The present appeal of remakes can be used to teach us something important. These are not recent phenomena, as video games have long been a source of consumers’ unceasing fascination with nostalgia and their desire to partake in activities they are already familiar with.
Replaying storylines, catching up with characters, and recalling mechanics we already adore can be consoling when it’s hard to accept new things. But such initiatives are significantly more thrilling if they strive to take chances, either by undermining the initial idea or by expanding upon it with unexpected changes or a profound grasp of the legacy it tries to squander. Although recent years have shown that concepts that were successful decades ago are still effective now, it is a risky endeavor.
There is also the issue of creative bankruptcy to think about, and how well-loved experiences are destined to be remixed and replicated repeatedly in the absence of fresh concepts. Is it accurate to say that fresh iterations of games that, in the broad scheme of things, weren’t all that old in the first place are being prioritized over possible new innovation in favor of assured returns? It’s more difficult than that, in my opinion, and many of the better remakes that have come out in recent years weren’t just lazy money grabs but rather deliberate exercises to reevaluate the state of our medium and what exactly we value in its most brilliant sparks.
This week’s release of Resident Evil 4 has been praised by critics, who have given it almost perfect ratings. Many of them, like ours, are inspired by the original but also acknowledge how much it has changed in light of contemporary norms. Despite the fact that we continue to refer to it as a masterpiece, one of our own, Eric Switzer, was quick to criticize its inconsistent consistency, unfair difficulty spikes, and uneven pacing. It unquestionably establishes a claim for that distinction in 2005 and is still regarded as one of the all-time greatest video games. Nevertheless, as critics and consumers, we have developed enough to recognize how the industry has changed and how games that we previously saw as cutting-edge are now destined to simmer in their own tedium. No matter how many times we port them or remaster them with more eye-catching graphics, the deteriorating foundations always persist.
The distinctiveness of Resident Evil 4 lies in this. Reviews praised it for how it acknowledged that legacy and the delicate balance it needed to strike in order to respect priceless history and adapt a classic adventure for both new players and those who already know it inside and out, rather than for how faithful it was to what came before. It never once reinvented something for the sake of being current; instead, it modernized mechanics and completely rebuilt characters to reflect contemporary sensibilities. It preserves the principles while being acutely aware of how much the medium has evolved in such a short period of time, much like a new recording of vintage music or a recently restored picture. Video games are still in their infancy, and because we’re developing so swiftly and with little regard for historical accuracy, it may be necessary to remake some classics in order to recall where we came from. It’s not like businesses are motivated to preserve the history of the medium if they can’t resell it to us a second, third, or even fourth time.
Dead Space is similar in that it takes a foundational experience that has aged and adapts it from a considered modern standpoint without trying to reinvent the wheel. Critics praised the fact that it took an already excellent package and understood why and where it needed to modify rather than how it improved on worn-out beginnings we can’t bear to see in 2023. While the characters around him are given a more genuine sense of agency that rarely resorts to clichés, Isaac Clarke is a more accessible and human protagonist.
Resident Evil 4 follows suit, preserving its camp and corny charm but giving female characters three-dimensional personalities and making them into more than just sex objects. It also shows a deeper appreciation for the Spanish area it calls home by adding more mythology and literature. Even while it’s still ridiculous, it works perfectly in the context of how Capcom has recently come to redefine this genre. We applaud these remakes not out of a desire for sloth but rather out of necessity.
Even though Metroid Prime Remastered is a more common remake than the other two I mention here, it has a comparable level of widespread acclaim. With remasters of all three games—all of which the majority of players in the market today have never played—Nintendo is in a position to put Samus Aran back into the public eye before a fourth game appears. My own exposure to the series was somewhat restricted, therefore it is more valuable than we may realize to have them readily available in the present era.
As long as they do something, remakes have a place in the cultural consciousness. It’s crucial to introduce new audiences to old experiences with the understanding that they merit such revisions—not because it will make them popular, but rather because of the development of their ability to afford entire genres and franchises. Because of the ongoing changes in how we play, watch, and understand video games as art, we are unable to identify high watermarks in this medium like we can in so many others. Remakes ought to be warmly embraced, particularly if they will spur forward new inventions for years to come.