Reflecting on Remakes, Remasters, and Re-releases

Posted March 13, 2015 by Bryan Boshart in Video Games

I was sitting down, digging through my library looking for a game to play. While digging through my stack of games, I came to a realization. The majority of my collection of games from the current and last generation are either remakes, or re-releases with bonus content. While I adore all these games, the inexorable tide of remakes seems impossible to wade through. While all but a few are still the great games they were originally, are they really worth remaking? On top of that, I got to thinking what really separates the good remakes from the unnecessary ones?

In 2014 alone, we had games like Pokemon Alpha Ruby, Final Fantasy X/X-2, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix release. These three were at least releases of older titles, unlike Last of Us: Remastered and Grand Theft Auto V which were originally released just one year before the re-release. Even this year, we’re only into March and we’ve already seen Majora’s Mask, Resident Evil, DMC, Grim Fandango, Saints Row IV, and a next gen update for Dead or Alive 5. Just around the corner we have remakes such as Final Fantasy Type 0, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, and Xenoblade Chronicles. That’s 8 major re-releases in just the first three months of this year. It doesn’t slow down anytime soon, even Clayfighters is getting a “remastered” version in 2016.

DMC, the most recent "Definitive Edition" to release

DMC, the most recent “Definitive Edition” to release

Mentioning Resident Evil, it was one of the best examples I can remember to get the remake treatment. Early on in the Gamecube’s life it brought back a breath of life to a now nearly unplayable game. The massive graphical leap between PS1 and Gamecube brought the Spencer Mansion to life.  Minor things like the twitches of Yawn the giant snake felt more natural and added to the horror. On top of that, both characters stories were enhanced with new enemies and areas. Crimson head zombies were a threat, but Lisa Trevor was THE terrifying new addition. This literally immortal abomination stalked your character throughout the game. In fact, if you play both these versions side by side, you would swear they aren’t the same game. For me, Resident Evil on the Gamecube was a perfect remake, enhancing everything that made the original the legend that it was.

REMake improved not just graphically, but enhanced the gameplay as well

REMake improved not just graphically, but enhanced the gameplay as well

On the other side, some remakes feel positively unnecessary. A recent example for me is the Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. Both versions (Original and Definitive) were phenomenal games. The original version, especially on the PC, is only improved upon in minor graphical ways. The PS4 Definitive Edition offered a mostly 60 FPS experience as well. Aside from that, the only other additions were voice commands. Granted all the DLC was included, but that really only amounted to one single player tomb and some multiplayer missions. It seems unnecessary to upgrade a game that was released just not even two full years prior.While I understand one of the main points was to catch people who skipped on the seventh gen systems, the six million plus copies the original sold shows a ton of players picked it up.

If you know me, the first retort you’ll throw back at me is “don’t you always buy the newest version of every fighter?” The answer is without a doubt yes. I’ve owned every version of Street Fighter IV including the mediocre 3DS port, as well as all the versions of Blazblue and Dead or Alive 5 from the last generation. While I don’t think some of these upgrades are worth it for the average player, for me these technical updates are required for me to keep up with the ever changing tournament landscape. Additionally, nearly all of these feature new characters, modes and features which I help use to justify the price tag.

It’s hard to quantify what makes a remake good, bad, or just plain unnecessary. Obviously, the simplest reason for a remake to exist is to improve the visuals. How much do they have to improve to be worthwhile upgrade though? Some games, like Shadow of the Colossus, and Metroid: Zero Mission look vastly improved and the graphical quality makes it a much more enjoyable experience. Most games offer comparatively minor graphical upgrades. For most games, I don’t think being able to add some fog or make the game run at 60 FPS is a game changing event. In the review I wrote for Saints Row IV: Re-Elected, (as you can read here I didn’t notice any major visual improvements aside from not having to wait for the world to keep up with my super speed. Other than that, the game’s visuals were only moderately improved. I still enjoyed the game, but I don’t feel it did anything visually to warrant a second buy.

Some games add DLC to make their re-release more enticing

Some games add DLC to make their re-release more enticing

Aside from the visuals, the next easiest thing to add to a re-release is DLC. I made sure to purchase Last of Us: Remastered only because I hadn’t had the opportunity to play the Left Behind prequel story. While it was short, the fantastic DLC was everything I needed to justify the second purchase of The Last of Us.Other games like the upcoming Borderlands: The Handsome Collection include such a plethora of content that it’s easy for me to justify a purchase. Even the Devil My Cry HD Collection offered three full games to play, so sometimes quantity of content is enough.

The reasons a game will try to justify a remake is as vast as the amount of remakes themselves. For example, Final Fantasy: Type 0’s main reason for existence is that the original version was only released on the PSP in Japan. Of course, it’s also coming with the Final Fantasy XV demo. Sometimes, in the case of Xenoblade a game’s first release wasn’t a wide enough release and is remade in an effort to reach a wider audience. Others, like Grim Fandango have been sitting on the shelf so long that a whole generation of gamers haven’t been able to experience.

Super Mario All-Stars is both the paragon and the protoype of the remake. Not only did it offer the original three classic games that ran as more smoothly than they did on the NES, but it also offered The Lost Levels which were previously only available in Japan. A save system was available, unlike the old NES cartridges. There was even another version that released including Super Mario World on the cart. To this day, it’s what every re-released game can hope to be.

Quite possibly the best re-release ever

Quite possibly the best re-release ever

This article isn’t meant to dissuade anyone who hasn’t played these games from picking them up, as all the ones I’ve listed (that are out) are quality titles worth playing. As I pointed out with the fighting games, what can justify picking up a title again can vary between individuals. Just from now on I’ll try to look for a little more in my remake than simply scratching a nostalgic itch.

About the Author

Bryan Boshart

Hey, I'm Bryan. I write video game reviews here at We The Nerdy. In my spare time I mostly play fighting games, but play almost anything.

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