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What’s Old is New

May 22, 2013

Dear Reader,

I’ve been watching with a skeptical eye as more and more “classic” games get rereleased.  I don’t mean when a long-dormant franchise pops back up, like the Syndicate sequel (which I heard was terrible), but actual rereleases of old games.  Dragon’s Lair just popped up on Steam, which I find fantastic from an artistic point of view – I grew up on Don Bluth films like The Secret of NIMH and An American Tail, but from a game point of view, I have some doubts.  The same is true with the Shadowrun rerelease and System Shock.  Each of those games were absolutely fantastic for their time, but I wonder if the younger generation will get the same thing out of them we did.

Super 8 provides another example of this.  I loved Super 8.  I thought it was a modern Goonies that would leave an indelible footprint in kids’ minds, but it just faded away.  Cinema’s not a thing any more.  A great movie is just another great movie.  Now it’s apps and social media and grand endeavors like MMOs or visceral action like Call of Duty, so I wonder what the real purpose of game rereleases are.

I see three possible reasons to rerelease a game – updated or not.  The first is to bring in new fans.  This is where my most skeptical eye falls; I just don’t see the younger generation getting excited about these games as we did; they’re no longer considered innovative (though they might have been at the time).  They’re not going to amaze them with graphics or features or gameplay unheard of before.  In many cases, when put up against a modern game, the old games feel clunky and outdated; go try to play the old X-com after playing the new one to see what I mean.  I just don’t really think a rerelease is going to make an impact on a new audience.

The second reason would be to profit from nostalgia.  If they’re trying to resell a game like System Shock to a player who’s already played through it, well, that feels dirty to me.  If someone wants to shell out 10 bucks to relive a decade+ old experience, that’s fine; it’s their money.  But from a marketing stand point, I just don’t understand it, myself.  I remember really liking System Shock, and Dragon’s Lair, and Shadowrun, but I played through them.  I’m done with them.  Seeing them for sale triggers my nostalgia enough without dedicating a bunch of time to it again, so I’m skeptical there, too.

The third reason is for preservation.  I find this reason the most noble and least likely.  These games really are art, of a sort, and they shouldn’t just vanish.  There are other game preservation communities around; I remember finding a Star Control 2 community years ago, and there’s large-scale organizations now, like VAPS.  I think that’s an excellent endeavor, but I seriously doubt that’s what profit-driven corporations are doing.

So whatever the reason, I find rereleases weird and a little uncomfortable.  I like nostalgia as much as the next guy, but as I’m sure we’re all aware, the -algia root from the word means pain, pain for home, like a severe homesickness.  I’m not sure that’s something I want to put money into.


Stubborn (not a doctor)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 22, 2013 8:04 am

    Well, I like improved re-releases. Like Sonic the Hedgehog on Android, where they added in Tails and Knuckles.

    Also, playing an older game on my phone isn’t bad.

  2. kaleedity permalink*
    May 22, 2013 10:05 am

    A whole mess of remakes really miss the point of why their subject was popular. It seems like it’s becoming more obvious when a remake is a result of some board meeting compared to when some developer really loved the original for what it was.

    I think Dragon’s Lair was picked through the steam user’s community selection thingie. I don’t know anything of its development and was never exposed to the original arcade game back in the day. To someone who hasn’t seen it outside of PAX, it looks like it’s a bunch of cinematic QTEs, something that tends to disgust me when included with games that should have nothing to do with that kind of gameplay.

  3. Beshara permalink
    May 22, 2013 7:32 pm

    I like the idea of old school RPGs on the mobile platform. Certain games, like certain books, I like to play again and relive the story. Most of the games I grew up on I can’t play anymore because I don’t own the game/console. I know there are emulators out there, but I don’t like being tied to my computer to play them. I will be seriously tempted to buy Final Fantasy 6 if/when it is released for IOS. Never got it for any console other than SNES, and it was one of my favorites. But I actually don’t like it when they change the game, like they did for FF4 when it was released for game boy.

  4. Boxerdogs permalink
    May 23, 2013 8:12 am

    Consoles have a lot of HD remasters. And console games, in some cases, have aged pretty well. I liked Jak and Daxter when it first came out on PS2, and the game still plays pretty well today in HD on the PS3. Unlike, say, an MMO or something, console platformers really didn’t evolve. That might sound negative, but I don’t mean it that way at all – by PS2 era, a cartoony platformer had already reached as good a level as it was likely to, and if the art style is good today, then the game is good.

    For me, playing Jak and Daxter HD 10 years later was not much different to watching a film 10 years later. It’s long enough that it can still seem “fresh” to me, and the art form is stable enough that I didn’t feel it was an archaic game. Compare that to playing an RTS from 10 years ago, where the art form has come on in leaps and bounds, and I wouldn’t want to know. I also enjoyed the Halo CE 10-year remake. It was a good game, and after a 10 year gap, it was mostly like playing a new game.

    Short version, games are evolving, but in each genre, will reach some sort of stability in their mechanics, where only graphics will improve. If the graphics are “good enough”, e.g. by virtue of being cartoony, or HD remastered, then why wouldn’t an old game still be worth a re-release? And I don’t mind if it can make commercial money for the publisher as well. There’s nothing ignoble about being commercial and selling something people want for money.

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