The Most Remade Game?
With HD remakes being a bit popular these days, it has made me wonder about what is the video-game that has had the most remakes. Upon pondering about this point it, I immediately ran into the problem of defining a “remake”. When can we really say that a game has been utterly remade? There were a lot of easy traps I could have fallen in so rather than becoming a sort of “me demonstrating some cool stuff from games past”, this blog has now turned into a more deeper pondering on the very nature of what is a “remake” and how it differs from ports, alternate versions, re-releases and so on.
Just to clear up a bit what I mean, let’s take a look at the things which are not “remakes”…
- Ports = Ports are probably the biggest pitfall that most people face when talking about remakes. While a port is definitely an alternation of a game to make it best utilise the abilities of a different game platform, it’s not a remake in the sense that this is being done out of necessity, whereas a remake is an attempt by the creators to update a game for a current generation. Also, for sheer ports, we could really attribute any of the late 1970s-early 1980s arcade titles like Pac-Man, Space Invaders as being the “most remade”, since these titles have appeared on pretty much every system imaginable.
- Re-release = This in itself is a no brainer in my view. Modern consoles are able to run emulation software in their design that makes it possible to feature older games as a hidden bonus for instance. Also, many games are now released through download services as well. The same argument works here as with ports – it’s not an update of the game in any way and therefore not a remade game.
- Games that have different names but are essentially the same = Plagiarism and copying games is nothing new and sometimes games with different titles may be just the same game. If these sorts of games were counted as “remakes”, Pong would easily be most remade game in history through the virtue of being the basis of practically every home console released between 1972 and 1976.
- Games with the same name but which are totally different & Alternate versions = Here we begin to enter a gray area in the argument. What’s to say an alternate version of a game isn’t the game “remade”? Here I suppose the motive behind the changes counts towards whether these instances count as remakes. A good example of games with the same name but which are different are the two versions of Tetris on the NES (the unlicensed Tengen version and the official Nintendo version). I will delve a little deeper into this issue in the following examples.
Of course these are all my interpretations of what doesn’t constitute as a remake, but I hope it illustrates why this is one gaming question that doesn’t really have a straight answer. If we start looking at more concrete examples of games that have been remade multiple times, we begin to see some of the definition problems here.
As a huge Mega Man fan, I of course am tempted to look at that franchises few examples of genuine remakes. Generally, Mega Man titles have been re-released but not substantially tampered with to better fit the systems they are released for. However, in the instance of the first three NES games, we could technically argue that there are no fewer than four iterations of Mega Man 1 and 3 and three of 2.
- The original NES titles
- The Wily Wars remakes of all three on Sega Mega Drive/Genesis
- The Mega Man Powered Up remake of the first game on the PSP
- The Tiger Toys LCD remakes of 2 and 3.
- The High Tech Expressions PC titles (Mega Man 1 & 3)
The Wily Wars remakes are definitely that (and not ports) since the games had to be recreated for a 16-bit platform. Same goes for the 2½D remake on the PSP. The Tiger LCD toys may be a bit of a gray area, dependant on whether you count LCD handhelds as video-games per se. However, its the High Tech Expressions PC games where I think most Mega Man fans would draw the line. Apart from the fact that these games share practically no similarities of their namesakes, they also play considerably differently and weren’t made by Capcom. By comparison the Tiger Toys at least stay faithful to the games they are based on.
In the realm of adventure games, another favourite part of gaming for me, there aren’t nearly as many straight-up remakes as there are ports. This is where I would definitely incorpotate port-exclusion from counting remakes, because The Secret of Monkey Island would wipe the floor with most of its competitors, with releases on practically every computer system out at the time (including a Japanese exclusive and even the Sega-CD). With Monkey Island, where a port or a version actually becomes a remake is also difficult to determine. I don’t think anyone disagrees that the Special Edition is a definite remake because of all the graphical, audio and technical additions. Counting back from there it gets much more difficult. The 256 colour version of the game could maybe technically be considered the first remake, since this one was the version that later became the most widespread variant of the game graphically. However, whether one counts the enhanced graphic interface version as a remake then really comes down to a matter of taste. It is a definite change in the content of the game, but would a graphical change really count as a change at all (which of course also casts doubt on the 256 colour version’s legitimacy as a remake).
However, one adventure game where you can definitely see four completely different iterations of the same title, funny enough, is the very first Leisure Suit Larry. In case you weren’t aware, there is indeed an HD remake of the game coming. The original text-parser version of the game was also remade back in the early 1990s (circa Larry 5) with redone VGA graphics and an entirely point-and-click oriented interface (dispensing with the tiresome and laborious parser system). However, it may come as a shock to most people who the “original” Larry was actually, effectively, a remake in and of itself. Larry 1 was basically a graphic reinterpretation of an early Sierra text-adventure game called Soft Port Adventure. Larry of course focused more on the hapless main hero, but the setting and goals of both games are practically the same. However, again, one could cast doubt if Larry 1 really counts as a remake of Soft Porn Adventure under the “Games with different Names” clause above. Still, the games were at least made by the same company, so one could argue in Larry’s favour (if you reeeeeeally wanted).
Probably the strongest contender that I can think of for the most remade game of all is in fact Konami’s very first Castlevania game. There are indeed 5 iterations of Simon Belmont’s first quest to defeat Dracula, which sounds quite amazing.
- Firstly there is the original NES title, simply Castlevania (Akumajou Dracula in Japan).
- Released the same year in Japan as the FamiCom/NES version (1986), a completely different version of the same game called Vampire Killer was released for the MSX home computers. This was done so that Konami would be able to port Vampire Killer to other platforms if the NES version failed. Side-note: Vampire Killer was not subject to similar stringent localization as the NES version which lead to an earlier global release and often repeated erroneous claim that it’s actually the first game of the series.
- A late 1980s arcade title called Haunted Castle is yet another remake and has Simon saving his bride from Dracula.
- Super Castlevania 4 is yet another retelling if Simon’s struggle against Dracula (the numeral is confusing and only present in the Western versions, the Japanese title is identical to the first game’s).
- Akumajou Dracula for the Sharp X68000 was a Japanese only computer remake of the game with a Symphony of the Night style art-direction released in 1993. This version was finally made available globally in 2001 on the Sony Playstation, as Castlevania Chronicles.
This would appear to be the most clearest example of a video-game going through numerous notable changes in not only graphics and sound but also in content. However, some doubt could be cast over Vampire Killer’s status as a remake, since it was being developed concurrently with the original.