Now that Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have found their footing (or rather, developers have found their footing on those platforms), the early onslaught of last-gen remasters for the systems have slowed to a trickle. In their absence, remakes of deeper cuts from the back catalog of gaming history have a little more time to shine... and cuts don't get much deeper than the remake selections in the news this week.
Actually, we've known about Square Enix's remake of Romancing SaGa 2 for a while; now it has a release date: March 24 for Android, iOS, and PlayStation Vita. Romancing SaGa 2 remains something of an obscurity in the U.S., as it was the fifth chapter overall in the SaGa franchise. The first three SaGas came to America as Final Fantasy Legend 1-3, but once the games made the leap to 16 bits for the "Romancing" trilogy, the localization process skipped a generation and we didn't see another SaGa until 1998's SaGa Frontier for PlayStation. Over in Japan, though, the Romancing games remain quite highly regarded for their depth and substance, as they largely codified the design concepts that would become SaGa standards, including enigmatic skill-building mechanics and multiple heroes with independent quests to pursue.
Given that the U.S. has seen only one of the many SaGa remakes to date — the PlayStation 2 version of Romancing SaGa, which bombed hard and seemingly sealed the series' fate in the West — we can most likely expect not to see this one, either. On the off change it does make its way overseas, we can certainly assume it won't be via the Vita version, given that Square Enix appears to have dropped that platform like a bag of malaria samples.
That's a shame, because many people consider the Romancing titles the best of the SaGa series. Plus, any game with a website this loving and creative has to be pretty good.
Somewhat less obscure is Oddworld Inhabitants' announcement of Oddworld: Soulstorm. Less obscure, perhaps, but slightly curious: While the game appears by all indications to be a remake of Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus to follow in the wake of Oddworld New ’N Tasty's reworking of Abe's Oddysee, you'd never know it from the company's official description of the game.
According to the game's official press release, "Oddworld: Soulstorm picks up from Abe’s genesis and directly follows on from the overthrow of RuptureFarms and the liberation of his blighted workmates." However, studio boss Lorne Lanning's comments in the announcement make it sound like a new adventure altogether: "'There was a deeper, darker, and more sinister story that we never got to tell," explains series creator, Lorne Lanning. "Soulstorm gives us the opportunity to flesh out more meat on the bones of an original spine, but re-tell the fable from a very different angle.'" No mention is made of Exoddus, though it's hard to know if that's a matter of trademark issues or simply a concern that invoking the word "remake" would be a turnoff to a prospective new audience. Lanning's remarks suggest a fairly comprehensive overhaul of the original PlayStation game, so perhaps they're simply regarding Soulstorm as a new work despite its covering the same ground as Exoddus.
Oddworld Inhabitants has announced a late 2017 release date for Soulstorm, which leaves plenty of time for us to figure out just how divergent a remake of the original this actually is. In any case, the game's announcement indicates that New ’N Tasty did well enough to justify a sequel, which is nice to see. The Out of This World-style precision-platformer was very much a creature of the ’90s, and outside of Oddworld it didn't really survive into the new millennium. Soulstorm's pending existence demonstrates once again that even as big-budget games continue to grow increasingly homogenous, games as a medium have grown enough in popularity to support all manner of works at the fringes of the mainstream.