Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.
Keyboard Geniuses is back, and for the first highlighted comments of 2018, we’re turning to this week’s look at Sony’s very soon-to-be-released Shadow Of The Colossus remake. Despite going into it with some serious reservations, Bluepoint Games’ restoration of the Fumito Ueda classic was faithful and smart enough to convince Clayton Purdom that these sort of remake projects might actually be a good method for bringing old games to new audiences. This conversation about preservation and modernization dominated the comments. Kyle Oreilly wondered if old games lose a bit of charm when made over in shiny new forms:
I fear that we are basically treading on the ground that Lucas did with the remastered Star Wars trilogy (I know other media analogues aren’t perfect), where we’re cleaning something up but making it look lifeless and devoid of some charm. Whenever I see screenshots of the new HD Wander’s dead-eyed face, I hate it. No one wants an HD re-release of Super Mario World because we’re far enough away from its heyday that we love the blocky pixel-art style, but if we’re to believe games are a real art form we need to give post-pixel low-polygon art just as much respect as we do pixel art.
My other worry is that the sheer amount of labor it takes for this type of preservation makes it only realistic for the most surefire financial success. Many old PS2 gems will be stuck forever in their blurry low-res state. Does that mean they don’t deserve the same trips back through them? I say this of course, knowing that I would trip over myself to buy an HD remake of Burnout 3: Takedown, a game I play stretched and fuzzy on an HDTV to this day.
Mobiusclimber followed up:
I actually don’t agree with Clayton saying that remakes are the best way to preserve old games. Since Kyle brought up the idea of playing classic games with a hypothetical son, let me say that my actual son has played and loved games from NES to the Wii U. I will say that a good remake can surpass the original but never supplant it. I’m not sure how that’s even “game preservation” in the first place. That’s like saying that coloring black-and-white movies somehow preserves them. No matter how good a job you do, it’s a whole new thing. This is doubly true when the core game is changed, like in the case of the original Resident Evil. I can guarantee you that there will come a time where people will be repairing broken PlayStation 2s in order to play PS2 games, the way that people repair NESes by replacing the 72-pin connector today.
Orazio Zorzotto had some thoughts on this particular remake:
Although the graphical style is admirably respectful it is still quite a bit greener and denser than the original, as pointed out in Polygon’s excellent review. More than anything else, Bluepoint’s visual expertise has resulted in a game that feels strikingly “beautiful” in a way that Ico was but the original Shadow definitely wasn’t. This is troubling when we consider that one of the main achievements of the game is the desolate nature of the post-civilization world you explore. It seems to me that, with this theme in mind, the original team happily traded in for things like expansive lighting and high res textures for a basic open world on the notoriously under-powered PS2. But Bluepoint have perhaps gotten away with adding too many visual flourishes. For example, the extremely primitive god ray effect in the original is incredibly harsh, gray, and overbearing. Whether this is due to the technical limitations of the console, the team’s artistic vision, or a melding of both, who can say. In this remake the god rays seem only one step removed from the self-consciously pretty effect common in games of this generation, which seems a shame.
If nothing else, for the sake of preservation and respect toward the original creators, it would have been nice to include a version of the original on the disc or as a download.
Needle Hacksaw agreed and brought some of Bluepoint’s past work into question:
I wonder if the best way to do remakes wouldn’t be to treat them like a Director’s Cut, with the original creator(s) on board. The end result would still be a different version and not just “the last word on it” (as director’s cuts are), but by having the original creators decide on what they would have made differently if they had had the technical capabilities and what was exactly the way they had envisioned it, you might arguably respect concepts like “authorial intent” or “original visions” better? I mean, when it comes to Ueda, thinking along those lines might not be as pretentious as it might be when you’re talking about other creators. Then again, I was amazed when I read Eurogamer’s analysis of the PS4 update compared to the PS2 original, because the team got so creative about circumventing the hardware’s limitations that those clever tricks certainly were as much part of the creative vision and the design process as the concept art and writing.
