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The Current State of Remakes and Remasters

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Resident Evil 2 Remake Remaster

What is the intention behind a remake/remaster?

When retrospectively looking at the eighth generation of consoles, innovation took a back seat to familiarity. Rather than forge a legacy of their own, each console found security within past titles to save them from hardware flops. From the beginning of this generation, Microsoft had shot itself in the foot so bad that it is just now recovering. PlayStation found success in Microsoft’s mistakes, only to have the first half of its lifecycle full of remastered titles. Nintendo is the only platform that can show for innovation this generation, however much of its success is bolstered by remastered WiiU titles.

Over the past few years, the gaming industry has looked familiar to many consumers that have been playing video games since early childhood. Along with new experiences that continue to shape and improve the medium going forward, the industry has titles that consumers and developers alike refuse to let go. For every Red Dead Redemption 2 and Zelda: Breath of the Wild, exists a Skyrim and Final Fantasy. Remasters and remakes can do a lot to benefit the industry by contributing to fan service and even innovation, but often enough they find themselves tarnishing the memory of the game they desire to honor.

When the industry announces the desire to bring back an old gem, fans of the product are eager to revisit personal favorites. Along with that excitement comes skepticism towards how faithful the product will be to its original. Within the current generation of gaming consoles, the industry has shown a desire to both bring back older titles for consumer good will and capitalize on nostalgia purchases. During the eighth generation of consoles, the current state of remasters/remakes can be seen through the lens of fan service vs. profit driven.

Given the legacy of modern gaming and the majority demographic that invests so heavily in it, bringing back older titles that are honored within the industry should be a celebratory affair. Most recently, Resident Evil 2 was remade for the current generation of hardware with the full intention of bringing good will to consumers and fans alike. Capcom marvelously took the original 1998 classic and remade it for the modern era, breathing new life into the game as if it was a brand-new IP. Every square inch of Resident Evil 2 was crafted with care and devotion to the legacy it carries, and that is truly evident among consumers and fans.

As much success and good will Resident Evil 2 brought the industry toward reshaping the narrative of a remaster/remake, a multitude of examples exist where developers failed to dedicate enough care to similar experiences. Back in 2007, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was released to consumers with overwhelming praise. Although not the first of its kind, the military-based FPS game changed the genre and forever influenced future titles. When Activision announced that the game was receiving the remaster treatment for the current generation of consoles, fans were overjoyed by the concept of revisiting one of the best multiplayer shooters of the generation.

When released, however, Modern Warfare Remastered proved to less of a love letter to fans and more of a cash grab. Having its purchase price originally locked behind a combo pack with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, MWR was instantly seen as a way for Activision to recover its projected sales loss from Infinite Warfare. Additionally, Activision’s desire to seek further monetization of a game from 2007 that originally lacked additional purchases provided further proof of its willingness to capitalize on fan nostalgia for profit.

Along with profit-driven desires for a remaster, certain developers within the industry are known for re-releasing a product in order to capitalize on a continuous revenue stream with little effort. This method is otherwise known as double dipping: the concept of having a re-released product or remaster solely for the purpose of making more money off an IP that consumers already own, under the guise of modernization and nostalgia.

Companies such as Bethesda with Skyrim and Nintendo with its entire retro lineup will release their products countless times on every new platform, marketing it as a new way to play an old classic. Skyrim has achieved meme status with its amount of ports, and Nintendo’s retro gaming lineup will always tug on a player’s nostalgia no matter which platform it is on.

Therefore, when is a remake/remaster a good thing?

Indie titles are becoming more accepted within the gaming industry due to the uneasy relationship that has been forming with big publishers and their business strategies. Their ability to expand on lesser-known genres, increasing their popularity within the industry, has changed consumer perception of a product numerous times. Many people within the industry thought platformers to be a genre of the past, until a small resurgence of fan support surrounding titles such as Yooka-Laylee and Super Lucky’s Tale began to emerge. Despite a mixed reception, these titles reminded players of the experiences they had in their youth on the classic consoles and sparked an interest in revisiting older titles.

