Following the release of the Resident Evil 2 remake, and my completion of all three Spyro games on the Reignited Trilogy (including every achievement, of which I would and will do again in a heartbeat), I have witnessed many ensued discussions regarding how ‘we’ should review remakes and how ‘we’ should regard them considering that they are based on a game [or games] that existed prior, and that most of the assets within the game(s) already existed to some degree.
The general argument goes something like this: we’ve experienced this game before in some familiar way. Because this game isn’t a brand-new game with new assets, content and gameplay mechanics, it cannot be regarded as highly as an original game or sequel which, shall we say, includes ‘more’ original content than a remake.
To my understanding, some people have an unconscious bias against remakes. Believing that they are inferior to a brand-new experience because they are recreating an old one. I want to challenge this conscious and unconscious bias against remakes. And I do so by using the many recently released examples of remakes which (hopefully) demonstrate my argument well.
Let’s look at the upcoming Far Cry: New Dawn. A spin-off of Far Cry 5, using the same map layout and weapons, and the same engine and core mechanics. Even some of the same characters. You could argue that Ubisoft acknowledge this ‘spin-off’ label because of the lower price point they are selling the game at.
This game, although it hasn’t been released yet, (we can look at previous entries such as Far Cry: Primal and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon as examples also) will in my opinion be creating a less fresh, new experience, than say, the Crash Bandicoot: N-Sanity trilogy did. Or the Spyro: Reignited Trilogy did. Those remade games did of course honour a lot of the original games with the same level layouts and sound effects, but also improved a lot of gameplay aspects from the originals also.
I believe that the Spyro: Reignited Trilogy required more creativity and original content than most of us truly consider.
What’s the same as the original games? Level layouts, enemy types, collectibles, the gameplay to name but a few parts. But let’s look at these elements more closely for a second.
Every single enemy within each of the three original Spyro games has to be examined, reconceptualized and reanimated with the same placement and enemy behaviour that they had within the first three games. This is even before a particular art direction is agreed upon. A decision which will affect the entire game and could, more fundamentally, change its appeal to two very important audiences.
The art direction has to relate with the current generation of young gamers discovering their very own favourite childhood games, whilst also being relatable to the gamers looking for a nostalgia trip, such as myself.
Each and every world has to be reimagined. Every texture redesigned. Every object replaced. Every world boundary made to resemble the original vision as closely as possible (especially for those looney tunes speed runners who have mad skills). Even the masterpiece soundtrack of the first three Spyro games was remade for the trilogy, and it blends well with the fresh gameplay that the game delivers.
Remaking the game from the ground up is a challenge, let alone three games. Yes, they are short all things considered, but there are a lot of levels to cover, a lot of enemies to redesign, and a lot of dragons to rescue. This can all be repeated to argue for the N-Sane Trilogy, Crash Bandicoot’s return to form.
A more recent case for this – Resident Evil 2.
Resident Evil 2 is getting high-praise from almost everyone who’s played it. It doesn’t just recreate a memory of exploring Raccoon City during this horrific outbreak, it creates a brand new one. A survival horror experience which will (it sounds like to me) last for years to come, and which does (similarly to how the original did) set a precipice for how games should behave within the survival horror genre in the future.
I understand why you would withdraw these games from the game of the year discussion (though I believe that Resident Evil 2 leaves the boundary of being a remake so far in the dust that people will discuss it as being a game of the year contender), but I also don’t understand why people didn’t talk about Spyro at the end of year when those discussions began. A few mentioned its greatness but not nearly as many as I had hoped, biased as I am.
There is a lot of work that goes into remaking an old game, and I don’t think anyone denies that. The hesitation to not accolade it as much as a brand-new original game is completely understandable. Especially if one of those games is Red Dead II. But I think these developers deserve our acknowledgement of the pure joy that the Crash and Spyro remakes create when playing through their varied levels and encountering their slightly odd but charming characters. Spyro: Reignited Trilogy is still something that I enjoyed so much and dreamed about so deeply that I still can’t believe it even exists, 3000 Gamerscore later.
Nostalgia can be a curse when looking at the past more beautifully than it ever was. But these remakes are just reminding us how good these games were and have always been, a few missed jumps not included.
The Halo 2 remake by 343 Industries was absolutely breathtaking with its attention to detail on gun sounds, re-recorded score and graphics. If we can succeed in that level of polish when remaking these games, and even further, offering an even better experience than the original game (Resident Evil 2), it’s no wonder that remakes will be even more popular than some new experiences, because they’ll be offering some of the best experiences in gaming period.
The future of gaming is being remade from the past, and it is fantastic. I have no shame in saying that, so neither should you.