Same Name, Different Decade
Why make something new when you can remake something old? Well originality for one, but some IPs are worth a revisit. Recently, I have had the pleasure of annihilating some alien scum in XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Thanks to a Steam sale and a splendid significant other who abides my silly video game loving ass), the remake of X-COM from back in the day. The beautiful thing I have noticed while playing is the admiration of the original which has dictated the choices in how this particular remake was executed. The challenging tactics of a by gone gaming era, and the perma-death for soldiers that fall fending off the Septoid invaders. It all makes this game feel like a love letter to the original.
There is another "remake" of XCOM coming out soon titled The Bureau, and although it was announced well before Enemy Unknown, as so often happens in the gaming world, it got delayed. Thing is: The Bureau was and is a very different game from X-COM - the style originally being an FPS- but now a third-person cover based shooter with a tactics system (Something like Mass Effect 3 meets Fallout 3). The 1960's setting keeps it from looking too redundant with the steady stream of 'marines fighting aliens' games we have been inundated with over the years (Halo, Gears of War, Resistance, Cyrsis...) or it's strategy based sibling. These alterations, in addition to what I have seen so far, have my fancy lightly tickled. Though I will not pass real judgment till I have it in my hands.
But why remake a game in the first place? Well, for nostalgia mostly; kids that grew up on the original and want that good ol' throw back, just like when their parents go to a Rolling Stones tour. The difference is Keith isn't swapped out for a higher-res gritty reboot of himself (Not that you would have an easy time finding someone grittier than Keith - and rehab, rather than reboots, seems to be his bag) as many of the remakes have been doing lately.
Tomb Raider is probably the first that comes to mind. To be fair, I have not played it, but when the first artwork was released I was not very excited. I considered the franchise dead and any attempt to give it the old Lazarus treatment seemed pointless (Though, from what I have heard, I was wrong, and I'm glad, since I was a fan of the original but believed that the franchise had been wasted). What seems to have worked so well in this case is it doesn't stray too far from the core elements; BAMF fighting bad guys and finding treasure. As long as you deliver what is core to the original you are on the right track.
The trouble is that sometimes there is either no way or no need to update the game-play. The Bomberman remake was a shit show. A simple mechanic that was perfect from the beginning is forced in an attempt to capture that magic again by being completely different. I liked Bomberman; hell, it was so good I even bought the port of Bomberman '98 as soon as it came onto the Wii market place - it's that much fun. Really all that Hudson had to do was make an HD remix like Capcom did with Street Fighter 2. Alternatively, they could have also just built a new game with old fundamentals like Mega Man 9 (Hmmm... seems like Capcom has their shit together).
When X-COM came out in 1994, it shot for the stars and today it is getting a chance to go intergalactic. The tech that exists today truly just adds to the nuance and fidelity that could only have been dreamed of at that time the original game came out. That is what remaking and rebooting games should strive to do; make the good games great, the great games amazing, but not turn a Pac-Man game into an FPS.
For those very reasons I am holding off on too much excitement when it it comes to The Bureau. Who knows? Maybe it will fall in the Tomb Raider realm and be true to itself. In the mean time, you can find me in Mission Control organizing the eradication of those alien bastards.