It’s a bloody pandemic. Turn back the boats, lock up your wives and daughters. They’re absolutely everywhere and they’re taking over. Of course I’m talking about remakes and remasters, the plague upon our houses, the trend that is moving the Doomsday clock’s minute hand closer and closer to midnight with every passing day. And I’ll bet there’s more where that came from.
But no need for alarm, because if the remakes to date are anything to go by, games over the last ten years are a bit like fine wine and get better with age. Halo: The Master Chief Collection proved that Bungie’s hulking green Spartan is evergreen. The Sleeping Dogs Definitive edition proved that life in Hong Kong can be even more beautifully gritty than it was on last generation’s hardware. And perhaps the remake with the shortest lag time – The Last of Us – proved that its narrative can only get better with greater fidelity. But most of all they all proved that a cracking experience is a cracking experience.
It is entirely subjective of course, but in many ways it begs the question of how much of one’s enjoyment is derived from graphical fidelity. As someone raised simultaneously on the technical brilliance that the Amiga 500 pushed at every turn and the rather more humble power of the monochromatic monster that was the Game Boy, I’ve always been a bit torn as to how important visual fidelity is to the experience as a whole.
But if my recent experience with the first Halo game on the Xbox One – with the abundance of Ps and more frames than the Louvre – I realised that a visual overhaul may be enough to trick my brain into thinking it’s a whole new experience. Because as soon as I’d played the game through with its original graphics, destroying the eponymous Halo in the process, I started it back up again with the new visuals. And half way in it just feels like a new experience, while still scratching that nostalgic itch that makes one feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Nostalgia is a bit like a drug – no matter how recent – and publishers are more than happy to be the guy peddling it.
Of course it’s not a new thing to video games, last generation saw a fantastic array of remasters hitting the Playstation 3 and the Game Boy’s own Donkey Kong was practically a remake and remaster of Nintendo’s classic of the same name well before it was in vogue. But the trend has gained momentum in the last couple of years, and it seems every man and his dog wants a piece of that sweet smelling cash stream. And I’m often first in line to hand my hard earned over.
But take we long in the tooth players out of the equation for a moment and you’ll realise that there is a wealth of game experiences out there that someone old or young is yet to experience. Believe it or not there is someone in the world that doesn’t own an Xbox 360 – and one who perhaps doesn’t want to – that may want to experience 2006’s hottest technical showpiece that is Gears of War. It’s a distinct possibility, now bear with me here, that game publishers aren’t solely servicing the ‘been there, done that’ crowd. It may be hard to believe, but perhaps its not about us, but about them.
But you know what? Even if that’s not the case, video games are now old enough as a medium to warrant bringing things back, just like films and books have done for years upon years. The better part of 40 years is a long time, and it is a near endless well of ideas to pull from, some that have been largely lost to the annals of time. How there is no modern equivalent of Sensible Software’s Mega-Lo-Mania will forever remain a mystery to me, and in absence of some bright spark taking the initiative to remaster it, it’s a game that will sadly remain buried beneath its contemporaries and out of reach for all but the most dogged enthusiasts.
So I say more of it. In fact, dig a bit deeper and pull out some more obscure stuff, and give them a second chance at life. There is no shortage of not-all-that-old games that immediately come to mind as prime candidates for a remake, with the first Dead Rising sitting proudly at the top of that list, closely followed by the twilight Playstation 2 release of the final game in the Onimusha series. And I’m sure every person that has ever picked up a controller has at least one game they’d put hand on heart and say “I’d love to play that again and prettier if you please”. That’s the sign of a medium that is culturally relevant, one that has the ability to speak to anyone and everyone on different levels, and one that is able to pay homage to its roots. And perhaps it’s the ‘everyone’ for whom these games are intended and maybe even best enjoyed by. Even if it is the more seasoned of gamers that pay the most attention.
In short: calm your tits mate, she’ll be ‘right.