Over the last couple of years, video game remakes have been very much in vogue. Although publishers have sought to cash in on the launch of the new-gen consoles by creating ‘remastered’ versions of many PS3 and Xbox 360 titles – which often amount to little more than a few graphical tweaks – we’ve also seen some older franchises receive more than a minor facelift, and instead be completely reimagined and rebuilt from the ground up.
Tomb Raider, DmC and XCOM: Enemy Unknown immediately spring to mind as solid recent examples of successful series being rebooted (though the former itself has received a next-gen makeover that many would deem unnecessary). With that said, we believe there are many video gaming IPs of yesteryear that could translate well onto the consoles of today if they were to be resurrected by their respective license holders and modernised for the gamers of 2014. Today, we take a look at five (well, six) such games that unquestionably deserve the reboot treatment.
Honorable Mention: Mario Bros.
Whenever we play games like Gears of War’s horde mode, Halo’s firefight; even Titanfall’s frontier defence and Call of Duty’s survival mode – we think of Mario Bros.
But why, you ask? Well, Mario Bros. isn’t only the first game featuring Mario in his own title and the origin of the POW Block – in many ways, it’s arguably the first “horde mode”, a co-op wave-based multiplayer game where at least two players are pitted against an oncoming number of increasingly difficult enemies.
In Mario Bros., instead of running along a side-scrolling plane jumping on enemies’ heads, you and a friend were set in an arena with some of the first variations of classic Mario baddies, tasked with knocking the platforms under them to flip them over before running up to the incapacitated foe and kicking them into oblivion. It was the first and one of the few co-op–styled modes that we’ve clung to. No replaying the same rigidly structured missions over and over; no having the story spoiled for you in single player (Borderlands 2 was a miserable experience online) – just you and a friend hunkering down against a world of A.I.
The gameplay of the original Mario Bros. has surfaced in underwhelming iterations over the years – the latest being in Super Mario 3D World under the moniker Luigi Bros – as a throwaway mode secondary to the actual game itself. It’s sad to see such dismissive treatment inflicted on what is one of our favorite multiplayer games in Mario’s history.
We’ve seen a lot of competitive multiplayer games featuring the jovial plumber, tackling almost every sport known to man. But now it’s time to see this true co-operative classic given a modern-day makeover.
5. Crash Bandicoot
Every console had its seminal platformer. For Nintendo, it was Mario. Sega had Sonic the Hedgehog. And although Sony initially had a hard time in presenting its own offering, by 1996 a definitive platform title (and with it, a loveable mascot) had emerged on the Playstation: namely, Crash Bandicoot.
Developed by Naughty Dog, the Santa Monica-based studio founded by Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin, Crash was humorously codenamed “Sonic’s Ass Game” upon its conception, which represents the direction and style of gameplay the developers were aiming for: a 3D platformer where the camera tracks the player from behind, as opposed to the traditional 2D side-scrolling view.
The Crash Bandicoot series – or at least, the initial trilogy – represents everything you could want out of a platformer. The titular character is loveable yet erratic, and the gameplay is a perfect balance of being simple enough to grasp instantly, but challenging enough to compel gamers to keep playing.
Unfortunately, when Naughty Dog severed ties with Universal Interactive (later Vivendi), they gave up the rights to the Crash franchise. After a number of mediocre and convoluted license cash-ins developed by different studios during the mid-to-late-2000s, including Traveller’s Tales and Radical Entertainment, the orange marsupial has laid dormant since 2008. Through several mergers, Activision now holds the rights to Crash Bandicoot, and although rumours have surfaced over the past couple of years about a possible sale of the IP to Sony, no new games are believed to be in the pipeline – at least in the foreseeable future.
In June 2013, Naughty Dog co-creator Andy Gavin said it best when talking about ways to revitalise the franchise: “Crash needs a total reboot,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to reset the history, and go back to his creation story and the original conflict with Cortex. In that context, you could reprise classic Crash 1 and 2’s settings and villains. It would make sense to use a more modern, free-roaming style. I would concentrate on Looney Tunes-esque animation and really addictive action. That’s what we did with the original Crash, and there’s no reason it couldn’t be done today. Given the current Crash games, people forget that he was once cool. Our Crash had a certain whimsical edge to him. Sure, it was goofy – but it wasn’t dumb.”
It’s a sad fact that local competitive multiplayer is slowly dying. The grand, texture-ridden 3D worlds of triple-A titles are becoming far too complex for a “player two”. Dealing virtual justice to overly confident opponents before an audience of overly excited friends is almost a thing of the past; competitive multiplayer has largely been exiled to the anonymous virtual space of the internet. Happy memories of battling friends have been replaced with 12-year-olds spouting uncouth revelations about mothers’ private lives. As a result, indie developers are fast becoming the very last champions of couch-based calamity, with games like Towerfall: Ascension for the Playstation 4 effortlessly proving that local competitive multiplayer is just as relevant as it was in the days of Pong.
More than ever, local competitive multiplayer games are primed for a glorious comeback: that’s where Bomberman comes in. Bomberman was, and is still, exemplary of fast, addictive, supreme local multiplayer. Tense, tantalizing, infectiously fun: pick out all the positive adjectives in the dictionary and you’ll probably be halfway to doing Bomberman’s multiplayer descriptive justice. Ever since Bomberman 2 saw the title’s multiplayer suite launch proper, the series has embodied prime party game territory. Simple in essence, yet endlessly replayable; easy to pick up, though pernicious to master: Bomberman has it all. Players negotiate maze like squares as they attempt to obliterate pals with, you guessed it, bombs. Power-ups and modifiers serve to intensify the action. Speed and situational awareness become musts as bombs begin exploding left, right and centre. Tears, skin and dignity are all shed as battles come to their climatic ebbs. Prevailing by dint of tactical mastery alone is truly a feeling of beauty.
