Who hasn't dreamed of calling all the shots on a video game remake? Getting the chance to correct mistakes, fully realize a concept that was lacking, or simply to bring something brilliant bang up to date? Well, that's what we're asking you to think about this week as we give you the opportunity to head up your very own fantasy development studio, and tell us which game you'd like to oversee as it gets completely remade for modern-day consoles.
While you ponder which game it is you'd like your studio to take on, here are the titles Team USG's dream development teams would be working on, were they given the opportunity.
I love the Metroid series, but there's one glaring flaw sitting smack between Metroid and Super Metroid: Metroid II. Not that the series doesn't have other problem children, of course, but unlike Metroid: Other M, the heart of a good game beats inside Metroid II. It just needs a little help finding itself.
Metroid II introduced a lot of trademark features to the series: Samus' ever-changing suit geometry (intended to differentiate her upgrades in the absence of color). The metroid species' morphological evolution, which revealed the creatures from the first game to be a mere larval state of a far deadlier monstrosity. Weapons like the Spazer. Tools like the Spider Ball. Save points. Metroid II took the NES game's concepts and ran with them.
But, Metroid II also suffered from dire linearity. It abandoned the free-form game design of the original in favor of something more restrictive. It also suffered from limited screen resolution, which made both the world and the action feel cramped and congested — something the linearity was intended, no doubt, to compensate for. Unfortunately, all this managed to accomplish was to reinforce Metroid II's flaws.
Its potential still begs to be realized, and I'd love to make it happen. Nintendo managed to upgrade the primitive original Metroid to Super Metroid standards with Zero Mission for Game Boy Advance, and Metroid II deserves a similarly loving treatment. There are so many great things about Return of Samus: The metroid lifecycle, the eerie ruins of planet SR-388, the phenomenal diversity of the game's wildlfe, the brooding oppression of the atmosphere and the music.
Now, imagine that in a game reworked to combine the design of the original Metroid — a lonely, open, hostile world — and the Super Metroid aesthetic — dense, puzzle-like level design. It's a tricky balance to pull off, but I sincere think my team could figure out a way to make it work. Expand the world and its environments so Samus has more opportunity to explore and make use of her powers. Rethink the mechanics of the evolved metroids so they're not just bullet sponges whose attack pattern consists entirely of ramming into the player. Give Samus more horizontal clearance for her jumps.
Ideally, I'd want to put the game on 3DS with classic, sprite-based graphics. None of this ugly 2.5D stuff; that's fine for the simple cartoon visuals of Mario, but Metroid lives and dies by its atmosphere, and I want to see pulsating, alien worlds rendered in loving bitmaps. Which isn't to say it shouldn't use the third dimension at all — I'd love for Metroid II's remake to incorporate some plane-shifting, or simply to make use of camera-obscuring foreground elements as a play mechanic. Metroid games have become fairly formulaic, and if I had my way I'd use some of the 3DS's intrinsic features to mix things up. Not by incorporating schlocky touch screen controls or gyroscopic action or anything, but rather by finding ways for the tech to enhance the action and elevate the threat level.
I'd also figure out a way to retcon Other M out of existence with some sort of playable Zero Mission-like epilogue. You're welcome.
It took a lot of head-scratching to figure out my choice, because this question is almost too open. I mean, there are literally hundreds of great games from the past that I'd love to remake, from Lucasfilm Games' classics like The Eidolon and Rescue on Fractalus to obscure epics like Geoff Crammond's The Sentinel on Commodore 64. But in the end I simply went for something I'd really like to play now - and that's a World War II first-person shooter. They seem to have lost a lot of their popularity since their over-exposure and excessive saturation around 10-15 years ago, but since then there's not been much in the way of high-end, big production values WWII FPS games.
The obvious conundrum is which one to remake. With Brothers in Arms, Call of Duty, and Medal of Honor all providing multiple candidates, I'm going with Call of Duty 2. I like Brothers in Arms' use of squads, but ultimately what I want is a storyline that follows multiple people through a fairly broad-reaching campaign, and Call of Duty 2 just edges out Medal of Honor in terms of breadth of content. Its 27 missions comprise numerous locations, from Russia through Europe and D-Day to skirmishes in North Africa. That's a diverse and interesting set of locales and historical missions that few other games can match.
In terms of the gameplay, since this is a remake, I'd like to keep it fairly faithful to the original. The big areas of focus for me would be a cosmetic makeover. Even though the game is almost 10 years old now, it does still look pretty good, but when compared to COD: Advanced Warfare, you can see big differences in terms of the texture-mapping detail, lighting and use of smoke and particle effects. COD 2 running on a current gen console would also allow for larger, more populated maps, and that would have a huge impact on the gameplay, making for more more intense action, and giving a more effective feeling of attrition, with fewer open spaces than the original version. That would certainly make the game a lot more exciting.
Ultimately, the big question is - would turning the clock back to a fairly authentic-feeling remake of COD 2 feel like too much of a step backwards after playing the likes of Advanced Warfare and Titanfall? My answer to that is no. My focus would be on making this a truly great single-player game - something I don't think has been very well addressed by any FPS series of late, other than perhaps Wolfenstein: A New Order. Of course, it would be very important that a COD 2 remake would have a strong multiplayer component, but I'd like it to be a truly great single-player experience first and foremost. There are plenty of other FPS titles where the single-player game is of secondary importance, so a return to a truly meaningful, non-overblown campaign that's intense and challenging would be truly refreshing.
