What’s to a Remake

What's to a Remake

I’m of the mind that new things can’t ruin old things; they can only taint the future. Taken as a whole, yes, the second Star Wars trilogy kind of sours the entire universe that those stories are set in, but they definitely don’t diminish the experiences I had watching and rewatching Episodes IV through VI. It’s not like watching little Anakin pretend to be a real boy and Jar Jar Binks blubber his way through political intrigue forced me to go back in time and punch me in the face the first time I hear Darth Vader reveal that he was indeed Luke’s father.

As a result, I’m of a much milder temperament when it comes to remakes. If hearing that there is a remake of something beloved—a movie or game that you hold near and dear to your cold, dead heart—makes you immediately and irrefutably angry, then maybe you should reconsider why you’re mad. Having a new origin story won’t sully the good name of the old ones (it’s not like people started hating Tim Burton’s stab at Batman after Joel Schumacher’s take). It could be possible that you’re worried that your prized possession will soon be in the unwashed hands of the masses. And I totally get that. Sometimes I get protective of the things I love reaching critical mass.

Consider, though, that bringing back what once was dead could remind people of what made those things great to begin with. Old school ideologies could come back with soaring merit and zeal. This was something I considered looking at the recently released Rise of the Triad and DuckTales: Remastered. Both of them are revitalizations of games from an age long past.


Disclaimer: I know Rise of the Triad is a reboot and DuckTales: Remastered is a remake and I do know the difference. This is about the contrasting philosophies between the two resulting products and not necessarily about which label each one falls under. The liberty granted by being a reboot is obviously greater, but the changes made to the DuckTales remake should be held against those made in the Rise of the Triad reboot because the resulting effects are worth talking about.

Rise of the Triad originally came out in 1994 as shareware. It was notable for its multiple characters, multiplayer, and complete disregard for logic when it came to weapons. There was a magical bat that shot out baseballs, a missile launcher that shot off wild, unpredictable payloads, and both a god and dog mode, both of which do exactly what you think they do. It also introduced into the video game lexicon the phrase “ludicrous gibs.”

DuckTales is a classic platformer hailing all the way from 1989. Originally on the NES, DuckTales saw you as Scrooge McDuck trying to collect treasure from around the world to further increase his fortune and beat out Flintheart Glomgold as the scroogiest duck in the world. It is widely remembered for its insanely catchy music (my god, The Moon) and exceptionally classic and clean game design. You really only had two buttons to use that facilitated three actions, but the way the environment and the enemies forced you to carefully manipulate those mechanics was tough and challenging but in a fun and fair way.

Rise of the Triad

Both were also recently brought back from the dead. Rise of the Triad came courtesy of Interceptor Entertainment and Apogee Software. DuckTales: Remastered from WayForward Technologies and Capcom. One succeeded. The other, well, didn’t quite fare so well. Rise of the Triad was largely praised for succeeding in bringing back what people loved of the original (blisteringly fast insanity) and wrapped it up in a nice-looking package with an insanely metal, throw-up-the-horns bow. DuckTales: Remastered hamstrung the core of the game—which mostly holds up—with things that people didn’t necessarily come back for.

So where, in particular, did they go right and wrong? Rise of the Triad went right with taking the original, boiling it down, and pouring the reduction into a modern mold. The original was, in many ways, totally bonkers. By today’s standards, the levels of nuttiness are somewhat tempered, but that was what many people remember from the original. It was meta (Dopefish, dog mode, etc.) and it was deft. This led, of course, to the logical conclusion that what better way to bring it back but to take it all up a notch or two.

The new one moves crazy fast. The old one moved pretty quick, too, but it’s like Interceptor saw the old thread going around calculating Doomguy’s speed (clocked at 60ish miles per hour) and wanted to translate that to a proper 3D environment. And jesus fuck. And that meta humor? Consider that weapons with clips like the pistols and MP 40 can be reloaded but never actually need to be. And the mission briefings are self-aware. And like everything blows up. And those weapons look even crazier now with a modern engine. It takes the core of what made the original so memorable and runs with it.

DuckTales: Remastered

DuckTales: Remastered, however, mires quickly in problems of its own creation. It adds long, painfully slow cutscenes to flesh out what was once nothing more than a paragraph in an instruction booklet. Its writing is heartily unfunny. And the music isn’t even reminiscent of the old classics. But perhaps most problematic is that the controls are drastically unresponsive, essentially for even letting the player open the door towards appreciating the now overly simplistic design of waiting and pogo-ing.

To be fair, Rise of the Triad also adds incredibly long motion graphic bits for the story and DuckTales: Remastered looks absolutely incredible, but the core philosophies behind the two seem to inform the respective resulting games. Rise of the Triad feels like it took a good hard look at its past and decided what would make it compelling in a new age while DuckTales: Remastered couldn’t even fulfill its promise as a remake. The precision is gone, as is the childhood-defining music. Even just in the recreated first level of Rise of the Triad, though, and it’s clear Interceptor understood what its goal should be.

And I still don’t think either one changes how I feel about the originals. I still think the Rise of the Triad of the 90s and DuckTales of the 80s were important for me at the time and hold up under the guise of being old games that people should at least look at, but their revivals go their separate ways. What’s to a remake besides remaking a game? Turns out a lot.

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