How To Theoretically Make A Remake Worth It
Is going for a remake of a similar product by the same organization worth it?
As the opening music to Pokémon Mystery Dungeon DX blairs from the TV, I had this exchange with my roommate:
“Does the music sound familiar?”
*Walks into the living room* “Oh my god… Did you seriously just spend $80 for this?”
The question came as my roommate looked at me with the kind of look you’d give to someone who made a bad decision without realizing it. For context, this game is a remake of the first Pokemon Mystery Dungeon of the Mystery Dungeon series — one series of many spin-offs Pokemon games.
Back when it was selling for the GameBoy DS, it would cost about $40. I considered it worth it because technically this remake is two games wrapped in one since the original DS version had two versions.
Now, this game, in particular, was launched back in early January. However, during this pandemic, there’s been a series of remakes that have been getting traction.
From the launch of Doom Eternal to the long-awaited and hyped Final Fantasy 7 Remake, remakes have been stepping up their game. I recall my first experience of a remake in funny enough Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green. There were updated graphics from the original first-generation Pokemon games, the option to pick a female character, updated Pokedex, and probably the most notable was the addition of the Sevii Islands. Aside from the Sevii Islands (which provided I’d say about an hour or so of additional gameplay), the additions weren’t anything spectacular. Appreciated for sure, but the leap from 1996 to 2004 isn’t much.
It’s a stark comparison to more recent remakes like the ones listed above. There is:
- Additional content that spans several hours (i.e. the side quests in FF7 Remake),
- Improvement of the music and better graphics,
- It provides an expansion of the story. From adding in more content to including more lore and ironing out finer points that were harder to convey back in the day due to technology limitations.
In essence, remakes could be best described as entirely new games from the games they were originally. We can thank the various tools and rapid development of technology for that, but I think there is more to it than that.
These days, it’s easy for companies to be putting out remakes. Look at EA’s practices of remaking the same sports games every year.
But EA is an example of terrible remakes as they are notorious for their loot boxes, along with rapid launches of new games. Since they launch a new version of virtually the same game, they’re wiping the slate clean so to speak and forcing players to build up their ultimate sports team again and spend more money again to get there.
Even though EA’s games are predatory, they are still technically remakes if you set aside the frustrating and sometimes hilarious glitches. It’s a reskin of the same game with very little additional content.
Those games aren’t worth it at all.
But there are definitely remade games that are worth it. And I think by following some of the examples that these good remakes have followed, you could remake anything at all and make it worthwhile. From books to other products, remaking them can be worth it for consumers. Provided that the remake has these particular details to them.
Remakes that I’m most familiar with are in video games, but there have been a few remakes I’ve bought outside of that spectrum. Particular books like How To Win Friends And Influence People as well as The Millionaire Next Door are technically remakes for me.
I wasn’t around when those books were first published and they’ve been remade several times over the years. But one thing that sets those books apart is that there is expanded content.
In the cases of books, I can’t imagine previous owners of these books would buy another copy. However, to those who have yet to buy these books, these remakes are worthwhile.
Republished books are along the same vein as the Pokemon games Fire Red and Leaf Green was. You got some cosmetic options (an updated cover for a book, more graphics and style in games), plus some extra content (A new Forward, or some extra authors notes). The changes aren’t all that worth it to previous owners in most regards.
But for those new to those books, it’s worth buying it.
However, remakes today I feel need to pushed beyond that type of benefit. To give genuine expanded content to those who purchased the product long ago to those getting into franchises or engaging with this company’s product.
During these times where money is tighter, if you are planning on remaking something, make sure that it’s worth it and that it’s adjusted for the times. If you’re working on a book, make it shorter and charge less for it. At the same time, go into greater detail in the book where you can.
People are looking for experiences and expanded content works wonders in that area. Whether it’s more emotions, tension, or the thrill of discovery, these bring more appeal to remakes when they introduce this well.
Case and point. Going back to my recent purchase of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon DX, it gives me a sense of wonder, thrill, and an opportunity to finish what I started.
When the game came out in 2005, I wasn’t that invested in the spin-off games. I loved the main title games and used that knowledge to get through a bit of the Mystery Dungeon series. My motivation for these games came in spurts and soon I moved past them. To this day, I haven’t completed those games.
But going back to the game now, it gives me nostalgia and the realization of how much I’ve grown. I’ve spoken before about my experience with the Animal Crossing series a little bit, and I’m feeling the same vibes.
This was a game I enjoyed playing but never finished as there were more appealing games or activities I did at the time.
And though I could’ve asked my roommate to lend his copy of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, there is expanded content. The two versions are merged together and even though I’m not far in the game, there is bound to be additional content.
So far, I’ve seen they revamped the Gummi system, introduced a new Gummi as well as a handful of other mechanics. There is also a lot of quality of life improvements, better graphics and better music all around. And I’m only scratching the surface.
This brings me to my next point.
When a company over-delivers it’s a sign they put people in charge that care about the project. Paired up with a team that listens to a community and you can have a product that you can over-deliver on through a remake.
This aspect is important as people can go down specific routes.
The less ideal route is simply making a title change and dishing out the same product. This is along the lines of EA, one of the most hated companies in America.
The second route is making small adjustments after a period of time. Not quite updating apps, but more like adding notes or expanding on ideas or functions. The remake of the main series Pokemon games is one example.
Another is looking at the book The Wealthy Barber Returns by David Chilton. Chilton focuses on the core lessons and expands on those points rather than demonstrate it through fictional characters as he did in The Wealthy Barber.
The more ideal route is to remake something so much that it’s its own entity. Recent remakes of the games I mentioned have made significant changes. There are added elements in it and a whole other feel to it compared to what they were like originally.
For example, Final Fantasy 7 Remake changed the entire battle system. It’s fluid and more action-packed rather than turn-based. There are still some remnants remaining like the ATB gauge and Limit Breaks, but these have been adjusted in the remake.
Paired up with more story details and extra plot, the game feels different in every aspect. It is different in every aspect.
And it’s that difference where over-delivering is crucial. Final Fantasy 7 Remake has done this in spades as even veteran players are in the dark about certain plot points coming in. The game has expanded the story in so many ways and revealed late-game plot twists almost at the beginning of the game.
It makes veteran players wonder if there are even bigger twists to come.
Beyond video games, I believe a remake of other products entails staying faithful to what works, removing flaws pointed out by customers and improving or expanding core functions without it hindering the core purpose.
The last aspect to making a remake worth is to remake something in such a way that it provides all new experiences for those who buy it.
Going back to my purchase of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon DX, I’ve noticed my roommate — despite seemingly questioning my purchase of this game — playing this game on occasion. He’s remarked about the improvements and is excited to be talking about it.
For me, even though this is a game I have in my collection, this gives me another shot at completing this game legitimately. I’ll still find it challenging as I’m not sure what to expect and there are new mechanics to make the game fun, balanced, and challenging as well.
Even if it’s a game I’ve experienced before, remakes or revamps can provide new experiences and they should be designed in this fashion for the intended audience.
It all comes back to the other two aspects that can feed into these experiences. A worthwhile remake moves beyond relying heavily on nostalgia factors but transforms itself into something other people can get into.
Like sequels to movies, they can be immensely powerful if they expand on the characters or elements established and present new functionalities and ideas to use products for.
That is how a remake of something is worth it.