Friday, November 27, 2020

Remakes & Remasterpieces 3: An Ongoing Look at the Best in the Biz

These remakes and remasters are certainly NOT turkeys by any stretch of the word. As many of us in the United States [hopefully safely] enjoy our Thanksgiving weekend, SPC returns with its ongoing look at the best video game remakes and remasters. These games greatly improved on their originals, or breathed new life into old classics with a fresh approach that ultimately worked out wonderfully in the end. These latest five remakes and remasters truly shine brightly and most definitely do their originals justice.

To read which games were featured in SPC's previous installments of Remakes & Remasterpieces, look no further than Volume One and Volume Two.

Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)

The original Final Fantasy VII was a three-disc game that spanned a myriad of locations and had such an involved plot that it would have been impossible for Square Enix to dedicate one of their patented humongous, bloated budgets to remaking the entire game--at least in any timely fashion. Instead, the developers decided to retell the story of Final Fantasy VII in multiple parts, starting with Midgar. While this did bring a fair amount of bloat and padding into the game, everything else is so remarkably remade that it's hard not to appreciate this game for everything that it did and everything new it brought to an old classic. It was truly a brave and bold choice to move towards a more action-oriented approach to combat, going for a Kingdom Hearts-like feel instead of the traditional active-time battle system of the original FF7, but it overall worked for this remake. Battles are equally challenging in difficulty and dazzling in spectacle.

And, really, that's what Final Fantasy VII Remake represents--a risk that ultimately played out well. The developers could have easily remade the Midgar portion of Final Fantasy VII and stuck closely to what made the original work so well. Instead, they opted to reimagine many parts of the original, from combat all the way to the story. Whether the latter works is a matter of opinion, but the thrill of reliving key moments of Final Fantasy VII's Midgar chapter alongside the extended scenarios which fleshed out the cast of characters even better than the original did up to that point in the original was fantastic to experience. Doing it all with jaw-dropping graphics, a soundtrack that excels in every way, and combat that is so expertly and enjoyably crafted makes Final Fantasy VII Remake a terrific remake and reimaging of a classic game.

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (NSW)

Monolith Soft's Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii was a massive, almost overwhelming RPG that frankly the Wii hardware didn't do justice. Don't get me wrong--the game was excellent and the Wii didn't make the game and less fun. It just didn't look the greatest. With the Nintendo Switch, Monolith Soft sought to bring their classic RPG to a new generation of fans as well as bring a fresh coat of paint to its masterpiece for old fans as well. That's exactly what it did with Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, which has a subtitle that is totally not just for show. This version of Xenoblade is definitely definitive.

The ghoulish-looking character models from the Wii have all been "glowed up" as it were, offering more emotion and detail than ever before. The worlds and environments, which were already equally gorgeous as they were expansive, have never looked better on the Nintendo Switch. The Switch version offers more color, more vibrancy, and more personality. The addition of the epilogue to the base game, Future Connected, brings an entirely new story with a brand-new area to explore as well. It's a bite-sized adventure that brings even more Xenoblade goodness to players. There are few 100+ hour games that I'd merrily play through again, but Xenoblade Chronicles is one of those. The Definitive Edition only made that case for me even clearer, making an excellent game on the Wii even more so on the Switch.

Trials of Mana (NSW, PS4, PC)

While Final Fantasy VII Remake took a major risk in changing a lot of things that fans loved about the original game and was ultimately successful for it, another Square Enix remake (also releasing that month), played it much more safely. However, it was successful in its own way as well. Trials of Mana didn't really change up much of the foundation of the original Super Famicom game, other than brilliantly revitalizing a 2D world into a fully 3D one. Everything else was essentially similar to the Super Famicom original, and really, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Trials of Mana's remake made for a superb adventure that harkened back to classic RPGs of yesteryear, despite it having the skin of a modern game. The new visuals look absolutely fantastic, even on the Switch version, which is the version the accompanying screenshots were taken from. The world was great fun to explore, the different ways the story played out depending on which three of the six main characters you chose made for some pleasant replay value, and the combat system, although basic compared to its contemporaries, offered both challenge and fun. It all adds up to a remake that tickled all the nostalgia strings of this particular player while remaining a fresh RPG experience.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 (PS4, XB1, PC)

This year saw a lot of remarkable remakes, and Activision isn't any stranger from remaking its catalog as of late. We saw Activision having success with both Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon. Next up was the revitalization of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and unlike its previous attempt at remaking the Birdman's game, this remake from Activision releasing early this past September was a tremendous success.

Not just remaking the first game's levels, but also the wildly popular second game's as well. Both game's levels were a part of the same career mode, allowing players to choose from a pro skater or their own custom creation that could be outfitted with various unlockable clothing items and gear. New challenges meant that even longtime THPS fanatics were tested to their utmost abilities. Most importantly, however, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 absolutely NAILED the feel of the old games, offering tight, precise, and awesome feeling controls that seemed like 1999 never left us and that games like Tony Hawk's Ride, Shred, and Pro Skater 5 were just fever dreams. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 was made with the proper amount of TLC--so much so that it is a stellar tribute to the classic THPS games and totally deserves to skate with the best that the series has to offer.

Bully: Scholarship Edition (360, Wii, PC)

Last but not least, we have a game that originally launched on the PlayStation 2 and later found itself a generation later appearing on both the Xbox 360/PC and the Nintendo Wii. It's Bully: Scholarship Edition, a Rockstar Games title that saw players take on the role of Jimmy at Bullworth Academy, causing various shenanigans as he butted heads with both school administration and other students. While the HD version was more of a remastered version that played just as well as the PS2 original but looked a bit sharper and cleaner, the Wii version, too, was worthwhile--though for different reasons. The Wii Remote and Nunchuk's motion controls, especially when used in the various class mini-games, were absolutely cleverly done and fine examples of motion controls done right. Definitely not the "waggle" nonsense that made so many despise certain Wii efforts at the time. What it amounts to is two different versions of Bully: Scholarship Edition that are worthwhile and worthy of sticking after class for.


Do you have a remake or remaster that has yet to be on an edition of Remakes & Remasterpieces that you would like to see on a future volume? Let the SPC community know in the comments section.

No comments: