2017 has been quite the bumper year for gaming. All new systems and flashy games available to play, even throughout the seasonal lacklustre summer drought. However, amidst all this hustle-and-bustle belies the fact that 2017 is also quite a good year for those who are fans of old IP. In 2017, we have seen quite a few remakes pop up, such as Blaster Master Zero, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, Metroid: Samus Returns, Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy and the upcoming Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions. What is more fascinating though are the varied approaches in remaking a game, a topic I intend to discuss in this series.
Part 1 – The True Remake (with some extras)
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy and Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions are good examples of the ‘True Remake’, which basically take the previous game, give it a fresh coat of paint, make some tweaks to the gaming system but without retouching the main gameplay itself. These types of remakes are probably the safest sort especially since fans of the original are more likely to be the target demographic. The will be the first ones to notice any changes and updates to the game, no matter how minor. For example, the Crash Bandicoot remake (or Remaster+, as the developers described it), only suffered from a slight bit of controversy surrounding a small change in the games physics that affected some jumps in the base game.
“. . .there need to be incentives to buy the remake other than the basic accessibility tweaks just so players don’t decide to opt for replaying the original. . .”
As for for Mario and Luigi, it is recognised as a cheaper budgeted game. AlphaDream, the developers of Mario and Luigi, already have a working engine and existing sprite graphics that can be reused for the new game. In the case of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, the developers chose to create a brand new layer of drawn cartoony graphics based off the original sprites, but also overlay them on a tweaked version of the original. What this allowed was for players to be able to switch immediately between new and old graphics with a screenwipe effect – without changing the physics or basic gameplay of the original.
While this sort of remake runs off of nostalgia, the base games are mostly untouched. Therefore there need to be incentives to buy the remake other than the basic accessibility tweaks just so players don’t decide to opt for replaying the original. In this regard, usually, there are extra features that were not present in the original as well.
Crash Bandicoot adds a leaderboard functionality that compares precise times of time trials, and the ability to play as Crash’s sister Coco. Mario & Luigi includes an entire new ‘Bowser’s Minions’ mode outside of the main game, which acts as a spinoff game to the main story. Gameplay in this mode is completely different from the main series and has a real-time strategic battling gimmick, rather than RPG battles. Wonder Boy chooses to add to the post-game, including the ability to play as an originally inaccessible character against main story boss rematches, and 6 new challenges.
We can see that the True Remake type works well not only in selling itself towards people’s nostalgia for the game (i.e. Superstar Saga being the first M&L game and also being on the GBA, two generations of handheld systems prior) but also works as a budget holdover to satiate fans while there is a transition occurring in newer systems. The games remade here though are usually the first or first few games of the series, as well as the most popular/well-known games.
Image courtesy of Alistair Wong
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