It seems to be the way, at the moment, that there are not a lot of original ideas in the limelight in regards to the games industry. We seem to be, more often than not, seeing excessive sequels (Halo 4, Resident Evil 6) or entire franchise reboots (DmC: Devil May Cry, Tomb Raider) instead of truly original, new intellectual properties. That’s not to say that there have been no amazing fresh titles recently, but for the truly great new ideas we have often had to rely on the more indie titles for our fix. Obviously I am referencing games like download-only titles such as Journey and Faster Than Light.
However, regarding franchise reboots, is this supposed lack of creativity a bad thing? After all everyone enjoys a little bit of familiarity with gaming, but at which point does the familiar become generic? I think there are both benefits and downfalls for these ‘re-imaginings’ of our favourite characters, it all depends on your individual standpoint.
Personally, I am all for companies reinventing their franchises, as long as it is necessary to do so. For example; the reboot of Tomb Raider, as I raved about in my last article, is an entirely needed new direction. As much as Crystal Dynamics had already arguably reinvented Lara with the trilogy of PlayStation 2 titles (Legend/Anniversary/Underworld), they had not taken Lara away from the original story, only changed some of the gameplay mechanics.
However, with the new instalment (due early next year), they have decided to take Lara back to the very beginning. With this re-telling of her story, and shifting the focus from standard ‘raiding’ to a more survivalist mentality has given them a far greater freedom when it comes to how many of their new ideas they can implement within the new titles’ structure. In this instance, the reboot only serves to freshen the experience for the player, especially for those who are long-standing fans of the series.
On a slightly different perspective is the re-working of Dante in DmC: Devil May Cry. Although, I personally have little problems with these changes, there has been a great uproar about the changes to the arrogant central character. I must admit that when I first saw the new Dante, I was a little taken aback by how much of a change Capcom had chosen to apply to him. But, he has quickly warmed to me because of what is actually the most important thing in gaming, the gameplay.
Players seem to get annoyed when their favourite characters are changed even slightly (perfect example, the uproar at a cel-shaded Link in The Legend Of Zelda: Windwaker), but overlook the fact that often the game is still incredible. The case in point being DmC: Devil May Cry. Having played the demo from the PlayStation Store, the gameplay (apart from a few new dynamics) remains mostly unchanged. The combat is still fluid and chaotic, and a lot of the controls have remained the same.
So, therefore, the main difference in the new title to the previous titles is the story. Being the sucker for a good story I am, I personally do not mind if Dante has a new story behind him, as long as it’s a good one. Unfortunately, this remains to be seen, as the only thing I know is that it is set in an alternate reality with an alternate Dante. I could research this and find out, but I don’t want to ruin any of the story for myself, so I am blocking all information until it’s release.
All this being said, there are sometimes when a franchise reboot is totally unnecessary and only serves to frustrate fans. Usually this is something that is better left in the past, like an older series with a large retro fanbase. A perfect example of this being the incredible SEGA arcade/console series; Golden Axe. A lot of gamers (myself included) were more than happy to leave Golden Axe in the past, sure we fired up the SEGA Megadrive Collection for the occasional play, but it wasn’t something that needed a new instalment.
Fortunately, the reboot of this classic series (Golden Axe: Beast Rider) was universally panned by critics and fans who criticised just about every about it especially the move to 3D instead of the classic 2D side-scrolling action. This was, hopefully, enough to stop companies making any other stupid decisions and ruining any other classics. If only this was the case.
Stumbling around on the internet I made a harrowing discovery, a reboot of Streets Of Rage. Thankfully, this was stopped whilst in production, but it was shaping up to be a horrific example of how not to remake a game. Sure the graphics in the limited trailer were better than the originals, and the mock up had various nods to the previous games (such as the same arcades), but I just think it was too far of a removal from the original concept by switching to 3D from it’s 2D origins,
This is especially insulting to the fans owing to the fact that a couple of 2D side-scrolling beat-em-ups have appeared in recent times that come to mind, both of which have been incredible titles (namely Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and Castle Crashers). These games have proved that you can still have fun and enjoyable games of the original Streets of Rage design, so it baffles me as to why developers feel such a strong urge to change things in this instance.
Really, to be honest, how you feel about series reboots is down to you. Everyone has their franchises (or individual games) that they classify as sacred and not to be messed with, even by the developers themselves. My personal standpoint on it is all down to whether it is necessary or not. With Tomb Raider, it is necessary to reboot the franchise not only because the original core mechanic was becoming stale but because new fans to the series probably won’t have played the originals to discover the original story of Lara. However, if a developer decides to reboot a franchise on a whim, they had better be prepared for criticism. When it comes down to it, the fans will always speak out.