I've had the privilege of talking with former LucasArts talent Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer, and Dave Grossman, and it's easy to see the frustration on their faces whenever you bring up their classic point-and-click adventures.
Sure, they're happy to share their fond memories of working on them during the company's golden age -- they probably wouldn't agree to podcast with me if they weren't -- but there's a bittersweet aftertaste that comes with knowing barely half of the LucasArts adventure game catalog has been made available through legal means.
It was only five years ago that LucasArts seemed ready for a full revival: Telltale was making a new Monkey Island series, the older MI games were being remastered and released for modern consoles, and some of their older adventures like LOOM and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis found their way to Steam. This period didn't last long, though, and after Disney's acquisition of LucasArts, I had assumed the company's legacy would end up in some subterranean vault next to decaying reels of Song of the South and The Black Cauldron.
So yeah, when yesterday's Sony conference revealed that a Grim Fandango remake was in the works, I was just a wee bit surprised.
Obviously, this announcement means a lot for those of us who value video game history -- Disney's (with their many, many properties) acknowledgement of LucasArts is extremely significant. But as excited as I am to play Grim Fandango again, I'm hoping they're not setting their hopes too high for this remake. Grim Fandango's built up a phenomenal (and well-deserved) reputation at this point, but it hit the market during the absolute nadir of PC adventure games, and sold miserably. While the Sony conference in no way promised Grim would be the first of several potential remakes, I think the possibility is there -- as long as Fandango finds its audience.
And if Grim Fandango is marketed well, it just might. Strangely enough, the Resident Evil-style (as opposed to point-and-click) controls of the original, which felt stiff and awkward, could easily be adapted to a gamepad, making Grim feel very much like a Telltale production -- which is the style of adventure game modern audiences are accustomed to. And Grim's simple, barely-textured characters -- a necessity at the time of release -- won't require much revamping from the remake's developer, though I do have to wonder if they'll have to recreate all of those pre-rendered graphics from scratch. I doubt if any of the original assets are floating around intact in the LucasArts archives, and, as of now, those environments are made for a 4:3 setup, and definitely a far cry from HD.
But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. We still haven't seen one screenshot, and all we know is that this Grim Fandango remake will exist one day. Above all, it's just refreshing to see a corporate monolith like Disney trot out a curious oddity like Grim Fandango when there are much, much better ways for them to turn a profit. I'm not expecting to see costumed mascot versions of Manny Calavera and the gang wandering around Disneyland or anything, but we're one step closer to having the full LucasArts catalog available to a modern audience. And for now, that's good enough for me.