Nintendo Philosophy: Remakes and “Greatest-Hits”

Nintendo Nostalgia

Man, if I could get the chance to redo all those awesome moments in life and just delete the bad parts…well, I would!  Well, if not for that conspicuous part of my brain, and most people’s brains, that feels like “hey, don’t you know how Zen Buddhism and all that stuff works!?  You gotta accept both sides of the coin buddy! The good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, all of it!”  Nonetheless, just the thought of such a utopian recollection of memories is enough to conjure up endless feelings of orgasmic nostalgia.  If there is anyone who knows this best, even better than our own Freudian-Id, it’s the industry executives.  It’s their job to find you the best way to pleasure your ego, to break the inherent laws of pleasure for your satisfaction, and to make your imaginary vices a reality.  Because, let’s face it, for the diehard fans, of any franchise or any thing, you know the feelings of guilt towards your favorite artists when you ignore the fine details of a whole organic piece of work for the glowing obnoxiousness of a “greatest hits” package or a re-mastered deluxe CD with bonus tracks.  Simply put, nothing beats the original.  Even if the new thing is just that but with a new coat of paint.

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We’ve all heard about the recent talk of HD remakes for Wii U and other notable attempts made with other franchises like the Legend of Zelda and Halo series, but this is not a new market that hasn’t been explored before, albeit in a new medium.  The music industry, most notably, has experimented with this kind of strategy and still does.  However, the parallels, and miss-parallels, need to be recognized and acknowledged.  For the record, I’m grouping remakes and greatest-hits packages all into one because the common theme they share is one of efficiency, fan acknowledgement, and franchise revival.  They both share these elements as they do in other industries where they are deployed as well.

To begin with, Nintendo has already released what would be, and perhaps is, the most famous greatest-hits and remake packages ever: Super Mario All-Stars.  Yeah, we all forget about that one because damn, “they actually put that many awesome games in one cartridge!?” and because remake and remastered in this day and age is only synonymous with “HD.”  Strangely enough, despite successfully reviving the franchise for newer audiences, being super cost-efficient (even for back then!), and acting as a love-letter for current fans, Nintendo has not made such notable attempts since, bearing the exception of an under-the-radar greatest-hits style release of the Legend of Zelda series on Game Cube and just last year’s The Legend of ZeldaWind Waker HD remake.  So what gives?  Well, a couple of things, but given the moral philosophy of Nintendo this shouldn’t be a big surprise.  Let’s examine further.

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If you were to ask Nintendo about this they would probably say they have been remaking classics all along.  Keep in mind that Nintendo philosophy is all about making new experiences and they rarely seek to mimic financial success at the expense of mimicking creative pursuit; they want to evolve, no matter how much of a double-edge sword it may be for fans, the industry, or them.  As a substitute, in order to reach across the aisle, they manage to incorporate classic gameplay elements, art styles, characters, and music, into new evolutions of their series.  This is their version of what a remake is.  NSMB on Wii(U) and (3)DS, though it has a vibrantly colorful fresh coat of new paint, is essentially the remaking of all classic 2D Mario that came before it (like a Greatest-Hits Mario package).  The Mario Kart series has started, a generation ago or so, to incorporate the classic tracks alongside the new tracks in a set of 4 whole new cups, essentially doubling the size of the game!  The Pokémon series has forever been reviving the old classics with reboots that actually have new areas to explore, new characters, and even new evolutions like for the upcoming Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire games.  The Zelda series recently revived Ocarina of Time, but it was actually much more in the vein of a traditional remake.  However, A Link Between Worlds went many steps beyond that a la New Super Mario Bros.  It was the same exact infrastructure of the classic A Link to the Past, but with a new story, level design, art design, game mechanics, and modern gaming conveniences and controls to boot, like the second screen as an in-game menu. Nintendo aims to do something much bigger with the “remake” genre than just remaking.  If they can incorporate the “spirit” of a remake into the newest iteration of their series, they will opt for that rather than reviving it in perfect physical form.  Think of it like this…why stuff a dead cat just to bring back the good times when you can get a new cat and give him/her a name symbolic of the old cat…the point is…don’t get all sick and perverted about the past, move on dammit!

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This is merely an extra layer of thought to ponder about when rummaging though all the recent remake gossip.  Ocarina of Time on the 3DS and Wind Waker on Wii U are definitely recent examples of Nintendo breaking away from their standard tradition of the remake genre, and indeed they are certainly much more cost-efficient, quicker to release, and appease hardcore appetite in a shorter and more direct way.  Perhaps with game development getting more expensive, could we see Nintendo’s ideology of remakes begin to erode?  I don’t think so, but it’s certainly why record companies make sure to get a greatest hits and re-mastered classic out of all their artists.  Both industries benefit from low development costs, reviving fan interest, and even testing the market to see how audiences react.  With low development cost it’s easy to offer something that is financially lucrative to both the consumer and the seller, and it’s akin to giving a free sample at shopping mall; if you like the best stuff they hand out then you can buy the rest of it.  Just look at Hyrule Warriors.  It’s a game that already has it’s conceptual framework laid out for the get-go simply outfitted in what is essentially the greatest hits package of the entire Legend of Zelda franchise.  And it’s priming the market for what will be the major canonical Legend of Zelda release in 2015 all while reviving fan interest.

There is a ton of buzz over all this remake commotion but keep in mind that’s because the idea of such a vice, a nostalgic fantasy, is sought after only by a hardcore audience, or current franchise fans, which are generally the loudest customers.  This is all just noise to the mainstream gamer.  If Nintendo releases some HD remakes in traditional fashion a la Wind Waker I think it will certainly achieve all of the benefits mentioned here, but it will not be able to have the depth of offering that a fresh take on classic gaming would have like a franchise reboot a la ALBW or NSMB.  Let’s not forget, aside from being extremely major releases these also have the benefit of low cost and quick development time too; when you make a game like ALBW or NSMB you are essentially slicing down the non-technical side of development by already settling on a conceptual framework, something that many developers only have a tangible understanding of after stumble upon it halfway through development.  That’s just the nature of executing a new idea.  This is why sequels, just like reboots, also are quicker to produce aside from already being more efficient on the technical end alone.

(Noise: What this means for most customers)

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In any case, it will be exciting to see what the end result is from these new rumors.  Given Nintendo’s philosophy and history with “remaking” I think we can definitely expect something more than just a typical HD remake and/or greatest hits collection.  Maybe multiplayer options, Wii U gamepad or Wiimote mechanics, or maybe even new levels, characters, or even art style.  Let’s see!

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About The Author

News Reporter

I'm an EarthBound kinda guy but I love everything Mario and certainly anything Nintendo related. I was born in North America and live there presently.