The remake and/or remastering of a game is a tricky proposition for many people, myself included (possibly due to a certain science fiction series’ butchery by its creator). Now, as a caveat, I’d like to note that ‘remake’ does not mean ‘reboot’ like that mediocre Syndicate game that came out this year. Not that there was anything particularly wrong with it but, the story clearly had chunks taken out and was rendered borderline nonsensical by some variety of marketing wonk, and the game content was burnt up in under 30 hours (including the multiplayer). It was clearly a half-assed attempt to cash in on the name, and because of the risk associated with it, only a very limited amount of content was created with the plan clearly to create or release further content only in the event of success. Hobbled, the game limped out, was given a resounding shrug by most critics. I enjoyed it, to be honest- I could extrapolate where the story was going before it went all pear-shaped, and the game was fun if tremendously short. The low level of commitment on the part of the publisher, and the corresponding failure to succeed are clearly linked- and no one wants to have the memories of a classic game tarnished like that again. At least, if a publisher is going to screw up a classic game, we’d like to see them put their whole ass into the effort.
Some part of each of us wants our favorite older games redone with minimal changes so that they don’t end up like Syndicate. My personal dream is Chrono Trigger in high def- the music done by the London Philharmonic, everything drawn using the same palette but in 1920×1080 resolution, and not a single change made to gameplay or story. That, I believe, is the key- most people don’t want a ton of extra features or new story. In a few days, I’ll be posting my review of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition. I’m honestly a little nervous about it- Baldur’s Gate is the game that pushed me from casual to serious gamer. And while I thoroughly support the work of the Pocket Plane Group, I am a little concerned at the addition of 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons elements by Overhaul to a game based in Second Edition. Pocket Plane mods tended to focus on expanding existing elements in the game, such as cut quests and dialogue, or adding romantic elements hinted at. Many of them also correct items, monster stats, or frustrating AI behavior to a higher standard. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pocket Plane Group and Overhaul Games collaborated on the game…and if not, they should seriously consider it.
This is part of my skepticism about remastered editions of games- can companies have the same dedication as a given game’s community? Is the dreaded hand of a marketing executive going to be felt on its release? One of the best examples I can think of regarding a community’s devotion (fanatical to the point of possibly being some variety of death-cult) is that of the VTM: Bloodlines enthusiasts. They continue to patch a game almost nine years old that sunk the legendary Troika Studios. There has to be a certain level of enthusiasm and joy found in their work, and a certain freedom from oversight for it truly to be a labor of love. I think that Overhaul has that magic in it- there’s no huge company breathing down their necks, micromanaging their efforts. They delayed the release of their game to make it better, on top of not charging an arm, a leg, and another leg for the game. The interface and music are keeping in the themes of the originals. They didn’t toss aside all the things that made the original great, and even kept the original dialogue. Overhaul has that dedication that you only get from a group who are really committed to something they enjoy.
In the end, I suspect I’ll be staying up late tonight, playing Baldur’s Gate. It’s like a date with that hot girl from high school that you haven’t heard from in a decade…you know what she was like, and she says things have only gotten better. You’re excited but a little nervous at the same time. It’s been ten years since I played the original, and like I said, it was one of those games that made me the gamer I am today.