It’s Monday and time for Ask Kotaku, the weekly feature in which Kotaku-ites deliberate on a single burning question. Then, we ask your take.
This week we Ask Kotaku: What’s a favorite childhood game that demands a remake?
We had enough trouble getting EA to bring back Skate, let alone Skitchin’, but a man can dream. Few games of the 90s were as of the 90s as Skitchin’, which basically took the extremely 3 a.m. idea of “what if Road Rash, but...holding onto the back of cars” and turned it into a whole damn video game.
It probably wouldn’t hold up by today’s standards, but I just really want to see what the game’s basic premise—a human body flinging around precariously between trucks and buses—would look like with modern physics.
I want a Sly Cooper remake! A true, big-budget remake! Not just a nice-looking port or a quick remastering. I want something more elaborate and fancy. I’m thinking something like the Crash or Spyro remakes that have been released over the last few years. Collect the first three games and remake them from the ground up in a new engine with improved visuals and Pixar-quality cutscenes and animation. I’d buy that right now, no questions asked, for a sum of money that is larger than I want to admit publicly.
The Sly Cooper games were soooooooo good. A mix of platforming and stealth that worked perfectly. Sure, I know that PlayStation 2 games can be emulated and look nice enough, but I want a modern remake that truly translates Sly and his gang into 2021-quality animated visuals. Let’s not forget about that sneaky raccoon. He deserves a proper return.
I’ve mentioned in a previous Ask Kotaku segment that Pokémon Colosseum not only deserves more love, it also deserves a goddamn remake. I would also love to see The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker in beautiful 60 fps on with graphics fitting on my big screen. The Wii U HD remake was wall-received, but I, like many others, never bought into the console. It’s one of the only Wii U exclusives to not make it over to the Switch yet. And while I understand the frustration some Wii U players might have, it would be great for so many players to bring it to the Switch. Please, Nintendo. I beg of you.
I also find myself yearning for the older versions of current games. Animal Crossing: New Horizons and The Sims 4 are both in my rotation, but I would love to replay the older installments. An Animal Crossing: Back to Basics that cut out the fuss and brought back small details like a personal home gyroid or asking villagers for tasks? Remakes of any of the first Sims games I’m convinced would be successes, especially how beloved The Sims 2 and 3 are to current fans.
But I must answer the real question, which is harder than it seems! Apparently, just about all of my favorite childhood games have been remade or reiterated on. But there’s something missing: The Simpsons: Road Rage and The Simpsons: Hit and Run. The games were toned down to PG-13, but somehow more chaotic, takes on Grand Theft Auto. The antics that ensued! Both games offered so much fun, in the crazed and maniacal way that GTA does for me today. But I was a child and my parents wouldn’t let me play GTA, possibly a smart choice considering I was eight when Road Rage came out. But replaying the games until I gave my old Wii to my dad so he could “bowl” constantly proved that adult Lisa Marie could find joy in them all the same. Bring them back I say! Critiques about too many remakes be damned!
When I was a kid, there were loads of baseball games—really good baseball games I played on the NES. But the best game of all was Baseball Stars. It was a blast to play. You could even create your own team and play a whole season, recording your stats. This was amazing for 1989, and I truly enjoyed this.
Baseball Stars is one of my favorite games ever made and evokes an array of happy memories. When I was a kid, during the summer, I would go to my friend Joey’s house (at like 8 a.m., which is fucked up, and now I truly realize that Joey’s parents were very, very cool), and we would play Baseball Stars for hours on end. It was a great time.
(I also love that later, SNK was like, “Hey, let’s do Baseball Stars but with robots.”)
And yet, over the past decade or so, it feels like all SNK does is fighting games and Metal Slug. I like those! They’re fine. And yes, the game did appear on the Xbox One version of SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, so hooray for small victories. But in my quiet moments, when I’m alone, I often think of this and silently mutter, why the hell won’t SNK release a new Baseball Stars game? Even the robot game? Or, maybe, especially the robot game?
Seminal RPG series Wizardry took a real turn in 1990 with Wizardry VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge. Envisioned as the first game in a trilogy, designer D.W. Bradley largely revamped the series’ now-aged gameplay and storytelling to create a boundary-pushing, relatively mature fantasy/sci-fi RPG for the new decade.
