These days, you can’t go a week without hearing an announcement about a sequel or a remake whether it be a film or video game franchise. As avid fans of the series that we care about, the trailers for these, no matter the medium, fill us with hope and oftentimes take us back to the reason we loved these stories so much in the first place. A familiar sound or an enchanting song from a game we love gets our heart beating faster and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next when we finally slip that game into our consoles to settle in for another adventure.
We idealize the world of game development often, thinking that if a game franchise is popular, the team behind it will stay together forever and continue to weave these amazing tales for us as gamers to become immersed in once again. Sadly, game development is subject to all the laws of the real world, with teams breaking apart like “Team Silent” of the Silent Hill franchise leaving so they could pursue their own personal projects. Sometimes these teams break apart under much worse conditions, like when game studios must file for bankruptcy and the talents behind their biggest games are forced to go elsewhere. Oftentimes when this happens, our beloved properties go to other teams who try to recapture our imaginations with their own unique spins on the titles we love and more often than not, they create something that we are ultimately disappointed with.
Often when we hear about a game that is part of a series we care about, usually at one of the bigger gaming tradeshows, the team behind that game will come out on stage and say something along the lines of: “We know what made this franchise great and we are dedicated to bringing that same sense of action/horror/RPG elements together again to make an experience you will all enjoy”. When the release of that title finally happens we end up with another Silent Hill: Downpour (Metacritic score 68/100) or Final Fantasy XIII (IGN score 8.9/10) and while we hear that these games are good from critics, the backlash from the fan base is overwhelming: “You didn’t live up to your promise of this being the next X game.”
So the question to be asked is this: Are we able to actually create a game that lives up to the legacy of the previous titles when the main development team is gone or are we as gamers so obsessed with our own nostalgia for these titles that we can’t even begin to fathom a sequel or remake for a franchise we love being better than the games that came before it?
The argument could be made either way for these questions but at its core, we as gamers want both. We hope for a game franchise to continue on past its creator’s inception but oftentimes our nostalgia does cloud our perception of those games that came before. Take for instance the October 2010 reimagining of the franchise Castlevania. Up until this point, all 3D attempts at making a Castlevania title were met with both fan and critical disgust and the idea of creating another 3D Castlevania game was almost considered too taboo to even try again, and why should anyone want to? The 2D series had not only extremely high marks in every release but also had such tremendous commercial success that Konami could have, in theory, produced a title a year and done very well for themselves financially.
October 2010 came and went and Castlevania was released to mixed feelings from the masses. Many exclaimed that because it was a new story that deviated from the (already convoluted, let’s be honest here) main continuity or “canon”, because it was a retelling, they refused to play it on principal alone. Others who took the time to play it said that it was a refreshing way to introduce new people into the series while still being very self-referential to the titles that came before it. At the end of the day, lines in the sand were drawn and shouts across the internet were of: “This isn’t the Castlevania that I loved growing up!”
This happens more often than not in the industry and as it does we become more tempered against the idea of remakes and re-imaginings. For every commercial success like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, we hear cries from the masses of their hatred of every Silent Hill: Downpour we get.
Is it truly that difficult to make a sequel or a remake to a beloved franchise? I have never done so myself, but I have read over and over again and spoken with game developers that say that it can be a very daunting task. When a game has a strong fan base, you have many people that you are trying to make happy and at the end of the day and you simply cannot please everyone. When a game developer takes the stage, they are not lying to us when they say they are excited to work on a project that is part of a franchise they played growing up even if it does not meet our expectations.
I feel that we as gamers need to take that into consideration when we approach these remakes and sequels that other teams work on. I have never spoken to a game developer that said that they have started a project with the intention of their product coming out less than satisfactory. They will talk about time constraints, budget constraints, but never creative constraints. Sometimes you just don’t have the time to make the game as perfect as you would like but the best you can do is get it as close to perfection as you can.
From there it is up to us, as gamers, to open our minds as well. It is far too easy for us to say things like: “I can’t play the new Silent Hill because Akira Yamaoka isn’t composing for it so it just won’t be the same”. This dismissive attitude is very unbecoming of us as a gaming community. The fact is that the chance for the original Chromo Trigger team to get back together is pretty minuscule and if we are given the opportunity to explore that universe again, we should embrace it. I am not saying don’t be critical of the games you play, simply that we should keep an open mind about the titles we have not had the opportunity to play.
To all you developers out there, we know how insanely daunting creating a sequel or remake of a franchise that has a strong following can be. Be true to your vision and the games that came before and it will show through.