Creating the Perfect Remastered Game: Part One – Deconstruct, Analyze, Rebuild
I’ll admit it. I was the guy responsible for there being so many HD remastered games last generation.
Okay, I wasn’t DIRECTLY responsible, but I and many like me who bought every single HD remaster/remix/remake/whatever did contribute to the popularity of these titles. They not only provided us with the opportunity to revisit games that we loved but to do so with shiny graphics that made them feel like new experiences.
Taking games from the PlayStation 2 era of gaming and bringing them over to HD was something that made sense. Most of theses games were unplayable on (then) current gen consoles and the graphical facelift to 720p or 1080p brought them up to the visual standards of the day. The problem is that, aside from nicer graphics, they offered the exact same experience from when they were originally released. Granted, that isn’t really a problem in and of itself, but nothing was actually changed in the gameplay and level design department.
Nowadays we’re seeing some games from the previous generation getting re-released on current gen consoles. We already have the Definitive Edition of Tomb Raider and there are rumors about the Mass Effect Trilogy being remade. Let’s not forget about The Last of Us which has been all but confirmed to be coming to the PlayStation 4 this summer. There is an argument that could be made about the validity of these last gen games being remastered so soon after they were released but that’s something to be discussed for another day.
What I want to do with this editorial is to come up with an ideal way of how I would like these new HD remaster games to be handled. I strongly emphasize the word ideal since studios rarely go back and remake games from scratch; mostly due to budgetary and time constraints.
So how would I go about crafting the perfect remaster? First off, whatever game is getting remade needs to be treated as a brand new game. While the original should be used as a basis, it shouldn’t just be taken and dressed up with spiffier graphics. These games need to be redone from the ground up. Let’s face it, graphical enhancements can only do so much for a game and game mechanics age badly. HD remasters NEED to be completely redone.
So when building a game back up, what’s needed? If it is part of a series, the controls of whatever is the latest game in the franchise should be used. Controls improve with each iteration in a series so having the most up-to-date mechanics just makes logical sense. For example, if a Mass Effect HD remaster trilogy was to be released, the controls from the third one should be used for all three games.
Level design in games is something else that has improved over the years and is something that should be redone as well, but only to a certain point. You don’t want the game’s world to be TOO different from the original. I say, redesign the environment to remove anything that was redundant or didn’t quite work in order to make it more streamlined. This could eliminate dead end areas and provide something new while still maintaining the familiar design.
The story could also be redone as well but a developer has to make sure not to go too far off from the original. Like the level design, redone stories should weed out any elements that weren’t necessary and strengthen whatever material already existed or that needed to be strengthened. This way we’d get the same story that we’ve come to expect and love but presented in a new light.
That last paragraph leads me to the most important part about remastered titles: It is very important to keep the original spirit of the game when creating them. The people who bought these games want to re-experience their favorites with enhancements but they want the core of that game to remain untouched. At the same time, the game needs to have just the right amount of new material so that people who have played the originals will have something fresh to experience.
We’ve seen examples of my ideal remasters before such as Tomb Raider Anniversary and the GameCube version of Resident Evil. Both of these games took all of the elements from the originals and modernized them. Though the environments, gameplay and stories were reinterpreted and even outright changed, they still felt familiar. If you were a fan of the originals you would remember things from those games while playing but at the same time it would be like a new experience. These two games are a perfect example of what I’d like to see from remastered games.
To sum it up: If a developer is going to take an HD remaster seriously they should deconstruct the game, analyze what made it work and what could be improved or discarded, and finally rebuild it and treat it as a brand new title. Like I said before, I don’t actually expect companies to do this stuff when it’s so much simpler to give the graphics a good spit and polish and call it a day. Although games have been remade in the way that I’ve outlined, they are very rare. However, In my ideal world, this is how all remastered games should be created.
For the next part, I’ll focus on a few games that I would personally like to see remastered.