Respecting the limitations of retro games in the age of remakes

Redoing older games may seem easy; after all, the model is already there in the original. The complete structure of a game already exists, with all its art, sound, music, design, characters, and gameplay. Remakes bring with them opportunities to address perceived flaws or to restore features that were cut or compromised. Remakes can also introduce new players to a game, while still keeping in mind who played the original. Good luck browsing all of that.

Accompanying the question of excuse me a remake will be made are questions of when and why. Retro game remakes demonstrate how the limitations of technology, capital, and time impact the art styles, designs, and feel of the game. As remakes bring ever higher polygon counts and ray tracing, let’s embrace the distinctive character of retro games.

For example, the calls for a port of 2009 The souls of the devil started early: once Dark souls became a hit across all platforms and for several generations, it was no surprise that gamers turned to Sony to share the wealth and launch The souls of the devil from his exclusive home on the PlayStation 3. When a completely redone The souls of the devil Released alongside the PlayStation 5, it was viewed by many fans as a triumphant return, an exclusive platform that served as a masterpiece of next-gen graphical power. So what if there were complaints about changes in voice acting, art style, and architecture? The souls of the devil it had completed its journey through generations of consoles, from success to novelty.

But there was substance to those complaints. As Polygon’s Michael McWhertor pointed out, there was hardly a straight line of improvement from The souls of the devil (PS3) to The souls of the devil (PS5). It’s no surprise that a constant frame rate of 60 frames per second looks and feels good for a game that requires precise timing. It’s great that so many details, from a reorchestrated soundtrack to DualSense haptics, contribute to the epic feeling of battling the Storm King. But players may still want to pick up the original game if they want to experiment. Boletaria depicted in austere medieval rather than neo-Gothic style.. It is not so much about which version is superior as about the fundamental differences between them.

Retro game cartridge pixel art illustration

Remastering and remaking the atmosphere of retro games is a complicated and often contentious business. For instance, Silent Hill 2 lost most of its iconic fog in its HD remastering. While this revealed the game world in more detail, it also took some of its character out of it. In the case of Silent Hill, more is less. The Silent Hill mist is a distinctive part of the series, essential to its visual identity and deeply important to its world and plot. Fog is a fantastic device that obscures the player’s vision and requires more attention to what can be heard than to see.

The altered mist in the remastered Silent Hill 2 even drew a comment from the series’ art director, Masahiro Ito, who speculated that hardware differences between PlayStation 2 and PS3 could be at the root of the change. According to Ito, the PS3 may have had more problems with certain types of textures that Team Silent used a lot on the original PS2. Technological progress is not always a straight line, especially when, as in Silent Hill 2In this case, the team behind a remake or remaster does not have access to the original source code. Even if a team intends to faithfully modernize a game, crucial elements may be lost in translation.

When the responsibility of remaking a game is placed in the hands of fans, as it was recently for Jankenteam in his 2021 remake of Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX, they can be extremely sensitive to those details. But even then, the desire to update the aesthetics of a retro game can have unwanted effects on the game. Alex Kidd in Miracle World (1986) is a relentless old school 80s classic platformer. The main character has a floating jump, slides slightly on landing, and has to get within a few pixels of enemies to deliver a knockout blow. Any mistake, lack of time or just bad luck causes players to lose a life and return to the beginning of the level. The extra lives aren’t particularly plentiful, and a “game over” really does mean that, sending players back to the title screen.

Pixel art illustration of retro game controller

Players of the 1986 game would wrestle with the controls to make Alex move with the required precision. Jankenteam chose to stick to those original controls for the remake as closely as possible, however imprecise they were and now they are again. But the team also compounded the game’s difficulty with their updated sprites and animations. New art lovingly pays Miracle World DX in a detailed and colorful style, which is welcome compared to the blocky pixels and sometimes the eye-catching color combinations of the 8-bit original. Nevertheless, adding additional animation frames and deciding not to match sprites to their original size does it even plus It’s hard to judge where Alex has to be for me to punch him. While playing the remake, I found myself getting closer to enemies than necessary, which often led to a quick death. While new art is easy on the eye, it is more difficult to read.

When thinking about games like the recently announced remake of Dead spaceI wonder how the desire to use the technology toolkits of a new generation of consoles will affect the star of the show: USG Ishimura. Sure, the doomed mining ship is a setting, but the place has character. It is a wonderful mix of AlienNostromo and Event horizonis … Event horizon. As players guide the quiet Isaac Clarke through its sections, stomping through so many automatic doors, going up and down freight elevators, and decompressing in airlocks, the Ishimura feels like a place, rather than just a space. On the one hand, Dead space it could be coldly thought of as a series of hallways and stadiums. On the other hand, its designers worked within the limitations of both hardware and genre to fill those spaces of claustrophobia, anticipation, and danger. As players wait for each door to unlock, there is a moment to fear what may be on the other side.

Resident Evil 2 Safe Deposit Room Fanny Pack Location

Image: Capcom via Polygon

As demonstrated in Capcom’s 2019 remake of Resident Evil 2, it’s fun if players can choose between slowly opening a door or going through it. I’d like to think that those options have different effects on the story and gameplay compared to the menacing, creaking doors of the original. When the new senior producer of Dead space He says the Motive team is working to “modernize the game”, I wonder how differences like that will figure in the process. The new creative director has mentioned how impressed he is with the faster charging since SSDs in current generation consoles, saying that his team “The intention is to offer a totally uninterrupted experience. […] an uninterrupted sequence, from the start screen to the final credit, without interruption. “I hope that the pauses and quiet moments of the game, some of which may have originally been to mask the loading times, are taken into account, if not intact. The new SSDs can give designers the ability to open all the gates as players approach, but there is fun in the anticipation.

Even if a team is working with the latest technology on the latest platforms, there is no such thing as being free of restrictions. The history of games does not consist of a linear progression. Retro games have their particular shape due to a combination of factors and design choices. Redoing them is not a simple process of upgrading them for new hardware, rather it is a process of translations, replacements and difficult decisions. With that in mind, maybe it’s time to stop talking about remakes in terms of updating or modernization. Instead, maybe it would be better to think about how the remakes are inspired by their originals, but differ from them. There is room for both on our shelves and hard drives.