The games industry keeps churning out remakes, but do games as recent and contemporary-feeling as Halo 2 and Fable really need to be revisited yet?
While we wait for those more current games to age a bit, we'd like to offer up some names we'd much rather see revisited modern-style. You know, games that actually merit a facelift. We've each picked a few titles -- what would your choices be?
Metroid II - Return of Samus (Nintendo, 1991)
Jeremy Parish: When Metroid: Zero Mission came out 10 years ago (oh my god, has it been 10 years!?), remaking the original Metroid in brilliant style, our thoughts drifted immediately to the sequel. If any Metroid could use a remake, it's the second one. The original version pushed against the suffocating limitations of the Game Boy hardware with admirable vigor, but it definitely suffered from technological impositions, feeling at once cramped and linear. Despite being the most straightforward Metroid ever, it often became confusing because of the muddy graphics and crowded screen dimensions. Meanwhile, Metroid Fusion included a number of brilliant Metroid II callbacks, offering a tantalizing hint of what its world could have been like with greater freedom and fidelity.
So imagine a Zero Mission-style recreation of Metroid II, with a bigger, more complex, more thoughtfully designed world. Imagine what all of those subterranean caverns would look like in full color. Imagine if the Omega Metroid we faced at the end of Fusion weren't a final boss, but rather one of several intensely deadly encounters leading up to the endgame -- and if the Alpha, Gamma, and Zeta Metroids were similarly reworked to be more than missile-sponge battles of attrition. It's easy if you try… especially since a dedicated fan has been working on creating precisely that practically since Zero Mission debuted. But wouldn't it be nice if Nintendo gave fans what they wanted, too?
SimLife (Maxis, 1992)
Cassandra Khaw: I miss god games. I really do. Once in a while, we still get little flashes of brilliance like Reus but, by and large, it feels like amazing god games have drifted the way of the Dodo. But there's no point crying over spilt milk. Rather than worry about those halcyon days, I'm going to sit here and make puppy-dog eyes at the Flying Spaghetti Monster in hopes of seeing a Sim Life remake someday.
Released in 1992, SimLife was … not a traditional god game, I guess. Unlike Populous, it didn't quite bequeath you with divine powers. Instead, it gave you a simulated eco-system and the freedom to tamper with the genetic structure of the local flora and fauna. You could change the physics of the environment, alter terrain and guide evolution however you will. What happens when you put big, clawed herbivores in the same room as tiny, fragile carnivores? I don't remember, but SimLife could totally answer that question.
Embarrassingly, all I really want out of a SimLife remake is better graphics. That's it. After that, we'll have proof that edutainment is totally a viable thing.
Mercenary (Novagen, 1985)
Jaz Rignall: An exercise in design minimalism, Mercenary is an open-ended, non-linear 3D adventure game that was originally released for Atari 8-bit computers in 1985. Taking the role of the eponymous mercenary, you awaken to find you've crash-landed on an alien planet whose inhabitants are at war - and it soon becomes apparent that there's no choice but to become involved.
What transpires is a fascinating mixture of non-linear missions, exploration and political maneuvers as you play one side against the other to achieve your goal of escaping the planet - preferably with as much cash as possible. The backdrop to all this is a barren and minimal landscape that, while sparse, contains many secrets to discover. In a way, it's reminiscent of a very basic Shadow of the Colossus in that despite almost no action taking place between set pieces, its environment is nevertheless incredibly atmospheric and begs to be explored.
If Mercenary were to be remade today, it would be difficult to resist adding many layers of additional complexity to its story - but I think that doing so would be a mistake. Instead, give its key set pieces some real oomph, and expand its landscape and make it even more mysterious by adding more interesting things to discover, and I think you'd have a game that maintains the spirit of the original, while feeling very contemporary. Almost like a sci-fi version of Shadow of the Colossus - which I think would be irresistible.
Gargoyle's Quest (Capcom, 1990)
Mike Williams: I doubt a ton of people remember this series; I know I fell into it completely by accident. My father bought me the first Gargoyle's Quest to the original GameBoy and at the time, I hated it. The game was painfully hard for my child self, like a number of other Game Boy titles. I can't say I appreciated it the first time around.
