Movie remakes are quite notorious for being either bad, bland, or boring. Game remakes, on the other hand, have a much more varied relationship with audiences and critics. Some remakes are bonafide classics that can surpass the original in the eyes of some games, like the GameCube Resident Evil. Others put a new an interesting spin, like Silent Hill Shattered Memories. Other are, well, similar to movie remakes. What separates those three types? Let’s find out.
Video game technology and gameplay
A lot of classic games were heavily restricted by the technology of their times. The original Resident Evil was a revolution in survival horror, but the game’s effect can certainly be lessened by the blocky character models, garish colors and hilarious, meme-inducing voice acting.
The remake that was released for the GameCube changed the atmosphere by completely reworking everything – from the character models to the environments and the effects. The voice acting was given a higher budget, and there were significant gameplay changes, both in combat and in the puzzles. It’s a good example of technology being used to enhance a product rather than simplify or limit it.
It seemed that the original Resident Evil’s ambition couldn’t be realized on the technology available on the PlayStation 1. The remake finalized that vision, added to it and changed the story, mostly for the betterment of the experience.
Movie remakes and video games
Film remakes are often worse than the original due to the simple fact they were just made to capitalize on a brand name and not improve the original. However, that’s not always the case. If you go back into cinema’s history, you’ll see that there are a lot of “remakes” so good they almost erased the original from history.
Ben-Hur (1959) was the third time the story was adapted into a movie, with the first two adaptations being silent films. The technology of the 1950s was just as removed from the 1920s as the 1990s are even to the early 2000s. The 2016 remake of the same story seems already forgotten after flopping at the box office. Gaming technology grew at such a rapid rate that there are major changes present in every 5-6 years.
With movie remakes, you don’t get that huge change that often, so there’s no reason to change a whole lot. Video game remakes manage to add more to the original, while modern films often detract from it. The recent Resident Evil 2 remake is different from the original that it may as well be an adaptation from a different medium.
Bad game remakes
We remake things because we liked them the first time around. This is the dark secret of all remakes – we often try to fix games that were never broken in the first place. They don’t use the new technology to add new and interesting gameplay or story ideas, but to “improve” on the old ones and capitalize on nostalgia.
The HD re-release of Silent Hill 2 and 3 was a perfect example. The game re-recorded and replaces the original voice acting. The excuse for that was to improve sound quality and hire more professional actors. The games also reduced the iconic, oppressive fog effects because machines of today can show detail from further away.
All of those changes were very misguided because they assumed that “higher fidelity” always improves things, when that’s not really the case. Silent Hill’s most iconic features were the result of the limitations of its time. The fog was created to hide the undetailed graphics and short draw distances, but it ended up being a vital part of the atmosphere. The actors hired were just regular people that fit their characters perfectly rather than being polished and well-spoken professional performers.
The worst mistake a remake can do is “improve” things that don’t need improving. More isn’t always better. Gamers and critics alike we furious at the Silent Hill HD collection. Jim Sterling of Destructoid called them “Incomplete, glitchy, and visually degraded”.
Video game remakes in the future
The fast-advancing technology of tomorrow will probably assure those old concepts that worked the first time may also work tomorrow. The Final Fantasy 7 remake is hotly anticipated. VR is the new frontier and there are still plenty of great old games that could be improved with new technology. The future will show how the past is remade.