So you and just about every other 30-something PlayStation owner is just head over heels about the Final Fantasy VII remake, yeah? I mean, I don’t want to sell it short, but it certainly is the most ambitious project in video game history. Am I wrong?
I mean, just think about it. This is a from-the-ground-up remake of Final Fantasy VII, the game that changed everything. The game that showed us the power of CD gaming and the PlayStation. The game which exploded the JRPG genre into superstardom. The game which spawned the first batch of rabid console fanboys that didn’t drool the words “Nintendo” or “Sega” through their slobbering lips.
Is there precedent for such a remake?
Surprisingly, no. For such a momentous occasion, remakes of this fashion throughout gaming history are quite a rare occurrence. You would think that the frequent demand this remake attracted would mean that remakes of iconic classics were a day-by-day event, but the truth is, very few actual remakes have ever made such a splash in gaming history.
Here are five of them that got it right… for the most part.
First up, we have the standard by which all remakes should be judged. Resident Evil is about as perfect as they come, taking a classic and revolutionary title, looking at what really makes it work, and driving it home with modern atmosphere and design choices.
This revision of the PlayStation classic could nearly be called the same game. A simple cosmetic makeover isn’t enough declare it a genuine remake, Resident Evil’s artistic prowess is just too ground-breaking to ignore. This GameCube title is such a masterpiece of design that even the HD remaster release on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One held its own against the year’s newest.
Resident Evil also adds a few new weapons and monster types to help give it the gameplay boost needed to call it a genuine remake, and the HD Remaster went another step further by liberating would-be fans from the dredges of tank-controls.
Despite these massive overhauls though, the original PlayStation Resident Evil still has its charm and place in history, most noticeably in the voice acting and early 3D graphics, which are starting to gain traction on the nostalgia front.
Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes
I’m a little reluctant to post this one because the PlayStation original is still a better game. However, Twin Snakes is important enough to garner a mention. I mean, do we even realize how unfathomable it is that Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima let an outside Western studio tinker with his baby?
Much like the Resident Evil remake, Twin Snakes gives the original a major overhaul in the visuals. However, it would be wrong to put them on the same level. The Alaskan base Shadow Moses is still very much Shadow Moses, and hardly the equivalent of the complete re-imaginging of Resident Evil’s haunted estate.
Instead, it is the characters that have been given the preferential treatment here. The blocky, non-descript faces from the original game have been grafted with the ability to actually emote! Before, they simply bobbed their heads to talk. Now, Solid Snake actually uses lips and facial expressions on the level of Metal Gear Solid 2’s quality.
The downside of this mobility is that developer Silicon Knights took things a little too far. Most infamous are the action scenes directed by Japanese shlock action guru Ryuhei Kitamura. Snake’s newly found superhuman abilities destroy the earthly touch that kept the original Metal Gear Solid somewhat grounded in reality.
Still, like I said, this remake is just iconic because of how remotely unlikely its inception was. If only we knew then what would happen to Silicon Knights.
Metroid Zero Mission
Metroid Zero Mission is the game that proved the classic feel of Super Metroid could be crammed into a Game Boy Advance cartridge and taken on the go. It takes the original Metroid’s story, slaps it with Fusion’s excellent graphics, and got back to the basics that Super Metroid perfected. The best of all worlds.
Go find your way through this world on your own, kid! We won’t help you one bit!
Zero Mission features new items, new mechanics, and after she blows away Mother Brain, completing the events of the first Metroid, BOOM! Her ship gets shot down, her armor gets taken from her, and Nintendo reworks Metroid into a fabulous stealth game.
Zero Mission provides a whole new mission that nobody saw coming, and it is just fantastic!.
Dragon Quest (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, Monsters, Monsters 2)
When it comes to remakes, Square Enix’s Dragon Quest franchise is batting about as high of an average as it can get. Each of the first seven games have been granted a remake at some point in their history, and each and every time, Square Enix has gotten it right. I’ll just throw the whole series out there instead of focusing on just one.
Nothing can take away from what the first three games achieved, forging the rules of the JRPG genre and boosting its popularity into overdrive, but each also has a Super Famicom remake that make them much more palatable to modern audiences. The prettier graphics are easier on the eyes, but more importantly, the experience points and gold distribution benefit from being re-balanced .
From there, we tackle Dragon Quest IV, which was also an NES game, but its first remake was for the PlayStation using the Dragon Quest VII engine. This version is a bit stiff, but Square Enix eventually retooled it with better animation into the Nintendo DS hit. It is this version which set the standard for the Nintendo DS remakes of Dragon Quest V and VI following it.
Dragon Quest IV, V and VI all shine the best on the Nintendo DS, there is no denying that. However, they are also still fun to play on their original consoles as well to see how the series evolved over time. Being all built on the same engine, the Nintendo DS games miss out on this progression.
Dragon Quest V also has a PlayStation 2 remake exclusive to Japan that fans swear by.
And then we come to the Nintendo 3DS which has remakes for Dragon Quest Monsters, Dragon Quest Monsters 2, and of course, the one and only Dragon Quest VII. It irons out much of what made the original PlayStation version such a slog, and those who play it claim it is just a charming bucket of fun.
Now you can fully understand why each game in this series still remains popular and nostalgic among fans. Not only does Square Enix keep them relevant with frequent releases and remakes to match the times, it is consistently doing it well!
Bionic Commando ReArmed
Here is an oddball that came and went like flash in a pan. This goofy remake of the NES classic was announced alongside a major attempt to relaunch the Bionic Commando franchise. A huge action game with a gruff Metal Gear story accompanied by an adorable attempt to teach newcomers where this lore all came from.
Guess which one proved to be better in the long run.
Bionic Commando ReArmed has all the traits of a great remake. The music remains just as addictive as the original, but the remake pumps them out as great techno remixes. Cosmetically, you can’t really beat the 8-bit NES aesthetic, but we’ve seen a lot worse than Bionic Commando ReArmed.
Boss fights this time around are actually enjoyable and not just blindly firing into a background sprite. Most importantly, the levels you thought you knew like the back of your hand have been revamped with a fair number of secrets. ReArmed demands that fans appreciate their memories but also twist them just enough to be surprised.
This is a great little game that sadly goes forgotten because of the failure of its big console brother to catch on and a substandard ReArmed 2 that kind of misses the point. Again, the 8-bit classic is too much of a nostalgic masterpiece to ever go away, but Grin couldn’t have perfected this remake any better.