Games that Really Don’t (or Didn’t) Need a Remaster
They’re perfect just the way they are…
Over the past couple of months, we’ve seen quite a few developers releasing or announcing remakes, remasters and revivals of much-loved older properties. Titles like Demon’s Souls, Final Fantasy, Oddworld, Skate, Streets of Rage, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Trials of Mana, and a whole lot more are on or heading to the eighth and ninth generations of consoles, and all of them are absolutely welcome: some because they’re relaunching old franchises (or even genres), some because they give us a chance to relive our childhoods, and others because they’re just plain amazing. While the Doublejump team has been enjoying many of these remasters, and plans to enjoy more of them, we’ve also got some pretty strong opinions about games that don’t or didn’t need this same treatment — not because they’re bad games, but because they were perfect the way they were and simply don’t need expansion.
Enjoy the read!
Callum: Knights of the Old Republic II
“I know there’s a lot of people out there calling for this remaster”, says a very sarcastic reviewer. Bear with me though, because I love Knights of the Old Republic and I’m going to soapbox using it. They’re some of the first RPGs I’ve played, they got me into tabletop gaming, and they’re the best Star Wars things out there. Books, films, none of it comes close. Perhaps that’s why I don’t want to see it remastered… especially not with today’s Electronic Arts involved. It’s my childhood, and it’s better served the further away from EA it stays.
That’s weaksauce, though, so let’s see if I can justify my personal convictions with long words. There’s a historical preservation angle, in the same way that Deus Ex, for all its jankiness, should be preserved. It represents a moment in game design, a bridge between tabletop and computer, and for every feature we look back at with our mighty 2020 brains and wonder “why?!”, there’s a lesson that future game designers need to learn.
History is important, but it’s not a reason against remastering KoTOR 2. It’s simpler than that — it’s because KoTOR 2 doesn’t need a remaster, because The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod exists, and it turns it from the buggy mess that shipped in 2004 to an outstanding piece of interactive storytelling. No lie, it holds up. I say this as someone whose most recent playthrough was this year. Modders have put in a shocking amount of work to not just fix bugs, but to restore cut content.
So, we know it’s historically important, and that it’s a game that still works. Now to the obvious point: EA. Jim Sterling has a litany of articles and videos dedicated to their poor conduct, but here’s the most relevant one. Let’s just say that EA’s actions in recent years haven’t given us much reason to trust it. EA has a habit of locking off content behind additional paywalls and microtransactions, and even after all the work fans went through to unofficially restore cut content, it’s worth remembering that the modding community, at present and especially with EA games, operates in a legal grey area.
All of this brings me back to that sarcastic opening. No one, to my knowledge, is calling EA to remake KoTOR 2. That’s because the fans have done it themselves. At the end of this, I’m left wondering: in a world where films can be changed with day one patches, and live games can be altered at a whim, is there still a difference between a remaster, a patch and a mod?
Jake: The entire Call of Duty franchise
I’m pretty strongly against remastering any game that came out in the seventh generation or later, simply because there’s not much you can add: seventh generation games had online capabilities, trophies and somewhat lifelike graphics already, so the most you can really do to anything from the modern era is give it a fresh coat of paint, but the core experience is going to be the same (unless you use it to fix a colossal error like Quantic Dream did with Beyond: Two Souls). Activision and Call of Duty’s three developers — Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games — have already diluted the franchise with their alternating yearly releases, and having now jumped into the battle royale arena with Blackout and the storage-hogging Warzone, they’re ensuring that their fanbase doesn’t really know where to look.
The remasters we have seen so far, namely of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s campaign, simply haven’t added anything to the series. Originally released in the late-2000s with an emphasis on function over form, the new versions boasted updated graphics, the lure of nostalgia… and that’s about it. Instead of focusing time and resources on future Call of Duty remakes and remasters, I’d rather see the series’ three developers focus on their futures, and perhaps let their modern releases breathe a little before pulling players in other directions. Call of Duty’s made enough money anyway.
