Friday, July 19, 2019

Remakes & Remasterpieces: An Ongoing Look at the Best in the Biz

Much like the realm of movies, video games are no strangers to remakes and returns to the classics that are fondly remembered. While with Hollywood, many times the modern version of a classic isn't at all necessary, with video games, we see entries that may have sufficed decades ago that may not exactly live up to our nostalgia or rose-tinted glasses today.

That's where remakes and remasters come in. Some might call them cynical money-grabs, but I'd prefer to call them modernizing and--at least with these examples on this inaugural edition of this new article series--improving the gameplay and visuals for old fans and new generations to enjoy. Bonus points if they add new content in as well!

This first edition of Remakes & Remasterpieces mainly features some classic mascots given both an updated and upgraded look. I say "mainly" because there's also Wipeout, which while not mascot-driven whatsoever, is so cool of a franchise that it's on this inaugural installment regardless.

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled (PS4, XB1, NSW)

Crash Bandicoot once again proved to the gaming world that he's just as relevant as ever. Hitting #2 on NPD's best-selling games of June, Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled brought with it intense technical racing where a the ratio between skill and luck is much more pronounced than something like Mario Kart. The folks at Beenox didn't just take the original CTR, a great kart racer all on its own, pretty it up, and then call it a day. Instead, they gave every track such a face lift and unique visual identity that if you didn't know the track design itself, you might not even recognize the remade versions from the original circuits.

Not one to rest on its laurels either, Beenox not only remade all of the tracks from Crash Team Racing, but also all 13 tracks from Crash Nitro Kart. That's not even including the free, completely new tracks, karts, characters, and content coming via the ongoing Grand Prix mode. While this games as a service offering does contain quite a bit of grinding, it keeps players engaged with the game. Beenox went beyond the call of duty to make one of the most content-rich, satisfying remakes out there, and the budget price of $40 with currently free DLC makes Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled a fantastic package.

Spyro: Reignited Trilogy (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Another PlayStation 1 classic, the original Spyro the Dragon trilogy comprised of Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage!, and Spyro: Year of the Dragon was given the remake treatment by Activision, and the overall completed product introduced a whole new generation to the precocious purple dragon protagonist. Each game was lovingly recreated with gorgeous detail. This was thanks to the collaboration between the developer of the remade trilogy, Toys for Bob, and the developer of the original trilogy, Insomniac Games.

Thus, three classic titles from the PS1 era had new life breathed into them, and the end result of the Spyro: Reignited Trilogy revealed what many longtime fans of Spyro already knew--these games were great back in '90s and have only become better thanks to the efforts of Toys for Bob. As an aside, Nintendo Switch and PC players will soon get that their chance to check out this terrific trilogy of games when Spyro: Reignited Trilogy launches on both platforms this September.

Ratchet & Clank (PS4)

Speaking of Insomniac Games, let's move on to the series that was post-Spyro the Dragon for the developer. Coinciding with the release of the film of the same name, Ratchet & Clank's 2016 reboot/remake/re-whatever you want to call it didn't exactly stay totally true to the original source material, the 2002 PlayStation 2 game that started the unlikely pairing of a lombax with an intelligent, little robot companion. For instance, the plot mirrored the movie, and thus the originally rocky partnership between the two--particularly Ratchet's animosity towards Clank for most of the game--was completely absent. Some planets were completely axed from the 2016 remake as well.

However, to me, Ratchet & Clank's 2016 outing did more than satisfy. Obviously the visuals wowed and still do to this day, looking almost Pixar movie-like, but the quality of life improvements and some of the cut levels made for a more streamlined, enjoyable, and well paced game that didn't overstay its welcome by any stretch of the imagination. The highlights of the original Ratchet & Clank were still present, but they were joined by an exhaustive list of updates and upgrades making for a game that I couldn't help but love.

Wipeout Omega Collection (PS4)

Running extraordinarily well with blistering fast speeds and a silky smooth frame-rate, Wipeout Omega Collection was a technical showcase of the PlayStation 4, and moreover, just an impeccably solid racer. The collection contained two games: Wipeout HD, complete with its Fury expansion, as well as Wipeout 2048, which was a PlayStation Vita launch title. Between the two games in the collection, 26 circuits were able to be raced on, and a selection of nearly 50 different vehicles were able to be used.

A recent update to Wipeout Omega Collection allows every race to be played via PlayStation VR, making an intense racer all the more thrilling and exciting. Now, you're IN the cockpit, jockeying for position and having your vehicle hover and bounce around the tracks as you speed towards the finish line. Even without the PSVR update, just with the game on a TV is an amazing experience, and one that will get your palms sweating and your pulse pounding as you aim for the checkered flag.

Mega Man: Powered Up (PSP)

Mega Man remains one of my favorite franchises, and the pure action-platforming goodness that walks a fine line between accessible and challenging is one of the reasons why. Mega Man: Powered Up was a game that arrived early on in the PSP's lifetime, and it was when Capcom bet hard on the system. Unfortunately, that didn't quite play out too well for most series other than Monster Hunter, but that was more than enough to reward Capcom regardless!

Mega Man: Powered Up was a remake of the original Mega Man with a cutesy chibi art style, a full fledged story mode with voice acting, two original Robot Masters making for a total of eight--and the ability to play as said eight Robot Masters--a brand-new challenge mode, and finally, the ability to create and share your own Mega Man levels using an abundance of tools from unlockable kits, tucked away in the game's levels. Powered Up was an awesomely ambitious remake, but sadly, it sold as well as spikes to the Blue Bomber--that is to say poorly--cutting short Capcom's plan of remaking more of the games in the series for the PSP.

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