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The Last of Us Part 1 Remake was released recently and got a lot of people talking about what makes a video game a remake. A lot of similar words get thrown around when a new iteration of an older game comes out: Remake, Remaster, and Rerelease and it can be confusing figuring out what each of them means. To help clear up some of this confusion, let’s take a look at each of these terms and what kind of games fall under each of them.
Let’s start with what’s probably the easiest of these to understand. A Rerelease is when a company publishes and releases a pre-existing game that they’ve already released before. This is usually to port the game to another console. An example of this is when Dragon Ball FighterZ was originally released on the PS4, Xbox One, and PC and later rereleased on the Nintendo Switch.
The assets and contents of the game are usually exactly the same as how it was the first time although sometimes you can get “enhanced ports” which are still the same game but may have some extra content. A lot of the Wii U ports to the Switch are like this, offering new content to incentivize players to buy an older game like the new Bowser’s Fury section added to Super Mario 3D World.
Rereleasing and porting games like this is important as it gives the game access to a larger market beyond those that owned the original release console. This is especially true if that original console was something like the Wii U, which very few people owned.
A Remaster is when the original game is rereleased but the graphical fidelity is improved. This is most common when a game is released on a Standard Definition (SD) console and later ported to a High Definition (HD) console. The PS3 generation in particular has a lot of HD Remasters due to it being one of the first HD consoles. The game and its’ world are upgraded to a higher resolution for the more advanced machine. This results in sharper textures and cleaner character models.
There are numerous examples of HD Remasters, many of which bundle multiple games together to give the port more value like the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix or The Metal Gear Solid HD Collection.
A remake is when a previously made game is made again from the ground up with new assets, art, and possibly new controllers or gameplay features. These are usually made years after the original was released for new consoles to make the game more accessible to a new audience that may have been too young to play the original. Pokemon fans who weren’t able to try Ruby and Sapphire may be able to play their remakes: Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.
Some remakes like the Shadow of The Colossus Remake by Bluepoint Games and The Last of Us Part 1 by Naughty Dog, are intended to be as similar to the original as possible even though the games are still made with new assets from the ground up. This has led to some confusion among players as at first glance, they arguably look more like Remasters of the original games (which both of these titles have already gotten) rather than full-on remakes.
While it’s easy for fans to look down on remakes or HD Remasters for being so similar to the original game, when placed side by side, most of the time you can see a clear difference in quality. It could even be theorized that the reason these remakes look so similar to the original is because that’s what we imagined the original game to look like. I mean, have you seen the original PS2 Shadow of The Colussus? Brilliant game but probably a little blurrier than you remember it.
On the other hand, several remakes differ quite a lot from the original game to the point that they can be seen as less of a remake and more of a reimagining. They may still roughly follow the plot points set up in the original game but have a completely new combat system or add new characters. These are significant as they can often serve as a reboot for the series, acting as a fresh new start that can serve as a jumping-on point for new fans.
Good examples of these are Resident Evil 2 (2019), Tsukihime -A Piece of Blue Glass Moon, and Final Fantasy VII Remake, which despite its name is really more of a soft reboot and perhaps even a sequel to the original Final Fantasy VII games.
There are a lot of different ways to bring a game or series to new audiences way the best way will differ depending on the game. Some remakes or remasters have been mishandled like the glitch-ridden XIII Remake (2020) but for the most part, remakes and remasters are a good thing.
A new entry into a series, regardless of what it is, can help bring the franchise to a new audience and attract a new player base. Sometimes a remake or reimagining can even help inject new life into a series like Soul Calibur VI rebooting the franchise and undoing the unpopular plot points of Soul Calibur V.
They can also be a safe way for companies to test the waters and reintroduce a long-dormant series back into the market like with Trials of Mana (2020) or The Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy which eventually lead to Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, the first brand new Crash game in about ten years.
As nostalgia continues to sell, and the demand for video game preservation becomes higher, chances are we’ll see more rereleases, remakes, and remasters and if that means more new content for my favorite series, I’m all for it.