I know this is an old discussion – and to be honest – I’m not sure how much (if any) value I’ll be adding to it. All I know is that it interests me, and that I want to talk about it.
I started playing video games at around six years old with a neon green Gameboy Color and Pokemon Blue. I slowly made my way up the Nintendo Handheld food chain over the years, eventually landing on my DS lite. By then, without even knowing it, I had already played two remakes; and they were in the Pokemon Franchise alone.
The purpose of this piece is to dive into my own thoughts about Remaking / Remastering video games, the differences I find between them, and what effects I see them having in the industry. Everything you’ll read here is purely my opinion, maybe with a couple facts sprinkled here and there.
The Circle of Life
Usually everybody agrees that only one thing in life is certain: death. Albeit morbid, the same principle can almost be applied to Video Games. No matter how hyped a game is, or how critically it is received, it’s fan base will eventually slowly leave or die off entirely.
This brutal cycle can be seen especially in games with yearly or nearly yearly release schedules. One of the prime examples is Call of Duty. The game is supported by the community and developers only until next November, with most of the fans moving on and ready for the next installment by the time a beta launches in September or October. This type of release schedule barely allows the game to enjoy a year of being on its own.
The other end of this spectrum can be seen in games with major communities surrounding them, like Animal Crossing. People play these installments for years and years, waiting for the next one. Eventually however, the newest game is released and most – if not all – of it’s players transition over. It’s just the way things have always been.
Remakes and Remasters change things.
Remakes vs. Remasters
I feel like to continue discussing this, we should define some of these terms. Remakes are inherently considered to be the retelling of an older game’s story but with a completely new game engine; usually the entire game is built new from the ground up. The latest example of this is the Final Fantasy 7 Remake. I mean, the entire game is absolutely breathtaking.
I mean do I need to say more? Remakes are always usually regarded in a very positive connotation, and developers do their best to pay their respects to the original source material.
Now Remasters are where things get tricky. Remasters, in my opinion, are usually the same game ported over to a newer console and lightly reworked – usually with some HD textures slapped on for added freshness. In no way does this make Remaster’s inferior to a Remake. To most fans, just being able to play some of their favorite older games on their newer consoles is amazing itself. Increased visual quality and all DLC rolled into one purchase? Sign me up!
Assassin’s Creed 3 is a good example of a Remaster of an old game brought onto the current generation.
This is the best example I could think of a Remaster in recent memory -partially because I’m playing it currently. The textures and lighting are redone entirely, but you can still tell this game is 100% a last gen game. Just pretty enough to run on the current consoles without giving you a headache.
Where issues begin to arise is when developers recycle old games, increase the resolution and nothing else, slap a Remaster on the cover, and feed it to us at a $60 price tag. While I’m playing AC3 Remastered on PS4, I can definitely defend it and say that lighting effects and textures have definitely been updated, along with a higher framerate. On the other hand, AC3 Remastered on the switch is a piss poor Remaster. On almost every level, it is a direct port from the last generation onto the Switch. In some cases, the game performs worse on Switch than it did Originally. From frame rate drops to severe pop-in issues, the Switch version of AC3 Remastered is dismal.
This trend continues however, on multiple platforms across varying games. I’m not trying to discourage Developers from Remastering their games, I just wish there was a standard of quality all Remasters should adhere to. Where the line begins to become blurred is when a game is directly ported, “Remastered” thrown into the title, and given a full game price tag. That’s where the more negative image of Remasters has begun to grow from.
The Silver Lining
Remasters are far from all being bad. They give the opportunities for Developers to bring their games to new audiences, to people who never got a chance to play them in their original form, to fans who love the games and are glad to play them again. Remakes are old favorites in a brand new art form, ready to be re-consumed by all.
I honestly believe these types of games are good for our industry. They bring back past nostalgia and hype that those games had originally brought back in the day. MW2: Remastered dropped out of nowhere a few weeks back and I dropped everything I was doing to play one of my favorite Campaigns of all time. I’d even argue that this game is more of a Remake than a Remaster, because many cut scenes and animations are changed entirely, and the game seems to run on the same engine that Modern Warfare (2019) is on. My friends and I texted each other memes back and forth of the game, even friends I hadn’t known yet when I played the original game. Friends who never played it before watched my stream and joined in my excitement in playing it again.
This industry is always changing and always on the move, and every now and then, there is nothing wrong with having a blast from the past here and there. Remakes and Remasters are just great reminders that because something is old doesn’t mean that it’s bad. I hope this trend continues in the video game industry, and as long as we continue voicing our praise for Remakes and Remasters done right, I believe developers will continue to give us our favorite games all over again.