We remember fondly the games we played religiously after school, or at a weekend session with our friends. When we look back at the video games that we loved whilst growing up, we get a warm, comforting feeling of nostalgia. But sometimes nostalgia can cloud modern day judgements. Some games sadly don’t hold up as well as we remember them. This is often due to the graphics looking aged or the gameplay feeling clunky. Sometimes the sound quality is tinny or the loading times last an excruciatingly long time. Suffice to say, certain gaming memories need to remain as such, as reliving these can run the risk of disappointment.
However, there are opportunities that games developers take advantage of to help us relive these moments we reminisce about. The technique employed by many is remakes and remasters. This is the chance to play the games we loved on a modern system, enhanced for the current technology.
Remakes and remasters
Now, there are big differences between a remake and a remaster.
A remaster is where a developer takes the original game and gives it a face-lift of sorts. This can be in the form of a higher definition graphics upgrade, tighter controls or enhanced sound. They could also enable widescreen options where they were originally restricted by certain retro aspect ratios. For the most part these remasters are released as budget priced titles. This is usually because of the fact they are games that have already been released. Expecting people to pay full whack for something they might already own on an older system might not be the best business decision.
Sometimes these games are part of a collection with others from the same series. A prime example is the Uncharted Nathan Drake Collection on the PS4. This was combined with the PS3 trilogy of Uncharted, Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3 with the technical upgrades mentioned above. The first Uncharted looks and plays more akin to the more advanced sequels in the series thanks to technical tweaks. Seeing how more advanced the games got as the series progressed the previously weakest entry in the series is now shown more respectfully amongst it’s sequels.
The recently announced Mario 3D All-Stars for the Switch houses a trilogy of Mario 3D games across three separate systems. The collection will include Super Mario 64 from the N64, Super Mario Sunshine from the Gamecube and Super Mario Galaxy from the Wii. Releasing these collections are smart decisions by the companies. They not only engage more revenue using older intellectual properties, but also generate interest in future releases from the series.
Whereas remasters are fine-tuned older games, remakes are built completely from the ground up. These games could be chosen to be remade instead of remastered because the originals wouldn’t be up to modern standards. Or sometimes the available budget is much higher.
This leads to what I consider perfect remakes, – the games in the Resident Evil series.
Resident Evil was originally released on the PlayStation in 1996. Known as Biohazard in Japan, it was quickly heralded as the benchmark in survival horror games. It left its predecessors Alone in the Dark, Splatterhouse and the Uninvited in the rear view mirror. The story surrounds that of the shady Umbrella Corporation’s dodgy dealings in biowarfare research. This leads to an accidental viral outbreak in it’s laboratory which is hidden underneath a mansion. The subsequent investigation by Raccoon City Police Depts elite taskforce team, S.T.A.R.S., details the horrors and tragedies hidden away in the secretive corporate base of operations.
The sequels dive further into the growing and engrossing story, leading you further along the timeline of the outbreak. You get to see it’s spread into Raccoon City itself. The original PS1 trilogy was ported to multiple systems such as the N64 and the Dreamcast. The success then led to more games on further generational consoles. It has become such a gargantuan franchise that it has spun off into different medias with films and an upcoming Netflix live action series.
Pushing a franchise into the future
The blocky graphics, cheesy dialogue and tank controls couldn’t be salvaged as part of a remaster despite the fact that these original games are heralded as classics. Capcom decided to do something drastic. This was to completely remake Resident Evil from the ground up. The release would be for the Gamecube as part of a temporary exclusivity deal struck between Capcom and Nintendo. Shinji Mikami who designed and directed the original Resident Evil, decided to produce a remake. He felt that the GameCube’s capabilities could bring it closer to his original vision. The game retains the same graphical presentation, with 3D models superimposed over pre-rendered backgrounds. However, the quality of the graphics was vastly improved. The game had a more gutteral and visceral realism, improved lighting and phenomenal sound design.
The remake also featured new gameplay mechanics, puzzles and additional explorable areas. A new detailing story is included, with an entire subplot cut from the original release. This game, along with the prequel Resident Evil 0, set the precedent to where the series was going. Resident Evil 4 changed the gameplay mechanics again in a fully formed 3D environment. Unfortunately games 5 and 6 went for an action-based aesthetic instead of the survival horror element the series was known for. Then, after fan backlash, Capcom brought the series back to it’s roots with the fantastic Resident Evil 7.
A resurrection of a classic trilogy
With the series back to it’s best, talk was rampant about remaking the older sequels. After a lot of speculation and the acknowledgement of a unofficial fan-remake being heralded by fans, Capcom decided to completely remake their original trilogy sequels. They were to use their RE Engine which was first used in the development of Resident Evil 7.
These games did away with the tank controls and went for an over-the-shoulder perspective. This was first utilised in Resident Evil 4. The graphics were crisp and clear and the environments showed the games in a way that the originals never could. The sounds of heavy rainfall, booming thunder and the painful moaning of the undead echoed throughout the iconic police station. Let’s not forget the anxiety-building sound of the footsteps of Mr. X getting closer and closer which really gets the heart racing high.
Capcom had achieved the same as they did with the original Resident Evil remake and had created a reinvented masterpiece. Resident Evil 2 Remake was critically acclaimed upon release and rightfully so. This was even to the extent that some consider it the definitive version of the game. Resident Evil 3 brought the remake trilogy full circle, but unfortunately the game’s shortcoming is that it is too short. It’s pacing was also too far off in comparison to the much more refined Resident Evil 2. However, it is still a fantastic remake that is well worth playing.
What the past gives us, and the future brings
For the most part remakes and remasters are the best versions of games you can get. These games are enhanced just enough to adhere to the memories of those who played them originally. They tend to not change too much to stifle the familiarity of the original source. And they give us a chance to relive and re-love occasionally forgotten classics. We can experience them in a new light all whilst keeping the warm nostalgic memories alive. In my opinion Capcom have achieved perfect remakes with the Resident Evil series. And with talk about Resident Evil 4 also getting the same treatment soon, I expect more plaudits heading Capcom’s way.