Remaster, Much More than Just a Dirty Word
Much like the Baby Boomers, the original gamers who started out with pointy cornered rectangle controllers are older today. They have responsibilities, families, and lives that no longer come in expendable mushrooms. It can be hard for those who grew up with the original consoles to justify buying the latest gaming platform and AAA title as they simply don’t have the time for it, while developers are instead focusing on creating new and exciting properties to snare the next generation of gamer. So why is it that 2016 seems to be the biggest year for announcements and releases based on nostalgia? There is a lot of criticism for remastered titles, often just meaning their coding was adapted to run on a new system and maybe a minor new feature was added and the game is resold at full price, but it seems in the last few months the gaming industry has instead been looking at revitalizing properties long since passed.
One title which immediately comes to mind is the recently confirmed Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. The plans to remaster Crash Bandicoot were announced at this year’s PlayStation Experience and despite that bothersome word ‘remaster’, it has been revealed to be a complete remake from the ground up for PS4. Having originally launched its first title in 1996, Crash Bandicoot has always been a fond memory to gamers not only as a hugely successful platformer but the idea that when Crash hit the original Playstation console he could be Sony’s answer to Nintendo’s Mario. Announcing not only the return of Crash Bandicoot but to rebuild it is an unprecedented idea but one that immediately made the older generation of gamer start to pay attention again. People don’t want to play a port of a game twenty years old, but they also don’t want to tarnish the memory of that experience and Naughty Dog has grabbed everyone’s attention by creating something both new and familiar to appeal to the largest possible demographic of gamer: all of them.
Of course, to talk about plucking at the heart strings on the mandolin of nostalgia, the giant behind it would have to be Nintendo’s NES Classic system. Modeled to look like the original NES but much smaller, it comes with 30 original NES titles preloaded on the console yet untouched and in immaculate condition. Retailing for the same price as a brand new game, this has become one of the hottest items of the year with scalpers selling them online for beyond triple their market value. So why are people willing to pay so much? Because just like the big companies, people know the power nostalgia holds. Lapse gamers from the golden years might be hesitant to try and jump into something as complex as Final Fantasy XV or Dishonored 2 when they haven’t picked up a controller since discovering the princess was in another castle, so suddenly NOT having a remastered experience but the entirely same experience now available, adults are not only buying it for themselves but to introduce their children to something near and dear to their hearts.
So why the sudden surge in bringing classic titles back to the front? The cynical answer is that it’s merely a cash grab; companies can slap a remaster label on an old title and make a quick buck, but the video game industry has been treating its fans very well in recent years. It’s also possible with the rising cost of video games that companies are looking to slowly release classic titles that will draw in former gamers based entirely on their fond memories of long nights with Mountain Dew and Doritos, giving them a reason to come back to gaming and start checking out the other newer titles developers have to offer.
The answer I am leaning towards is that this resurgence of classics is a strategic, metaphorical palate cleanse. Nintendo has the NES Classic; – an item that people of all ages are frantically searching for – they are working their way into mobile gaming with Pokemon GO and Super Mario Run, with plans for more mobile gaming in the future, yet keeping these titles with simple, classic, and above all recognizable gameplay. There is even a rumor of the GameCube library being available on Virtual Console with the release of the upcoming Nintendo Switch. Ratchet and Clank, Crash Bandicoot, and even more recent titles like Dead Rising from 2006 are all getting the remastered treatment. Gamers are being given access to popular and above all familiar titles to keep them happy and interested until the New Year when the gaming industry is ready to drop some massive titles on us and overload the hard-drives of our consoles and minds.
This is the appetizer to the main course, the side of fries with your burger, and dangling a string in front of the cat all rolled into one. It’s something familiar, given to us to hold our attention just long enough until we can be wowed with something else and developers are able to keep the interest of the public without seeing a dip in profits before these AAA titles can launch. While we spend the holiday season playing games from the good old days and eagerly awaiting our return to nearly forgotten platformer levels that have been polished up and made shiny, we might just forget for a moment that we have titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Detroit: Become Human, Cyberpunk 2077, Crackdown 3, and many other games that will redefine their respective genres sitting around the corner. The nostalgia titles we are given are there to keep us on life support, getting us through just long enough until we can be bombarded with life giving properties that will snap us out of it, yet still leave us vegetative on the couch for hours on end.
What do you think of this boom in remastered and nostalgic titles? Is it a cash grab? Is it fan service to try and get more people buying video games again? Or is it a way to string us along until we can be smacked in the face with new and glorious AAA titles? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or the Comment section below.