I’ve been rather exhaustive in my coverage of the upcoming Ocarina of Time remake here at Splodinator on its way to 3DS this summer. There’s a simple explanation for that: I’m really really excited about it. Of course, the 3DS will also be receiving a remake of Star Fox 64 somewhere along the way, and although there hasn’t been as much to say about that title, I’m very much looking forward to it as well.
I’m not always so up on remakes. The Gameboy Advance lived and breathed SNES ports, and I consider that one of its primary failings. Instead of an original 2D Mario platformer, we were given retouched versions of SNES games. Instead of original Final Fantasy games, we were given re-translated ports of SNES games. The list goes on.
Those things were great for people who hadn’t played them before, but they offered nothing (or almost nothing) for those of us who had. The thing about the games that were brought over to GBA from the SNES was that there wasn’t any room for improvement, and, rightfully, none was attempted. Super Mario World, Link to the Past, Final Fantasy VI: these games were already perfect. They weren’t going to get any better with slightly better hardware or higher capacity cartridges.
The GBA also saw the occasional NES remake, and here I feel efforts were significantly more worthwhile. Final Fantasies I and II became Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls. Although still featuring rather archaic gameplay, the two titles suddenly became a lot more playable with a graphical overhaul and some gameplay tweaking for accessibility. With even greater effect, Metroid became Metroid: Zero Mission. Here, a classic, but nevertheless poorly-aged, NES game became one of the GBA’s all time greats. I also consider the absence of a remake of the original Legend of Zelda for GBA one of Nintendo’s biggest missed opportunities. The title, in its original form, is still fairly playable, but bringing its gameplay and graphics up to Link to the Past standards could have given us another experience on the level of Zero Mission.
The difference between the GBA’s dull SNES ports and stunning NES remakes stems from, of course, source material. The gaming industry, or at least Nintendo, has traditionally followed a cycle of revolution -> evolution. NES (revolution of modern 2D gaming) -> SNES (evolution of modern 2D gaming) -> N64 (revolution of 3D graphics) -> GameCube (evolution of 3D graphics) -> Wii (revolution of motion controls).
The games created for evolutionary systems tend not to need further work, they are already “remakes” of sorts, built on lessons learned during revolutionary periods. That’s why the original Metroid for NES needed plenty of work, but why it’s sequel, Super Metroid, still stands up. There is no doubt that Super Metroid deserves all of the gamers it can find, but re-releasing it on GBA would have offered nothing new, and only given Nintendo another excuse not to develop an original game. I’m happy for the emergence of download services, the Wii’s Virtual Console in particular, for exactly this reason. It’s a place for companies to release their all-time greats from “evolutionary” periods for people who missed them, without choking up release timetables or development cycles.
The 3DS, Nintendo’s new handheld, is a full generational leap ahead of the N64, and the company is once again presented with two opportunities: to remake beloved but nevertheless withered N64 classics, or port over un-improvable GameCube titles. So far, the company is going the remake route, and I couldn’t be happier. Ocarina of Time 3D has been described as Ocarina the way you remember it, not the way it actually is. Blurry textures are now crisp, ugly renders are now fully polygonal, and a shoddy framerate is now silky smooth. The N64’s break-prone joystick being replaced with the 3DS’s resilient circle-pad is icing on the remake cake.
And so, for the 3DS, I say bring on the N64/PS1 remakes. Give gamers the opportunity to experience classics from that era without having to stumble through the learning process and hardware limitations developers were dealing with at the time.