Last night I returned home from PAX AUS 2014. Long story short, it wasn't perfect, but it was quite possibly the best weekend I've had this year. It was a lot of fun. If you'd like to continue reading, the long story is just below.
Buckle up. This is gonna be...
It was the great Walt Disney who first informed us in 1961 that despite all the science we had accumulated to that point, the world was, in fact, a carousel of color. Fast forward fifty-three years and when it comes to gaming, for better or for worse, graphics are king. With all the leaps and bounds in gameplay, storytelling, and interactivity that have been made, it's still dem grafix that first catch our eye.
At risk of sounding old and crotchety, back in my day, we didn't have the luxury of that there AECH DEE television moving picture boxes. No. We had a grand total of eight bits to work with. Sixteen at the very most. And we liked it! We loved it! Boy howdy, nothing more real than those Mode 7 turns in Pilotwings. You didn't hear us complaining.
Sometimes, however, our classics can use a good scrubbing up and polishing, and with titles like DuckTales Remastered, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD turning nice sales numbers, 2013 showed us that the trend of remastering can be fun and lucrative. With Final Fantasy X | X-2 HD Remaster and Kingdom Hearts HD II.5 ReMIX, 2014 shows no signs of that trend slowing.
As a grumpy old man in the gaming world, at least let me suggest some games that are worthy of a little spit-shine and re-release. Then get off my lawn.
Released early in the lifespan of the SNES, ActRaiser is one of the console's forgotten jewels. Part civilization sim, part hack-and-slash side-scroller, the game's unique genre juxtaposition worked; when ActRaiser II was released a few years later, it dropped the sim portion of the game, notably hurting its reception. For the time, the graphics were considered top-notch, featuring detailed level design and the aforementioned Mode 7 graphics.
Remastering the game for today's consoles could bring top-notch graphics to ActRaiser once again, with larger, more in-depth design for sidescrolling levels, with plenty of options for the sim portions. Interaction with the citizens of the world could take place from a top-down perspective, as the original game, or from a more face-to-face level—well, as close to face-to-face as a god can with mortals—with a very Skyrim feel for those areas of the world.
You know you've wanted to give this NES hit another crack. So why not do it in HD?
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knock-off pushed the eight bits of the NES to the limit and constructed some beautiful level layouts with vibrant hues coloring Ragnarok and one of the funky freshest soundtracks in eight-bit gaming. (Don't believe me? Just press pause.) Bring these totally tubular toads to today's technological threshold and watch the ham-hock sized fists fly.
Added benefit: If Super Metroid could cripple today's gamer, imagine the pain and suffering Battletoads would bring with it.
Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Another Story
Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Another Story was released on the Super Famicom in Japan and, as the title would imply, takes its inspiration from the magical girl anime of the same name.
...No, wait, come back. Hear me out on this one.
Despite one's opinion on the source material, the 1995 Japan-only release stands alone as a pretty solid turn-based RPG, echoing the gameplay and artistic stylings of games such as Final Fantasy VI, released just a year prior. In it, a shaman from the 30th century has recruited a group of girls meant to reflect dark attributes of the Sailor Senshi and change time and destiny itself. The Sailor Senshi set out to find Tuxedo Mask's Rose Crystal (the Barazuisho) and prevent Shaman Apsu from changing the legacy of Sailor Moon into a future ruled by her iron fist.
A fan translation of the game exists on the Internet, and I'll be damned if it isn't a really good game. A bit grindy at times, but a fun play, whether or not you're really into Sailor Moon.
Now is the time to resurrect this and put an official American remastered version out there, using high-quality anime-style art and animation. Why? Sailor Moon is being rebooted in Japan in the summer.
Well, wouldn't a remake that be timely?
Chip 'N' Dale Rescue Rangers
As soon as DuckTales Remastered started generating buzz based off a trailer that mostly was a karaoke video of the theme song from the '90s (which I totally sang along to—you did too, don't lie), the Powers That Be at Wayforward should have started work on doing a remastered version of all the Disney Afternoon video games, starting with Chip 'N' Dale Rescue Rangers. If any game showcases the magic that the Disney/Capcom partnership had in the '90s, this is it. Challenging platforming, bright, vibrant colors, simultaneous co-op (back when we just used to call it “two players”), Rescue Rangers virtually defies all forms of dissatisfaction, and resulted in a oft-overlooked sequel toward the waning days of the NES.
Now, amidst the news that Disney actually is in the process of building a script for a Rescue Rangers movie, pulling the trigger on a remastered version of Chip and Dale's adventures to save Gadget from the clutches of the sinister Fat Cat simply screams sales numbers.
Step one: Remaster graphics and music from original game.
Step two: Add in levels from forgotten sequel.
Step three: Profit.
“Why is this game on every 'Bring Back This Game' list???”
Because it hasn't been done yet!
Oh, Square Enix gods, hear our cry... you've remastered almost every Final Fantasy game in this era. Please just do us a solid and do Chrono Trigger. We promise we'll buy it.
We love Chrono and his band of adventurers. I am a fan of Lucca in particular but that doesn't matter. We love the story and the gameplay and the jumping through time. We love the philosophical questions Magus poses. (“If my fate is to be destroyed...” So meta.)
I know you're all busy remastering Final Fantasy XV right now even though the original game hasn't been released yet, but you have time! Take a break, and just do Chrono Trigger, and we promise it won't show up on one of these lists again... until the ninth-gen.
