My Top-5 & Bottom-5 Game Remakes
Video-game remakes are an ever prevalent part of the gaming landscape but they have been going on for quite a while. Ever since Nintendo showed that people would be willing to cough up cash to play flashier versions of games they already owned with Super Mario All-Stars, gaming companies have always tried to find a way to re-package old and tried and trued content in the hope to earn some more money.
But not to seem I’m just bad-mouthing Remakes, Super Mario All-Stars also proved that there was some lasting value in re-releasing games, especially when you can fix mistakes in the original, such as the lack of a save game in SMB3 or the god-awful Triforce fetch quest in Wind Waker (which wasn’t totally removed but considerably streamlined for the HD Remake).
Here, I wanted to present what I thought were the five best and worst remakes of titles I’ve had the pleasure or displeasure of playing.
Mind you, I’m only including games I’ve personally played. I also don’t consider simple ports the same as a remake. Now, some might consider the difference between a port and a remake somewhat arbitrary but in order for the remake to make either one of these lists, it has to be considerably altered from what the original game was technologically or in design (hence why you will not be seeing the Mega Drive port of Mortal Kombat 3 on the Bottom-5).
But enough rambling, on with the lists…
As I’ve mentioned before several times on this blog, I’m a huge fan of the Broken Sword series. However, for the longest time the first and second (and to a lesser degree, the third and fourth) instalments of this classic adventure game series were difficult to get to run on modern PCs, even with the help of emulation software such as ScummVM. So, when Revolution Software announced out of the blue that a modern machine compliant remake was coming out, you’ll guess that I was very excited.
Broken Sword – The Shadow of the Templars: Director’s Cut dances on the razor’s edge of what can be considered a remake and not just a remastered port. About 70% of the original game is there, but it’s being complimented by some brand new cutscenes, segments and puzzles. Apart from the awesomeness of getting to experience what is still, in my view, the best game of the series, the Director’s Cut allows you to play as Nico (just like in all other instalments of the series).
However, the Director’s Cut also committed one blatant mistake which is why it missed out on the Top-5 and that was to remove all the in-game deaths as well as censor some of the more violent parts of the game just to gain a lower age-rating. That is pretty fucking bullshit, but if you can forgive it, The Shadow of the Templars is still one of the all time great point and click adventure games.
In this LucasArts classic, you take control of Guybrush Threepwood, a hapless pirate wanna-be. You land on Mêlée Island with only one goal, an over-powering urge to become a pirate. You fall in love with the island’s beautiful governor, face the wrath of the Ghost Pirate LeChuck and sail to the mysterious Monkey Island to encounter some surprisingly civil cannibals and enter the Giant Monkey Head.
The Secret of Monkey Island may only be my second favourite game of the Monkey Island series, but it would still easily qualify in my all-time Top-10, which is why the Special Edition was such a big deal for me. Although essentially still running over the old game engine, the Special Edition improved on the original a lot with its detailed art, better sound design, excellent voice-acting.
Sure, maybe this remake didn’t add as much to the game but unlike Broken Sword Director’s Cut, it didn’t leave anything out either. And hearing the voice-cast of Curse and Escape from Monkey Island return was just a joy.
The 1990s VGA remake of Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards was already a vast improvement over the clunky text-parser original but Al Lowe’s HD remaster of the game was even better. As the lovable loser Larry Laffer you look for love in Lost Wages and encounter one woman more gorgeous than the last (who always find a way to disappoint you in the end).
Larry 1 was a short but absolutely humour-filled adventure. Though it suffered from Sierra’s infamous frivolous deaths, the game was just so charming that you kept coming back to it regardless. Reloaded doesn’t simply add new fancy graphics, the game also has new puzzles and one whole new lady to woo. Which is also the only reason I rank it slightly higher than the Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition.
The game even playfully references the original version with some puzzle solutions being deceptively different. Add to this the excellent voice-over and the deaths now ending with you simply restored and the game is just a joy. Reloaded’s only problem is how self-conscious it is about being a fan-funded project (with kickstarter patrons’ names plastered practically everywhere in the game).
Capcom went through a lot of agony to bring the three original Mega Man titles from the NES into 16-bit form on Sega’s Mega Drive (Genesis) console. However, The Wily Wars is more than just the first three Mega Man games being given the Super Mario All-Stars treatment. Although that’s pretty awesome in itself.
Not only are the 16-bit renderings of the games faithful right down to the individual play-mechanics (you can slide only Mega Man 3 etc.) but the 16-bit music sounds excellent and the gameplay still feels just as good as it did on the NES.
However, what brings this remake so high on my list is The Wily Tower, a set of brand new levels where the player can select their own arsenal of Master Weapons from the first three games. This feature is just beyond awesome, making this one of the most criminally under-appreciated Mega Man things in existence, though to be fair its obscurity is due to its asinine distribution style.
Though Konami are not everyone’s favourite gaming company these days, you have to hand it to Hideo Kojima who manages to always create something new and awesome. The Twin Snakes was an amped-up remake of the quintessential PlayStation classic on the GameCube and one of my personal favourite games for said system.
