The last couple of years have been great for old games. Collections like the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and the Spyro Reignited Trilogy have returned their respective 32-bit classics to the modern era, rekindling the spark of these retro titles while remaining mostly accurate to the source material.
We’ve also seen remakes like Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, which took an 8-bit game for the Sega Master System and rebuilt it as a gorgeous, hand-animated adventure fit for Saturday morning. Even the “up-res only” space is doing better these days, with stuff like Lumines Remastered and Rez HD bringing the soul of yesteryear to modern players.
With remasters for Resident Evil 2 and the Panzer Dragoon games still on the way, this trend won’t be going anywhere soon. And that’s fine! People like to rain on the retro parade as being an easy way to make money — “These companies are just selling you games you’ve already bought,” say the naysayers, which isn’t totally untrue. But preservation is important, and my niece deserves to play Parappa the Rapper just as much as you did when you were her age.
Anyway, there’s still a lot of ground to cover in the remake/remaster space. Here are five games that I think desperately deserve the Crash/Spyro ground-up treatment, but I’m willing to settle for careful up-res releases if I have to.
Klonoa: Door to Phantomile
I’ve been beating this drum since 1998 and I’m not going to stop now: Klonoa: Door to Phantomile is one of the best platformers ever made. Its endearing cat/squirrel/dog/etc. hero is just as deserving of a high-def definitive edition as Crash Bandicoot or Spyro T. Dragon — especially since copies of the PS1 original can go for $60 or more on eBay.
Full disclosure: This game has been remade once before. Titled simply Klonoa here in the west, the Wii re-release was a ground-up rebuild of the PS1 game, helmed by staff from the original production. I bought a Wii just to play it in 2010, and you know what? No regrets. Nintendo could very easily sell me a Switch by financing another remake of this game, or even by up-resing the Wii version.
Space Channel 5
While Space Channel 5 Pt. 2 is currently available on Steam, the same cannot be said for the series’ first (and best) entry. Space Channel 5 was a system-defining title for Sega’s ill-fated Dreamcast, not only for its style and charm, but for the challenge of its memory/rhythm gameplay.
The biggest hurdle to a remake of Space Channel 5 is undoubtedly Space Michael Jackson, a prominent character in the second half of the game. Having to re-secure those likeness rights after Michael Jackson’s passing is not a job I would envy, but Pt. 2 has Space Michael and it’s still available, so there may still be hope yet.
No one will blame you for not remembering The Neverhood. This claymation FMV point-and-click adventure game was released for the PC in 1996 and PlayStation in 1998, though the latter was only available in Japan, under the title Klaymen Klaymen. Despite its positive critical reception, The Neverhood was not a commercial success, and has never been ported or re-released elsewhere.
That’s a dang shame, because The Neverhood is an astonishing game to experience. All of the characters, set pieces, and animations were created using true claymation filming techniques; the game’s engine merely splices it all together.
This means that, somewhere, strips of film exist that contain the frames of animation used for all of those sequences, which could theoretically be re-sampled at modern resolutions. This same technique is how we have movies like Casablanca in 4K UHD, despite the film predating digital concepts like “high definition” by decades.
Currently, The Neverhood appears to be stuck in licensing hell. Members of the original development team tried to reclaim the license in 2011, but it didn’t pan out well. But hey, if Sony can somehow wrangle a new Windjammers in this day and age, getting The Neverhood onto my computer shouldn’t be impossible.
Otogi: Myth of Demons
Some may classify Otogi as a “B-game.” But in my opinion, it is secretly the best title the original Xbox had to offer. A punishing character action game from before that term even existed, Otogi: Myth of Demons planted the seed for what would eventually become my love of Souls games, and difficult games in general.
Otogi was made by the same developers as Dark Souls — From Software — and despite being relegated to the graphical capabilities of the original Xbox, was a visually compelling game with haunting art direction that would tickle the fancy of any primordial serpent.
While a remaster of Myth of Demons would be a dream come true, I’m willing to accept backwards compatibility on Xbox One as a compromise. If Microsoft wants to sell me an Xbox One, this is how to do it.
While everybody’s favorite super-suit wearing, dirt eating/chewing piece of worm was brought to the HD era back in 2010, Earthworm Jim HD is no longer available on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, as publisher Gameloft’s licensing deal with rights-holder Interplay expired earlier this year.
So! That means it may as well have never existed, which opens the door for a new remaster.
As far as I’m concerned, Earthworm Jim deserves the full Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap treatment — give the license to Lizardcube and let its incredible artists redraw the whole dang game. Get Dan Castellaneta (Jim’s voice from the cartoon series) back in the booth to redo some dialogue, hire an orchestra to reproduce the original soundtrack and Bob’s your uncle. Maybe now, at 31 years old, I’ll finally be able to beat the thing.