Up for Debate - What makes a good remake?

Written by Chad Norton on Sat, Feb 15, 2020 4:38 PM
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We have now come so far in gaming advancements, from virtual pong to virtual reality, that we have suddenly come full circle and have started to remake the games we already made 20 years ago. Remakes are a thing now, a trend in popular culture and media, from movies to video games we are unable to escape the grasp of turning something that was already good into something good… again.

But as I sit at home, playing these remakes in my underwear, I at once start to ponder: what actually makes a good remake? I want to take two specific examples here: the Spyro Reignited Trilogy and the Resident Evil 2 Remake. The reason being is that I thoroughly enjoyed playing both of them recently (and the Resident Evil 3 Remake is right around the corner), even though they are ultimately very different from each other in the way they underwent the remaking process.

Spyro Reignited went the safe route: essentially it’s the exact same game but with updated textures, animations and voice work. There’s nothing fundamentally different from the original and the remake.

Resident Evil 2 went in almost the opposite direction: fundamentally changing most of the game’s mechanics, style and layout of the original whilst still keeping the very core of what made the original so damn good (and scary).

Spyro introduces wonderful animations that bring more personality into characters that we knew before. You’ll have the exact same gameplay experience as you did 20ish years ago, but a completely new emotional reaction.

Resident Evil 2 changed around the story slightly, reconstructing the pacing of the game, whilst also changing item locations, puzzles and enemy placements (and going so far as bringing a character that was originally reserved for the ‘B’ versions of each character’s story into the main game). Not only that but the entire style was completely overhauled from a bright, fixed-camera perspective, to an incredibly dark and foreboding atmosphere in a third-person view.

So both games tackle the process of creating a remake very differently, yet both are incredibly satisfying to play. How much of it is due to nostalgia? How much is due to genuine entertainment? And how much of it is due to the fact that I crave any form of escapism because the society around me bounds me into a bubble for which I cannot express my creative freedom and therefore would rather live my life in an alternate reality where I don’t have to ponder such existential questions that cripple my ability to enable any form of free will?

These are essential questions to the debate I think, as maybe the answer lies in a balance of nostalgia and genuine entertainment. How much I remember the game was fun to play versus how much the game is actually fun to play. And both the Spyro Reignited Trilogy and the Resident Evil 2 Remake tread that line differently.

Maybe we need to look at what makes a bad remake first in order to truly answer that...

Warcraft 3: Reforged is a good example of a bad remake, or at the very least, an interesting example. As it is probably well known by now that the recent remastering of the old RTS game was met with dismal reviews, and blanketed as an example for what not to do when remaking a game.

A lot of backlash comes from the clear downgrade from what they showed at Blizzcon: everyone was excited for the new and updated cinematics that quite honestly looked pretty damn good. I’ve never played the original Warcraft 3 nor any other Warcraft game for that matter, but I was pleasantly impressed by the detailed animations and shot composition. It would have been interesting to see the reaction if they were kept in the game at launch, and how much that would have affected the overall reaction to the finished product.

I am by no means a game developer. I love playing video games and writing about them on the internet. I could not be any less qualified to ultimately make a decision on the matter. But at the same time, as an audience we have a responsibility to express what we like and dislike. Do we want more remakes like the Spyro Reignited Trilogy? Or more like the Resident Evil 2 Remake? Because whatever the case, we definitely don’t want any like Warcraft 3: Reforged.

What’s your opinion on what makes a good remake? Do you agree with the balance of nostalgia and genuine entertainment? Or is there something else that makes for a good remake?

What makes a good remake?

Are you enjoying most of the remakes coming out recently?

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00:20 Feb-17-2020

A good remake takes what was done and gives it a full graphical makeover, as well as (possibly) some thematic updates. It can make changes or additions, but anything that alters the core narrative or gameplay is usually not a good idea. Also, I'd very much prefer a remake not do it's utmost to completely take advantage of the people by arbitrarily deciding to release episodically, taking several years and 200+ dollars to have 1 "complete" game....glares at FFVII

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05:07 Feb-17-2020

Cant agree enough on FFVII pretty disgusted right now with this continuing trend in games.

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13:11 Feb-17-2020

Episodes are reason why I will likely wait till whole thing comes out and buy complete edition for more reasonable price. If it ever gets completed at all... I mean remember what happened to FF15 DLC? Yeah, now tell me why same couldn't happen here. Plus Valve kind of ruined episodic stuff for me with Half-Life.

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19:52 Feb-16-2020

changing the graphics does NOT mean remake.... and 80% of the remakes are just changes to the graphics...
when i get a remake of a game i love, i don't want to see added cosmetics and new mechanics... i literally just want the same game just polished enough for today's standards

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00:21 Feb-17-2020

Your comment is very contradictory. You say changing graphics is not a remake, but then say you want the exact same game "polished" for today, by which "polished" is obviously going to mean graphics being updated.....

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14:42 Feb-19-2020

i mean updating graphics obviously comes in a remake but my point was that nowadays "remakes" are just changes to graphics and nothing else

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08:41 Feb-16-2020

Age of Empires II: DE is an example to other companies.

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22:26 Feb-15-2020

I would say good remake is one that brings old game into new times. One that doesn't just improve graphics, but also brings in things developers learned over the years, but still feeling like original game. I do think nostalgia is nice driving force behind it, but it just isn't everything. Plus good remake can bring old game to new audiences, by making it feel just modern enough,...

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22:30 Feb-15-2020

... while still retaining what made original great. But I do love seeing remakes or even remasters, since they do warrant me to reply the old game in its best version, if done right. Or even they give me reason to actually play games I never played back when they were popular, like Resident Evil 2. And I am perfectly fine with remakes, as long as they don't only do remakes, new stuff are nice too.

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