But I didn’t play that game. I only came in around 1992, when my father’s well-off, nerdy colleague gave us a pirated copy (dude xeroxed the entire manual!) of the yet more elaborate and self-assured Wizardry VII: Crusaders of the Dark Savant. Presented in 256-color VGA with support for popular soundcards, CotDS offered a strikingly vivid yet dark world to adventure in, full of frightening monsters and imposing NPC rivals. And for the first time in the series, it did feel like a world, complete with long, first-person treks through the hostile wilderness between cities. On Lost Guardia, it felt like anything could happen.
And sometimes it did. One of the game’s most ambitious features lets NPCs, representing various rival story factions, discover and take pieces of the treasure map you quested for before you could. Shit happens when you crusade on distant planets seeking the mythical tools of a god. What then? Well, hopefully, you could track them down.
Anyway, Wizardry VII was fairly difficult for my young self, and I never got more than a city or two into the vast, non-linear adventure. Yet I found Bradley’s pulpy writing and Lost Guardia’s darkly evocative atmosphere intoxicating and enjoyed reading the manual, full of handsome Japanese-style illustrations, cover to cover. It really left an impression.
I think it’d be really interesting to see what a modern take on these two games could bring. Their UIs and certain gameplay conventions are uncomfortably archaic now, so there’s obviously a huge amount of room for QoL improvements. Bane was quite ugly, too, stuck in 16-color EGA. It’s likely a reimagining would be largely 3D, which would risk spoiling the magical atmosphere of Crusaders’ gridded pixel-art world, but it’s not like the old game would stop existing. Remake that shit and let’s see if they can’t keep the greatness and improve on its weak points.
By the way, 2001’s Wizardry 8, the planned capstone to the trilogy, happens to be one of the best PC RPGs ever, but I’m not including it here because it was by a completely different team and had pretty revolutionary new gameplay of its own. It evolved into a much different beast than its two predecessors, and besides, I was already (ostensibly) an adult by the time it came out.
I would like a mostly-reimagined version of Atari 2600 classic (because they all are at this point) Adventure. Give me gorgeously-rendered dungeons, castles with moat-water lapping at their sides, portcullises rising with the heavy audio thunk of chains through metal loops. I can imagine playing it now.
Of course, what I just described could be any generic RPG, so I would need a couple of Adventure-specific features. For one, the dragon that relentlessly pursues me through what must be a very cavernous dungeon must look like a cross between a giant lizard and a duck. Second, my character must be a 2D square with an arrow floating off to the side.
This kind of already happened for me about ten years back. And it’s a story that merits telling. One of the most important games to me as a child was FTL’s Dungeon Master. In 1987, I spent so very many spellbound hours watching my father play that game. I was almost 10, and it was too tricky for me to play properly. And while I had my own savegame, I far preferred watching Dad play. Sat at our kitchen counter, he would hunch over our Atari ST and expertly delve through its superb underground lairs, picking off those terrifying mummies with a graceful ease.
Then, in 2012, Almost Human released Legend of Grimrock, a brilliant, modern reinterpretation of the old-school blobber, a direct tribute to FTL and similar games of the era. It was this Ask Kotaku realised. A game that meant so damned much to me as a kid, a game that, for me, is a totemic representation of so many happy memories sat alongside my loving Dad, spiritually remade.
Even better, Grimrock itself became incredibly special for me too. Before it even came out, I managed to get a copy to my father and commissioned him to write about it for a little website I co-ran at the time called Rock Paper Shotgun. The result was “A Dad in a Dungeon,” a series of batshit crazy articles chronicling his attempts to play and my attempts to edit his frankly atrocious copy.
Those articles were special enough alone. My dad, a dentist his whole life, had loved video games from before there were video games. He’d written about them in the 1980s for a British fanzine called Adventure Probe. He even had a ZX Spectrum game published! It was such a pleasure to give him an outlet for his enthusiasm, and deeply peculiar use of ellipses. And then a couple of years later, he went and died.
As a result, Legend of Grimrock has become this super-special creation for me. It’s a tangible bond. It closes a loop opened with Dungeon Master. And as such, it seems like it would be greedy to ask for anything else here. Although, I wouldn’t say no to a new Eye Of The Beholder.
Kotaku’s weighed in, but what games do you want to relive in 4K glory? Let us know! We’ll be back next Monday to deliberate and debate on another nerdy issue. See you in the comments!