Fan service or cynical cash grab, remaking an 11 year old classic is a dangerous game
Due for release in November this year, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are set to be the newest children – or rather, clones – of the Pokémon family, as official remakes of 2002’s highly successful Ruby and Sapphire. The games are for 2DS and 3DS exclusively, so Nintendo hopes you’ll finally put your Gameboy away, get down to Argos, and prepare to rediscover the Hoenn region on their latest handheld. The games will of course feature the third generation of Pokémon, from a simpler time before developer Game Freak began looking at bin bags and ice cream cones for inspiration. No need to Google the starter Pokémon for this release, we all know Torchic is the best.
The creators are being tight-lipped about details, so one can do little more than speculate. The only information that’s been given is that the games will ‘take the players through a dramatic story within a spectacular new world’, which, if it keeps to the original storyline, is a bit of an exaggeration. Team Magma and Aqua are hardly keeping players on the edge of their seats, merely serving as a flavoured version of Team Rocket without the memorable catchphrase. Still, they have a nostalgic charm, and just an improvement on their look and dialogue should be enough to appease the fans. There is also a painfully short teaser trailer that shows the epic meeting of the Legendary Pokémon Groudon, Kyogre and Rayquaza. Although it isn’t particularly impressive in terms of graphics, it’s reassuring to see that the Legendaries have only been made better with subtle additions rather than complete revamps (no one asked for Blastoise to have one cannon, for instance).
Although there is much uncertainty surrounding the games at the moment, if they are to avoid being placed in the same let’s-never-speak-of-this-again category as Pokémon Ranger and Mystery Dungeon, a few improvements are in order – whether it blots the legacy of the original games or not. For example, Pokémon contests should return, perhaps with wifi support, which serve the purpose of giving Pokémon that aren’t useful in combat a greater function. Multiple save files has always been a pipedream, and Pokémon-Amie and allowing Pokémon to follow you around is also something we’d like to see included. The return of the secret base is another must, as is Mr Briney with his little rascal of a Wingull. Trainer customisation, the unaltered soundtrack, new megas, and more post-game content would be appreciated as well, and many fans are adamant that they should have the option of removing their hat.
However, therein lies the conflict between wanting something new and wanting it the same. Nobody wants to see the original games tarnished, especially the fans who have followed Pokémon since 1996. The general consensus is that the games should get the same treatment as Heart Gold and Soul Silver; recreating a classic, improving it subtly, and adding to it without blemishing the storyline. But this need to preserve the originals is perhaps a convenient excuse to put as little effort into making it as possible, and money-strapped Nintendo is clearly seeing dollar signs. Remaking games is obviously much more cost effective than making entirely new ones.
We do wonder why Nintendo has chosen to drag decade-old Pokémon games into the limelight all of a sudden, what with the previous games X and Y only being released in October last year. Were they not as successful as expected? Is interest in Pokémon lagging after the disappointing 6th generation? In any case, why not just bring the long-awaited GBA support to 3DS instead of rehashing classics with gimmicky 3D support and charging full price? It’s downright greedy.
It ties into the important question of who the games are actually targeted at; today’s kids or existing fans? Although this can’t be answered confidently just yet, if they follow the original games exactly it should be suitable for everyone, but if it diverges towards the more recent, almost childish nature of X and Y, some older fans could be finding themselves suddenly very aware of their age. Allowing a Challenge Mode – as seen in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 –would be a nice middle ground, increasing the difficulty without affecting the younger users.
So far, fan reception seems to be largely positive. Ruby and Sapphire were well-received but not so much that they’re seen as too classic to alter, which might have happened with Pokémon Yellow. What’s more, the cartridges for Gameboys, as well as Gameboys themselves, aren’t quite as resilient as one would like, meaning that a remake is necessary to keep future generations sharing the experiences of their parents’ and siblings. As long as the developers don’t make some needlessly radical changes, it’s guaranteed to be a hit.
Ultimately, there will always be children sucked in by the newer generations of Pokémon and grown adults who just can’t help themselves when the latest game comes out. So even if Nintendo run the risk of bleeding previous successes dry for the sake of a quick buck, they will never be short of an audience. Whether Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire bastardise the originals or stick to them religiously remains to be seen. In the end, you just gotta catch ‘em all.