Resident Evil 4 is lightning in a bottle. It’s built on a foundation of cancelled prototypes, feeding all of those iterations and innovations of the series’ fixed-camera formula into a single product. Its balance of horror and action genre traits still drives most modern Resident Evil titles. It’s also camp as hell with a bonkers-ass plotline; the controls have aged well but lost their intuitiveness, and so don’t quite hold up to modern tastes; and its masterfully-paced campaign is packed tight with memorable level and encounter design that can only really happen with a game whose development was restarted three times.
With that, I argue that Resident Evil 4 shouldn’t get a remake in Capcom’s traditional sense. Its ridiculous (though wonderful) B-movie tone and characters aren’t worth trying to mimic today, especially when the Resident Evil series is probably at its most serious. Also, Resident Evil 4 is likely too massive content-wise to remake the entire thing from top to bottom as a modern production – at least, one that’s in line with the previous two remakes. If RE4 is remade, it needs to be smashed apart and carefully pieced back together into something modern and new, a bit like the Final Fantasy VII remake but not episodic. Amp up the horror, tone down the cheese, cut the island section entirely, and flesh out the setting and Los Iluminados cult (can you tell I’ve been thinking about this already?). Use whatever still works, and tweak or outright change what doesn’t.
Capcom’s been on a roll lately so I’m not really worried about the final product, and it’s not like the original is going anywhere (especially with backwards compatibility), but this means that Capcom has even more reason to think outside the box and take some chances, to live up to the game’s wild patchwork legacy with something bold. I really hope it does.
Kristian: Need for Speed: Underground
Arguably more than any genre, racing games don’t lend themselves to remasters – or, more precisely, they are rarely worth the time, money and effort to remake them. Racing games are very much restricted by the licences that the studios acquire, and negotiating the rights to use cars in games is becoming increasingly expensive. It was huge news in the Forza communitywhen Toyota made its return to the franchise as a post-launch update in Forza Horizon 4 after spending a number of years mostly exclusive to Gran Turismo. Of course, we recently saw a successful remaster of Criterion’s Burnout Paradise, but that game’s use of fictional cars and tracks rendered it exempt from the licensing issues that plague other racing titles.
Let’s look at Need for Speed specifically, though. Fans have been begging for a remake of this game for some time now, and we’re talking about a game that isn’t available on any of the current platforms, but it’s not as easy as just snapping your fingers and throwing all of those classic cars and tracks into a new game: it’s easy to forget that Need for Speed: Underground’s cover star, the Nissan Skyline GT-R, didn’t even appear in Need for Speed: Most Wanted just two years later.
Then there’s the matter of Need for Speed: Underground’s paper-thin plot. Despite the blatantly obvious inspiration it drew from The Fast and the Furious, which had exploded in popularity just a few years earlier, the story is little more than “you want to be the best racer in the city, and your opponents don’t want you to get there.” A plot that basic simply wouldn’t be enjoyable to play through again in 2020, especially considering what it’d be competing for our time against. At least Most Wanted had some crooked cops in it as well; that wasn’t half bad in comparison.
This isn’t to say that Need for Speed: Underground is a bad game — far from it. I still have my copy of the game and it’s through recently replaying it that I remembered how fun it is. It’s just that the best thing for Criterion to do is to put all its efforts in making the best racing game possible. When Ghost Games took over the franchise’s development, it was heavily speculated that its first solo release was a going to be an Underground remake, but it ended up being more of a soft reboot for the series, with a far more sophisticated storyline than Underground had (albeit with a great deal of cheesiness, which ispar for the course when you’re talking about Need for Speed).
All things considered, racing games continue to be very much at the forefront when it comes to visual prowess. Titles like Assetto Corsa Competizione and the recently-announced Project Cars 3 continue to showcase how stunningly lifelike video game graphics can be. Sure, it’s important to remember the historical importance of classic racing games, but by focusing all our efforts into pushing the boundaries, racing games can continue to improve to a level never thought possible.
Matt: Assassin’s Creed
It’s no secret that over the course of this generation, remasters and remakes have reigned supreme. Whether it’s taking something iconic and nostalgic like Crash Bandicoot and building its trilogy from the ground up, or hitting copy and paste on something like Ghostbusters: Remastered, which still baffles me to this very day. When all is said and done, though, nostalgia is a very important aspect of gaming, and we all have fond memories of specific, older games we can’t help but reflect on… but there are some games should just stay old — games that aren’t necessarily good nor bad, but simply aren’t necessary for their franchise’s future in any way. The prime example: the original Assassin’s Creed.
