Nostalgia Revisited [07/17/02]

Recent trends in the videogame world seem to revolve not just around the cranking-out of sequels, but revisiting older series or titles, in either collections or remakes for the next gen consoles. While the practice of making sequels has always been a given and often has been moderately successful as companies bank on a winning formula with rehash after rehash, the prospect of revisiting older classics is always a little bit of a gamble. Between trying to create a game that is worth the investment, they also have to contend with previous success and the effect of nostalgia on the memory of most gamers.

Nos•tal•gia n. a wistful or excessively sentimental sometimes abnormal yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.

In the gaming world, nostalgia is also often a remembrance of games or consoles that can be inflated to monumental degrees because of either how much fun we had with the original titles or a lack of recognition in flaws that more discerning and wizened gamers can recognize and often see in newer titles.

Why do it? First and foremost, nostalgia is a big influence to the potential sales of these titles. Older gamers recall how much they enjoyed the original games and spend their money on newer versions in hopes of revisiting the same gameplay with the more powerful graphics promised of newer technology. Because of this, many companies are revisiting fan favorites, such as Shinobi, Ninja Gaiden and Panzer Dragoon.

Since the original was so successful, what could go wrong? Often the transition from 2D to 3D doesn't go as well as possible. While Nintendo's Mario and Legend of Zelda series have managed to make the transition successfully, others haven't. Two series quickly come to mind: Castlevania and Contra. Neither series, when they made the move to 3D, managed to do well and were touted as abominations to their respective series. Because of that, Konami decided to put Castlevania back to 2D, which resulted in the moderately successful Symphony of the Night and Circle of the Moon. Contra, after it's poor showing, is trying to make a comeback with a new title on the PS2, in which the graphics look 3D, but the gameplay is supposed to be played out in traditional 2D sidescrolling fashion.

Why make a new game when you can bring them old ones? A few of the game makers, most noticeably Nintendo and Sega, have got it in their heads to re-release some of their more successful titles on newer consoles. Why would people buy the same old game? A number of reasons: 1) For the gamers who didn't grow up with those games. 2) For those who were foolish enough to sell their old consoles off. 3) Most remakes come with additional features, like being able to play four-player with the version of Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past that's being done for the GBA. 4) For those who didn't own the original console and don't want to go through the hassle of buying a used on and then trying to find the old game.

What does all this lead to? First and foremost, it gives gamers hope that their own favorite games will likewise get makeovers. Many games have gotten cult following status over the years, like Earthbound and Mario RPG. When other games get remakes, fans for these series get their hopes up and clamor for any scrap of news that they can find.

The continuation of this practice is partially hinged on the successful production and sales of them remake titles. While flooding the market with remakes may not be totally appealing, I think that a balance between straight sequels, remakes and new titles should be enough to keep all game buyers happy. But game developers need to remember that when making something new from what most consider classics - make sure to include what made the game a classic in the first place.

- - Kinderfeld

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