Best of 2017: Remakes out the wazoo
And pretty good ones, at that!
Through the end of the year, we'll be looking back daily at the best classic gaming news and releases of 2017. Not just remakes and rereleases of old games, but the best retro-centric new games and other classic-game-related happenings that have transpired over the past 12 months.
2017 will go down as one of the finest years ever for video gaming. Video game events were as uplifting as world news was soul-crushing. Games offered a tiny light of joy in a dark, discouraging landscape. Lots of great new games! And lots of great old ones. (But not Great Old Ones. Or so I'd hope…)
Remakes and reissues of classic games kept coming all year 'round, and some of them were absolutely phenomenal. Some admittedly less so— but nevertheless, the important thing is that the industry increasingly recognizes excellent old games as, well, excellent. And viable in the modern era. Worth revisiting. Worth charging money to play, and therefore paying development staff members decent money in order to create. It's a wonderful sight, and here are the highlights for 2017's remakes… and a few duds. You can't win 'em all.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
The most underappreciated Final Fantasy of all time saw a phenomenal top-to-bottom overhaul this summer for PlayStation 4. It had been long overdue, honestly — Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD shipped in early 2014! This was no mere visual overhaul, though. Square Enix integrated elements of the Japan-only Zodiac International Job System remake for PS2 into the mix… and added new orchestral performances of the soundtrack… and tweaked game mechanics and balancing from top to bottom… and added a sprawling battle tower bonus mode… and so on and so forth. In all honesty, the only reason this wasn't my game of the year was down to its lack of a portable version. I have Final Fantasy I through X-2 on my Vita, and this really needed to join the family. Ah well. I'll happily buy the game all over again if you put together a Switch conversion, Square Enix.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap
Everything I said in my review of this Wonder Boy III remake holds true here at the end of the year. LizardCube constructed a shockingly faithful recreation of an 8-bit classic — especially shocking in that the overhauled character graphics and animation somehow make the original work play better. It doesn't seem like that should be the case, but it is. Weird, but I can't complain.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
I was never much of a Crash Bandicoot fan, but even if I'm not keen on the core content, I can't deny Vicarious Visions did a bang-up job cleaning up Crash for the new age. It's weird to think kids recognize Crash himself as a character in the year 2017, but I've seen it happen with my own eyes. Somehow, this forgotten 32-bit mascot has a place in the sun again.
Metroid: Samus Returns
I have a complicated relationship with this remake of Metroid II. On one hand, Metroid II really needed a remake. On the other, this wasn't quite what I had in mind. It's a dense, sprawling game, which seems like it should be a good thing — that's what you want in a Metroid adventure, right? But ultimately, I've found it a chore to complete precisely because of these traits. The action feels incredibly repetitive, with an endless succession of identical bosses, identical environments, and never any breathing room. There's more to Metroid than killing enemies and navigating environmental puzzles, and this remake fails to incorporate those little moments in between. It's good, but I know it could have been better…
SEGA published two Yakuza games this year, and Kiwami — which remakes the original PlayStation 2 game — is perfectly placed as a follow-up to Yakuza 0, the prequel. I find the need to constanty brawl while navigating the beautiful cityscapes eventually turns every Yakuza game into a bit of a slog (kinda like Samus Returns), but if you're willing to put up with entirely too many fistfights, there's a lot to love here. It's kind of an RPG, kind of GTA-ish, and extremely Japanese in the best way.
Night Trap 25th Anniversary
It's pretty interesting that Night Trap is finally being reconsidered. Its weird place in history has, I think, somewhat unfairly laden it with a much worse reputation than it deserves. It was an interesting, experimental concept for a video game, and it had far more ambition behind it than most of the FMV games it shared room and board with. Here, in this era of Five Nights at Freddie's — Night Trap's spiritual successor — maybe it can find a more appreciative audience. Or maybe I'm just biased because My Life In Gaming interviewed me for the retrospective video included with Limited Run Games' bonus Blu-ray on the game… so much for ethics in games journalism, eh?
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
The PS1-to-3DS Dragon Quest VII remake was an unquestionable improvement on the original work. The 3DS conversion of DQVIII, which was one of the finest-looking and -playing RPGs on PlayStation 2… maybe less so. But nevertheless, it's great to have access to yet another role-playing masterpiece on a current system.
Full Throttle Remastered
Phantom Dust Remaster
A trio of "remasters" that range pretty wildly in ambition. Full Throttle is a high-end, heavily overhauled update to the heavy-metal LucasArts adventure game, notable for making the original game's action sequences a lot more bearable. Meanwhile, Patapon Remastered pretty much just re-renders the art assets in high-definition.
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers
Boy, there's a lot to unpack here. Capcom clearly had cold feet when it came to supporting Switch early on, so their "big" launch window release was… a remake of Street Fighter II, with a few remixed elements and the HD graphics mode option included. And it sold like gangbusters, pretty much catching the company flat-footed. Now they're putting out a complete Street Fighter collection that will span the entire franchise through Street Fighter III: Third Strike. Which is cool, but kind of feels like a slap to the face of loyal Switch fans.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5/2.5
This is a current-gen conversion of the PlayStation 3 remasters of the Kingdom Hearts franchise, which means it contains the sum total of the series to date. For my money, the best thing about this collection is the chance to see just how many hoops Square Enix will leap through in order to avoid having to put the number III at the end of "Kingdom Hearts."
The big dud of the year's remakes, this cult favorite beach volleyball game should have been a smash success. Iffy programming and terrible netcode made it more of a washout, unfortunately.
Romancing SaGa 2
The question marks. Okami HD has only been out for a couple of days, so I haven't had a chance to mess with it yet. And Romancing SaGa 2 launches tomorrow. Still, that's two enormous time-sink role-playing experiences hitting just in time for the holidays. Hope you've had a chance to wrap up Xenoblade Chronicles 2….