When everything else fails, use nostalgia

Ducktales Remastered is a symptom of industry gone bad. The amount of HD remakes we’ve had is another. Remakes of old TV-series and films are another one, and the music industry has been suffering from the lack of variety for some time as well.

When an industry is facing hard times, it will fall back to nostalgia. It’s not only an easy way to make money, but it’s also a way to produce something the easy way. When I heard of Ducktales Remastered, my initial reaction was nothing short of Oh… and nothing more. I had to ask myself Why does this exist? Ducktales has not been a relevant product for years and is remembered mostly by older consumers. An example of this came out yesterday, when I mentioned the Remastered version to a younger friend, his reaction was There’s a Ducktales game?  According to an interview, both Disney and CAPCOM have been wanting to remake Ducktales for years now. I would have liked to see a new Ducktales game rather than a remake, but what do I know, I’m just the person they expect to pay for this product.

Nostalgia is a cozy thing really. I admit that I revel in it from time to time, but nostalgia is the thing that holds a lot of products back. New things sell. People are both afraid and intrigued by something new. It’s the stuff they don’t understand what scares them, and designing around this is easy enough. However, designing new things is hard and asks people to actually use their gray brain cells in order to put up a proper product, be it an event or a film. Falling back on nostalgia seems to be a way to throw away any desires to make anything new and actually worthwhile. We all can be Warhols and copy/paste stuff around. Becoming a Da Vinci is where the challenge is.

It’s good to have nostalgia now and then, but nostalgia seems to be taking more and more power, especially in the game industry. This is because more and more developers who have been only experiencing games are getting into the higher positions. Experiences are things that anyone needs when producing something special. Not everybody can make a game like Ultima, direct a movie like Citizen Kane or make Thriller. The three examples are not peaks of creativity, but carefully planned and designed intents. Everything starts from a point where one wants to eclipse something that already exists with his own work, but one can’t eclipse something that already is by remaking it.

I love how West got the better deal of the Super Mario Trilogy on the NES. Super Mario Bros. was great. Super Mario Bros. 2 was different and a great game as well. Super Mario Bros. 3 was everything the two first were and then truckloads more. Japan had their own SMB2, which we know as the Lost Levels. It’s not a good game, to be honest. It’s only SMB1 with different levels and harder bullshit difficulty. That’s what falling on nostalgia is. Super Mario 3 is when the producers decide to outdo themselves and do their damn job. Incidentally, Super Mario Bros. 3 is still seen as the shining of example of video games for this reason; it’s just that good.

However, when a product like SMB3 happens, then the competition is suddenly just that much harder. Too easily a product tries to be like the one it tries to overcome rather than beating it. Super Mario World tried to be SMB3 with updated graphics, but lacked the finesse SMB3 had. It was too much too fast. While the same principles of development apply to any platform, the fact is that SMW didn’t hit the right spot. It’s just not as good as SMB3 because it was based on same ideals as Lost Levels. SNES didn’t start getting really hot until Donkey King Country stepped in. It was something new, something wild, something that people understood and wanted to get their hands on. Naturally Miyamoto stated it to show how customers don’t recognize great games and only value graphics. His pride got a hit that it never really recovered from.

Enter modern 2D Super Mario, that is stagnant because of the developers not wanting to make a better game than SMB3, but SMB3 with 3D Mario physics. No wonder they don’t sell as much as they could, but even then they sell more than most current games.

This is what the problem is with Ducktales Remastered; it isn’t a new game. It’s still the same game with a new lick of paint and new frames. Nintendo could do Super Mario Bros. 3 HD and it would sell insanely well, but not because it’s a new game, but because it would be SMB3 HD. It’s an alarming issue when a game like this causes massive uproar on the Internet and becomes the most hyped game of upcoming summer.
I do not want to see games as good as Super Mario Bros 3 or Donkey Kong Country again. I want to see better games that leave those two biting dust. I want to see movies that do not recycle same things over and over again just because they work, I want to see movies that are good simply because they’re made that good. I want to hear music that isn’t homogenous; I want music that can stand on its own again. I want events that evolve from year to year, always making the past one seem like a gray memory.

Video games are the one region where we haven’t reached a ceiling when it comes to design. Industrial design has been stagnant for a long time (we really need to move outer space or deep sea, where new design is required.) Music has a lot of untapped places, but nobody is exploring them, and the same applies to films. Load of event organizers seem to think that shit rolls uphill because they say so. Well, shit can roll uphill, but you need to expel it with enough force to do so, and that requires a lot of work… But video games are still a young medium that needs to be explored even more and with courage. The variation in games we have now is smaller than what it used to be, and the amount of variation we have now is just measly compared the potential games have as a whole, but the developers are ignoring the new could be made and simply fall back on nostalgia.

And nostalgia only carries so far. It’s only a one-time solution. What then when nostalgia doesn’t sell any more and the creators are not producing anything that’s new?

Have you ever noticed how emulation is an often talked topic when there’s no good games being released? Incidentally, piracy and emulation have been a topic for more than ten years now…

I did like the Darkwing Duck game on the NES, even when it is an uninspired ripoff of Mega Man. Well, that’s exactly why I liked it. At least it had better music than Ducktales