The recent resurgence of traditional platformers has led to the revitalization of older classics for the new-age gamer. Originally released for the PlayStation, the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro series’ developed a cult following for their charming characters and simple but effective gameplay mechanics. Now, due to the increase in popularity for the platforming genre, Activision has completely remade the two series with modern visuals and mechanics. Despite cautiously optimistic reactions from fans, both remakes sold surprisingly well and proved to be a motion of good will towards consumers by Activision.

A few theories exist that could prove the success of these two remakes, given their dated concepts compared to what players are more accustomed to with modern gaming. One theory is that these releases would not have happened without the fan support of titles like Yooka-Laylee and Super Lucky’s Tale. Despite minor success with sales, Yooka-Laylee and Super Lucky’s Tale garnered enough support and coverage pre-launch to stand out among the competitive market.

Another theory is aimed towards the fact that gaming today is more popular than ever before. Now that gaming resides within the mainstream media, Crash and Spyro represent a simpler time of gaming where, since aging, many adults have had to leave the hobby behind due to life circumstances. In this case, these games are designed to be for everyone, bringing older members into the community that have not been involved with video games since childhood.

Aside from the two extremes of making a remake/remaster solely for fan service or profit reasons, a middle ground also exists: one that benefits both developers and consumers alike. Rarely in the industry, a developer will announce a remaster of a once-presumed dead IP. This announcement is done to signify the interest of the developer in making a sequel for future generations, while simultaneously gauging the current gaming environment for a sequel.

A recent example of this is with THQ Nordic and the Darksiders series. Thought to have been lost with the closure of THQ back in 2013, the Darksiders series was purchased by Nordic Games, which soon released a remaster of the second game in the franchise, subtitled Deathinitive Edition. Following the minor success of the remaster, Nordic Games, now THQ Nordic, remastered the first title as Warmastered Edition. Both of these remasters served as a test run for fan feedback surrounding the state of the franchise at the time, and with success, production of Darksiders 3 began.

The future of remakes/remasters.

Despite feeling as if they have been around for a long time, the modern concept of a remake/remaster is recent. As previously mentioned, the desire to remaster older titles for the current generation only gained steam during the eighth generation of consoles due to the sparse launch windows. With the direction of current gaming technology, the modernization of remasters will likely dwindle away. Imagining an industry free from remasters is difficult, seeing as they have been so prevalent during this generation, but with how successful services like Xbox’s Backwards Compatibility is, along with Steam’s native library retention, remasters might not survive beyond the eighth generation.

As aforementioned, Resident Evil 2 has proven itself to be a near-perfect remake by Capcom. The game not only encourages replayability with its multiple story lines, but its core gameplay mechanics are easily accessible and addictive. What Capcom was able to do with a game that is more than twenty years old is impressive, and now that it has been modernized with technology, is now finally the time to say goodbye? Has the medium reached a point where remasters during the current generation will be considered the definitive experience, and have it be the last time we see the game for the foreseeable future?

Given the success of the Resident Evil 2 remake, Capcom has already expressed interest in the possibility of remaking Resident Evil 3. This would not only fall in line with Capcom’s recent initiative of modernizing the original Resident Evil games, but would additionally set a precedent for their future releases. Due to this precedent, the industry is now left to speculate which side of the franchise Capcom will prioritize. Will the company innovate and proceed on with Resident Evil 8, or will they continue to seek success within the past? Either way they choose, Capcom has found success within the Resident Evil franchise again, further built upon the good will they received from Resident Evil 7‘s return to its horror roots.

The finite capabilities of remakes and remasters stems from the belief that hardware technology has reached a plateau within the video game industry. In terms of visual fidelity, modern gaming has largely reached its apex, leaving only power and performance to be sought out. Although PC gaming will continue to be ahead of its console counterparts, the technological gap between the two is considerably small. Aside from virtual reality and augmented reality, modern gaming has reached experiences that are near life-like, minimizing the “wow” factor found in previous generations.

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Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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