The entire series is an odd mix of Final Fantasy-style overworld, platforming action, and RPG elements. In fact, the original and its sequel played a great deal like Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, with a far cooler protagonist. Gargoyle's Quest II for NES improved on the original with more of everything, while Demon's Crest for Super Nintendo shifted towards a stronger Castlevania feel. It wasn't until playing Demon's Crest that I had the desire (and capability) to go back to the older games and see what my younger self missed.
I want this series back because that open-world/platformer/RPG mix hasn't really been brought forward into the modern era, even via spiritual successor on Kickstarter. Each game is just a bit different, I think a compilation bringing all three games up to the same graphical level while keeping most of their systems intact would be much appreciated.
Damocles II/Mercenary III (Novagen, 1992)
Pete Davison: Jaz went for the original installments in Paul Woakes' incredibly ambitious open-world series, so I'll go for the closely related second and third episodes. I already discussed this astonishing series at some length a few months back, but some of the things I said bear repeating: as some very early progenitors of the open-world adventure as we know it today, the Mercenary series is well worth revisiting.
In contrast to the single city of the original Mercenary (and then another one in the imaginatively titled The Second City expansion pack), both Damocles and Mercenary III unfolded in a fully simulated solar system in which planets went around the sun, had their own day-night cycles according to their rotation and, where they were habitable, each housed at least one city of a comparable size to that seen in the original game. Add to that the fully functional public transport system in Mercenary III and you have a well-realized setting that was unfortunately held back somewhat by the limited 3D technology of the Atari ST era.
With the advancements in technology since 1991, imagine what a 21st century Mercenary game would look like. Picture a game where you can freely explore a planet on foot or in a vehicle, then blast off into the stars to continue your quest elsewhere in the solar system. Do you follow the plot and attempt to save the Gamma System from whatever is threatening it this time around, or do you simply attempt to carve out a comfortable little niche for yourself? The choice is yours -- just don't blow all your money on Bacchus' tempting casinos...
Alternate Reality (Paradise Programming, 1985)
Pete Davison: And if I'm talking Mercenary, I should probably talk Alternate Reality, too, which I also covered as part of the same mini-series. Alternate Reality was a similarly ambitious title from even earlier in gaming history -- 1985 this time.
Designer Philip Price had grand plans for Alternate Reality that unfortunately never came to fruition. The original intention was for players to start in the first game -- The City -- which would act as a "hub" for the other games in the series. Eventually, players would work their way through The Dungeon and the various other episodes until they eventually reached the final two chapters Revelation and Destiny, which essentially brought us the plot of The Matrix some fourteen years before anyone had any idea what the term "bullet time" meant. Alternatively, you could work your way up through the gladiatorial ranks in The Arena, or become a political player in The Palace -- even going so far as to remodel The City in your own image.
Unfortunately, only The City and The Dungeon ever made it to release, and the series' grand overarching plot, which saw you abducted by aliens and transported to a strange medieval-style world -- the titular Alternate Reality -- was never resolved. It remains a fascinating concept, though, and, like Mercenary, would be much more possible to realize with the technology of 2014.
Pathways Into Darkness (Bungie, 1993)
Jeremy Parish: Destiny came from Halo. Halo came from Marathon. And Marathon got its start with an obscure, Macintosh-only adventure called Pathways Into Darkness. Remember how Retro Studios made a big deal about how Metroid Prime wasn't a first person shooter but rather a first-person adventure? Yeah, whatever. Pathways did it first. A complex blend of Ultima Underworld and Sierra-style graphical adventures, this was the world's first glimpse of what Bungie was truly capable of. Players took on the role of a soldier tasked with descending into the labyrinthine passages beneath a Meso-American pyramid where a sleeping god threatened to awaken, at which point it would annihilate all life on earth. Since that wouldn't do at all, your mission was to journey down and detonate a nuclear warhead beneath the god's pillow to send it back to sleep for another millennium.