The franchise itself has soared to new heights, reinventing itself after a brief rough patch by adding light RPG elements to worlds larger than previously thought possible. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the first Assassin’s Creed for what it was, but let’s face it, some things are better left in the past. Assassin’s Creed laid an incredibly important foundation for future iterations to build on, but pales in comparison to current titles. Quite simply, the series has outdone itself to the point where its older sibling would stick out like a sore thumb in today’s gaming landscape.
Be it the repetitive combat and side missions, to the bland colour palette, or even the underwhelming story, Assassin’s Creed simply serves no purpose other than pure nostalgia. While nostalgia is incredibly important for remakes, driving most of their monetary success, we must remember a time in gaming where good looks and novelty alone could sell a game. We may appreciate games for the exact same reason today, but on a much deeper level and larger scale, the fact that games can look better doesn’t always mean they are destined to play better.
Max: Fallout: New Vegas
With The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Fallout 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout: New Vegas to its name, Bethesda spent a good decade standing on top of the western RPG landscape. Of course, Bethesda didn’t develop Fallout: New Vegas at all — that credit goes to Obsidian Entertainment; Bethesda merely published it and reaped the financial benefits.
Modern-day Obsidian games are well-reputed for their engaging approach to narrative and phenomenal storytelling, which takes centre stage in Fallout: New Vegas and propelled that title into contention as one of the greatest RPGs of all time. That’s exactly why I hope Bethesda keeps its grubby paws off it.
Although it’s a mainstay of the RPG genre (especially when it comes to monetisation), Bethesda has an extremely poor track record with its games. Many remember the fiasco that was Oblivion’s Horse Armour, the paid mods in Skyrim, and more recently the “Fallout 1st” system Bethesda implemented into Fallout 76; all of these errors have contributed to the running joke that no matter how good a product it releases, Bethesda will always find a way to shoot itself in the foot.
Most agree that Fallout: New Vegas is fine as it is. I don’t — I find that it’s starting to show its age — but Bethesda has made far too many mistakes, especially with Fallout 76, for me to trust it with remastering one of the greatest RPGs ever made and not stuff it up.
Tom: Pokémon Yellow
First released in Japan back in 1998 (and in 1999 in the West), Pokémon Yellow holds a dear place in my heart as the first video game I ever played. It’s a top-down, turn-based role-playing game that has you travelling the Kanto region, battling other Pokémon trainers and pursuing the original dream of catching ‘em all — with your Pikachu following you around, it’s the closest you can get to following Ash Ketchum’s footsteps from the animated series. Unlike Pokémon Red and Blue before it, Pokémon Yellow doesn’t give you a choice of starter Pokémon; you get Pikachu, whether you like it or not, and Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle all join your team during the game’s story without the need to trade them in (a huge blessing, considering that trading involvedclunky link-cables).
Pokémon Yellow was the third act of the first generation of Pokémon titles, and it set the stage for future generations: Gold and Silver had Crystal, Ruby and Sapphire had Emerald, Diamond and Pearl had Platinum, and then Sun and Moon had their own Ultra versions. The entire first generation has been revived a number of times since its original release — 2004’s Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen took us on the exact same journey, only adding some new Pokémon, the new Steel type, and a brief island-hopping post-game. Nintendo then brought Pokémon Yellow back to life through the 3DS’ virtual console in 2016.
Once the Nintendo Switch was out in the world, Nintendo made a move that nobody asked for by choosing not to keep the original 8-bit Pokémon Yellow experience accessible via the eShop and instead rebooting it again. Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! and Pikachu! are true remasters of Pokémon Yellow, boasting significantly updated visuals but strangely taking a number of gameplay cues — namely its capture mechanics and the Combat Power that replaced levelling — from Niantic’s popular mobile game, Pokémon GO.