If I had the chance, I'd probably direct a remake of one of the less-popular Castlevania titles. Castlevania got everything started and Castlevania II established a solid formula for later games, but I've always had a place in my heart for Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. (I'm sure Jeremy will have words about this.)
I think it's because this is the first game in the series to expand beyond the Belmont clan. Being able to unlock and play as Sypha, Alucard, and Grant was exciting. There was also the branching paths available across the game's set of levels. I just feel that Dracula's Curse is a unique little gem that's not held as high as its siblings.
If I'm directing and have the ability to make up my own dream team? Let's dance. First off, we're sticking with 2D game play because that's how Castlevania is meant to be played; I'll mess around with 3D Castlevania games, but my heart lies with 2D. I'll ditch the separate level format for a connected series of levels you can backtrack in, like later Castlevania titles or the Mega Man ZX series. The entire game would covering Dracula's Castle and the surrounding countryside, which has been warped by the power of Dracula and his various generals. This allows the game to feel larger and more expansive, while also requiring players to switch between Trevor and his three companions to proceed.
Speaking of the companions, I'd expand their role a bit by allowing players to take all three with them wherever they go, instead of the original game's concept, which forced you to choose between them. In addition, the RPG-style progression that the series is currently known for would be applied to every playable character. You'd be able to expand their abilities in logical ways, giving Alucard more transformation abilities, Sypha more spells, and Grant more movement and stealth options (maybe even some "breakable wall" vision). Without the entire crew, you're not 100 percenting this area.
Team-wise, I'd get Ayami Kojima to draft up new designs that stay true to the original spirit of the characters, and pull Michiru Yamane in to craft the score. IGA of course, would be back as my consulting producer, helping me to keep the true Castlevania spirit alive.
And once I finished Dracula's Curse, Bloodlines would be next…
I tweeted a few weeks ago that all I really want is a Final Fantasy VIII HD Remaster. After all these years of people pining for a Final Fantasy VII HD Remaster (even I want it now just so people will stop the begging), a Final Fantasy VIII remake would be the troll move to end all troll moves by Square Enix. It would be glorious.
I recall very well the confusion and angst that followed Final Fantasy VIII's original release in 1999. Newly-minted Final Fantasy fans were baffled, then enraged, by the absence of Cloud, as well as the strange new world, and the complicated Junction System. Long-time followers of the series groused that Final Fantasy VIII consisted only of attractive summon animations and tedious spell drawing. And there was "time kompression"—Ultimecia's plan to compress the past, present, and future and... something.
And yet, after all these years, Final Fantasy VIII remains my favorite entry of them all. It's the weirdest, the most inventive, and the most flatout breakable Final Fantasy this side of Final Fantasy XII. It takes almost every traditional RPG convention, from grinding to money, and turns it right on its head. Final Fantasy VIII is truly Square Enix at their height—their most daring, their most ambitious, and their most creative.
For all those reasons, I would much rather see a remake of Final Fantasy VIII than I would Final Fantasy VII. Maybe the remake would even include skippable tutorials! I also feel like a remake of Final Fantasy VIII would infringe less on the spirit of the original than would a Final Fantasy VII remake. If you think about it, much of Final Fantasy VII's appeal is tied up in its spectacle and its ambitious storytelling, which a remake would almost certainly bloat beyond recognition. By contrast, Final Fantasy VIII is all about its weird systems and even weirder cast, making it interesting fodder for a modern remake. In the end, its success would depend on how much Square Enix would want to "streamline" it.
Of course, we all know that a Final Fantasy VIII remake will never happen. One days—perhaps soon—Square Enix will finally capitulate and remake Final Fantasy VII, thus ending our long national nightmare, but Final Fantasy VIII will forever remain "the game that isn't Final Fantasy VII."
Now a Valkyrie Profile HD Remaster... well, a gal can dream, can't she?
Disaster Report is one of those unexpected, b-tier Japanese games that basically couldn't happen anymore once consoles jumped to the expensive world HD graphics. Back in 2002, though, the PlayStation 2 provided a perfect home for untested or out-there ideas like those found in Irem's weird little experiment. And though the rise of survival games over the past few years has provided some similar experiences, Disaster Report remains incredibly unique.
If you haven't played it—and I'm guessing most of you haven't—Disaster Report traps you on a crumbling, man-made island with only one goal: escaping alive. Unlike your modern survival games, though, it's not procedurally generated or open-ended; instead, it pushes you down a mostly linear path full of the hazards that go along with any massive natural disaster. Throughout the course of game, you're tasked with dodging falling debris, scaling teetering structures, and generally keeping yourself dry, warm, and hydrated. Seeing as this was Irem's first stab at the idea, though—and one with a small budget—the whole experience feels a little shaky (no pun intended). And, since a certain massive and incredibly tragic disaster has made the idea of a survival game more than a little distasteful to the Japanese public, it's incredibly unlikely we'll see another take on Disaster Report soon—the fourth game was actually cancelled as a result.
That said, my idea of a remake isn't all that creative—I just want to take what Disaster Report did and make it much better. And if that means getting rid of the strange stealth section that inexplicably pops up as the game's finale, so be it. Really, Disaster Report's main issue is its ambition during a period of PlayStation 2 development where people didn't have the system entirely figured out, and a bit more technical know-how can definitely help some of these great ideas have a much better execution. And that's essentially what I'd like to do with this remake: deliver the same great experience, but without the technical hiccups that made the original such a pain at time. So if any of you out there have several millions and Irem's phone number, you know where to find me.