If you've been watching the latest series of South Park, the concept of 'membering, or looking to the past to find something for the future, has been a strong one. South Park's creators didn't just pull this idea out of thin air though, it's something that has permeated many different parts of our society in recent years, from movies, to politics.
But nostalgia has had its influence on gaming too. Whether you look at the resurgence of DOOM, the release of a remastered Modern Warfare, or the Prey reboot, there are a tonne of games that have been released or will be in the near future, that are recreations or rehashes of the past.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing of course, but there are right ways to do remasters and remakes and very, very, wrong ways. Let's take a look at the key differences between the two.
There are some big benefits to bringing back games of the past, re-releasing them with newly updated graphics or creating something new with old characters and stories. Sometimes, like in the case of the aforementioned DOOM, they can bring the franchise back on track. Doom 3 was more of a horror title than its fast-paced, action packed predecessors. Doom 4, the announced but cancelled sequel was said to be so like Call of Duty that it was internally referred to as Call of Doom.
DOOM on the other hand was incredibly fast, incredibly gory and much more like its source material. And people loved it.
In that case at least, looking to the past brought the Doom franchise back to its roots, where it could flourish as an independent and unique property without too heavy an influence from a contemporary marketplace.
In that same breath though, you can't simply grab some elements from the past and expect them to perform the same way in a different setting. Just look at Conker the Squirrel, who made a return after nearly a decade in Microsoft's Project Spark. But he dropped the profanity, dropped the alcohol and drug references and instead acted like the family friendly character he was initially supposed to be.
It wasn't what people loved about the character or his original game. We probably shouldn't have expected much though, as though 2005's Conker: Live and Reloaded did give us a graphically updated version of the single player story and an expanded multiplayer component, it removed a number of the more profanity laden parts of the game and bleeped the others, removing half the fun of the experience.
Of course some developers don't even go so far as to use a single character to try and sell something new. The upcoming “Prey,” set for release in 2017 could be called just about anything else, as it doesn't feature the same characters, settings, aliens or anything as the original Prey, released back in 2006.
While the new game may be great, it's attached itself to a name that some may remember fondly and could suggest that the publisher lacks confidence in the game. More likely it's because it's gone through so many iterations that the original ideas have been lost in the maelstrom, but at this point it would seem fairer to the original Prey to just drop the name altogether and call it something else. Something more applicable to the different gameplay offered by the experience.
While reboots can often feel a little distasteful, remasterings and rereleases are a much more palatable way to consume the past. Night Dive Studio's recreations of System Shock and its sequel and the HD remaster of the trio of Crash Bandicoot games are incredibly faithful to the source material. While they may add a few usability tweaks, they are for the most part, better looking versions of the original games.
The same can be said of the Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle HD remasters. They let modern gamers experience the original gameplay, but in a more aesthetically appealing fashion. The fact that in the latter examples you can switch to the original '90s era graphics too, shows how they homage the originals while making them more accessible to new audiences.
The ultimate lesson there is respect, which is certainly not what EA had for its Dungeon Keeper franchise when in 2014 it released its mobile cash grab remake. The mobile title was littered with microtransactions and removed much of the sadistic fun of the original, replacing it with schlocky imitations of the characters that made the original franchise so fun.
And as you might expect, it was universally decried and is often held up as the worst gaming remake of all time.
Cashing in on the love the gaming community has for an old franchise just to try and make some quick money is something that will always rub people the wrong way. As we've seen from some of the aforementioned examples though, there are ways to bring back old games and old franchises that can make some money without feeling like a cheap cash in. It just takes time, respect and ultimately the same love for the characters and games as the players have.
If gamers can feel that in the creation, then they'll be more than happy to see some old faces.
How do you guys feel about some of the reboots and remasters we've seen in recent years?