Everything old is new again
So an interview with Jordan Mechner, creator of the Prince of Persia series (the original Prince of Persia series kids, not the one where he’s all time-controlling, wall-running and 3D-having) on his remake of the Karateka game has me thinking. Where do we stand on gaming remakes?
I suspect for many people the Halo: Combat Evolved remake would be a more likely catalyst for this discussion. While it is, when we’re categorising our remake candidates it falls in a distinctly different camp – the original is only a little over 10 years old, and still fresh in the hearts and minds of those who cut their teeth on it back when console shooters were still territory as untested as Microsoft’s gaming chops. No, Kareteka must be a faded memory for all but the oldest of gamers. I myself – disconcertingly approaching the average age of the Australian gamer – missed out on it by a year or two, our Apple II having gone gently into that good night not long beforehand.
This raises a few more questions – what is ‘remaking’ a game that old, anyway? Recreating a game from the time when a 10 pixel high sprite of two colours was the graphical norm in today’s world surely doesn’t come any closer than creating a ‘spiritual successor’, and even that term feels fairly generous. For all intents and purposes, the ‘rebooting’ of the Prince of Persia series with Sands of Time in ’03 was a remake in this vein, and there’s not much in common between the original and the ‘reimagining’. In fact, there’s not much of a relationship at all, beyond the setting, a moustachioed villain and a hero with a penchant for parkour. Of course, the stunning success of the later series might indicate Mechner is hoping for a similar experience with Karateka, although it will likely be on a different scale, as its being pitched as a downloadable rather than a big budget AAA title.
More importantly, what will be the reaction to a remake of a game that almost no-one remembers? In a way, its the safer route – one can easily imagine the horrifying backlash 343 Industries would have suffered if the Halo remake had harmed the game, story or universe in any way, and even that was purely a re-skinning and re-engineing, more akin to George Lucas’s digitally remastered 20th Anniversary editions of the star wars movies than a complete do-over. In this instance, Mechner is free to take all the liberties and risks he likes with the original property, knowing that the only person likely to make a comparison and be disappointed is himself.
Having said all that, and admitting that I’m quite keen on both the remakes mentioned above, I’m struggling to think of another game (new or painfully old) that I’d be interested in seeing redone, regardless of whether the reasoning is that technology and the game industry is now at a point to deliver an experience closer to the original dream (as with Mechner), or as a pure cash cow (you know who you are).
Thoughts? Anything you’ve got in your nostalgia cupboard you’d be happy to risk a remake of, or are the classics too sacred? Conversely, are you worried the trend sets us on the path to where Hollywood is now, frantically remaking and rebooting every single movie in an attempt to avoid the difficult and expensive process of generating new ideas?