Folks, listen up, the local competitive multiplayer renaissance starts here. TVs are getting bigger and bigger: it would be a crime not to put this new geography through its paces. Squinting to find your avatar on a cramped screen will be a thing of the past. Bomberman deserves, neigh, needs its moment of current gen glory. Hell, no major overhaul need even be required. All any prospective developer should do is focus on what Bomberman does best: precise, fair, pure gameplay. A slick reboot realised in a nostalgic 16-bit aesthetic is the perfect bit of bonding this anonymous, anti-social gaming generation needs.
3. Streets of Rage
One of the 16-bit era’s defining titles, Sega’s side-scrolling beat ’em up, Streets of Rage, is a franchise that fans have long demanded a remake of. With other key Genesis franchises such as Golden Axe (*groan*) and Sonic the Hedgehog (*shudder*) being tampered with, it’s somewhat surprising that Streets of Rage hasn’t yet been resurrected. Rest assured, it’s not through a lack of effort. Reimaginings of the seminal series were briefly considered for both the Saturn and Dreamcast, while in recent years Crackdown developers Ruffian Games and Backbone Entertainment have had their own pitches to reboot the series rejected by Sega.
With the recent success of the reboot of Capcom side-scrolling platformer Strider, we’d love to see Streets of Rage receive a similar makeover; recapturing the magic and simple-yet-effective combat of the original games while modernising their aesthetics and storylines for today’s audience.
When several members of the development team at Rare, the creative geniuses behind classic Nintendo 64 first-person shooters Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark, left the company in 1999 to set up their own development studio, their first project was highly anticipated throughout the gaming community.
Free Radical Design’s TimeSplitters, as it soon became known, was released as a launch title for Sony’s Playstation 2 console in late 2000. A FPS that implemented many successful elements from its spiritual predecessors, while at the same time not taking itself too seriously – combining action-based gameplay with a humorous, time-travelling storyline – the game and its subsequent sequels were lauded for their gripping multiplayer gameplay, inventive weaponry and maps, and their array of colourful, larger-than-life characters.
Unfortunately, after the critically strong but financially underwhelming performance of the series’ third entry, Timesplitters: Future Perfect, in 2005, Free Radical Design ultimately went into administration; leaving the development of TimeSplitters 4, which was already underway, in limbo.
German company Crytek subsequently bought out the studio, but had little interest in completing the title due to its perceived lack of commercial viability. Although the studio have since given their blessing to TimeSplitters: Rewind, a fan-made remake combining the best aspects from each of the game in the trilogy, due to the nature of the project, it’s been in development for some considerable time now with no ETA as to its completion.
Although TS:R does excite us, we’d love to see a fully-fledged, fully-supported reboot of the series on the PS4 and XB1 – which would be especially welcome at a time when the landscape of first-person shooters is largely drab and overly serious.
Masterminded by Yu Suzuki, the cinematic Dreamcast action-adventure game was one of the first massive open-world adventure titles, and is considered revolutionary in many respects. For instance, Rockstar undoubtedly took inspiration from the series with the creation of its seminal and critically acclaimed PS2 title, Grand Theft Auto III.
Shenmue took player immersion to levels never seen before in video games, featuring open environments, a day/night cycle, changing weather conditions and battles interspersed with mini games. Its quick time events and interactive cutscenes were particularly engaging; a feature which continues to be popular today in blockbuster games such as Uncharted and Tomb Raider.
Although the title paved the way for future sandbox games and ubiquitously sits near the top of “all time best” lists – it almost crippled Sega, amassing a reported production cost of over $47 million.
While it was the fourth best selling Dreamcast title, Shenmue’s astronomical budget meant that its chances of achieving profitability were highly unlikely from the outset; IGN infamously suggested that every DC owner would have had to have bought the game twice for it to be financially successful. As a result, after a similarly underperforming (but highly praised) sequel, the series was discontinued in 2001.
Due to the fact Shenmue II ended on a cliffhanger – without a true resolution to protagonist Ryo’s journey of revenge and redemption – it should come as no surprise that die-hard fans have been calling for a sequel for the past 13 years.
We, on the other hand, would be much happier with a full reboot of the series, as cinematic gaming has come a long way since the release of Shenmue II. When compared – however unfairly – to many current-gen titles, Ryo’s character lacks any great depth; his controls are tank-like and clunky; and the game’s voice acting in particular has aged very poorly. Re-imagined using many of the conventions present in video games today that weren’t around in the early-2000s – many of the conventions that Shenmue itself played a large part in bringing about – we could see it once again becoming a killer franchise.
Have Your Say
With so many untapped classic gaming franchises out there, our list only scratches the surface of potential gaming reboots. Other titles that sprung to mind as warranting remakes included Double Dragon, Soul Reaver: Legacy of Kain, Shadow of the Colossus, and MediEvil. Which retro games would you like to see make a triumphant comeback? Let us know in the comments section below!
Contributors: Chris Mawson, Harry Bowers, Jamaal Ryan.