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.

Advertisements

Monthly Three: What’s in a name (of a remake)?

Remake get a lot of hatred, overall speaking. Unlike with remasters, remake takes something that exists, and rather than creating something new, it recycles elements of the previous product to create something new. Rather than creating something new or enhancing something old with new techniques and technology. Still, simply using the same core starting point with a piece does not make a remake. For example, the Transformers live action series are less a remake of any of the cartoons and more a different take on the work and story. Their quality is another thing altogether.

In film, remakes have become something to abhor, especially how the 2000’s was largely controlled by panned remakes of reheats of past franchises. From Clash of the Titans to Wolfman and whatever the latest horror movie remake out there is. That actually may be Godzilla Resurgence, which shows that remakes have their time and place as well, and that they can be done well, potentially. 1982 The Thing is an excellent remake that brought the story to a new generation with visuals and tone that still haven’t made obsolete. Similarly, The Fly from 1986 gave David Cronenberg a reason to do further body horror through a classic horror movie, and

That is the core idea of remakes after all; to take the old piece and recreate it for modern audiences. The problem is that not all pieces require a remake of any sorts. Wolfman is an example of an ageless classic that works more as a period piece nowadays, and much like 1934’s Dracula, works the best because of the era they were made in. This particular Dracula has never seen a remake, but further adaptations of Bram Stoker’s original book have been many, for lesser success most of the time.

The 1998 Pyscho is an example of a remake that remakes the original film point by point, almost replicating every scene of Hitchcock’s version. It’s a largely pointless way to make a remake, as it doesn’t do anything on its own, outside one added masturbation scene for shock value. The resources wasted on this Psycho could’ve been used for something better.

While we do expect remakes to do their own thing and add something to stand apart from their progenitor, often they just miss the point of the original piece. 1999’s The Haunting went straight up haunted house with being absolutely explicit that yes, there are ghosts about. The original film from 1963 is very subdued, never defining whether or not the main character is truly seeing ghosts or not, and works in allegories. It’s a subtle piece, something that the 1999 remake is not. It’s completely in your face remake with broken budget and has absolutely no subtely to it, not to mention it lacks any sort of legit scary moment. It stands apart from the original, and outside them idea basis, has nothing to do with the original piece and should’ve been named something else completely. Just like Gatchaman Crowds.

2010 A Nightmare on Elm Street on the other hand is just a bad movie outright, largely having worse special effects than the original 1984 and being explicit in everything it does instead of treating the viewer with respect.

In music, covers and different versions of songs are essentially the industry’s remakes. The basic beats and lyrics are the same, most often, but given completely new sound to them most of the cases, or simply taking it as it is and trying to do it better.

Remakes in music does offer much more freedom, in a sense. While a film remake can aim to change genre and stand completely apart from the previous work, just use it as an inspiration, in music you can take pretty much any song and give it a completely different take without much any hate. Game music is an example of this, with large number of songs being remade in rock, metal, symphonic, jazz and other arrangements. Companies themselves do this very often, Nihon Falcom having perhaps the largest selection of different pieces of each of their songs.

I’ll have to indulge myself just a bit here and list few of Yuzo Koshiro’s Morning Grow from the first Ys game, because the piece is simply one of my favourites in the series…





…Thou this dance pop version confuses me to this day. Provincialism Ys is a strange album

Unlike with films, cover songs in music are often less about the money and more about the love for that a particular song. The other side of the coin there are songs that are remade simply to be sold rather than about the song itself. Still, some authors and studios push remakes and covers of certain songs to ride on their popularity for simple monetary. After all, all remakes, film or music, are meant to be sold. However, in music remakes rarely obsolete the original piece, if ever.

In games all this is a bit mucked because companies tend to use remake and remaster liberally. Ducktales Remastered is an example of this, as it is a full-blown beat to beat remake and not a remaster.

Much like films, game remakes may get a cold shoulder from the consumers, sometimes because they don’t simply play as well as the original, sometimes because they have nothing new to them outside lick of new paint, or sometimes because they’re simply not wanted or needed.

CAPCOM tried to reboot the Mega Man franchise on the PSP with Mega Man Powered Up and Maverick Hunter X, but the main problem with both of them was that they were the exact same games CAPCOM had re-released for decade and a half at that point, solid two now. It didn’t help that they were on a system that wasn’t really all that successful, Maverick Hunter X ran slower and had more issues than the Super Nintendo original and only fans really bought MM Powered Up. It looked too cutesy and despite its addons offered nothing of real value, at least according to the bush radio. It didn’t help that it was a game aimed for a younger demographic on a system that was clearly meant for the older audience in the market.

What do the consumers expect from game remakes? The general idea seems to be that keeping it true to the original, refining some rougher elements and adding more content seems to be the right thing to go with. However, with older games this can become a problem, especially if the title is required to move from 2D to 3D, a change that can screw up the gameplay.

a boy and his blob is an example of a remake that took the original game and worked it from the scratch up. It’s a pretty good game on its own rights, and rather than hitting on nostalgia cashgrab, did something good. It largely ignores stages and everything else from the original game. Perhaps this sort of ground-up remodelling of a game is beneficial, as it allows the remake to stand apart from the original game, and act both as an independent piece and semi-sequel/reboot.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Metroid: Zero Mission, a game that remakes the NES original with seemingly the same maze layout while streamlining the experience, adding new content and forcing a story narrative in. Zero Mission is often called the better between the two, but it can’t be denied that it only stands on the shoulders of the NES original, removing large parts of the adventure the original game had going on for it, and perhaps even saying that Zero Mission tries to pander with nostalgia rather than stand on its own legs. It’s speedier gameplay is not necessarily better either, as original Metroid was very methodical, seemingly slow, and required a lot exploration from the player’s part instead of being directed to the next destination. In many ways, the Metroid is similar to Dark Souls in this rather than to its remake. To many the simple fact that Zero Mission is on a better hardware and plays more like a modern game makes it better, despite the fact that as a game it is a simple repeat, just like Ducktales Remasted.

Remakes have a place in every industry, despite their divisive nature. The good remakes show that you can use the same basis and narrative to create a new wholesome piece that can stand against the original without any problems, whereas the bad ones on the other hand show you how much certain works are largely timeless, at least for now. Remakes can work as a vessel for something great, despite their inherent repeating nature. Sometimes, repeating something is required to move forwards.