There have been some very interesting announcments in the world of videogames over the past few days but there was one in particular that got me feeling all excited as well as depressingly sceptical. That announcement? A remake of Medievil is heading for the PS4 next year (source here).
First of all, let’s begin with some positivity and explain why I’m excited about this. Medievil is one of my all-time favourite games and along with such other Playstation classics as Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot, Driver and Tekken, it is one of the reasons why I fell in love with gaming in the first place and am still here today (for better or for worse). Thanks to my Dad, we got the original grey Sony slab beneath the TV in our house in 1998/1999 and one of the best things that came in the box was the most recent version of the famous “Demo 1” disc. This disc contained demo versions of all the big releases that had just hit the shelves as well as some previews of upcoming titles. Medievil was one such game on the disc and my Dad and I must have played that demo a thousand times before he bought the full game.
I can only decribe the game as having a “magical” atmosphere. The design is a clever mix of horror and comedy with a perfect balance between the two being struck. Aesthethically, it reminds me of a Tim Burton movie with all the darkness and evil elements being kept in check by funny bits and the almost cartoon-like character/scenery design. The twisted shape of the gravestones has always stuck in my mind for example as have the sinister airborne demons from later in the game. Don’t forget the imps or killer pumpkins either. In short, the game has a lot of memorable visuals and made the sort of impact on me that other games (despite their quality) have failed to do in the 19 years or so since I first experienced Medievil.
The music too was incredible and carried a haunting, gothic tone that thoroughly bewitched my ears and added to the magic. To this day, it is a perfect example of an impressive, fitting videogame soundtrack composition and I often stick some earphones in and revisit my favourite tracks via Youtube.
I re-played both games last year as I so often do and found the original to have lost none of its charm. Yes, the game felt a little bit clunky and unforgiving (especially when it comes to falling from edges) at times but overall it still held its own. That graphical style in particular has really helped Medievil age well and does a super job at compensating for the general ageing that all early 3D videogames have suffered with many being cited as “unplayable” due to how poor they look today or how offensive those once cutting-edge textures are on the eyes.
Medievil 2 (to discuss it quickly) was a little different in that I also recalled it fondly but upon re-playing the sequel (I usually just revisit the original) I found it to be a lot more fiddly and frustrating than I remember with numerous irritating elements such as the Dankenstein boxing match, trying to save all of the civilians on the Kew Gardens level and the monstrous difficulty of the final few levels. I’m ashamed to admit that I had to resort to an old-school print-out of cheat codes from back in the day that had been folded up and stuffed inside the game case. As far as personal gripes went, I missed some of the classic weapons such as the magic bow and dragon armour. Obviously with the game being set in more modern time, these fantasy items made no sense but even so, I still mourned their absence. The game is still decent and worth playing but I much prefer the fantasy setting of the original which didn’t come with so many annoying, gimmicky additions to the core gameplay. At the time of writing this reaction to the remake announcement, it isn’t clear whether Medievil 2 will join the original and mirror the recent Crash Bandicoot remasters (which included all three main PS1 games) but I can honestly say that I’m not fussed either way.
Unfortunately I now come to the part of this article where I must do a bit of doom-mongering and air my reservations. First of all, I’m usually extremely sceptical about ANY remake (whether it’s a videogame, movie or music) because more often than not, it isn’t really needed and in the case of older games, developers feel the need to expand on things or add new bits to the original formula in order to give a game the necessary meat that it needs in order to exist as a full-fledged release in the modern age where consumers have come to expect more for their money. In my eyes, Medievil is a perfect game and doesn’t need anything adding to it so there’s that.
Secondly, it is utterly vital that they preserve a) the tone of the original b) that superb soundtrack (whether it gets remastered or not) and c) the balance between gothic horror and comedy. Before anybody accuses me of baseless assumptions, let’s not forget that Medievil was already re-imagined for the PSP as one of the machine’s launch titles and that version changed several things as well as tipping the scales firmly towards comedy. It has not been well-remembered by fans of the original and the comedy look to the ghost at the end of the remake teaser trailer does give me cause for concern.
In general I am trying to remain on the fence until we have some more information or at least some footage to make a judgment on what kind of direction the developers behind this remake are taking. Using the PSP game for a base would be an instant turn-off for me and many others (judging by the comments section on the official Playstation Blog page for this news story) but remaking the game and losing that special balance in general would also leave me no other choice other than to say “no thanks”.
If it does turn out badly then it’s important to remember that we will always have the original to comfort ourselves with whether we dig out that old Playstation copy or fall back on the PSN re-release. When we still have this choice, I try not to moan or rant too much about what I consider to be “botched rehashes” because nobody can take away our memories or ability to play a game as it was originally released and nobody forces us to play a remake. Even rare games are available to play via emulation these days so we will always be pretty much sorted for the OG products when the marketing men take a steaming dump on our memories.
Here’s hoping that I will be looking forward to revisiting Gallowmere in 2018.