Ask today's most accomplished game developers, and they'll tell you that making a hit title is like trying to capture lightning in a bottle. But repeating that success? You know what they say about atmospheric discharges of electricity striking twice. Still, at least some software creators have figured out the secret to making everything old feel new again. We tested a number of recent retro-fabulous outings to see who's really got game, what lessons may be learned from these attempts, and if you really can go back. You may be shocked to learn the results.
Martial arts masterpiece Street Fighter IV clearly leads the pack. Blending modern graphical trickery such as three-dimensional characters and spurts of gooey ink with classic one-on-one 2D brawls, it feels like a long-lost Super Nintendo cartridge. Unlike the franchise's last 18 years of unnecessary 3D facelifts and gonzo spin-offs, the title exemplifies a design principle all remakes should follow. Retaining the core essence of the characters, game worlds and basic play mechanics that defined the series, the program also adds major audiovisual enhancements and subtle gameplay tweaks. Together, you get an outing that feels true to its roots, yet also simultaneously fresh and new.
Prince of Persia subscribes to the same school of thought. Gone are recent predecessors' darker aesthetics and grim outlook. Instead, audiences enjoy a vibrantly colored, platform-hopping Arabian adventure that recalls the 1989 Apple II original's sense of whimsy. Not only does the exercise in death-defying acrobatics remain comfortable to longtime fans. The game also adopts an extreme makeover by taking the form of a living cartoon and having supporting character Elika, a female magician, assist with puzzle-solving and saving you from untimely death.
And then we have Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, which simply bundles 40 classics like Altered Beast, Golden Axe and Columns on a single disc. High-definition visual upscaling and overall value for the money aside, the anthology makes a common industry mistake. Little is done to expand upon these aging cultural artifacts.
Other frequent stumbling blocks we saw during our examinations include attempts to force 3D facelifts on 2D concepts and sequels that pay homage to originals in name only. Notable failures also include misguided spin-offs and remakes whose tired gameplay expands little beyond that introduced years ago. See page two.