Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima has recently shot down a rumor stating that he is searching for a studio that would be willing to remake the 1998 classic Metal Gear Solid. Whether or not a second MGS remake will be in the works, it raises the important questions of if and when a remake for a game is necessary.
Gamereactor.eu released an article yesterday stating that Hideo Kojima expressed interest in having the first two games in the Metal Gear Solid series remade. However, Kojima has since denied that claim. Regardless of whether Kojima is simply putting us on, it is undeniable that we are in an era of remakes. Fans clamor for their favorite games to be remade and developers have often times responded affirmatively. Ultimately, not every classic title is remade and it is interesting to ponder what goes into the decision regarding whether a game will be remade.
An extremely important question for a developer who is contemplating a remake for his or her game is the following: Why do I want to remake this game? Arguably, the most popular reason for a remake is to reintroduce a particular game to a potentially wider audience. There is a degree of confidence the game developer must therefore possess. They must believe that there is at least some element in their game of interest that is timeless and can appeal to a wider audience with a some adjustments.
Naturally, there are other reasons why games are remade. For instance, a game might have some redeemable, interesting and unique qualities but ultimately be a failure due to problems with its execution. Thus, a remake of such a game could give the developer a chance to repackage the so-called diamond in the rough into a superior game. It could serve as the developer’s opportunity for redemption and perhaps prestige.
What typically comprises a remake? Often times, game developers and their fans are anxious to see their favorite title receive an upgrade to its graphics and sound. However, most remakes that I have encountered rarely undergo aesthetic upgrades alone. Often times, additional gameplay features are included, and some of the game’s rules are even revamped. This is where the remake becomes an art. It is up to the game developer to decide what to include and exclude, and what to modify and keep intact. The challenge comes in having a game that is recognizable to faithful fans as well as intriguing and inviting to newcomers. The balance between these qualities is at the crux of the challenge of a remake and additional questions inevitably surface when dealing with this dilemma.
Is there a particular time period in which a remake can and should be demanded? Ultimately, this is a subjective question. The culture of gaming and how it may have changed since the release of the original game plays an important factor in the timing of a remake. Some games inevitably have a particular shelf life, and a remake may not be a desirable endeavor for a game developer if people are no longer interested in the game. Even so, that may not stop an intrepid developer who may be confident that he or she can breathe new life into such a game with an innovative remake. We also mustn’t forget that some games are simply timeless, and thus there is no need to worry about the timing of a remake.
When does a remake go too far? As I said before, I believe a balance between the ability to recognize the spirit of a game and innovation aimed at reviving a game is key for a successful remake. Thus, a remake goes too far when it drowns the identity of its source material with new features. Though this might be a straightforward concept, measuring just how much identity versus innovation a game should have becomes a rather subjective question that sparks endless debates. There isn’t a hard and fast rule that can be used to answer this question, and there may even be a certain degree of flexibility depending on the particular game.
Of course, even before all of these questions, one must ask if a remake is needed in the first place? Can a game stand on its own, without the remake treatment? Once again, these are subjective questions. I have seen many games remade that, in my opinion, didn’t need remakes, though it is always interesting to see a so-called unnecessary remake provide new insight and perspective into the original title’s story or game mechanic. Thus, perhaps it can be said that if a remake is done well, it becomes necessary.
Now, let’s engage in a thought experiment with the rumored Metal Gear Solid remake. Hideo Kojima has at many times made statements that have turned out to be untrue. Thus, it is possible that there might be a remake in the works after all. Thus, let’s explore the possibility of a Metal Gear Solid remake. But wait, wasn’t Metal Gear Solid remade already? Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, developed by Silicon Knights, was released for the Gamecube in 2004 and featured updated graphics. While The Twin Snakes received much praise, many people have cited issues with the remake including framerate slowdown at some moments. Thus, with a remake already available, why propose another? I, for one, wouldn’t simply write off remaking a game that has already been remade. In a previous article, I stated that I would be a proponent for remaking Silent Hill despite the release of the 2009 re-imagining known as Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. If a remake isn’t satisfactory, there is nothing wrong with wanting to do it again. Nevertheless, I must always go back to the main question of why? Why would someone want to remake Metal Gear Solid again?
Perhaps those who are interested in a remake want to relive the Metal Gear Solid experience and share it with their comrades. Even I am curious as to whether the spirit of this game can be preserved in a modern-day remake and packaged for newcomers to enjoy, though a part of me would be satisfied if Metal Gear Solid is simply left alone and recognized as a classic title. Metal Gear Solid was released in 1998, when the gaming culture was quite different from what it is today. 1998 belongs to an era before the popularization of multiplayer, and when games were almost always strictly about a strong campaign. All of the Metal Gear Solid entries feature a rich story, and there is a certain quirkiness about the series that is an interesting experience. Can that be preserved in a remake? Should it be preserved in a remake? What changes would be made to make this into a modern remake?
Ultimately, a successful remake depends on the game developers creating a balance between what made the original game great and adding certain elements that will complement the strong points of the game and perhaps even improve the game’s shortcomings. However, how this balance is perceived can vary from person to person. In all, there is a fine art not only in the actual creation of a remake, but in the decision as to whether a game needs one and why.
Thus, I will pose these questions to you. When is a game remake necessary? Further, what makes a remake successful?