Top 5 Remakes of 2012
The re-release of old games from yesteryear that have been touched up more than the original Star Wars trilogy is something that is becoming increasingly regular these days. Analogy aside, they both share a common denominator in the fact that many, many people in the world feel it shouldn’t happen and is largely renounced as inherently evil. The saving grace of a videogame remake is that sometimes, just sometimes, one squeaks out of the ether and is met with a unanimous, rousing round of applause by the general public, something George Lucas and his eternal fiddling could never do.
One underlying negative concession of a good remake is that they are often missed off people’s ‘GOTY’ lists, even if they score highly or carry the influence and grandeur of the original release. To a degree – and most often the case – the titles being tampered with don’t hold up to today’s ever changing standard of gameplay and seldom live up to the quality of the memories that were gleefully etched into our minds years ago. There is no denying this can be very disappointing, however every now and then we, as gamers, are treated to a remake that defies the grain and drowns our brains in happy remember-juice, and we are once again reminded that certain good games are utterly timeless.
2012 saw quite a few HD remakes or ‘re-releases’; most were utterly pointless, with some being completely mind boggling (Sonic: The Fighters I’m looking at you). However, there were also few good ones, so here’s a bunch that I liked in no particular order what-so-ever.
I feel strange writing about a HD game that originally came out 6 years ago, almost like the term ‘remake’ should be reserved for classics that have been proven by the test of time, but when you think about it Ōkami is exactly that. A beautiful cataclysm of Zelda-inspired gameplay elements mixed with a breathtaking water colour art style that feels like every scene should belong in an art gallery. Add to this the unique function of Amaterasu’s Celestial Brush powers and prolific unique story-telling and you have a title that is almost impossible to fault, or at least a title that is incredibly stimulating.
Re-exploring Clover’s mystical adventure game is nothing short of magnificent – it’s something that gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling just from wandering around, interacting with the environment. The remake manages to stick a little bit of PS3 hardware oomph behind it and improves the colours and movement, thus making it feel more attune to a game that was released a year or two ago, rather than one that came out on the PS2 half a decade ago.
2012 finally saw the release of the much anticipated Black Mesa, and like its precursors it had been in development for roughly four thousand years, being kept alive intravenously by scantily pumping out gameplay trailer after gameplay trailer after gameplay trailer. When it hit our virtual shelves in May, us fan boys/gals could be excused for wetting our pants with joy a little bit as finally we would be treated to playing a hugely up-scaled iteration of original FPS game-changing Half Life. It was a game that spawned out countless other amazing Valve titles and, for want of sounding a little biased, inspired the way videogames are created today.
What makes Black Mesa so special is that it was created by a group of fans that clearly have some serious devotion to the original Half Life; they had remained faithful where obligated, whist not being afraid to improve a section where deemed necessary.
The game’s renowned opening has been superbly re-created in all its nostalgic glory and scientists still bark all manner of whimsy at you when walking the corridors of Black Mesa, however, new puzzles have been introduced, full-on casual and story ark banter has been placed in conversations (referencing Gordon’s pony tail that he had recently cut off) and full areas of the game have been redesigned. To call this game a remake would be an understatement, to call it a damn amazing and thoughtful reimaging of one of the world’s most important videogames is far more poignant.
Zone of the Enders HD Collection
I missed the boat with ZOE back in the day – it wasn’t for want of trying, the game just came out in a period of videgame sobriety for myself. The recent HD release gave me the ability to look at the collection with completely fresh eyes; while I am still unsure if this is a positive or negative viewpoint on the experience in the terms of playing a remake, I am able to say that ZOE: HD collectors edition is one of the most interesting and intriguing remakes I have ever played. The first game, although fairly clouded, liner and repetitive is remarkably unique for its time. A prime example would be to count on your hand just how many third-person robo-smashing flying mech sims can you remember playing back in 2001. Although fairly aged with some dodgy cut scenes, there is a certain charm about the ZOE 1, but just not enough to enthral me into retro cyber-bliss. The second iteration – Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner plays and feel like a realisation of content and ambition that was refined over from the first game. The developers seemed to have smashed their heads together and fixed almost everything wrong about the original by incorporating better story-telling with larger and more engaging battles and controls. It contained a more colourful and improved visual styles which lead to ZOE 2 resulting in something that feels incredibly distinctive and compelling, even by today’s standards.
Jak and Daxter Collection
When it comes to the platform gaming of yore, Naughty Dog’s Jak and Daxter series is a master class in illustrating some of the past generation’s best. Although not massively polished, the trilogy acts as a perfect viewing glass in displaying the exemplary evolution of a franchise. Starting with the slightly homogeneous original, the series slowly evolves into the final astounding climax of Jak 3, all the time improving and showcasing the charming rapport between Jak and Daxter and their surroundings.
If you like platformers this collection is the definitive way to experience Jak and Daxter’s nostalgic progression firsthand – whether you’re a newcomer or a veteran, you will find yourself in a rocking chair on the back porch smoking a pipe and jabbering “They don’t make ‘em like this any more.”
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
Frustratingly missing Metal Gear Solid (not even the Gamecube version!), this HD remake brings us back to re-live the world renown bat-shit story telling of Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series. Starting from Sons of Liberty, moving on to Snake Eater and ending with the PSP exclusive Peace Walker this collection aims to educate the current-gen players of the expansive, if not a little unhinged story of Solid Snake… kinda. With only one of these games starring franchise protagonist Solid Snake (even then only for a short while) this prequel-heavy trilogy feels like it was created solely to confuse the living hell out of you. Even though the original 8-bit Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake are included as a bonus in Snake Eater, I doubt it will help much to stem the cause. However, bizarre storyline nuances aside I always found the true meaning of Metal Gear games is their seemingly irresistible power to break boundaries in player interaction and push new gameplay ideals. My favorite game in this collection has to be Snake Eater, as it’s more focused than its predecessors in terms of storytelling and function, and the HD remake improves aiming exponentially whilst also maintaining everything that was great about the original. Without going into too much depth, rambling on about each MGS game individually (we could be here for days talking about sniper bosses, attention to detail and the refinement of stealth gameplay), I will simply put it this way: the Metal Gear collection is a captivating account of one of gaming’s strangest success stories and is well worth buying, even if its just to gain a greater understanding of video game history.
Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection
Team Ico – who are up there in the realms of Valve when it comes to spending as much time as it takes in order to create great game after great game, took it upon themselves to release a HD double pack containing two of the most criminally under-played cult games of this century. Not just content on spending the time jazzing up the graphics and little else, the developers also had the balls to keep the game’s annoying cumbersome control schemes. Weather or not you see this move as a mistake; I see it as much more of a nod toward fan service and the epic conjoining of persistence over immersion. I’d rather have a game that is so good it relishes in its own mistakes, rather than a quick fix in an attempt to make a few bucks.
In a strange way, remakes and HD collections have more to prove than a modern day sequel or break-out title. The quality of a re-master relies almost solely on the original version’s gameplay and ability to hold up its innovative content. Granted the new developer must have enough aptitude and skill to not ruin an old classic by fiddling to much with its core fundamentals, but in essence (providing they don’t decide to jump off a cliff) there’s not much that can go wrong if the first iteration was something truly special.