Should Developers Remake Classic Games?

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Metal Gear Solid is one of the most incredible works of art ever created. Despite the incredible innovations found in later installments, I think a case could be made that no other Metal Gear game has come close to delivering the experience found in its debut on the PlayStation in 1998.

So it would make sense that a lot of excitement would follow Hideo Kojima’s expressed desire for there to be a remake of Metal Gear Solid for current/next-gen systems. But do we really need a remake of this classic title? Is that the best way to honor its legacy?

Truth be told, some remasters are well-deserved. Though it may not be the most popular of titles, I’ve written in the past about Killzone’s HD facelift, and that it was exactly what that game needed in order for it to be fully realized. But there’s a huge difference between an HD remaster, and an entire remake. Moreover, there’s a serious difference between a game that struggled to deliver in the past as a result of hardware limitations, and one that positively thrived on such elements.

And it’s true, hardware limitations have been the source of significant innovation throughout gaming history. Metal Gear’s identity as a stealth title came about as a way to create a military experience without having the hardware strength to produce more than a few characters on the screen at a time. The original Silent Hill’s fog, something so absolutely critical to its atmosphere, also was a way to get around the fact that significant draw distance was something difficult to pull of on PlayStation hardware.

All of these were the result of creative solutions by genius game developers who sought to harmonize game development with the tools they had at hand. And though we might all love to see these world’s we once visited in full HD beauty, with stellar audio quality, reduced loading screens and more, does this detract from what the original experience was?

A great deal of frustration has plagued Star Wars fans since George Lucas first began tinkering with the older films. While there is something that can be said about the fact that they are his films, his universe, and that he should have some creative rights over it, the same can be said about the collective experience of those who fell in love with Star Wars back in the ’70s.

Just how the added CGI into the original Star Wars films does very little to enhance the experience, and detracts from it in some ways, a case could be made that the same thing could happen to remakes of classic video games. And even though Jar Jar Binks was technically the first fully rendered CG actor within a live-action film, this impressive feat of technology didn’t help to save what was an awful character.

Such was certainly the case with Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes—the first remake of Metal Gear Solid for the Gamecube. While it was nice to see the game represented in more modern graphics, many had expressed the fact that the added features from Metal Gear Solid 2 actually pulled away from the experience of the original.

Since the Final Fantasy VII tech demo, there has been a never ending wish among many gamers for a remake of the classic JRPG. But again, would recent advances in technology pull away from the experience of the original. Would there be turn-based combat? How would some of the more comical aspects of the game come across when developers can render much more life-like atmospheres? The capabilities of current hardware almost make the idea of a remake so impossible to even think about, let alone execute.

And with the rapidly advancing technology of the video game industry, it can also be said that remakes are a waste of time. With every generational leap forward, are we going to see a constant rehashing of older games? This is something that is arguably holding back the current 8th generation of consoles. Might the efforts of developers be betters spent trying to push forward and create new experiences?

The power of nostalgia, however, is an effective tool within art. One of Metal Gear Solid 4’s greatest moments was revisiting Shadow Moses island. Another great example is found in Dead Space 2, when Isaac travels back to the Ishimura. In both games, nostalgia and the revisiting of old places works with what each game is trying to accomplish. I would argue that this is a more effective way to revisit the past.

Overall, I think a healthier culture of gaming will grow from a tendency to respect older titles by leaving them as they were. We honor their legacy by looking toward more innovative futures and new horizons, not attempts to go back and “fix” what we didn’t have the tools for at the time.

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