The mission wasn't quite so simple as that, though. Within the pyramid, you encountered both eldritch horrors spawned from the god's restless dreams as well as the deceitful corpses of previous adventurers, including a bunch of dead Nazis who had ventured here in the ‘40s in search of treasure, power, or both. Just because those who came before were dead didn't mean they didn't have interesting things to say; early on in Pathways you'd gain the ability to converse with the dead, and soon after a fascinating story emerged. But you only had a limited amount of time and ammunition with which to reach the lowest level of the pyramid, set the bomb, and escape to a safe distance. The age of Pathways hasn't been entirely kind to the game, but the concept remains phenomenal, and I'd kill to see a modernized facelift… but not too modern. Much of Pathways' appeal came from exploration and discovering the way forward, and nothing would suck the vitality from this adventure like being reduced to a Call of Duty/Halo-style forced march down a linear corridor.
Persona 2 - Eternal Punishment (Atlus, 2000)
Cassandra Khaw: Persona 2: Eternal Punishment keeps coming up in my lists, I swear. I love the game the way a fat kid relishes fat-free ice cream that still tastes good. But here's the problem, it kind of dragged. The moody, thoughtful, Jungian-inspired plot was padded by long, frustrating stretches of combat. Not that there was anything necessarily wrong with the battle system. It was great. Much like in any Persona game, you could negotiate with demons, manipulate Personas and do a whole bunch of funky stuff. But there was simply too much of it, a problem that the subsequent Personas dealt with rather swimmingly.
In my ideal world, a Persona 2: Eternal Punishment remake would be more of a reboot, with the ability to navigate an “overworld" free of monsters and engage people in extended dialogue ala Persona 3's Social Links system. However, that's somewhat unrealistic. I'll be happy if Atlus just tuned up the game a little. Less grind-y combat, please. More streamlined progression. Personas that don't require hours to bloody unlock. On a more superficial level, I'd really, really like better English voice acting. Not everyone was terrible, but some of the performances made me cringe. On a tangentially-related note, the characters' off-handed remarks during combat used to drive me bonkers. Ciao! Stupid! Whoop-ass completed? Cute, but hardly befitting a game like this.
Rescue on Fractalus (Lucasfilm Games, 1984)
Jaz Rignall: Fractal terrain demo.
Also known as Behind Jaggi Lines, this was quite probably the coolest game of 1984. Created by Lucasfilm Games for Atari 8-bit computers and Commodore 64, Rescue on Fractalus puts you in the seat of a search and rescue dropship on a mission to save pilots who've crashed on a hostile alien planet.
What makes the game so notable is that it uses fractal technology to render the planet's surface, creating an environment that was like nothing else at the time. Flying over and around mountains trying to locate crash sites was truly exciting, even if it does look slow and fugly by today's standards. However, having recently seen some very impressive modern fractal graphic demos, it's clear that an updated version of the game could be made that would be astonishing to look at.
Rescue on Fractalus' original gameplay could be beefed up with a variety of interesting missions, almost like the old-school Microprose flight sims that featured a mixture of shooting, reconnaissance, search and rescue, objectives against the clock, and harsh environmental challenges. That combined with realistic-looking alien planets to fly over would be an appropriate homage to the original while bringing its original spirit and sensibilities bang up to date.
Star Wars - Knights of The Old Republic (Bioware, 2003)
Mike Williams: This was my first real Bioware game, folks. I had a PC, but Dungeons & Dragons was never my thing, so Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale were games I heard of, but never played myself. On other hand, I'm an avid Star Wars fan, so when the words “Star Wars" and “RPG" were brought together, I purchased the game sight unseen. Lo and behold, it was good. Really, really good.
I'd argue that Knights of The Old Republic was the beginning of current, mainstream Bioware. Launching that game on Xbox put them on the map, and everything since has been an evolution of that starting point. Certain older Bioware games had elements of the formula here and there, but KOTOR was when it was brought together in one amazing game.
Last year was the game's 10-year anniversary, so EA and BioWare have missed the boat on having a timed HD remake, but if any game deserves an HD polish, it's this game. The PC version has improved graphics, but the game really need to be redone top-to-bottom. New models, new textures, the whole thing. Make it happen, BioWare.
Did you like this article? If so, please take a moment to Tweet about it.