Enough time for popularity and fans

Much like Hollywood has been rewarming and remaking old classics, it seems the electronic game industry has been loving to do the same thing for some ten years and then some now. While remakes and remasters have always existed, seeing ports used to be effectively build from the ground up for another platforms using same or similar assets. Mostly during the 1980’s and early 90’s. For example, Capcom’s Section Z on the NES is very different game from its arcade original, just like their Troy. Just compare them for a moment.

Good old CPS-I

Good ol’ FC

I really need to make an entry about the history of character shooting games like this.

The two games are different enough to be called completely different. The NES Section Z could be called to be strongly inspired by and be sourced from the arcade game. There’s no plagiarism in play here. While the two games are counted as separate titles, do remind yourself that every port of a game is counted as a single entry, e.g. Mega Man X4 is as three different titles depending on the platform; PlayStation, Saturn and PC. Anyway, Section Z could be considered a remake of the CPS-I title, as its effectively takes the core of the arcade game and puts it into a form that fits the hardware the best. Capcom used to do this a lot, when it was necessary.

Despite the NES game’s nature as a complete remake to the point of being completely different game, its still called a port. That’s probably change in paradigm how we consider ports. Now we expect every port to be the exact same across the board, while that was, quite literally, impossible with old hardware. I’m repeating things here, aren’t I? The point is, a remake /port like this of a semi-popular arcade title made a great title on its own rights despite it being in all actuality different game altogether. Get on with it!

So I’ve wondered why games that failed due to some lacking qualities don’t get remakes that make them better (there are few posts about that), but at the same time I know its about money and budget. The reality is that something like Final Fantasy VII is able to get a million dollar budget, highly hyped and completely revamped mechanics to the point of game genre being changed to reflect what’s currently more popular (SquEnix has been moving away from traditional RPG format ever since the merger with Final Fantasy now that Dragon Quest is under the same roof) is because the game was so massively popular and impacted gaming culture, especially in the Overseas market. Now I’ll always remind that Phantasy Star II did the whole prominent party waifu death far better way, as did one of the Dragon Quest titles with death of the player character’s father, but all that’s academical at best.

However, that point sort of lose a bit of credibility when something like Grandia, a niche title with no entries in the series bible since 2006 (outside ports), gets remastered ports of its first two games. Grandia has always been a niche title, a cult classic, and these games don’t usually get much in terms of remaster love. Ports and upcsales for sure, PSN is full of some them. However, in Grandia‘s case its more or less a souped up port rather than true remaster. After all, the lack of popularity doesn’t really warrant the money, just like how the Final Fantasy VIII isn’t getting full blown remake like its older sibling, but rather what we used call as HD port. That’s what Grandia’s remaster seems to be at its core too. Sometimes they tweak some things on the way, but ultimately they touch very little.

However, why would Grandia even get this port? It’s not like the series has ever been a massive success. Time is probably the best answer, as mentioned in the title. There are numerous games that are not simply all what they could be, but were made well enough to gather a cult following. Wait a decade or two for the word to get around, Internet hype things up further, look for information how well people regard your title, and you know you already have an installed consumer group you can hit with semi-competent remake. Better take steps easy first, not blow your budget and just give enough for all the old and new fans to play their beloved title on modern platforms, despite everyone and their mother swearing in the name of emulation nowadays.

Imagine if the upcoming Grandia would have been a full-blown remake, with everything made from the scratch with modern day knowhow and tech. No reused assets or such, everything made as good as it could be. While that will never happen, should consumers be satisfied with these remaster-type ports? There are numerous games that could use the same treatment, pretty much every decent game out there, while games with less quality to the originally will be left to be completely alone rather than remade into something better. Even in a case like Grandia, popularity and sales dictate how the series is approached, with time being here the crucial element that has given the series’ first games a golden status that can be exploited. Will it sell well enough to ensure future of the franchise? Probably not, it most likely will make its money back, but history has shown that in cases like this there needs to be far more money coming in to convince the execs to put their minds and effort into developing a new, high-quality entry rather than continue with safe bets. Hey, maybe it’ll sell well enough to warrant a pachislot machine with Konami as the licensee.

