Remaking gaming’s past to escape its present

By Joe Delaney

“So here I am

Doing everything I can

Holding on to what I am

Pretending I’m a Superman”

When I heard that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 were getting remakes, the opening lines toSuperman” by Goldfinger were the first thing to pop into my brain.

I know I wasn’t the only millennial gamer this happened to, because when I looked the song up on YouTube, the comment section was full of people just like me saying “who’s here after the remake announcement?” The nostalgic rush that corny ska song gave me was overwhelming. I just had to boot up my old copy of Pro Skater 2 to complete the trip down memory lane.

As soon as I started playing, I immediately remembered why these games are so beloved. They’re so instantly fun right out the gate with no tutorials, no introductions, no walk-and-talk cutscenes. They just throw you into a warehouse on a skateboard and let you discover the tricks and secrets for yourself. It took me some time to get readjusted, but after I pulled off some sick combos and shredded through the first few levels, I felt like all hell couldn’t stop me now.

But while I was flying high in the half pipes in the game, in the real world I came crashing back down to earth, like when you mess up the leap of faith trick in the high school level. When I was using the cash I earned in-game to purchase some new moves and stats, it was there I got sad. It was there I thought, “oh yeah, here’s where they’re gonna put the micro transactions.”

You can call me cynical, but I have every right to feel this way. At the time of this writing, Activision said that there won’t be micro transactions at launch. There were no micro transactions for the Crash Team Racing remake at launch either, and that game was pretty well received at launch. But once they added them in (and they had obviously planned to from the start) it became obvious that this was not CTR. It was a shitty smart phone game wearing CTR’s skin that just happened to cost $40.

Maybe I’ll be proven wrong and they’ll never add them in, but the fact that companies like EA and Activision need to proactively announce that a game won’t have predatory monetization just shows the sorry state that modern gaming is in. It’s also pretty damning that we got so much more excited for these remakes than we did when Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 was announced, before we knew the game would suck. We get so excited for these remakes of games we loved as kids because we remember a time before shit like this and we miss it. And game companies keep remaking games like this because they want to exploit that. 

Activision has been the most egregious about this. First they built up some good will by releasing solid remakes of the PS1 Crash and Spyro games in 2017 and 2018 respectively, which gave them the balls to pull that shady shit with CTR in 2019. And even after their infamously horrible launch of the atrocity known as Warcraft 3: Reforged, people are still excited about the Pro Skater remakes. I’m not judging them either, I was one of them for a little while. Can you blame us for longing for a simpler time?

What Activision gets wrong is that we want classic games with modern graphics, but without modern bullshit. They’re simultaneously taking advantage of our nostalgia for a time before in-game purchases, but also putting in-game purchases in these remakes. They wanna have their cake and eat it too, or should I say, they wanna sell us our cake, but charge extra for the frosting and toppings. 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that every aspect of modern gaming is worse than it was back when I was a kid. I’m not a boomer. Obviously games look way better now, they play way better now, and they sound way better now (at least when it comes to voice acting, I’d say video game music is actually worse now, but that’s a topic for another time). But much of what made gaming so pure back in the 90’s and early 2000’s has been lost, and it’s not just that those games didn’t have loot boxes. It was the focus on fun and freedom, the lack of hand holding, the absence of focus group trend chasing.

But while Activision might miss the point of what a remake should be, there are plenty of companies out there that are nailing it. Capcom’s Resident Evil 2 remake updated the classic with better controls, graphics, and voice acting without compromising the soul of the original. Nintendo’s remakes of Zelda games like Link’s Awakening and Wind Waker are mostly cosmetic, but they throw in subtle quality of life improvements that add up to a much better experience. And Square Enix changed what a remake could be with their retelling of Final Fantasy VII, but I talked about that enough already. 

My point is that it’s not enough to rely on our fond memories of gaming’s past to get us to buy your remakes. You need to show reverence for the originals by updating them with the best aspects of modern gaming, not the worst aspects. With that said, I hope that Activision has learned its lesson from CTR and Warcraft 3. To the team working on the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, just do the best you can to hold on to what you are. Don’t just pretend to be Superman. Be Superman. 

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