LucasArts Remakes (Article)

Again, I wrote this in the past, though this was on the same morning I read the news it was inspired by, Thursday June the 18th. I also originally posted it somewhere else - the same close-knit forum as my Indy Wii review, and then the Escapist forums. It's yet to receive any feedback on the former, but on the latter, it was a nice way of kicking of a discussion of 'I want a remake or XYZ', before leading on to 'I like space sims' via talk of a Tie Fighter remake. Presumably these people have never heard of the Win 95 versions of the X-Wing games, which I really should remind them about.

So LucasArts wants to remake more classic games. In more ways then one it's a very surprising statement, especially from a company that's become more well known with simply exploiting a franchise to death, but at the same time it's a very welcome one, for several notable reasons.

Firstly, it's rare for any company to openly admit that that wants to remake old games. It makes sense from a business point of view - remakes have done very well indeed in TV, Movies and Music, and the justification to actually recreate an older title is even more applicable when it comes to Video Games, with their older graphics and lack of decent sound effects failing to hold up to the latest whiz-bang shooters. It's just that most companies only tend to remake one or two titles, rather then want to do a whole series, and even then it's just porting it to a handheld console or a digital download.

The obvious exception to this is, of course, Squeenix (aka Square Enix), who are almost as well known for their constant ports and remakes as their newer titles, and it's surprising how many similarities there are between the LucasArts of old and the Squeenix of today. Both have a habit of exploiting their best known franchise, they both plough on with their own agenda, and they both seem determined to make money rather then than something for the fans. This doesn't seem to be as applicable to LucasArts these days, but Squeenix are as guilty of it now as they've been for years - Advent Children Complete is a perfect example of this.

Secondly, the statement came from LucasArts - a company that has spent most of the last 10 years churning out half-finished games based on a movie franchise that has since become massively less popular (prequel trilogy, I'm looking at you). Fortunately LucasArts seems to be learning from the (many) mistakes of the past and have started to become a company people might take an interest in.

Their last few games may have had problems but it was obvious that people had taken time and effort on them. The Thrillville games were strong titles published by the company, the Lego titles based on their franchises were uniformly excellent, The Force Unleashed was a new direction for the tried and tested Star Wars series and Indy's Staff of Kings was a flawed diamond*. The company now seems to actually care about the titles it makes and publishes, which can only be a good thing.

Third, it's actually a really good idea. And coming from LucasArts, that's probably the most surprising thing of all. Given the rise of ScummVM on almost every format under the sun, this is an excellent way of both combating the illegal downloading and use of its classic titles, but also to thank and reward people who remember those titles fondly.

It's also a great way to re-introduce the games to a new audience, who may have heard of the series but not had a chance to play them. Along with the new Monkey Island games being developed by TellTale (themselves ex-LucasArts employees) and the Fate of Atlantis Indy game unlockable in Staff of Kings, it's a great time to be a fan of the genre.

However, while we may all be getting our hopes up that this is the start of something good, it all hinges on one crucial thing - sales. LucasArts aren't just in this for the warm fuzzy feeling they'll get when their fans start respecting them again. They're still a business, and this is an enterprise. If this latest project doesn't make enough money, then they'll stop doing it, which, while frustrating, is just good business sense.

I, for one, will be picking up The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition , and I know many other people who will do the same. But the major problem when it comes to games like this is the feeling of 'Why should I pay for something I already bought ten years ago?' that pirates will no doubt claim to have. This shouldn't be a problem for the XBox version, but the PC one will undoubtedly be downloaded and copied by a significant portion of people who don't want to pay for what is, at heart, a graphical update of a game easily downloadable as abandonware.

It's not fair, it's not right and it's not something that should happen. But, sadly, it will. I just hope that it won't dampen the enthusiasm that LucasArts has for these games, or that it damages sales enough to make them abandon the prospect of other remakes. Because there's a wide range of adventure titles that LucasArts could, and hopefully will, remake - Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Loom, the other Monkey Island games, Sam & Max Hit the Road and Zak McKracken. All of these would be welcomed and loved by an all-new generation of gamers.

All of whom fight like cows.

*Indy Wii is essentially a good game buried by two or three very poor decisions and a ill-conceived control system.

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