The same can be said about Panzer Dragoon. While the situation is a bit different with that game, as the original Sega Saturn source code is lost and the PS2 remake was based on the Windows code, the upcoming remake had to be an actual remake rather than just a remaster. The series has always had a positive reputation, and pretty much everyone who has had the chance to play the games makes a statement for some future entry in the series. Digital Foundry called the game series legendary in their tech analysis even. Though they belittle rail shooters as a genre a bit there, the point stands; even people who value technology and hardware the most value these relatively low-selling titles. Some games simply leave an impact, be it for their quality of game play or otherwise, the word gets around slowly, but surely. This builds both individual fans, separate groups of fans and some fan communities even.

I really hope the poles making this game won’t fuck it up. While the graphics are rather different in style, reminding me a lot of Zelda BoTW, I still ahve hope for it, as stupid as it may be

Still, it’s not exactly a safe bet for SquEnix to make Final Fantasy VII Remake, but safe enough that they know existing fans and cultural osmosis will make it sell well enough. Not so with FFVIII though, and something like Grandia is far behind either of them. Then again, I’m not seeing Sega putting any effort to properly remake any of their older titles, but they are making something new. That’s honestly a lot better. Remaking something like Panzer Dragoon? A close 1:1 remake of the original Panzer Dragoon is not exactly difficult nowadays. Hell, its almost like those ground-up reworked ports, like Section Z. 

There’s more worth in making something like Final Fantasy VII Remake than just a heated up remaster. It may be retreading same steps, but at least it is trying to do something new. We can always go back and play one of the many ports of the original title after all. That is not the case with many other titles, so there’s a golden middle-way we can tread. Hell, I’d take completely new remakes of old games that might be interesting to revisit in a new form, all the while titles with less popularity behind them could always use these souped up ports like the Panzer Dragoon remake or home port of Section Z.

Modifying Panzer Dragoon to attract modern players, they say

So Sega and Forever Entertainment are doing Panzer Dragoon: Remake. No, I haven’t heard of this Polish developer either, but apparently they’ve made some Teddy Floppy Ear games and that’s pretty great. Teddy’s pretty good children’s franchise. As usual, doesn’t really matter who makes what as long as the end result is fine and dandy, but reading the official announcement for the remake, I’m not entirely convinced. Their claim that The entire Panzer Dragoon series has been repeatedly remade and released on many platforms is dubious at best and completely incorrect at worst. The original Panzer Dragoon has been released and remade few times around, mostly based on its PC port, because Sega has lost all Saturn source codes. No, not just theirs, all of them. They wanted to house all of them and then lost them all when their company was moving offices, meaning no Saturn game can ever get a port without reverse engineering the machine and getting the data out from the published discs. This means all Saturn games’ ports that are around, like Princess Crown‘s PSP port, is running on emulation, and considering emulating the Saturn accurately is one helluva task that’s still a far cry form the original, they’re pretty bad ports. Xbox One being backwards compatible with Panzer Dragoon Orta is not it being re-released or should be considered as a franchise relaunch either. When your initial announcement for a remake is incorrect about the nature of the series like this, it makes you question whether or not they’re familiar with the series, or whether or not they have their priorities right. I asked Forever Entertainment about that lil’ detail just to see what they’d respond, but seeing I’m just a gnatshit small blogger among an ocean of others, I doubt I’ll get a response. [edit] They did respond, replying that they meant the series overall is available on multiple platforms with remakes because the first game has ports and that Sega Ages version. I always forget that single entry in a series makes the whole series available on a platform when it comes to things like this, rather than a single entry.

