Remake and Reboot

Video Game Remakes

Hollywood is going through a phase at the moment. The “reboot” of films such as Batman Begins, or the remake of titles including “The Taking of Pelham 123”, demonstrates a lack of original ideas and voices. And the games industry seems to be following suit, relying on summer blockbusters and sequels as much as the cinema.

Prince of Persia is a good example. Jordan Mechner’s classic had already undergone an ill-advised leap into 3D before Ubi Soft’s Sands of Time rebooted the story and added the amazing time rewinding feature. The two sequels added little, even with a Wii remake of the Two Thrones giving motion control. And so it was rebooted again, adding a controversial new game mechanic and dividing opinion.

Tomb Raider has also had its share of remaking and rebooting, with Legend and the 10th Anniversary editions. By handing the series over to Crystal Dynamics, Legend got closer to a true 3D world and Anniversary revisited the old locations with new polish.

The Wii is also seeing several of these new “interpretations”, as evidenced by Klonoa. The original game of the series appeared nearly ten years ago on the original Playstation, and was a 2.5D platformer with the player’s movement controlled along set paths. Fast forward and the graphical makeover is very good (the dreadful Americanised character voices less so), but the movement restrictions remain. The old-school game mechanics may feel uncomfortable to the new audience drawn to Wii, but there is a real challenge in there.

Other titles such as Resident Evil Files have had little done to improve them for the new hardware. The Play Control range has featured some gems brought up to date with Wii controls – Pikmin, for example – but Nintendo would be advised to cherry-pick the best titles to update.

Perhaps the most successful reboot has to be Call of Duty. Arriving first on PC, the console-specific versions (Big Red One) were followed by the unusual idea of two developers alternating work on the franchise. But the biggest surprise was waiting for Call of Duty 4. The subtitle Modern Warfare gave it all away – the franchise moved from its World War II setting (and its competitors Medal of Honour and Brothers In Arms) to the present day. However, despite plans to call the 2009 sequel Modern Warfare 2, Activision has gone back and put the Call of Duty tag in front to avoid losing sales.

So rebooting is not all bad news. In the end it would be nice to be swamped with new and original ideas every time we looked at the shelves in our local game store, but the companies cannot be blamed for the fact that the familiar titles (and gameplay styles) will sell more.

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Glen McNamee

Father, Husband, Nerd. Works for a monolithic IT company during the day, during the evening I'm evangelising GameDev and the Commodore 64.