By the way, Bluepoint—a developer undoubtedly skilled and respectful toward the games they’re updating—already went a bit too much toward smoothing things out when remaking Ico. I once asked a friend who only played the remake if he understood why the game’s novelization was called Castle In The Mist, and he couldn’t tell. By cleaning things up and allowing for greater draw distances, Bluepoint had virtually taken out an element of the game the book’s author rightfully found so important for the atmosphere that she referenced it in the title of her work.
While this feature was away, What Are You Playing This Weekend? stalwarts continued their tremendous, weekly dispatches. Let’s check in with a few, shall we? First up is Shinigami Apple Merchant, who this week turned their attention to Wadjet Eyes Blackwell series of adventure games. Shinigimi covered each entry in this long-running episodic series and offered some wonderful thoughts as a whole. Here’s an excerpt:
Each Blackwell game feels equal parts Quantum Leap, Sandman, Fate/stay night homage, with settings and puzzle designs reminiscent of the best of Gabriel Knight, Indiana Jones & Tthe Fate Of Atlantis, and Laura Bow. Graphically, beyond a nice visual style, there’s nothing to shake a stick at here. And the voice acting beyond Abe Goldfarb as Joey is rather hit or miss from episode to episode. And yet, again, from episode to episode, separated by years in development but seconds for me as I zoomed through these, there was a magnificently consistent atmosphere, tone, and character voice to these works. And what was the heart of that message to the player? For me?
Throughout these five episodes, whether ghost or human, hitman or healer, we see people doing their best, both to do what’s “expected” of them and what they “feel” is the best thing to do. And sometimes things work out. And sometimes they don’t. Sometimes people succumb to despair and sometimes you get surprised by peoples’ better nature emerging. The worst “villains” of this piece are those who try so hard to do good because of structure and tradition and cannot muster the endurance required to keep that flame going. And thus disaster strikes and spreads as a weed of apathy and destruction. But the Blackwell series also constantly reiterates how we’re all in this together. We never have to soldier all of this alone. That’s just another thing we simply feel we “have to do.” That’s what’s “expected.” My problems are my own. Not In My Backyard.
Elsewhere, The Demons continued their really wonderful look at the lore of Magic: The Gathering and the unique games they’ve built around it. This week, it’s a set based on the Scars Of Mirrodin block, which they so lovingly described last week:
Phyrexians were pretty much a magical Borg. Biological life-forms were seen by them as just another material to build new Phyrexians out of. The whole faction had a grotesque, “flesh & metal” aesthetic, and their writings, the perverse religious dogma to bring the glory of Phyrexia to every world, was just as memorable as their art design. Phyrexia was an artificial world, doomed to eventually become unstable and collapse, and the Phyrexians wanted to colonize Dominaria, to supplant all life there and take the world for themselves.
The ancient Dominarians perceived the first wave of the invasion, the plagues sweeping across their world withering whole continents, as biological warfare committed by their artificial foes, as a horribly pragmatic science experiment by cold, amoral monsters whose only regard for organic life was to wonder what makes it die. The truth was worse: Phyrexia is a plague. It gets inside you, converts you at the cellular level until your necrotic flesh is ready to be flayed, sculpted, and remade into one of their drones.
The world of Mirrodin served as the canary in the coal mine: The infection of Phyrexia couldn’t have found a more fertile place to grow. It should have taken millenia for the first multi-cellular life forms to emerge from the oil. There shouldn’t have been such an abundance of raw materials in the environment, and it shouldn’t have been so trivial for the first drones to refine those materials into parts to augment themselves with. But unfortunately for the Mirrans, by the time they noticed the amount of life forms that had been taken, the cancer of Phyrexia had metastasized. It was already too big to neatly quarantine. The core of their world was rotten, and if it was going to be saved, it would require a Mirran Coalition, an unprecedented alliance between nearly every major faction on the planet.
Also, Chum Joely, our frequent ambassador from the Gameological Steam group, once again brought word of this week’s vote on the subject of the next Game Revue Club, which the community plays and discusses together. You can find all the nominee’s in Chum’s post, but take note: Today’s the last day to cast a ballot. Of course, if you want to partake in the discussion, you can find the thread and the Gameological group page here.
And that’ll do it for this week, Gameologerinos. As always, thank you for reading and commenting. We’ll see you next week!