Gamers who also happen to be children of the 80s must be feeling a certain sense of déjà vu thanks to a growing trend for revamping 8-bits from the decade that taste forgot. In recent years, we’ve been seeing the challenges of our youth given a makeover and re-sold to fans in need of a nostalgia fix.
With the upcoming (and highly anticipated) release of Back To The Future: The Game ensuring that this is no flash-in-the-pan fad, we’ve taken a look at some of the more successful digital remakes…
Since making his debut as ‘Jumpman’ in Donkey Kong, the loveable mustachioed Italian stereotype has popped up on every Nintendo console. His first starring role came alongside his equally hirsute brother Luigi in Mario Bros. on the NES, a game in which they set the standard against which all other high-jumping, box-smashing, mushroom-gobbling successors would be judged. Still doing his thing as recently as May 2010 with Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii, the formula has changed little. He’s still killing turtles, rescuing princesses and, most importantly, maintaining that impressive facial fuzz.
Now here’s a concept that has benefited from a 21st-century makeover. The original film may have pushed the technological envelope but the arcade game – which saw players marshalling light cycles, battle tanks and other such digital-world weaponry using graphics that would give the Nokia Snake games a superiority complex – certainly didn’t. A subsequent attempt to revitalise the brand came in the mid noughties with Tron 2.0, but that suffered similar levels of unplayability. Thankfully, the latest incarnation in the shape of Tron: Legacy manages to do the impossible by both breaking the curse and actually being a pretty decent film tie-in game – something that in itself is a real rarity.
Unsurprisingly for a franchise that has seen the money-spinning possibilities of merchandising before Luke Skywalker was even a glint in George Lucas’ eye, Star Wars computer games have been around for nearly as long as the films, but what is surprising is how far they’ve come in that time. The first video-games based on the space saga were released on the Atari 2600, beginning with The Empire Strikes Back in 1982 (players got the chance to pilot a pixilated snowspeeder during the Battle of Hoth) and moving on to Return Of The Jedi: Death Star Battle in 1983 (this time we got to take the controls of the Millennium Falcon). Star Wars games have been clogging up consoles and arcades ever since, but it’s only relatively recently with the likes of the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed that Lucasarts have taken the opportunity to expand their universe with new stories and adventures. The fact that they look gorgeous and play brilliantly is a bonus too.
You’ve got to feel sorry for Bruce Wayne. All that money and all those toys, and he still couldn’t get himself a decent video game tie-in (until recently that is). Ever since taking his bow on the Amstrad, Spectrum and NES in the early 80s, the Caped Crusader was limited to side-scrolling misadventures that failed to make the most of his gadgets, let alone his rich mythology – and the less said about the movie tie-ins the better. Thankfully, last year’s excellent Batman: Arkham Asylum bucked the trend with a rich story and challenging and compelling gameplay. To say we’re excited about next year’s Batman: Arkham City is the understatement of the century.
Prince Of Persia
Out of all the games to benefit from a 21st-century makeover, Prince Of Persia really should be the most grateful. Sure, the side-scrolling, wall-climbing, rope-swinging, sword-slinging 1989 original was fully deserving of its status as a bonafide classic but it wasn’t until 2003’s The Sands Of Time that the true fun began. Managing to combine great gameplay with an epic storyline to make Scheherazade proud, it was the very definition of a game changer. It’s a shame then that the subsequent sequels failed to live up to its legacy.
While the first GT didn’t launch until 1997, there’s a definite argument that all racing simulations were building up to this. Now with the critically-acclaimed Gran Turismo 5 flying off shelves faster than Mark Webber revving up under starters’ orders, we can finally see what they were trying to achieve for all those years. The arcade game Gran Trak 10, released by Atari in 1974, is generally considered the progenitor of the genre, while subsequent releases such as Night Racer and Pole Position (and countless more) followed and generally incrementally improved upon their predecessors, it was not until the release of the GT series that we got to see how video game racing should really be done. At the rate they’re going, the only way they could possibly improve upon themselves is to race the tracks for real.