If you've never heard of Crystalis, I won't blame you. Even many hardcore gamers haven't heard of this 1990 NES release. But after a few hours with this action RPG in the vein of The Legend of Zelda, many gamers become new fans of an old game.
That sounds like a perfect candidate for remastering to me.
Set in a post-apocalyptic future where magic has survived but science has been shunned, the hero awakes from cryogenic sleep after an evil emperor has fused science with magic to create a weapon of terror. The hero must seek out the four elemental swords and combine them into the mighty blade Crystalis to save what's left after thermonuclear war.
The plot shines with the ongoing battle between the mystery of magic and the fact of science, and the gameplay set the tone, along with the original Zelda and its sequel, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, that would resonate in other action/adventure and action RPGs for years to come. It's a forgotten gem; cleaning it up and putting it in the eShop could make for some healthy money.
I present this offering with trepidation, and a warning from the irrepressibly fierce wisdom of one Ms. RuPaul: “Don't f**k it up!”
Earthbound, the American name for Mother 2, stands as one of the best RPGs in the lifespan of the SNES, and still holds its own amongst the games of today. All I'm asking for is for cleanup of the graphics and music; don't change anything else or the fandom will let you have it.
Little Nemo: The Dream Master
Not everyone knew of this challenging platformer; with cutesy box art and fun with animals, many of us relegated this game to “games for other kids,” not for cool kids like us, of course. Those of us who did somehow stumble upon this little gem had to resist throwing the game across the room, because it's damn hard. (I recently revisited this game, and it's still incredibly unforgiving.)
But with the artistic style being one of the best Capcom produced for the NES—up in the ranks with Mega Man and the Disney partnership—it's ripe for a relaunch, and it could easily challenge any of the new Mario games for platforming supremacy. Plus, look how damn cute it is!
Speaking of adorable graphics, Taito's Little Samson had the same cutesy graphics as any Capcom game. Playing like a cross between Mega Man and Super Mario Bros. 2, players could adventure as the titular bell-throwing boy, or as a mouse, dragon, or Golem. Each character had unique abilities best suited to success in various areas, and could change at will, using a shared pool of lives between the four.
So why did Little Samson flop? Well, it really didn't... it just didn't do well. It was released in the twilight of the NES without an SNES counterpart, such as Wario's Woods, the last game released for the 8-bit cartridge. By the time Little Samson came out, we were already knee-deep in Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It didn't help that the name of the hero, and as such the game, was Samson, which immediately cast a Biblical light on the game. For a few, this was a selling point—good, clean, wholesome fun; for many though, it was either off-putting or outright unwelcome.
Not only should it be remastered for aesthetic and play value, it should be re-released due to the fact that it's damn near impossible to find; collectors who have managed to find a copy have been known to pay upwards of 0 or more for the one single cartridge.
Castle of Illusion did fairly well on the remastered circuit, so why not take a crack at the original Capcom/Disney mash-up? Mickey Mousecapade got mixed reviews in 1987—people wanted to like it, but the difficult platforming with the serviceable-at-best graphics really didn't give players anything to hang on to. With a remastered edition, Mickey and Minnie can really take off and do what they intended to do in the '80s, scamping about the Disney universe trying to save the mysterious “Finn.”
Imagine a time in racing games before the Mario Kart series where the only way to beat your opponents in a race was to drive faster than they did and finish in front of them.
It's true; such a dark, bleak time did exist. But in 1988, a little company from the UK known as Rare came out with R.C. Pro-Am. It was one of the first racers to take the viewpoint out of the driver's seat and lift it overhead. With its isometric overhead perspective, racers could begin to explore new options.
Like how to blow someone out of first place with a well-timed missile.
One of the first games featuring vehicular combat, which would go on to inspire such racing series such as Mario Kart and Twisted Metal, one thing many people forget about Rare's first major success is that the R.C. stands for “remote controlled.” These miniature cars don't always look mini on the eight-bit NES, but remastering the game could set the cars amongst giant trees, flower beds, even dining room chairs on indoor “tracks.”
Two reactions are fairly common when StarTropics is brought up. The first is fond recollection: “Oh wow, I totally remember this! This was the kid with the yo-yo, right?” And the second: “This was the game with the letter that you had to dip in water, right? F**k that game.”
I prefer to think that the first sentiment would win out in a remastering of the game. The very Zelda-esque adventure game balanced puzzles, action, and a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor quite well, and proved to be a challenge for many an adventurer on the NES. Plus, with the digital remastering of the game, we wouldn't have to worry about that damn letter anymore.
PS: It's 747, NAV-COM. Can we friggin' go now?
Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars
Do we really need to explain this one? Because everything about it is great, that's why.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game
Fans of the heroes in a half-shell were supposed to get a re-release of this game on the Wii Virtual Console, but that was quietly shuffled off. It did show up very briefly on the Xbox Live Arcade as TMNT 1989 Classic Arcade in 2007, but has since been taken off.
Bring it back, please.
There's something ridiculously fun about a co-op beat-em-up, and freshening this one up is in good timing to balance out the damage that Michael Bay intends to do with the beloved '90s brigade. Porting the NES version will also port over extended stages and stages created specifically for home consoles. More Turtles is rarely a bad thing.
Plus, no electrified seaweed.
From its Wikipedia page:
“The player controls the giant levitating disembodied samurai head Namakubi (Japanese word denoting "sliced off heads"). The player can destroy structures and enemies by shooting rapid-fire eyeballs and vomit at them. Enemies include zombie snipers, zeppelins, and lava monsters. The player can upgrade his/her firepower by rescuing zombie hostages that leap out of structures when destroyed.”