Since the tail end of the PlayStation 3’s life, remasters have been a pretty substantial part of the video game release cycle. In those early days (and continuing into this generation in some cases), the big benefit of these releases was bringing games from the previous eras into HD resolutions in some way or another. But then, games from last gen started getting ported to current gen, getting that “remaster label,” and sometimes coming off as extremely dubious as far as what was being “remastered.” While there have been several pros and cons from this practice over the years, one release in particular has me scratching my head and debating the true value of this practice.
Pretty much out of nowhere, the world of video games in 2019 decided the perfectly decent (more or less) Ghostbusters video game from 2009 needed to make a comeback. Original developer Terminal Reality (famous for Bloodrayne and some cool SNK compilations, infamous for Star Wars Kinect and The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct) isn’t even around anymore. Somehow Saber Interactive (Shaq Fu 2, baby) got hold of the game and is slapping “Remastered” on the title to push it out onto modern hardware. Apparently, the multiplayer mode is even being revamped in some capacity, so it could be a totally different experience in some ways.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game was a reasonably solid game, generally sitting in the 6-8/10 range in reviews if memory serves correctly. I could look it up, but tabbing over from this document for the sake of looking up Ghostbusters review scores is time--the literal essence of my mortal existence--I would never get back. Anyway, that game was sort of like a third-person shooter, with weird score attack and upgrade elements, that was super low budget (thanks to publishing from one of the several incarnations of Atari) and extremely janky. It had some decent ideas, but it was mostly notable for somehow being the official sequel to Ghostbusters II.
For years and years, the various creatives involved with the original Ghostbusters movies could not get a third movie off the ground. Several script iterations and directorial efforts couldn’t get past the drafting phase, and Bill Murray is often cited as one of the biggest roadblocks. Then, for some reason that I don’t recall ever coming to light, Murray and all the rest of the original cast (some of whom happened to also be on the creative/writing side as well) agreed to do a video game instead. So aside from the controversial remake-ish flick from recent years, Ghostbusters: The Video Game was the last stop on that train.
Maybe that’s the justification for bringing it back. It’s a part of the mythos in what can only be official capacity, due to the involvement of the likes of Harold Ramis and Dan Akroyd. Having that game mostly lost to time, due to licensing issues would have been a shame, although I ended up with the game on my Steam library, so it was around well after its shelf life. But that said, I feel like Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered’s mere existence shows us a strange rift in the “remastered video games” timeline.
What’s with such a middling, barely significant game getting a remaster treatment like this? Why bother re-releasing this thing in this specific form? Does Ghostbusters: The Video Game truly warrant a budget and resources dedicated to bringing a janky, visually hapless, ten year-old video game to a 4K system? Does replacing its crappy multiplayer with some other possibly all right multiplayer nobody will touch once Call of Duty comes out somehow make this worth the inevitably large price tag? Why not just snag the rights and port the thing to modern platforms as-is? Charge ten bucks for it, make it run on new platforms, and boom! History has been preserved. Instead, we’re rolling out the red carpet for mediocrity in a way that not even the White House has... you know what? Never mind.
It just seems to be that we’ve run the course of the whole remaster thing. The games we’d want have mostly all been re-released and with the PS5 (and probably next Xbox) having backwards compatibility baked in, there won’t be any need to justify more of them. The games we really, desperately want to see again probably won’t happen due to licensing issues or obscurity that won’t ever be overcome. So now we have companies snapping up licenses and remastering games like Ghostbusters for... what reason exactly? It isn’t good enough for enough people to care, and there’s no irony like the kind used to justify bringing Shaq Fu back. Remastering has been presented for so long as a sign of prestige and worth and, while this is just one game of many, it has me wondering how many middling IP-holders are lying in wait to see how much money gets made.