As you may or may not know, remakes usually produce a certain type of stigma around them. I think this might be to do with the fact that people want newer experiences rather than a repeat of an old one. It could also stem from the idea that publishers are using a foundation which already exists, but using it in a way which means minimal financial and creative risk. In other words, they are a fairly easy and safe way to make money.
I’m a firm believer and purchaser of remakes (and remasters). Having adored every second of the Spyro: Reignited Trilogy late last year and following the critical and commercial success of the Resident Evil 2 remake in January 2019, I’ve been thinking a lot about what would make a remake a 10/10 on the everyday review scale. Granted, both of them received great reviews, but I wanted to conjure up the remake that would rightfully earn a perfect score.
Before you deniers tell me that it’ll never happen, I shall remind you that there are many things we never thought would happen in the games industry; things that have happened. Consoles still being not only alive and well, but thriving today, for example, compared to the talk of them dying right before the launch of this last cycle. You can also add in the fact that Capcom are killing it with their games of late, having only released a bare minimum of remasters for much of this last generation as another example. Microsoft clawing its way back into the hearts and minds of gamers through their updates, exclusives long-term content support, and transparent communication following their atrocious Xbox One launch being yet another. With all of that and more in mind, let us consider what would make a remake perfect.
The remake would have to update the graphics and gameplay dramatically. You could argue that the graphical style change could be almost unrecognizable to the original, which is the case for the Resident Evil 2 remaster. It also completely changed the gameplay, switching the camera point of view from the tank controls to over-the-shoulder 3rd person controls. It’s a complete change from the original game, yet a change that works extremely well. Especially following games such as The Last of Us and God of War that, as we all know, excelled at what they did. Even small gameplay improvements to the likes of Spyro and Crash helped the remastered games flow better and feel fairer.
I can’t imagine the game being given a 10/10 if the graphics and gameplay didn’t seem to improve vastly on what came before, but some of that also depends on the art style. For a game like Spyro, initiating a new art style will always seem a bold move because the original fans still like the old, whilst fans of the new game like the new approach. I enjoy a new arty approach being chosen and doubled downed on. Designing each dragon, for instance, on the Reignited Trilogy to look unique was a wonderful joy to see when satisfyingly unlocking each and every one across the realms, despite my hesitation towards the new but completely understandable art style.
If anything, I would want more of those small innovations when playing through the game. For example, in the 3rd Spyro game you have to rescue dragon eggs. When you do, they hatch, and you uncover the cute little dragon that’s been growing inside. But unlike the 1st Spyro game, they don’t all have their own unique features. This would have been an excellent addition to the package despite it not making too much sense (why is this baby dragon dressed in clothes?). These possibilities for improvement for a remake to be a 10/10 would all need to be acted upon. It should feel like there’s no room for improvement for the game, and I confess that is something I’ve never felt when playing through a remake.
Leading onto the unlockables and extras found within the game. Because a remake is based off of that which came before, I think that the original trailers and gameplay reveals should all be included as worthy unlockables for the remake, as well as concept art, developer docs and con panels which journeyed alongside the development of the game. Not only does this nicely polish the content included within, but it drives players to explore every corner of the game, complete every quest, and talk to every character available. It also means that the hardcore fans, who will complete it out of nostalgic adoration, will be rewarded with extras that they value greatly since they’ve already fallen in love with the experience.
Further to that point, I think that the developers should go a leap further. I think that all remakes should include any/all original games which they’re remaking as part of the package. Not only that, but they could even include the original games into the overall completion of the package, whether that be through the meta-game (achievements) or through in-game medals/skill point. Perhaps even both. I can’t see this being a high cost to the developers and it would put that lovely layer of icing on the cake; one of the only drawbacks I find through playing a remade game is the thought “I wish I could play this bit through the original right now”.
Despite this, one of Microsoft’s own studios have not only accomplished this for their remakes but have taken a giant leap in that type of feat. 343 Studios on their Halo: Combat Anniversary and Halo 2: Anniversary games included the ability to go from the original game to the remade one with the touch of a button at all times. Even between cutscenes for Halo 2: Anniversary.
For me, that is one of the reasons the Halo 2: Anniversary remake is so special; one of the best video game remakes ever. It is an incredible feature which should be included in every remake package without question. Similar to that, remaking the soundtrack with the option to choose the original is also especially important, particularly considering the power and influence involved with a nostalgic soundtrack.
So, let’s quickly summarise before we move on. The graphics/art style/gameplay should be reinvigorated to a fairly extreme point, for the betterment of the game. Almost every possible opportunity for improvement and innovation should be taken upon, and the original game should be included as an extra/alongside the remade gameplay. So, what else would make a remake a perfect score? What would help reach new heights?
Something that is hard to describe. Timing.
Crash Bandicoot came at the right time (if a tad too late, actually). Spyro followed with just as suitable timing. Halo 2: Anniversary arrived perfectly, as did Resident Evil 2, with just enough time for people to begin to miss experiencing the game for the very first time, but allowing for enough water to have passed so that the game can be drastically improved upon. Similarly, some remakes could flop because of when they’re released, but great timing, along with an incredible content package that includes the original game and the remake, assets, unlockables, and extras which drive the player to finish every crevice of the experience, and gameplay which excels expectations and contributes to a package that does nothing but astound, should earn that game a 10/10.
You probably won’t believe that a remake could be perfect… until the day that it does.