I’m sure you, like every other gamer out there, have a favourite game or series that you absolutely love. To death. So much that if someone would ask you what would you bring if you’d be stranded on an island it would be that game (that, of course, if you’re provided with electricity and all the other needed components). And, obviously, that game would fall off into oblivion because it’s old and doesn’t generate any profit anymore. So every now and then, a company decides to bring it back to life. To rejuvenate it’s shapeless soul and project it once again into the top of our minds and the core of our hearts, sinking it’s priceless idea deep in our blood, in a better, perfect, restored concept, our neurons lighting up like millions and millions of christmas trees every time we interact with our rebooted old-friend while every cell in our body vibrates in a beautiful, yet violent way, just like Lindsay Lohan on crack. Or to destroy it completely in a rush for money and bad publicity, also like Lindsay Lohan on crack.
The thing is, most of the video game reboots are a very dangerous idea. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against reboots, sometimes they prove to be complete and true to their roots, 2013’s Tomb Raider being a very fine example. But before I get into details, let’s see why are games being rebooted in the first place.
There are two reasons for that. One of them is that the original game sucked. It was plain bad, either it’s mechanics, or it’s storyline, or a wrong implementation of both. But the idea of the game had potential. There was a spark somewhere but the developers just did a poor job at nurturing it and evolving the game around it. So, sometime in the future, they decide to go back and do it again, or another company just thinks that it could do better. Like Telltale Games and Game of Thrones. There are two GoT games out there, both of them pretty bad, but the potential is huge so, of course, a reboot is in need. The second reason, and the most “popular” one is that the original game was very good. The gaming world welcomed it with positive reviews and the financial profit was good as well. So the devs think that they should bring it back, either to evoque its idea and make it shine once again, cutting through the dark mist of nostalgia, or to make a buck or two, using the original game’s popularity to promote the new one. So why is it dangerous?
Take Turok for example. The ‘97 one was good fun, in fact, it was so fun that it was judged one of the best console shooters on the Nintendo 64 platform. And what was not to like? Rambo-style protagonist? Check! Big dinosaurs to hunt down and kill? Check! But what about the 2008 one? Was it as good as the first one? Well, it generated mixed reviews, it wasn’t great, but neither bad and I think that it was a pretty lucky shot. It could’ve gone a lot worse and it would’ve killed the feeling of the game, it’s core soul, but I’ll let this one pass. A worse example is Mortal Kombat. And I’m not talking about the last one (which is in the good reboots category), I’m talking about MK: Armageddon, Deception or Deadly Alliance. Or MK vs DC Universe. All of those were utterly crap and eventually put Midway into the ground. And the list goes on and on with Shadowrun, Bionic Commando, Disciples, Serious Sam or the most recent of them all, Devil May Cry.
All of the above examples were great in their past, but in the end, they were exploited to the maximum, and all the things that made them beautiful and insanely fun were ignored or stepped over. There are some aspects that you just can’t change and most of the times the game as a whole shouldn’t be changed. We find ourselves in an era where gaming is mainstream and most of the games are made in such way to appeal to a larger audience and that ruins most of the core aspects of a well-made title. It endangers its concept and also kills creativity. I just can’t think about the upcoming reboot of Thief, the old ones being some of the best games I’ve ever played. I spent my whole childhood shooting fire arrows at zombies and huge spiders and to see a reboot of that wonderful atmosphere both excites and frightens me. After countless hours put into the original games, I have formed, inside my head and my heart, a beautiful place for them and I’m afraid it could be shattered into pieces by the reincarnated one.
It’s like spending time with a person and arriving to the point where you love and adore that human being, just to meet it again 10 years later and see that it has completely changed to an unbelievable arse. You may never look again at it with the same compassion and empathy you used to and that leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth. That is the true danger of reboots. To take something that’s gotten personal and close to you, something so well-made that put a mark on the gaming history, and completely thrash it for money or because someone “felt the need” to reinvent it. I hope the developers learn from their mistakes though and think twice about going Hollywood style and bring back zombified editions of wonderful titles.