The new version of the game will be characterized by a completely new graphics compatible with today’s standards and several modifications of the game, making it more attractive to modern players, while remaining faithful to the original in terms of story. This is more than expected. As said, the original Saturn sourcecode are lost, so the PlayStation 2 Sega Ages release is most likely based on the PC version, with Orta having the PC version as one of its unlockables. Any sensible company would just do a straight up remake rather than try to being reverse engineering the original games, but this is where we hit the snag with that sentence, making it more attractive to modern players, while remaining faithful to the original in terms of story. Forever aren’t elaborating what modifications they’re making to the core gameplay. Considering Panzer Dragoon as a series stands on its own in regards of gameplay, the only true modification needed to make would be polishing the first game’s mechanics to match that of Zwei’s and Orta‘s. Panzer Dragoon games have an arcade heart at their core, which is a major factor in their charm and success. Certainly, Panzer Dragoon Saga is a role playing game, but it was devised as one from the get go rather than modifying an existing title. It’s useless to try and guess what this means at this point, but seeing most remakes of this kind and with this sentencing don’t have the best track record out there, it does raise some worries.

Especially when their main concern seems to be staying true to the story. Sure, Panzer Dragoon‘s post-apocalyptic setting with dragons as biological weapons and lost-world technology is pretty neat in all, but saying you want to stay true to the story is is like buying chocolate for wrapper rather than for the taste. Just like Virtual-On, the story’s incidental at best, an overall framing device for the great gameplay which still stands today. Staying true to the story is easy, but staying true to the gameplay and mechanics, especially considering the first one is sparser compared to Zwei and Orta, is far more challenging. With the lack of sourcecode the results can become very much a different beast, as we saw with the Crash Bandicoot remake collection, where applying the third game’s physics across the board made the first two games very different kind of games to play thanks to the stage geometry still being accurate to the originals. Jumps you used to be able to make easily now are now more challenging due to this, and can lead into easy deaths. Not that making extra lives in the game is hard or anything, but shows how little concern the developers ultimately had this these little things that majorly affect the games’ play.

All fans of the series, and long time players alike, are  probably asking the same thing in their heads; please stay true to the game’s play. The concern of remakes mangling and dumbing down the games’ play for modern players is relevant. It shows the lack of trust towards the customers, especially towards their ‘modern’ audience. Consumer born in this millennium were born and raised during a retro game boom and are far more than capable at handling games of their nature. Hell, despite so many of us who have been playing games for three decades or more, we’re still part of that modern player group. What is even the division between a modern and older player? Age certainly does not define it. This is a start of poor customer service experience I tell you.

Maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic. The announcement naturally can’t expand on anything because they’ve got jackshit to showcase. The announcement is standard PR speech aiming to appease different sections, but it seems wholly amateurish. These are the same concerns everyone has towards every remake that has been coming out, and truth to be told, remakes overall don’t tend to have all that great track record, especially when there are explicit changes to the game’s play. Granted, we don’t know what modifications there are going to be in Panzer Dragoon: Remake, but all we can hope is that they amount polishing the originals further without much additions or removals. A better name for the remake compilation would be nice as well, but I’m sure the current one is just a placeholder and they’ll come up something far more impressive that suits the series’ nature.

All we really can do is sit tight and wait for proper information to come forth. No use to speculate too much on nothing.

Remakes and Reboots

Two things have been recolouring these early 2000’s have been remakes and reboots. Much like many things like them, the two divide audiences. Some enjoy remakes of old things they never saw, or how something is updated for the modern day while some see these nothing but blight on the creative industries. Reboots on the other hand may have a different take on familiar characters, but in story terms replace everything that has been in the canon previously. Sometimes.

Langrisser Reboot on the 3DS is the reason this post is made, to be honest. When you think about it, it’s been more than a decade since the last console based Langrisser, less so when we take Schwarz and Tri-Swords into notice. Seeing how Tri-Swords was killed in 2012 and Schwarz never got out, Langrisser hasn’t seen a true title since Langrisser Millennium WS: The Last Century, which is actually pretty good all things considered. It shows that whatever team made it wanted to step away from the Dreamcast Millennium game and stay true to the name Langrisser.

The 3DS reboot game can be good, if the execute the reboot properly, that is take the concepts Langrisser had and reintroduces them either with drastically different take, or with slight variation to fit into the otherwise revamped world. For example, the sword Langrisser does not need to be a holy sword, embed with a king’s soul and blessed by a goddess in the reboot, but it does need to stay true to the idea of a magical sword, able to cut down magical bullshit to defeat gods. In the reboot, Langrisser could just be Excalibur with further magical forging. While I don’t like the idea of forcing Excalibur into Langrisser due to the series already having its own number of magical and technological things, forcing Arthur’s sword into the series, reboot or not, just feels off. Then again, Japan loves to use Excalibur pretty much everywhere to different degree so it just might be a cultural difference doing its deed here.

