Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Art of Remakes

To any company, the remake is one thing that begins to make the mouth water, and for good reason. The sole purpose for a company to exist, naturally, is to make money. A remake, or classics collection, depending on how it's done, is one of the easiest ways to do so. You take the best of what's already been, as most of the work has been done the first time around, and generally add a few extras, then put on a bargain price, and finally put it on the shelf, ready to find a new generation of fans.

Except, whether they see it or not, there's an art to remaking and collecting.

There are generally four schools of thought to this, and let's take a look at them.

Some, such as Super Mario All-Stars and the to-be-released-but-excessively-named Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix, recieve graphical overhauls while the core gameplay is untouched. The former is very noteworthy, as it was the first well-known both remake and collection, and has almost become a classic in its own right. The latter is more controversial, but getting alot of fan-based feedback, and more importantly, still in development. It should go without saying, then, the jury is still out. This is, in my own opinion, the way to go.

Another way to reviving a franchise for another go without too much hassle is an amalgamation. This is more prevalent in fighting games, and it involves taking a series with alot of tweaks to it (see Street Fighter II and Darkstalkers for examples), and then allowing the same characters to have different gameplay styles and the player to mix and match them at will. This can take some work, but when done right, and with respect and detail paid to the source material, it can be an entry in its own right. Of course, it can also fall flat on its back, especially when it's done in a rather rushed manner or makes one standard the one to follow (see Mortal Kombat Trilogy).

And now, we move on to the more-or-less ports, bundled together. This is true of smaller-sized games, like Mega Man Anniversary Collection (and it's Mega Man X-based sequel). This train differs from the mere collection in that extras are generally included, and consist of content that can't be had easily anywhere else. For example, all three versions of MMAC included ports of both arcade games the franchise spawned (Mega Man: The Power Battle, and Mega Man 2: Power Fighters), which saw very limited release outside of Japan.

Then, we get into the straight collections. Most of the work here comes in programming the console-based emulators, and then the original code from the original console is run through it. While this makes for the truest experience, given that some differences will remain, I feel it shows laziness on the part of developers, and even more when there's speculation not even the emulator itself was written from scratch, as there has been with Sonic Mega Collection. Also, unlockables tend to be either more emulated games, or maybe some art.

And finally, just finally, we get to where I believe the term 'remake' is tarnished almost forevermore, the steaming pile dropped on the Game Boy Advance called Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis. To anyone that has played this and thought it represents the actual experience, I'd like to apologize, and point you toward the above-mentioned Mega Collection. Almost all of the code was rewritten from scratch, and it shows.

The Introduction

It seems all blogs must begin somewhere, and this one is no different. I'm not out looking to change the world, nor even a section of it. I'm just going to offer my views, and should they be popular, that's fine. Should I get tons of hate mail, well, most will likely see the virtual circular file without even being seen.

So what's this blog all about? Simple. I've been a gamer for many years now, back when the market thought all we were were nerds and geeks sitting at home playing on our little toyboxes on the television and throwing the Nielsen rating out of whack. I've played, not everything, but quite a bit of it, from my first console, the Atari 2600, bought at a rummage sale for the 'bargain' price of $20 with one cartidge, all the way through to some of the latest offerings on the XBox and Gamecube.

But I'm certainly no nostalgic gamer, either. I've played good games, and I've played crap. That holds true no matter what era you're looking at, and it shows today.

While this blog won't be bereft of postings on the current generation, such as the XBox 360, Playsation 3 and Wii, it will be minimal, and usually of interest to those like myself, where there's a connection to the games of old.

So, it seems fitting this blog is primarily for those who are at least one step back from the latest trends, and the title seems catchy enough. So with no more blathering, welcome to One Step Back. Classics, to last generation's tech, and with any luck, no real filler.