Monday, April 6, 2020

Remakes & Remasterpieces 2: An Ongoing Look at the Best in the Biz

We're smack dab in a month full of remakes. This past Friday saw the release of Resident Evil 3, and this upcoming Friday sees the long-awaited, hotly anticipated launch of the remake of Final Fantasy VII, cleverly titled "Final Fantasy VII Remake". Later in the month a remake of a less celebrated but still exciting game all the same with Trials of Mana.

What better month than April to bring back Remakes & Remasterpieces, SuperPhillip Central's continued glimpse at those special remakes and remasters that went the extra mile to make--or in this case--re-make some memories for fans of the originals and entirely new audiences. This second edition features familiar favorites from franchises like Resident Evil, The Legend of Zelda, and Final Fantasy.

Check out the first ever edition of Remakes & Remasterpieces by clicking HERE. Now, let's get on to the sequel!

Resident Evil 2 (PS4, XB1, PC)

Capcom gave players an all-too-tempting invitation to return to Raccoon City and all of the horrors both old and new that awaited them (and that's not even counting the most recent invitation with Resident Evil 3 as of this past Friday). Resident Evil 2 was a return to form for Capcom's storied franchise, delivering epic scares and labyrinthine areas to explore, infested with zombies and B.O.W.s of all shapes and sizes. A consistent sense of dread permeated through many a-player's first playthrough, and new surprises like the hulking, stalking Mr. X was terror personified. Further, every enemy in the game was a real threat. So many past Resident Evil games saw zombies as fodder for your ammo, but the zombies of Resident Evil 2 were smart and persistent, dangerously so.

It'd be silly of me to not mention the upgrade in the graphics, of which Resident Evil 2 truly shined like the stars in the sky. (Or is that S.T.A.R.S. in the sky?) The game featured breathtaking (if you could catch your breath while playing, that is) visuals with a robust and realistic lighting system, lifelike characters and animations, and a level of gore that would make satiate anyone's thirst for violence. Resident Evil 2 is a terrific remake whose campaigns and their second runs, whether playing as rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy or the strong-willed Claire Redfield, were filled to the brim with fresh takes on familiar areas. The game did a wonderful job of walking a fine line between adding enough newness to the campaign to make for a refreshing campaign while not completely diluting what made the original game so remarkable.

Okami HD (Multi)

We move from one Capcom game to another, though this one is of a decidedly much brighter and colorful sort. Okami was originally a PlayStation 2 game from the now-defunct Clover Studio that played and was structured similarly to Nintendo's venerable Legend of Zelda series. To many, Okami is a better Zelda game than many of Nintendo's own efforts. While I won't get into that part of the conversation, I will say that it's great that Amaterasu's adventure wasn't stranded in a standard definition format, because the vivid and brilliantly colored world of Okami looks absolutely sensational in HD. It looks great, and it runs great.

Obviously it plays great, too, regardless of which platform you play it on. That said, I'm a touch partial to the Switch version for its touch or JoyCon-based brush controls. Though the campaign itself is unchanged for the most part since its original launch, thus resulting in the game still possessing a rather bloated adventure that overstays its welcome by a fair bit, Okami HD remains a gem of a Zelda-inspired adventure. It's one whose hand-drawn, watercolor, cel-shaded art style stands the test of time and lent itself well to the remastering process.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (NSW)

Speaking of Zelda games, let's dive right into the latest remade game in the series, a treasure originally released in 1993 for the Game Boy and now remade on the Nintendo Switch: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. Right away, the toy diorama art style bestows such a warm, cozy feeling. Koholint Island never felt like a more wondrous place, even if it has enemies infesting it, wishing nothing more than to slay our marooned hero Link. From the sandy shores of Toronbo to the heights of Tal Tal Mountain, Koholint Island was as much a character in Link's Awakening as the other memorable NPCs in the game, and the new visuals further enhanced that notion.

Additionally, it says a lot about the original game that so little in the way of changes was actually needed, but the quality of life upgrades to the Switch version of Link's Awakening were absolutely sent from the heavens, as they made the game so much better. More buttons meant more items could be used at once without constantly being forced to switch between menus at a rapid, obnoxious pace. The addition of being able to create dungeons from preset rooms was less of a "Zelda Maker" and more of a puzzle in placing the pieces properly to complete all of the conditions of a given dungeon-making challenge. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening marked the return of the franchise's first handheld installment, remade for an entirely new generation in a truly astounding way.

Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)

Nintendo's Zelda franchise saw a sharp spike in popularity this generation thanks to not just the success of the Switch but also the excellent quality and revolution to the series with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It's yet to be seen of course if Metroid Prime 4 will have a similar tale of success for Samus Aran and her series, as currently, Metroid isn't the most successful of Nintendo's properties. (Not to say it hasn't seen success in the past.)

Regardless, after the less than satisfying Metroid: Other M on the Wii that fragmented a lot of the fan base, Metroid fans were gutted yet again to discover that the next entry in the franchise--after what was about a five-year absence, then--was the chibi-styled Metroid Prime: Federation Force. While a good game in its own right (just not a good Metroid game), the fact that the Metroid series hadn't seen a more traditional game in years killed a lot of desire to give Federation Force a fair shake.

Then, like a gift from the gaming gods, Metroid returned to the forefront of gaming with an official remake of one of Samus' earliest expeditions. Another Game Boy game remade with Metroid: Samus Returns. Offering 3D visuals, an expanded story, new boss battles (some of the best in the series to date are included here in these), a super-satisfying counter mechanic, and the ability to shoot in multiple directions, Metroid and Samus herself were back and in a big way on the Nintendo 3DS. With an after credits story tease, the story will continue and if you're like me, you can't wait to see where Nintendo takes Samus and the Metroid series next.

Final Fantasy IV (DS, iOS, AND, PC)

Since I mentioned Final Fantasy in the introduction, let's talk about one of the better remakes in the franchise to date with Final Fantasy IV's 2007 enhanced remake. The "enhanced" part comes in when you realize how much content was added to this 3D version of the game. I believe a great remake stays somewhat faithful to the original while throwing in enough new content that makes the remake worthwhile and fantastic to re-experience all over again. Final Fantasy IV was all that and more.

For one, and most obvious, the 2D visuals of the original were replaced with 3D graphics, putting a fresh perspective on the adventure with new cutscenes as well as even new story sequences. Yes, the 3D hasn't aged as well as the [in my opinion] PSP's superior Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection's visuals, but they're still quite impressive for the Nintendo DS hardware and the fresh take on familiar locales is still appreciated. Further, a brand-new Augment system that relinquishes a party member's abilities to another member once they leave Cecil's party was introduced, as were various DS-exclusive mini-games and a New Game Plus mode. Final Fantasy IV is one of my favorite games in the franchise, so any opportunity I can get to replay it in a way that both honors and respects the original SNES game is one I will happily give my Gil to, and the DS version of Final Fantasy IV remains one of those games.

No comments: