Remaster That Shit

We're all scared and alone. Bring back our security blanket games.

Back in March, just about a week into the reality that we’ve been living in for about six months now with no sign of an end, there was a story on The Outline (RIP) called “Release that Shit.”

The general premise of the blog, written by Jeremy Gordon, was that, since we’re all stuck at home, release the movies and TV shows that they’ve finished making anyway instead of postponing them in the hopes of a normal theatrical release or episodic debut on TV. It’s not as lucrative, but there’s never been a better time to get eyes in front of your project.

But there are so many more finished products waiting to be released in the coming weeks, which publishers may now consider delaying until a time when everyone can go back outside. While they may be reticent to promote anything in the current climate, I would submit an opposite suggestion: Release that shit. While everyone is sitting at home stewing in anxiety, people have never been more desperate for distraction. We have all become a captive audience with the free time to give that show or game a try.

It happened, to some extent. Some movies abandoned theater debut hopes and gave people the opportunity to watch them at home, which no doubt has shaken Steven Spielberg to his very core.

And six months after Gordon’s post, most of us are still holed up in our homes (for good reason). So, I’d like to echo Gordon’s original suggestion, but add my own twist on it:

Remaster that shit.

Specifically, I’m talking about video games. When I bought a PS4 in 2014, I did so thinking about all of the great adventure games I loved for PS2 as a kid. During quarantine, I got a Nintendo Switch for similar reasons. I wanted to play games like the ones I loved for Nintendo 64, and I wanted to play something that didn’t require that much brain power or emotional investment. I know people love games like The Last of Us, but when the world is in peril and things feel more precarious than they ever have in my lifetime, I’d like something a little more simple. Everyone needs junk food every now and then. Also, I don’t like spooky games or being nervous in my free time time generally, so I didn’t play that game even when there wasn’t a global pandemic.

This month also brought about the release of the remastered Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2. Everyone went nuts for it (for good reason), and I started thinking about my favorite gaming experiences on my current batch of consoles. Setting aside a few contemporary releases (Horizon: Zero Dawn, God of War, etc.) most of my favorite releases have been remasters of franchises I loved as a kid.

They remastered and re-released the original Spyro trilogy. They remastered Ratchet & Clank. They remastered the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy. They rereleased the Star Wars podracing game. They re-released the Kingdom Hearts series. They’re currently remastering and releasing Mario 64 along with Mario Sunshine and Mario Galaxy, two games I didn’t play but welcome the opportunity to play on my current console. Not to mention the fun I’ve been having playing Tony Hawk again. It’s worth noting that Vicarious Visions is responsible for Crash, Spyro and Tony Hawk.

The list goes on, and that list should continue to grow. But, let me be clear about something: I am not saying that we should just remaster games instead of developing new intellectual properties. What I’m saying is that, at a time where everyone is anxious and stuck at home, why not bring back a little nostalgia for us? As someone whose birth date qualifies me as a 90s Kid, I am an expert in remembering things and acting as if the things I loved growing up were better than any previous and subsequent generations.

Therefore, remaster that shit. Bring back the games I love but make them shiny 4k.

In the absence of affordable healthcare in this country, mental health treatment is often prohibitively, criminally expensive. Video games are obviously no substitute for bona fide treatment of things like anxiety, but nostalgia is a proven aid, as long as its used in a healthy way and you’re still grounded in reality. So, at least give us a quick trip back to carefree childhood for a few hours to soften the edges of reality a little.

“It increases your ability to self-soothe during a stressful time,” Dr. Valentina Stoycheva, a clinical psychologist specializing in traumatic stress, told the New York Times in a July article titled “Why We Reach for Nostalgia in Times of Crisis.”

Most of the NYT piece specifically deals with things like music and clothing, but given the full-bodied distraction and immersion of video games coupled with the transformative quality of nostalgia, it stands to reason that the same applies to video games we grew up playing.

“Anything that can help you calm yourself down, feel more soothed, feel more grounded, is very useful,” Stoycheva told the NYT. “So if you watch a movie and remember who you watched it with as a kid, and maybe connect with that person and you reach out to them instead of just drowning in isolation, that can be really helpful.”

Video game developers obviously know there’s a huge market for the retro. Anyone who has been on Facebook or Instagram exactly once knows that millennials don’t shut the fuck up about what they loved as a kid. In addition to remasters, they’ve been putting out slightly-modern versions of beloved old consoles like NES, pre-loaded with old favorites. You can also play those old games on Nintendo Switch’s online platform.

To bring thing’s back to Gordon’s piece, it’s important to point out that being able to stay home right now and play video games, not to mention buy them, is a privilege that not everyone can afford. And it’s certainly not the best use of your money at a time when so many others could use it. But, the reality is, as Gordon pointed out, “more and more people will be forced indoors [they have], and entertainment will remain paramount to avoid going stir crazy in isolation [it has]. There’s only so many Medium posts you can read about how we’re all going to die, you know?”

I know.

And I know that it’s shitty of me to demand that an entire industry of hard-working and creative people stop moving the video game art form forward. But, sometimes you just want to hear the hits. And that’s OK, too. Why do you think so many bands do album anniversary tours? There’s no stress about whether they’ll play that song you like, or too many from the album you don’t like. And you know for certain they’ll finally play the deep cut you always wanted to hear.

Another reason I want video game developers to play the hits is that my affection for video games was nearly derailed during quarantine by Call of Duty. I downloaded the latest Call of Duty game because it allowed for cross-platform play, meaning I could play with friends who have Xbox and PC, in addition to Playstation. When we were all newly stuck inside seemingly forever, hopping on COD every night was a great way to talk to my friends. It was as close to hanging out in real life as we could get. We’d drink beers together over COD. I legitimately felt like the game helped me feel less insular in my apartment, so it served a purpose at the time that I’m still thankful for. It was a more fun “Zoom happy hour” of a Friday night.

And, ironically, the game actually remastered a few older maps from Call of Duty 4, and I was enjoying reliving my high school days of playing with friends.

But then, the updates came. That game already demanded a huge chunk of my PS4’s hard drive, but it seemed like every week it required another 40 GB of storage for a multiplayer update. I’d log on to play, only to realize I had to delete 15 GB off my hard drive even though I had 80 GB free. It required a sacrifice nearly every time I tried to play. It got to the point where COD was the abusive significant other who wanted to make sure I deleted every other friend (game) from my life (hard drive). My Playstation became nothing more than a Call of Duty machine, slowed down from the chunky ass file taking up almost the entirety of my hard drive’s free space. I was also pretty over grinding for weapons updates, getting frustrated at being terrible at the game and the repetitive nature of it. I’ve since deleted it.

No more of that. I want lightheartedness. I want low stakes. And, as I said in a previous post, nostalgia is a hell of a drug when you’re pushing 30 and the world is terrifying.

I want nostalgia. And I want it in stunning 4k for at least $10 less than the price of a newly-made game.

Remaster that shit.

I’ll even make it easy. Here’s a list of games that I want. So, developers, if you’re reading this, consider doing a youngish man in Philadelphia a favor. Remaster the following shit:

  • SSX Tricky - Needs no explanation. I’ll also accept a bundle with SSX 3, which also ruled.

  • Donkey Kong Country - They made new ones, but I want the OG just with sharp graphics. That’s it. I bought the one for my girlfriend’s old Wii and it was just mario with a different skin. I was devastated.

  • NBA Street - I feel like this is an obvious choice. There are so many current NBA players that would be so good for this. Make it rated M and let Joel Embiid talk shit as a special move. Let Steph Curry make full-court shots. Fuck it - capitalize on The Last Dance hype and put in Dennis Rodman.

  • Tony Hawk 3 through Underground - Why not keep a good thing going?

  • The Sly Cooper trilogy - Seems like a logical next step after Spyro and Crash

  • Simpsons Hit and Run - Since they’re not making a new Grand Theft Auto ever again I guess

  • NCAA Basketball 2002 - But the teams are all the same and Juan Dixon-era Maryland is the best one in the game

  • F-Zero X - And force Diarrhea Planet do the soundtrack

  • MLB Slugfest - Like NBA Street, there’s a current batch of MLB players perfect for being caricatured. This is what Bryce Harper meant when he wore that “Make Baseball Fun Again” hat. (He also definitely wanted a way to publicly, yet covertly, support Trump but y’all ain’t ready to have that conversation.)

  • Need for Speed Underground 1+2: Another game where people remember the soundtrack vividly. And, like Tony Hawk did, you can keep that but update it, too. Cars have also changed since the early 2000s. Fuck it, throw a Tesla Cybertruck in there.

  • Madden 05: And keep Donovan McNabb on the cover.

There are a million more games I am no doubt forgetting, but you get my point. Remaster that shit. Do it now while we’re all stressed out and afraid every single day, and have a few minutes here and there to play video games.

For the sake of Remembering Some Games, drop some more games that could use a face lift in the comments.

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Today’s Snakes and Sparklers musical guest is Buddie.