of old games and I will definitely buy Demon’s Souls. I might even buy Skyrim again on the PS6.

Images Courtesy of Sony Entertainment and Capcom

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