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The Tension Between Remakes And Originals

With the spiffy Resident Evil 2 remake right around the corner, I got to thinking about remakes versus remasters. At what point should you just go back and boot up the original?

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It can be interesting to see a modern take with new mechanics that retains the original soul of the source material. Then again, how would you know if it retains the soul of the original if you haven’t played it? You might just end up playing a prettier version of the game with changes that impact it in ways that take away from the original.

Still, as technology advances, remasters and remakes are becoming a trend that we all have to get used to. But what makes a good remaster and when does a game warrant a refresh from the ground up? I sat down with Heather Alexandra to talk about great remakes, as well as the games that should just be preserved and left alone.

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Hear us talk about the surprising similarities between Leon Kennedy and Lady Gaga in the video above. Here’s an excerpt:


Heather: Maybe it’s my first real “old lady shouts at cloud” moment but for me, I don’t want the Shadow of the Colossus remaster to be the one that’s in the cultural ether. I want that to be a facet of what Shadow of the Colossus is, but I want the original to endure.

Paul: It’s interesting because it’s not an inherent problem specific to video games. We have remakes in Hollywood-

Heather: But it’s bullshit because we talk about remakes in film and we have a shot-for-shot remake of Psycho. What was the point of that? Which is why I will say, what I do appreciate about remakes is when they do recontextualize and reimagine a gameplay experience.

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Paul: I think about—welcome to the one show that’s going to mention A Star Is Born—but I think about that movie, where it’s a remake but it’s the fifth one and they all do something different that adds something to it. It’s not just a shot-for-shot remake.

Heather: So one of the reasons that Shadow of the Colossus made me uncomfortable—it just takes this original experience that I think was very pure and very much its own thing and adds all this glossiness to it. I think when you change the aesthetic of a thing so much, it changes the tone of a thing. It can change the implications that people read into it.

Video Producer, Kotaku. Fluent in Spanglish. Tetris Master. Streamer. Host of The Optional Podcast.

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DISCUSSION

One aspect to consider is preservation. If an old version of a game is no longer available, and only the newest version is playable, then in cases like Shadow of the Colossus it would of course be for the worse because following generations will only be exposed to the newest version.
(I haven’t player the game one way or the other, but if it’s not a 1:1 port even though the original was fine as it was, then yeah I can see the problems here).

But assuming the old version is still available, then I would prefer developers would try out new things. Because us veterans have played the old version to death already. Also, if it’s a pre-seventh generation game, what does the newest HD/Remaster version offer compared to my shiny 4K upscaled resolution emulator experience?

If you look at Final Fantasy XII and its recent remaster, and the new textures, then I have to say that I prefer them doing that. Because otherwise, I might as well have played the PS2 version in an emulator. Between this, the added options such as game speed, the dual-language voice and music options, and the proper PC port, the price was justified.

In other cases, the remaster offers options not even possible on emulators. Primal is a game that is notorious for not running well in PS2 emulators (at least last I checked), but between having a stable framerate and adding widescreen support, the PS4 release became the best version in my eyes because of that.

Not all new aesthetics in a remaster are bad, either. At first I was against the bloom look of The Wind Waker HD, but once I played it myself, I realized it’s only really the first hour or so where this is noticeable, everywhere else the bloom feels more natural.