From remasters to remakes: how developers resurrect the past to turn classics into masterpieces

Courtesy of Capcom

Remakes are staples in the current video game market. These types of games are a way for a developer to rerelease a video game by bringing the game to a modern standard. This is most commonly done by improving graphics and retooling gameplay to recreate the feel of the original, while enhancing it to meet modern standards. These new recreations of classic titles are usually handled by a third party company to assist in the development process of getting these titles up to par.


Most often these titles are handled with care and love by the original developers, yet not every remake is made the same. Studios will often push out a poor title just to make easy revenue at the expense of the consumer. As history never fails to repeat itself, we can analyze previous trends to get a better idea at what good rereleases do to faithfully recreate the experience of playing the original. Similarly, exploring the failures in poor remakes can tell us where the developer could have made a better effort to make a better game.


2019’s “Resident Evil 2” made a huge splash recently with its impressive faithful recreation of Raccoon City. Capcom were extremely careful to ensure that the title would uphold the quality of the original while also modernizing it. It goes without saying that the game itself bolsters graphics that restore the quality of the PlayStation 1 original. Gone are the polygonal, blocky characters placed in a washed out world devoid of detail. Thanks to modern graphic capabilities, Capcom treats us to new stylized renders of classic characters that are extremely fresh and new. Raccoon City is no longer the dull uninspired city as it is now full of detail which makes it look surreal. Graphics are only part of what was given an upgrade; for instance, the gameplay was given a total makeover. In the original, the player had to use clunky, tank-like controls to move. Coupled with fixed isometric camera angles, more often than not the player would have to fight against the game just to get through an area.


In the 2019 title, all of this is thrown out and replaced by a third person, over-the-shoulder perspective. The change is one that makes the game feel more realistic and makes gameplay much more smooth, not to mention enhancing the horror atmosphere of the game. With new graphics and a better gameplay system, the player experiences the frightening sights of the rundown Raccoon City in a totally new way. It only heightens the creepy and eerie feeling the city has, and can scare the player much better than the original did in 1998. This remake is one of the many ways developers faithfully recreate classic titles that play into modern standards. Of course, beautiful graphics aren’t the only thing that goes into making a great title. For instance, “The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD” is a rerelease of the Gamecube Zelda game that retains its graphical style, but enhances the gameplay to make the player’s experience more streamlined.


Where Capcom’s 2019 “Resident Evil 2” revitalized the game with new graphics and gameplay, Nintendo’s remake of the popular GameCube title focused more so on polishing the original. Released in 2013, “Wind Waker HD” saw to it that the title receive multiple upgrades to the gameplay formula to ensure a streamlined experience. Alongside these changes, the game also received a graphical update that polishes the game to look more modern with a better lighting engine and crisper models. The game still retains its cell-shaded art style, but now with a modern feel. These upgrades are essential to the HD version as they change many instances of grief that players experienced when playing the original. Many of these changes are done in hopes to streamline that gameplay and allow players to keep moving without immersion breaks. One change essential to the HD version is the better sailing mechanics. In the non-remake, the player would have to pause their sailing and change the course of the winds manually with the Wind Waker item. This was a main point of criticism that Nintendo faced since it interrupted the flow of gameplay and stopped the player’s forward motion. In the HD version, this mechanic is made mute because of the new Swift Sail item that allows for quicker sailing and course changing of winds. Due to this change, players now have more control over sailing, giving them a better experience overall. It’s a simple change that would help the HD version feel definitive and better than the original by retooling the game to fit a more modern setting. Yet, Nintendo has failed to recapture the essence of a classic with their “Super Mario 64” remake for the Nintendo DS.


Nintendo sought to capitalize on the DS’ release with the publication of “Super Mario 64 DS” that would reinvent the original. This new game would bring more characters to the title with the inclusion of Luigi, Wario and Yoshi. With graphics that trump the polygonal Nintendo 64 game, the remake looked extremely promising. Yet, when fans finally got to play the remake, the reception was mostly mixed due to the console the game was released on. The original 64 game relied heavily on player control over Mario with a smooth analog stick and distinct camera buttons. In the DS version, the players are only left with a D-pad to control the cast of characters. With weak controls and camera integration, the Remake felt clunky and disorganized. Mainly, this contributes to the idea of rushed poor ports of classic titles that developers make to capitalize on a beloved franchise. This aspect of remakes is an unfortunate consequence to the allure of high sales numbers.


Developers who take a modern approach to rereleasing classic titles can bring great enhancements to breathe new life into old titles. With new mechanics, graphics and gameplay changes, developers bring their older titles to a higher standard than ever before. When done well, these remakes can really enhance the feeling of playing the original while also retaining the same elements of the base title. 2019’s “Resident Evil 2” definitely reinvigorates the hope of good remakes as the gaming market continues to push forward. However, many who stay skeptical about remakes are justified as the industry’s volatile history still proves true. The industry shows no signs of decline with confirmed remakes of “Final Fantasy 7” and “System Shock.” The future of remakes seems bright, with both Microsoft and Sony moving forward with a new generation, and new, remastered classics likely to follow.

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