Reboot. The word alone can send the Internet into a tizzy. Numerous reboots, sequels and remakes have been cranked out year after year by the video game industry, and it doesn’t look like that will end anytime soon. Some of this is understandable, as producing a new IP can prove to be a risky experiment and could wind up costing publishers millions. However, business is all about taking risks and one would think that more publishers would be interested in pursuing new properties since so many gamers clamor for them. However, despite the fact that these constant rehashes grow tiresome, there is reason to be optimistic. In fact, I’ve come up with four reasons that explain why reboots can be a good thing.
KEEPS FRANCHISES RELEVANT
Nintendo is probably the best company that does this as they seem to have a knack for keeping their properties fresh. They do this simply by using modern game mechanics on their 30-year-old franchises to provide unique experiences for gamers. Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime and Donkey Kong Country Returns are perhaps the most recent examples, but Nintendo has consistently done this with every new console and they’ll more than likely do it again with the Wii U. It’s not just Nintendo, either. Ubisoft has managed to keep Rayman around with stellar games like Rayman Origins, and their future plans for overhauling Assassin’s Creed will hopefully yield favorable results. Konami, meanwhile, successfully rebooted Castlevania for home consoles with Lords of Shadow, and Metal Gear Solid Rising and Ground Zeroes should add exciting new twists to the immensely popular franchise.
OLD FAVORITES REVISITED
Fallout. Deus Ex. Ninja Gaiden. These are just a few examples of games that were popular in their prime, but didn’t receive new releases until years later when new developers ushered these titles into the modern era. Fallout 3 was a huge overhaul for the series, yet it still kept the spirit of the original games and is perhaps one of the best games this generation. The original Deus Ex was ahead of its time when it was originally released in 2000, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution stayed true to the franchise while at the same time improving on the gameplay. Team Ninja’s 2004 reboot of Ninja Gaiden, which at that time hadn’t seen a new release in over a decade, brought the series into the 3D era and, until recently, managed to continue the franchise’s tendency to be very difficult.
REBOOTS GIVEN TO NEW DEVS PROVIDE FRESH EXPERIENCES
DmC is perhaps the most controversial reboot in recent years, and I’m sure the Tomb Raider reboot might receive a similar backlash (it kinda has, already). Regardless, Ninja Theory’s take on Devil May Cry made the game feel new again, not to mention more accessible. It isn’t as hard as the other games, but the gameplay is still incredibly stylish and fun. DmC also contains socially relevant writing, is filled with topical humor and provides enough of a challenge on the higher difficulty levels for those wanting a “true” Devil May Cry experience. Firaxis, creators of some brilliant Sid Meier games like Alpha Centauri, did the same thing with their reboot of XCOM – XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Not only did they create one of the best real-time strategy games in years, but they proved that the genre can perform just as well on consoles as they do on PCs.
HORRIBLE GAMES MADE AWESOME
Two reboots released last year fall into this category: Spec Ops: The Line and Sleeping Dogs. Technically Sleeping Dogs is a new IP, but let’s not forget it was originally going to be the third installment in the woeful True Crime franchise. United Front Games and Square Enix were very successful in turning a mediocre property that everyone forgot about into an absolutely wonderful experience with Sleeping Dogs. The melee combat is some of the best you’ll find, and the slick visuals and well-paced story help made Sleeping Dogs when of the biggest surprises of 2012. The story behind the creation of Spec Ops: The Line is fairly similar to that of Sleeping Dogs, and it was also a welcome addition to the world of reboots. The Spec Ops series was bargain-bin quality at best, yet Yager Entertainment crafted a near-masterpiece that served as a commentary on the shooter genre as a whole.
It’s always nice to see developers create a new IP, but reboots can effectively serve the same purpose. You won’t always get great results, and a Duke Nukem Forever or Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) might appear now and again, but some great games have surfaced due to publishers obsessing over reboots. We’re going to see a lot of them this year and the next, and I’m looking forward to enjoying the ride.