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Musings #43 Everything old is new again
Author: Michael Ahlf 
Date: September 5th 200
6

Sequel, remake, sequel, remake, sequel, remake, reimagining... what's the difference? Pop culture would have us believe that it's all the same.

And so, we sit. We sit through remakes of old television shows into movies, sometimes done as parody, sometimes done in an attempt to be faithful to something whose time has long passed, sometimes done in an attempt to be faithful that is so pathetically inept that it becomes parody on its own. And every year, the consumers are forced to choose: will I go see the next add-on to the Star Wars "saga"? Will I watch the next Scooby-doo item? How about Doom, or Michael Bay's probably bastardization of Transformers, or even a new animated version of the old classic Thundercats?

But people are hungry for nostalgia. In the same vein, the video game industry looks back on classics of yesteryear with hunger. Somehow, a 3-D remake of Frogger wound up in the top 100-selling PC games of the 21st century. Half-Life has been remade for the Source engine, and Counter-Strike gets remade every few months. Oftentimes, since the gaming populace is more savvy than the general public and has less of a history (there are no 50 year old games to remake as of yet) the remaking comes in the form of a sequel, a "reimagining" for another platform, or a Classics compilation.

Capcom's remaking the early Megaman X titles for the PSP, with "updated" graphics and new gameplay modes. Or at least, they were. We'll see if the PSP doesn't die before they're finished.

Of all these three, the compilation is probably the easiest, and they've been proven to sell. Sega got away with a PC classics pack that included a couple Sonic titles, Midway's been milking them for all they're worth, Activision's been to the trough, and the arcade titles coming through Xbox Live probably qualify as well. It's almost one of the easiest ideas: get an emulator (Sega actually bought the KGEN emulator for their PC collection), slap the rom files into the disc, and sell. No mess, no fuss, and gamers get what they wanted - the games. I also have the least problem with this way of selling old titles, as it preserves the spirit of the old games, since the gameplay is more or less the same. The same for Nintendo's re-releases of classic titles for the GBA or the DS. 

The next option, which Nintendo and Konami have exemplified throughout the lifetime of gaming, is the sequel. While Nintendo's picked up on the re-release bandwagon of late, their old MO was to release a new game in a series every development cycle (of course, development cycles have gotten longer and longer, so where it used to be 9 months it's now 3-4 years). Konami did the same, most notably with the Castlevania series: instead of re-releasing the same Castlevania for every platform, their goal was to see that every platform had "a" Castlevania title. So while the NES got the first three and the SNES got Dracula X, the pared-down version of the PC Engine's Rondo of Blood, Genesis got Bloodlines instead.

Occasionally, fans take matters into their own hands. Numerous attempts at remaking The Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen have passed and failed. A fan-made attempt at updating and re-creating Chrono Trigger was nixed when Square/Enix decided to kill it. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these groups end in grief, because love of the project usually isn't enough to sustain the group until the end even if a stingy company like Square decides to nix a project created by people who loved their old titles.

But the question remains: will you go see the new incarnation of an old favorite? Will you purchase the next copy of an old game or movie because "deleted content" is added back in?

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I'm a sucker most of the time, and I'll probably be at Transformers on opening day.

Got Comments? Send 'em to Michael (at) Glideunderground.com!
Alternatively, post 'em right here for everyone to see!

 

 

 

 

 

Musings #43: Everything old is new again


Added:  Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf

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