With the July 8th release of Worms World Party Remastered (first released in 2001), an upcoming remake of 2002 classic Ratchet and Clank, and the promised return of Rayman, it seems like we’ve entered a time warp.
Without re-releases, some of the most classic stories and outstanding gameplay to come out of the gaming industry would be accessible only to those with equally ‘classic’ hardware and the original discs, or those with enough know how to get it running on a modern PC through an emulator.
Updating a classic game is one thing, updating it well is entirely another. A good remake is more than just a fresh coat of pixels; it involves fixing bugs, updating controls for new hardware, improving the visuals, maybe even adding some new content, all whilst keeping the original game’s charm.
It’s not easy, but here is a list of games that were remade that turned out better than most:
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
Original: Amiga, Atari ST, CDTV, DOS, FM Towns, Mac OS, Sega CD
Remake: iOS, PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox 360
A LucasArts classic, The Secret of Monkey Island is a point and click adventure released in 1990. Your protagonist is Guybrush Threepwood, a swashbuckling wannabe with a sharp wit and sharper puzzle solving skills, exploring the Caribbean and thwarting the evil pirate LeChuck.
The Monkey Island series is renowned for its humour and fun gameplay, none of which is lost in the 2009 Special Edition. If anything, the remake is a bit of an improvement.
Slicker visuals (with the option to see the game in its original 16-bit glory if you’d like the chance to pretend 20 years haven’t passed), voice acting that is a credit to the writing, and improved audio, mean that new life is breathed into this game without the loss of anything that made it great.
I grumbled slightly at the addition of a hint system; back in my day we didn’t have hint systems, we just clicked on random things until they worked, damnit! It is, admittedly, an excellent feature for the mobile gamer who doesn’t want to be escorted from the tube screaming about misleading navigator heads. All things considered, it’s actually a safety feature.
Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars Director’s Cut
Original: PC, Mac OS, Playstation, Gameboy Advance
Remake: Mac, Wii, Nintendo DS, PC, OS X, iOS, Android and Linux
Another point and click adventure, this time from 1996 and Revolution Software, Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars is the story of George ‘two b’s two t’s’ Stobbart, an American tourist in Paris who becomes embroiled in a dangerous conspiracy that takes him across the globe.
Broken Sword’s story, voice acting, puzzles, music, graphics, and quips are all laudable and remain so in the Director’s Cut, rolled out between 2009 and 2013. Like Monkey Island, Broken Sword’s point and click style translates well to smartphone touchscreens. These kinds of games are great for dipping in and out of on your commute, if you can stand to leave a puzzle half way through and resist your all-consuming need to complete things.
Broken Sword’s mechanic also translates well to Nintendo DS, although the DS version lacks the excellent voice acting and whilst this doesn’t ruin the game, I pined for Rolf Saxon.
Rather than simply remake the original game, the Director’s Cut adds a new part to the story, giving more play time to George’s fellow protagonist Nico, which I was happy to see, as well as new puzzles and some simplified older puzzles.
Some of the new puzzles take the form of sliding blocks or jigsaws in order to make use of the touchscreen mechanics, but they can feel a bit unnatural and interrupt the flow of the game, much like those damned box puzzles from later games in the series.
With new content and the same involving story and humour, Broken Sword’s Director’s Cut offers something to fans as well as newcomers.
Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D
Original: Nintendo 64
Remake: Nintendo 3DS
The 5th in its series, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time is a Nintendo 64 action adventure classic from 1998, which follows hero Link in his quests to save Hyrule from the villainous Ganon. The game has had previous re-releases on Gamecube and Wii, but the most recent release on Nintendo 3DS in 2011 is arguably the best.
The 3DS version of the game uses its bottom touchscreen to streamline inventory and location controls of the original game, saving the need for constant pausing. The game’s graphics are also given a much needed update, whilst remaining faithful to the game’s original concept art, leaving the remake familiar but considerably less blobby (pretty sure that’s the technical term).
Managing to keep the magic of the original but improving gameplay is great for attracting a new generation of Zelda fans, but what about the old residents of Hyrule? For them Nintendo has added the Master Quest version of the game.
This version subtly twists the layout of locations, stopping players relying on memory by mildly disorienting them, and enemies also do double damage. It’s not much, but it offers a new challenge to old players looking for more than a graphical upgrade.
Remake: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, iOS
Grim Fandango is a LucasArts release from 1998, that disconcerting time when adventure games were evolving into 3D creatures that did not yet seem to understand the possibilities of their new confusing dimension. Thankfully, Grim Fandango was a game that succeeded in utilising its 3D, bolstered by an excellent story, dark humour, and fun yet often challenging puzzles.
Just as Grim Fandango was worth your time then, its re-master is worth your time now. The game is a mix of Mexican folk-lore and neo-noir (it works, trust me), following Manny Calavera through the Land of the Dead as he attempts to save the virtuous Meche Colomar from her long journey to the ninth underworld.
The re-master does just enough to make the game playable for a modern audience, offering smoother visuals, clearer sound, and even developer commentary, but keeps the great puzzles, writing, and charming characters of the original. It’s rare you’ll have this much fun, or have to think this laterally, going to hell.
Tomb Raider: Anniversary
Original: DOS, Sega Saturn, Playstation
Remake: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Xbox 360, Wii, Mac OS X, PlayStation 3
Tomb Raider: Anniversary is the 2007 remake of the 1996 Tomb Raider, using all the original environments but with the game engine of the more recent sequel Tomb Raider: Legend.
In 1996 Tomb Raider was a showcase of the possibilities of large explorable environments and competent female protagonists. Tomb Raider: Anniversary follows the original game’s story which follows Lara Croft’s hunt for the scion of Atlantis, and often leaves you with a magnificent sense of déjà vu.
That being said, the remake is bigger and better than the original in almost every way; the environments are massively expanded, the puzzles have more depth, and Lara’s incredible acrobatics are much more fluid, largely thanks to analogue sticks and possibly her more aerodynamic character model.
Tomb Raider: Anniversary manages to take all the joy of the original and add it to the improved hardware to make a game that feels familiar and fresh at the same time.
When you can revisit a much loved game, improve it, and bring it to a whole new generation all whilst keeping the old fans happy, you have achieved something great. But then again, it would have taken even more effort and been a greater achievement to take classics like these and somehow make them worse. It would be pretty hard to make a Virtual Boy out of a Playstation 2, after all.
Main image © Team17 Digital Ltd