Rebooting franchises is something that’s really taken hold in recent years. The idea behind it seems shockingly simple too- take a beloved series from yesteryear, change just about everything about it, and claim that it’s better now because it’s new. So far, this has had varying effects across plenty of different genres; from fantastic homages to past legacies, to horrific inbred mutants that have no idea who they are or what they want to be.
My hatred towards the latest Devil May Cry game has become something of legend at this stage. I’ve heard tall tales about about how I marched all the way from Galway on Ireland’s west coast to Ninja Theory’s studios in England and took a piss on their bottles of fresh milk that had been delivered to their doorstep just that morning. I’ve heard whispers on the wind about how I lopped off my own fist, extended the middle finger, placed it into a cardboard box, and posted it to Capcom’s headquarters. Of course, I cannot confirm nor deny these allegations, and I refuse to speak of them without a lawyer (and possibly a dictionary) present.
I hated what they’d done to Devil May Cry’s lead character, Dante. He’d always been a fun loving, carefree kinda guy. He was cocky and a bit of an asshole, but he was so over the top that you couldn’t help but love him. However, his latest incarnation was the polar oppisite to everything I’d known and loved about the guy. He was now dark, brooding, and came off a bit like Joss Whedon’s Angel. He was everything that was currently “in” and I fucking hated that. His world was built around technology, as opposed to the gothic settings that we were used to seeing our hero in. It almost felt like Ninja Theory had deliberitely went out of their way to piss of Devil fans.
Bizzarrely enough though, under all that eye makeup, silly emo exterior lay a fantastic little action game; a hack and slash title that could go blow for blow with the greats of the genre. The new Dante wasn’t an interesting caracter. He was nothing compared to his predecessor. However, he was agile, fiuld, and capable of fighting of hordes of bad guys with the greatest of ease. DmC was a diamond in the rough and it left me chomping at the bit for a sequel.
The Tomb Raider reboot was a fantastic fight for survival. It put the player in a position where they’d never truly feel comfortable. There was a constant air of danger pushing safety further and furher away. However, was it all really neccessary? The idea was to explore Lara’s past and follow the events that transormed her from just your average rich chick to the badass which all became accustomed too, but we’ve seen all this before. In 2007, following the sucsess of Tomb Raider: Legend, Lara starred in a remake of her original 1996 globe trotting adventure. This was intentionally made to comemerate the ten year anniverasy of her fist game, although it hit the shelves fashionably late. Tomb Raider: Anniversary saw Lady Croft chase down pieces of the fabled scion in a race against other tomb raiders. She was decked out in the classic green outfit, rode a motorcycle, used acrobatic manoeuvres to advance, blew bats outta caves, and dabbled with dinosaurs. You could take it for granted that she was well trained, unlike her latest incarnation. But, we also saw her kill a man for the first time. In a heated confrontation with Larson, she empties both barrels into his chest. As he takes his final breath, realisation washes over her that she’s murdered a human being. You could chalk it up to self defense, or you could say it was in cold blood. Either way, the truth was right there, lying lifeless in front of her. His jack-rabbit frog legs ain’t running him nowhere now. She tries to wash the feeling from her hands, but she can’t, channeling Lady MacBeth’s guilt. It’s a powerful scene which showcases a real change inside her. This seems belittled by rewriting her history again so soon after this game. With that in mind, her apparent first kill in the Tomb Raider reboot just doesn’t hit home half as hard as it should. Not to mention that five minutes later she’s gunning people down like a Call of Duty deathmatch.
One reboot that got it all the way right was Mortal Kombat. It managed to completely reboot the franchise while still continuing on it’s original storyline. In 2006 Mortal Kombat: Armageddon was released. This game was pretty much admitting that they’d created too many characters, too many rivalries and too many realms. The only way forward was to do away with some of the things they’d created.
Although I enjoy many of the reboots I play, I can’t help but wonder if any of it is really nessecary. The idea of completely recreating a franchise means that you’ll either have to stick with this new vision for years to come, or you’ll splinter it’s good name into two different reditions of the same thing running side by side. And that’s when shit really gets silly. Personally I think the reason reimaginings are so prevelant in today’s gaming world is because developers simply don’t trust their own ideas. Let’s take the latest Lara as an example. Let’s pretend that she isn’t Lara Croft. Instead, she’s... Julie Longbottom. Julie Longbottom isn’t an archeologist. No, she’s a cook. While out on a a boat, helping to film her friend’s cooking show, she and her crew get shipwrecked on a bizzarre island filled with overly voilent bastards. Julie is a foot shorter than Lara Croft, and instead of being Brittish, she’s Canadian. Everything else that happens Tomb Raider’s reboot now systematically falls into place, event after event. The only difference being a few nit-bits about the character. Is it suddenly a game you wouldn’t play? If we did the same with DmC and changed Dante’s name to Brendan, would it take away from the game’s wonderful combat system?
The reason all these classic franchises are being brought back and messed around with is because delevopers just don’t seem to have the balls to say “Here a new game. Check it out!” Intead, they’ve got to hide behind already established and respected brands. They should take pride in their work and stand behind it. The games I’ve mentioned here are great games, but don’t really need to be Devil May Cry or Tomb Raider titles. In many ways, rebooting old games almost seems like a bigger risk than just pushing your own ideas your own way. Especially when you consider bullshit releases like the latest Turok, Area 51 and Syndicate Wars. As much as I enjoyed DmC, I constantly had this bitter aftertaste when thinking about how this guy wasn’t my Dante. Lara was also hard to adjust to. If these were Brendan and Julie, I’d have no problems getting behind their characaters, supporting them in their advantures, and believing in what was happening on screen. I’ve already mentioned that I hope Brendan May Cry 2 is on the way, but I’d still want the original Dante back. However, since this game pissed so many Devil fans off, I can’t imagine it ever seeing a sequel. I can’t help but think that this may have been different if they hadn’t just latched onto the name.
Reboots by their very nature are strange beasts. With their intent to tickle you right in the nostalgia, yet still push you in different directions, the reboots can often be hard pills to swallow. It’s something that’s got to be done perfectly, if it’s to be done at all. If not, they’ll end up joining the stacks of forgotten and unwanted rebooted titles laying beside the opened 90’s Turtles selection boxes in the bathroom.