By transferring mechanics from a mobile game to a console title, the Let’s Go games showcase a very weak attempt at remastering the original journey. At best, the titles offered an excuse forcurated Switch Controllers and merchandise bridging the gap between mobile and console, but they were lazy placeholders as Nintendo ignored the desires of an ageing fanbase and finalised the significantly more fleshed-out Pokémon Sword and Shield. Those so-called “remasters”, as unnecessary as they were in the first place (why not remaster Diamond and Pearl, which only came out once?), reduced the franchise’s main appeal — battling and catching Pokémon — to a lazy swipe mechanic that shows a huge disconnect from the original, vibrant imagination that fuelled Pokémon Yellow.
Ty: Condemned: Criminal Origins
Condemned: Criminal Origins is a game I rarely see people talking about. Sure, it’s recently garnered a lot of appreciation and cemented itself as an Xbox 360-era cult classic, but that really doesn’t do it the justice it deserves. It’s clear that the modern market is a lot more open to more niche, experimental titles (seen in the Yakuza series’ recent success, for instance), which is one of many reasons why developers and publishers are remaking and rereleasing games that a lot of players might have missed the first time around.
It might be easy to think that I’m about to suggest that Condemned: Criminal Origins deserves a second go around, then — a beautiful 4K-capable remaster at 60fps, or perhaps even a remake from the ground up, with gameplay alterations and a new take on the admittedly weak story… but I’m not. Much of what makes Condemned: Criminal Origins work is its limitations, and while a higher frame rate and resolution aren’t bad things by any stretch of the imagination, they’re already well and truly achievable on the readily-available PC version.
Condemned: Criminal Origins’ muddy, grimey and otherwise grungey aesthetic may be a side effect of the early Unreal Engine 3 (lord knows that’s what it was best at), but it complements the setting of a dilapidated city turning in on itself. I worry that an updated release with all new assets and cleaner textures might ruin that atmosphere, much like it did when Blind Squirrel Games remastered the original BioShock; the added colour and clarity made for a better looking game, but it drastically altered the atmosphere and failed to capture what made the original special.
Compounding my hesitation is the fact that Condemned: Criminal Origins’ gameplay really doesn’t need any alteration. Aside from the taser acting as an “I win” button, the combat’s balance and flow is one of the best aspects of the game, serving to ensure that the aforementioned weak story doesn’t hamper the overall experience. As they say, it’s about the journey, not the destination.
At the end of the day, Condemned: Criminal Origins stands, in my opinion, as one of the many games that shines a light on the need for backwards compatibility in the console market. The preservation of older games is something that was forgotten this generation, where we created a market for games to be rereleased when the initial product was perfectly fine as it was. In some cases, though, it’s better not to fix something that’s not broken.
Zack: Kingdom Hearts
Kingdom Hearts is a fantastic series, but the rereleases and remasters have gotten well and truly out of hand. The first game came out in Japan in March 2002, followed by an English version launched that September… with some new content. Square Enix released that English version in Japan once again in December 2002… again, with new content! That was Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, and that version wasn’t available outside of Japan until 2013.
Of course, it didn’t stop there. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, a sequel to the first game for the Game Boy Advance, was first released in 2004. It was then updated and released as a fully-3D PlayStation 2 game in 2007. Kingdom Hearts II, released in 2005, was updated into Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix in 2007 with more cutscenes and boss battles. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep followed the same timeline as the first game: released in Japan in January 2010, then in English markets with additional content that September and again in Japan as a Final Mix with even more content in January 2011 — Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Final Mix was also exclusive to Japan until 2014.
Square Enix has set a pretty obvious trend here. Almost every time the company has re-released a Kingdom Hearts game, even if it’s just a translation, it’s felt the need to change old things or add new things. The first game had three different versions in its release year alone, all available to different markets at different times. Keeping track of these games and their insane stories is hard enough without needing to worry about whether or not you’re actually playing the most up-to-date and complete version of that game. In the age of digital downloads, this shouldn’t be an issue anymore… but in a series where an actual release that throws together a remake of a Nintendo 3DS game with a glorified Kingdom Hearts III demo and a movie that supposedly tells the story of a mobile game is called Kingdom Hearts HD II.8 Final Chapter Prologue (what does that even mean?!)… I really don’t have my hopes up.
It’s looking like remakes, remasters and revivals are back at the forefront of developers’ minds, so we can only hope that some of these titles are left untouched. What’s your pick for a title that really doesn’t need the extra coat of paint?