The word remake is such a loaded word within movie fandom, especially in the horror community. From that post-J-horror boom where studios remade horror movies purely so people didn’t have to read subtitles (catering to the “I don’t go to the cinema to read” crowd) or that period when Platinum Dunes took it upon themselves to remake horror classics in the most soulless way possible. Other studios where at it too, the Fog remake from 2005 starring Smallville’s Tom Welling still gives me sleepless nights to this day. There where horror remakes before this, too, with the Blob, The Fly, The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but the remake never became something produced en masse until the turn of the 21st century and they were ugly things for a good long while. I’ll stop that line of thought for a while as this isn’t an article about movies, this is about video games and video game remakes are something entirely different.
Video Games have for a long time tailored themselves around the collector. Only really looking back for boutique releases which pulled together all the entries from a given franchise into one big boxset release. Beyond that, games tended to move forward, inspired by the past, sure, but moving always forward – for better or worse. It wasn’t until the last decade or so when the HD remaster entered gaming’s lexicon. Interestingly, I prefaced this by bringing up the horror remake as the HD remaster started with the same degree of subtlety as that endured by the completely misjudged Nightmare on Elm Street remake.
Cast your minds back to the ps3 era with releases like the Silent Hill Collection. Silent Hill is a franchise that will always be relevant and there will always be an audience for whatever it does next (so long as it isn’t a ****ing pachinko machine), so reissuing the early iconic titles in one collection for people to enjoy is surely a win, right? Wrong, the absolute lack of effort that Konami put into making this relevant to the gamers of that era was shameful. Games change, gameplay evolves, if you don’t move with the times you go the way of the dinosaurs. During these years many a publisher just slapped an HD on a slipcase and put a collection of games together without addressing a single flaw. Those early no-effort game remakes could barely even be called remakes, just lazy, lazy cash grabs. Fancy such a thing?
It’s only been in the last few years that the gaming remake has become a force of good by taking old games with engines that show their age and rebuild them from the ground up. Shadow of the Colossus (PS4), Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Bluepoint Games, Resident Evil 2 (and coming in April, Resident Evil 3). All of them are highly acclaimed and beloved releases. This has created a status quo in pop culture, it has created a hunger for remakes. A thrill as to what is going to be made with the same exhaustive, loving care next.
To return to the horror remake, it too went through its bad days and came out of the other end – just. There are good contemporary horror remakes like Suspiria that take the source material and invert it entirely using the original as an inspiration point and not something to ape and parrot. Yet, whether a prodigiously talented newcomer like Jordan Peele is producing a remake of Candyman or not, there is still the same accusation that Hollywood has run out of ideas and the consensus expectation that any of these revisited titles will be bad. It’s a surprise for a horror remake to be good, not the norm. Have video games finally cracked the remake formula? It’s certainly starting to look that way if current trends are anything to go by, just look at all the fan theories and excitement about the “big title” Bluepoint Games is tackling. And there’s the excitement over what Resident Evil Capcom will give this treatment to next (4 and Code Veronica being big fan hopes). Or the long-anticipated Final Fantasy VII remake? It’s all great, top quality stuff. The numerous game of the year awards that Resident Evil 2 won are all the evidence you need.
This is a new and exciting time for fans of classic games.
You can watch a film from the 1940s and outside of fashion or social values, it’ll be just as good now as it was then. Games don’t go back that far, still, if you play most games from the 1980s or 90s, few of them play well. Have games finally learned how to respect the past as they move forward? Previously this was done through archiving old titles but as necessary and admirable as this task is, games were meant to be played. Retro gamers DO exist but that has always been a niche pass-time. Games are just like any medium, whether that is music, movies, books or art. They should not be made, loved for a few years and then forever forgot about outside of a small community of enthusiasts. Games are meant to be enjoyed and passed on to new people and new generations, and for me, finally, these productions have set this dream onto a path where it can finally come to fruition.
I tried to jump back into retro games, believe me, I tried. A few years back I bought at N64 and, wow, it was rough. And I am talking about the Ocarina of Time here too, not some also-ran title.