Last month, I wrote criticizing PlayStation’s limited backward compatibility for the PS5. While I still feel that way, there is one thing that I forgot. While backward compatibility does increase the lifecycle of older games while allowing them to remain relevant, there is another way to keep those alive, though it can take more work. It’s remakes, remasters, and reboots. Aside from the increased workload, cost, and time crunch, there are also things that can backfire. But when it works out, it can be absolute magic. And then there’s the times when it’s a curse.
One major example of when reimagining works out in an interesting way is Silent Hill. Shattered Memories did a reimagining of the original Silent Hill. Now there were issues with this game, namely the motion controls when it was played on the Wii. However, overall, it was a well thought out way to tell the original story while the twist hinges entirely the bad ending from the original game, with the reveal being that Harry wasn’t the heroic father that we know from the original or the events in the story of the game. The twist shows Harry who struggled to be a good father but was ultimately a flawed person who let his flaws overcome him and ruin everything else that he cared about. In the same vein, DMC, the reboot of Devil May Cry was met with mixed reviews. The shift in Dante and his nature, coupled with the clear criticism of conservative news media, ended up alienating quite a few of the players of the original games. But, in a weird punchline of joke, it also ended up revitalizing interest in a series that had fallen dormant. It led to a Devil May Cry 5 that ended up mixing the good of DMC and current gen graphics with the good of the original games.
Since I brought up Silent Hill, there’s the interesting case of the HD remaster collection. It was something that should’ve been a surefire hit, but kind of fell apart on delivery. For one thing, there were a wealth of glitches and bugs that hampered some of the experience. One of the biggest issues that the Silent Hill HD Collection had going with it were complaints about the changes of the voice actors, particularly for Silent Hill 2 HD. Sure, you could bring up that the voice acting for the original Silent Hill 2 was disjointed and felt like people talking around each other instead of to each other, but that was also something that made it feel a lot more real in relation to trauma, which added to the atmosphere. Near the release of the Silent Hill HD collection though, Konami also released the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, which was met with more praise. With a couple of quality of life design decisions coupled with an improvements on the resolution and textures, it ended up landed better than the Silent Hill HD Collection.
One of the more controversial recent remasters has been with Super Mario 3D All-Stars, and more specifically with how it handled the work for Mario 64. Not much really changed between Mario 64 on the N64, Nintendo DS, or Nintendo Switch. Probably the big things is just the framerate as Mario 64 on the Switch does run smoother than the previous editions. Then again, for a game as old as Mario 64, remasters won’t necessarily cut it. A remake would be necessary, which makes it kind of bizarre that Nintendo didn’t try using the engine that was used for Super Mario Odyssey to do a straight remake bringing Mario 64 fully into the current generation.
Since one Capcom IP was brought, it would also be wise to bring up the Resident Evil remasters and remakes. The Resident Evil HD game is an interesting case as it didn’t change much of the original game. There were a couple of new story beats, making the game a more complete storyline. From a story standpoint, the live action B-movie cinematics showing how STARS Alpha Team got to the mansion was redone in-engine, making it look better. The general voice acting and writing for the dialogue was improved, as were the cinematics. There were also some new enemies, like the Crimson Head Zombie. Aside from the minor revisions, everything was familiar, and the new stuff was integrated seamlessly on the original material. And then you get into the more recent Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes, you see a bit of a different experience. The core is there, but the experience itself is different enough that GamerThumbTV had to update their franchise timeline for the new content. While Resident Evil 2 was met with rave critical and audience reviews, Resident Evil 3 was given a bit more of a lukewarm acceptance over the fact that, to some, it felt like DLC to the new Resident Evil 2 game.
These are just some examples of how remakes, remasters, and reimaginings have been used in the past. I could go further, but now’s a good time to cut off the dive. When it works, it’s great, but when it doesn’t it can hurt the brand. If developers or publishers want to keep the older games in a series relevant without dealing with backward compatibility, remakes, remasters, and reimagining are just some ways that bring the games we know and love into the present. If they use it though, they should treat the material and the audience with respect, especially if they’re offering a completely new experience.