Remastering video games is a relatively recent phenomenon, and a hot potato in discussions amongst the gaming community. There’s a definitive split between views: some see the genre as nothing more than a cash cow by lazy / greedy companies; whereas others see it as an opportunity to play games they’d missed the first time around.
Well established characters like Mario and Sonic have bridged generation after generation of consoles, with collections of the classics being cobbled together and released onto newer platforms. During the previous generations Konami released compendiums of their Metal Gear and Silent Hill franchises; and Capcom added some spit and polish to Resident Evil and Streetfighter.
Whether they’re willing to admit it or not, every gamer has fond memories of certain video games; ones they remember through rose-tinted spectacles, and wishes they were remastered. Today, remastering is very much en vogue. The market is saturated with some of the biggest hits of gaming’s recent past – GTA V, The Last Of Us, Uncharted, Halo – the list keeps growing and growing.
With this in mind, I thought I’d share the top five games I’d personally like to see remastered, I’d want them rebuilt from the ground up, rather than merely being upscaled to 1080p:
California Games was originally released in 1987, as part of Epyx Inc’s “Games” series (along with Summer, Winter and World Games). In keeping within other games in the franchise, the game comprised of six events which were supposedly popular in California – Half Pipe, Roller Skating, Footbag (Hacky Sack), Surfing, Flying Disc (Frisbee) and BMX. Having selected a sponsor, the aim of California Games was to pull off tricks during each event to get the highest score on the game’s leaderboard. The game was a critical and commercial hit, and was ported across multiple platforms and, more recently, virtual arcades. A couple of years ago I purchased a gaming tablet, and California Games was one of the first games I downloaded – all the old memories came flooding back, and considering the game is nearly thirty years old, it still holds up in terms of playability. A sequel was released in 1991, but failed to achieve the same level of success. Epyx filed for bankruptcy in 1989, with British publisher System 3 acquired the rights to California Games in 2006. Whilst there is a chance the title could be remastered, it’s more likely that it’ll be left as it is to appeal to the retro-gaming community.
Legacy Of Kain (collection)
The Legacy Of Kain franchise spanned seven years and two console generations. The first instalment, Blood Omen: Legacy Of Kain was released on PlayStation and PC in 1996. The game told the story of Kain, a nobleman turned vampire, who it was prophesised would martyr himself to save the world of Nosgoth. Kain, however, had other plans; ultimately sealing the world’s fate to eternal damnation. The sequel / spin-off title, Soul Reaver dealt with the consequences of these actions, with focus shifting to Kain’s vampire “son” Raziel – cast into oblivion by his creator. Sequels for both Blood Omen and Soul Reaver followed, culminating in 2003’s Legacy Of Kain: Defiance; which told both characters’ stories through intertwining timelines. The series mixed Biblical, Vampiric and Authurian legend, and was directed by Amy Hennig prior to her heading Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series. Legacy Of Kain is by far my favourite video game franchise, and I’d love to see the series remastered as a collection. There is a chance that the franchise will be resurrected; as recently as last year Crystal Dynamics’ senior designer Michael Brinker said the chance of a current generation sequel was “ about 50/50”, so a remaster would be a great way to showcase the Legacy Of Kain’s back catalogue to a whole new audience.
NBA Street: Vol. 2
NBA Street spanned six years and four games, published by EA Sports’ BIG division. The series was EA’s answer to Midway’s arcade hit NBA Jam. As the name suggests, Vol. 2 was the second entry into the franchise, released in 2003 for PS2, Xbox and Nintendo Gamecube. The game focussed on three-on-three action with flashy dribbling, no look passes and gravity-defying dunks the order of the day. Stringing together these fancy moves built up a Gamebreaker meter – giving the player more points than usual for making the next basket; and could easily change the outcome of the game, as the other team also lost points! NBA Street Vol. 2 improved on its predecessor by adding NBA legends to its roster of (then) current day players. The game had various game modes: NBA Challenge, a season mode facing all 29 NBA teams in a nationwide tour; Create-A-Legend, where you created a customer baller to take to the streets; and lastly a Pick Up Game mode for playing a few quick games with your friends. NBA Street Vol. 2 is also one of the few games that allowed me to play as one of my all-time favourite players: “Pistol” Pete Maravich (an awesome, before-his-time point guard from the 1970s) Sadly, EA Sports BIG was mothballed in 2008, so a remaster is likely to be nothing more than a hoop dream.
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
As the name suggests Tenchu: Stealth Assassins was a stealth based action-adventure game. Released by Activision in 1998 on the original PlayStation, Stealth Assassins was the first in what would become a series of nine games, though Tenchu’s first instalment was by far the best. The player took control of one of two ninjas across various missions in feudal Japan – Rikimaru, a male; or Ayame, a female. The game limited the player’s inventory to what someone could realistically carry, included an enemy awareness gauge in the screen’s HUD (which was ahead of its time), and required a certain amount of reconnaissance of the level in order to complete it without detection. I mentioned my love for Stealth Assassins in my Ninja RETROspective, as it’s everything I want a ninja video game to be, as it put the emphasis on stealth over combat. This approach made sense as the shinobi were renowned for their ability to infiltrate fortresses, completing their mission and withdrawing without a trace. Instead of Activision churning out poorly received licenced products, maybe they should look at remastering the classics in their back catalogue instead. Tenchu: Stealth Assassins would also give LinceWorks’ forthcoming ninja stealth game Aragami some competition.
The Simpsons: Hit & Run
The Simpsons: Hit & Run was released by Vivendi Universal Games back in 2003, and was an unashamed GTA clone with cartoon level violence. The game gave players the chance to explore a wonderfully rendered sandbox Springfield, with a central plot by the show’s writers, voiced by The Simpsons’ cast. After years of sub-standard licence cash-ins, Hit & Run finally gave fans of the TV show a decent, playable video game. Players took control of Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge and (randomly) Apu across different areas of the fictional town; and featured well-known locations such as Springfield Elementary, the Kwik-E-Mart and The Android’s Dungeon. Each level had missions and side quests, unlockable vehicles and costumes. I’ll admit that I’ve never really been a fan of GTA, but I enjoyed Hit & Run immensely, and still use one of Homer’s lines from the game over a decade later! Vivendi merged with Activision in 2007, and the rights to The Simpsons is now owned by EA (who seems more concerned with freemium mobile games like Tapped Out). So, despite posts on social media crying out for a Hit & Run remaster, it’s unlikely we’ll see it unless a deal is agreed by the two publishers – D’OH!