One of the biggest successes in reboot history has to be the Silver Age of comics reboot. Granted, at that point no DC heroes had not been in a magazine for some years, but the reboot defined numerous concepts that modern reboots don’t even dare to touch. For example, the Green Lantern was changed from a man gaining his magical powers from a green lantern into a space police who got his cosmic power from a green lantern. The concept, at its core with a hero striving for justice with a green lantern giving him powers, stays the same. Everything else was shuffled around.  Similarly, the Flash stayed the same at the core with the high speed hero. Jay Garrick and Barry Allen share similar power acquisition of chemicals doing their stuff to their body, Garrick inhaling fumes and Allen getting struck by a lighting and smashing into a shelf filled with chemicals. Allen also took his name from a comic character, namely Jay Garrick’s Flash.

A well done reboot, and actually do a proper reboot rather than what DC did with New52, can be as big success as it is a chance. All it takes careful planning and design. Design here being not just how the magazines are layed out, but the actual character design from the start to finish. The concepts for a reboot character needs to stand on its own rather than lean unto the old and busted. Otherwise you’ll end up with a remake.

Remakes on the other hand have lean unto the past version. That is their weakness in many regards, one being that remakes just end up being nothing but rehashes. Still, even rehashes have their audience, so it’s not filled with negativity to the brim.

Remakes more often than not should use the same concepts and the same characters. Unlike with reboots, they are retellings of the same story, sometimes with very similar outlook, sometimes less so. The New52 reboot DC did was far more a remake of  their previous characters than a full blown reboot, as the characters stayed pretty much exactly same with minor variations here and there. The reboot wasn’t badly designed just from that one perspective; 52 magazines were launched with this to keep the whole 52 numbering, which now has subsided and DC has dropped the whole New52 naming.

However, it can be argued that remakes are not for people wanting to get into something. A remake can simply be for the fans, an alterantive retelling or similar. Maleficent from Disney is a good example how to remake the same movie with a perspective change, thou we can argue on the movie’s storytelling, consistency and quality otherwise.

The most prevailing remake type is nevertheless the direct retelling or remaster of a product. Nightmare on Elm’s Street and other horror flicks have seen a loads of remakes, keeping the concepts similar while updating the visuals and some elements of the mythos. We can argue on the same aspects as with Maleficent, but it should be asked whether or not a direct remake is better than the ones with things changed to somewhat larger extent.

With games people seem to want remakes of old games. Super Mario All-Stars is essentially just a direct port with upgraded graphics, so wen can’t really call it a remake as such. However, Metal Gear Solid; Twin Snakes is a remake through and through. Then again, the first three sequels to the first mainline Metal Gear game are more or less remakes of the previous one. Opinions are widely different between parties whether or not Twin Snakes is a good remake, but in a direct and objective comparison between the PlayStation original and the GameCube remake, the original does draw the shorter stick. Granted, the argument that the added MGS2 gameplay elements does make an already easy game even easier, even making a certain boss battle a run-through deal. Nevertheless, some people welcomed these changes, and some simply choose to ignore the additions. The same applies to the Resident Evil remake, that has now seen a HD port, where gameplay and visuals were upgraded to some extent with some elements shuffled around. Both Twin Snakes and REmake are essentially the same game as their original versions, but upgraded. I can understand people not liking the cinematography of Twin Snakes, but it’s nothing different from what Metal Gear Solid as a series would become. I’d rather have the action packed choreography over man covered in bees or cosmonaut in constant fire, but all the previous have nothing bad in them. As said, opinions vary.

There is a middle ground where reboots and remakes cross over. As they both share similar elements already, it’s not too uncommon to see a remake of something with reboot qualities.

Nevertheless, remakes or reboots, the products that once was will never go away and we can read, play and watch them over and over again and disregard the new products if we so choose.