The rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia often cause us to remember things as being better than they actually were, even more so when we think about anything that we enjoyed in our formative years, and therefor many reboots/remakes don’t live up to the high standards that we’ve set for a franchise over the years. For me, as I’m sure it was for many of you, gaming was huge part of my childhood and many of the games that brought me joy back then have left a lasting impact on me to this day.
In a similar way to music, I often attach parts of my life to games that I was playing at the time, and when I replay those games it’s almost like reliving that particular era, right down to what I was feeling when I played them. I’m fairly certain that anybody who has spent a considerable amount of time playing video games can relate to this and that you all have at least one game that resonated with you over the years. For this reason, seeing an old favourite getting a reboot or remake often stirs up feelings of excitement when I think about how much joy the original brought, but at the same time there is always a hint of trepidation at the thought that it won’t live up to the experience that I’ve built up in my mind.
The world is changing rapidly and although a decade isn’t a particularly long time, kids in high school today feel very differently about things to how I felt about them when I was in their position. As you may know, I’m a teacher and over the years I’ve had numerous discussions with my students about how mind-blowing it was to see GTA transition to a third-person perspective, but because they didn’t grow up playing the originals, they look at GTA 3 in disdain and complain about how blocky it looks. It’s because of this that when a classic title from yesteryear gets a remake, the developers need to look not only to the fans, but also to the emerging market of the younger generation and try to make a game that would satisfy both camps. As we know however, this is often unsuccessful because very often the fans are upset that too much has changed, and the youth don’t get the references to the original so they lose interest, ultimately leaving both groups unsatisfied and the developers out of a fairly large sum of money.
Over the years we’ve seen a number of games receive the remake/reboot treatment and they have largely been poorly received. The most recent example for me was the reboot of Need for Speed, which promised to revive the concepts that made the Need for Speed: Underground games so popular. As you can see from my review, they missed the mark. Although not a bad game by any means, there were so many elements that felt as if they were aiming the game particularly at the teenage demographic, and although I’m only 28, it made me feel 50. The music was almost exclusively EDM and before playing NFS, the only times I’d heard the terms “hashtag”(in conversation, not text), “jelly” and “cray-cray” without a thick dollop of irony was when they came from the 14-year-olds that I teach. Yet in this game they were being hurled at me every few minutes.
Over and above the annoying vocabulary and music, many of the elements that made Underground so great were excluded, namely the much-requested drag races and neon under-glows. I understand that what appealed to us in the early 2000s doesn’t necessarily appeal to the youth of today, but the game was marketed as being heavily inspired by Underground yet seemed to be based more on Rivals with only a few elements from Underground thrown in for good measure.
Of course, Need for Speed is far from being the only example of a poorly received reboot, and even further away from being the worst. Need for Speed was at least fun and although it definitely wasn’t Underground, it was nice to see some of those elements return to the series. The same cannot be said for Dungeon Keeper. I’m not a massive fan of RTS games but over the years there have been a few that I’ve really enjoyed, some so much that they consumed entire months of my life. Dungeon Keeper was one such title and to this day I occasionally go back and replay DK2. EA’s Dungeon Keeper reboot however, is nothing but a cash-grabbing mobile game that is pretty damn close to impossible to play unless you A) enjoy spending a fortune on microtransactions, or B) have discovered the secret to immortality and can afford to wait the obscene amount of time it takes to dig out a single square.
That isn’t to say that there hasn’t been a few successful remakes because although the list is quite small, there have been a number of games that have managed to impress both long-time fans and newcomers alike. The official Dungeon Keeper reboot may be a disaster, but Subterranean Games saw the potential of a proper reboot and released War for the Overworld earlier this year, which does a pretty decent job at recreating a lot of what was so great about Dungeon Keeper, and even went so far as recruiting Richard Ridings to essentially reprise his role as narrator from the DK series. DmC, the reboot of the Devil May Cry series, was also pretty well-received (although there were a number of people that took issue with the new Dante’s hair colour) and managed to successfully put a western spin on a Japanese classic without sacrificing the series’ strengths. War for the Overworld, DmC, Tomb Raider, Monkey Island, and Prince of Persia are all good examples of what a remake/reboot should be because they cater to what the fans have come to expect from the franchise whilst still attracting a newer audience.
I didn’t get into Final Fantasy VII at the same time as many of you, having only played the game recently, but because I was still a gamer at the time of its release and knew what games were capable of back then, it wasn’t difficult for me to get into the mindset that I would have been in had I played it when it originally launched and I could definitely understand the hype. I absolutely adored the game and with that experience under my belt, I went back and re-watched the E3 reveal for the remake and felt a lot of the excitement that many of you may have felt when you first saw it. Square Enix is generally pretty good and they have maintained a fantastic standard when it comes to Final Fantasy so I don’t doubt that the game will not be amazing. I’m just worried that it won’t capture a lot of the magic that made FFVII such a masterpiece and and that they’ll struggle to live up to the expectations of the people who actually played the game back in the late ‘90s when it was considered to be a pioneer in the JRPG genre.
How many reboots/remakes have managed to live up to your expectations? Let us know in the comments.