The Thing of remakes

Remakes seems to be a subject I return yearly. This time inspired by a friend’s words; Remakes of great movies have an almost impossible task to improve on the originals. I’m inclined to agree with him, and the same goes for video games, generally speaking. Even with the technology gap between now and a game from e.g. the NES era, it’s still a task that rarely is done right.

I admit that the requirements this blog tends to set for remakes, mainly that they need to influence the culture of gaming in some significant way and create make the original completely and utterly, are almost far too high standards to meet up. Almost is the key, as if you’re not going to make something better than the original, why make it at all?

The same applies to movies to a very large degree, even prequel remakes of sorts. John Carpenter’s The Thing is probably a good example of this, to both directions. Originally a novella named Who Goes There? in 1938, it was adapted to the silver screen for the first time in 1951 as The Thing from Another World, just in time for the 1950’s boom. While Carpenter’s 1982 version is far more true to the original novella, it still draws elements and inspirations from the 1951 movie. The two movies show what thirty years of difference can do in movies. While the 1982 movie obsoletes the 1951 in pretty much every way, it could be argued that it’s worth a watch for the sake of having a perspective. However, it does lack the signature element of the Thing itself; mimicry. Then again, perhaps it could be said that Carpenter didn’t remake the 1951 movie, but stuck with the source material all the way through.

2011 saw a new version of The Thing in form of a prequel, but it’s essentially a beat-to-beat remake of the 1982 movie. Opinions whether it’s a good movie or a terrible one is up to each of us, but perhaps one of the less voiced opinions is that it was unnecessary. Much like other side stories, prequels and sequels that expand on story elements that never needed any expansion and were best to be left as they were. After all, we’re curious about mysteries that are not wholly elaborated on, but often feel let down if that mystery is shown to be terrible. I’m not even going to touch the PlayStation 2 game here, it’s just a terrible piece.

Both games and movies stand on the same line with remakes; they need to have the same core idea, core function if you will, and create something more era appropriate. One could argue that Mega Man X is a good remake of Mega Man. While it has a new lead, new enemies and stages, it evolves the formula and tackles the franchise in a new way. The idea is still the same nevertheless; beat a number of boss robots in an order selected by you and then advance to the multi-levelled final stages before you face the mad last boss.

However, both Mega Man and Mega Man X got remakes on the PSP, and while we can argue whether or not they obsolete the originals, they are pretty much beat-to-beat replicas with some new stuff bolted unto them and do no deviate from the source material jack shit. This isn’t the case with the Ratchet and Clank remake, which opted not only to change things around, but changed them so that it could have been a completely new and independent game.

Perhaps this is where we should make a division between reboots and remakes. Maverick Hunter X is a remake whereas Ratchet and Clank 2016 is a reboot. Reboots can and often do change things around to fit this new reimagined world. That’s one of the reasons why reboots don’t go well with long-time fans, as it would mean the series they’ve been emotionally (and sometimes financially) invested in for years is no longer the same. There’s an 80 minute video that goes over how Ratchet and Clank‘s reboot missed points from the original game. If you’ve got time to kill, it’s a good watch. Especially if you’re even a passing fan of the franchise.

Mega Man as a franchise is an interesting entity that for almost two decades it had multiple series and sub-franchises running alongside each other. While Battle Network could be counted as a reboot in modern terms, the 2018 series will probably be a total franchise reboot, at least for the time being.

The point of reboots is somewhat lost when the end-product does not stand up to the comparison to the original. Some claim this is unfair, as the new piece should be treated as its own individual piece without any regard to the original. There can be validity in this, if the product can stand on its own without resorting on winking to the player about the previous incarnation. This is a two-bladed sword; on one hand it’s great to acknowledge the history your remake stands on, but on the other hand any sort of reliance devalues the whole point of a remake. It’s a line that needs to be threaded carefully.

Perhaps the thing with remakes (or reboots for the matter) really is that they are facing a task larger than just the original product; they are facing the perceived value of the product from the consumers. People tend to value things on an emotional level a lot more despite their faults (like yours truly with Iczer-1)  and when something new comes into play to replace it, our instinct tells us to resists. It doesn’t help that most of the remakes and reboots then to be terrible on their own right, even when removing from the original piece. Just look at Devil May Cry‘s reboot, which luckily seems to be just a one-off thing. Maybe remakes like this are needed from time to time to remind us that capturing the lightning in the bottle twice is far harder than it seems, and perhaps creating something completely new is the better solution.

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