The story is the same as in the original, you are special agent Solid Snake, infiltrating the Arctic Shadow Moses base to take down Foxhound who plan to start nuclear war with the mobile weapons system (= giant robot) Metal Gear Rex. However, the Twin Snakes game amps up the craziness with cutscenes that are way more over-the-top than in the original and including many nifty features such as being able to shoot in first person mode.
Although this stealth based video-game soap opera is pretty straight-forward as a gaming experience, it comes with many difficulty levels and extras to unlock. It’s a new face on an old classic but manages to also be an excellent game in its own right.
Ducktales Remastered might still be my favourite game for the Wii U, which isn’t a slight against the console but more a testament to what an awesome game Ducktales on the NES was already before it got this pretty graphic do-over.
While Ducktales: Remastered does an excellent job recreating the feeling of the NES original. In addition to this, the game has its own original story crafted around the previously unexplained and incoherent levels. The game is more forgiving than the original but comes with a variety of difficulty settings.
However, what really makes this game a true classic for me is the iconic Ducktales voice-cast reprising their roles in the TV show in-game and thus making this the perfect Ducktales fan experience. This remake improves on the original with every fibre of its being and that’s why its the best Remake I’ve ever had the pleasure to play.
Now, what you will maybe notice with this list is that I haven’t played that many bad remakes as such and this is why I feel a little funny including Resident Evil: Remake on the list. Because frankly of the old school Resident Evils, the first one is by far my favourite and an excellent survival horror experience.
However, when I said Konami (or rather Hideo Kojima) was willing to let loose with their remake of MGS, Capcom rather weirdly removed the one thing which people remember fondly from the PlayStation original, that god awfully hilarious voice-acting. Yes, in an effort to make the remake more similar to the later sequels and infuse it with a more serious and dark mood, Capcom removed the cheesy tongue-in-cheek dialogue of the original game. As a result, the Remake’s cutscenes are honestly just really boring to watch and the already bland and two-dimensional personalities of Chris and Jill is even more blatantly obvious in this version.
That said, the gameplay and atmosphere are superb so I really am including this entry very begrudgingly. I thought about including the DOS Mega Man game again, but it’s not a remake per se, as is neither the awful Master System Sonic the Hedgehog title. Donkey Kong Land 2 for the Game Boy is more or less a downgraded remake of DKC2, but it’s actually a good game in its own right so it didn’t really warrant an entry.
For the record though, Code: Veronica X is a far worse old school Resident Evil title but the Remake just loses something very key to the original RE’s experience.
Now, with this entry I don’t mean to crap on the original Super Mario Bros. 2 (not Lost Levels though, that game is legitimately bad) as it is one of my favourite NES and Mario games. However, the GBA port of this title is pretty frustrating for one and one reason only.
Now, the gameplay is good, the graphics are bright and colourful (which was a real life saver for an early GBA title) and the remake even livens up the original game quite a bit.
The one and only reason this remake gets on my nerves though is because of the badly programmed voice-overs. Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad just scream at the top of their lungs all through the game. It’s clear to me that no-one bothered to test the game because after a while hearing the same voice-clips over and over again just becomes incredibly repetitive.
To be fair, they don’t fully ruin the game, but the remake didn’t really need the voice-clips anyway which is why their inclusion and effect on the game is so regrettable.
Monkey Island 2 was always my least favourite game of the series due to its overly cryptic puzzles, mean-spirited humour and absolute “fuck you” of a finale. But I was willing to give the game another chance when the Special Edition was coming around. Unfortunately, LucasArts fucked up big time and released a real mess of a remake innitially.
Firstly, they cut out the iconic opening credits sequence for no apparent reason. They also cut out the Easy-mode, but no-one really noticed because hardly anyone even remembers it’s a thing in MI2. Animations bugged out in several key-moments (most infuriating being LeChuck’s walk cycle which runs at double speed). The Bone Song was completely out of sync with the background music. The free-walking with an analogue stick was all but useless here (whereas it could have worked well in Secret). And the timing puzzles were completely screwed up in the new graphics version.
Now, PC owners luckily got a patch to fix the vast majority of these issues but people like myself who bought the Xbox 360 version weren’t so lucky. The only reason MI2: Special Edition isn’t higher is because the game runs perfectly in old graphics mode, with voice-overs and comes with a hilarious commentary by Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman and Tim Schafer which is worth the price of admission alone. It was still an inexcusably sloppy job from LucasArts.
This one is going to feel like a bit of a cheat but there’s a good reason I’m including this game on the worst remakes list. Remember when I said that a remake is always a new chance for a company to fix an error or mistake that was made in the original game? Keep that in mind.
Okay, so technically Final Fight One is less a remake than it is just a port of the arcade original, in that it included all three playable characters whereas the prior Nintendo arcade port on the SNES included only two. That said, this was the third time the Final Fight series appeared on Nintendo’s systems and it seemed like the perfect way to make amends for the mistake that was made with the original SNES port of the game which omitted the gender-bender character Poison from the roster.
Except not, Nintendo again came down hard on Capcom and forced Poison to be removed from their game for the second time. This was just inexcusable for an otherwise spot on port of the arcade original (as much as it was possible to do on the GBA). Once again, if you want to play a version of Final Fight with Poison in it on a Nintendo system, you’ll have to play Mighty Final Fight on the NES.