Alright, the last few weeks, I’ve slowly started seeing something talked about that I thought we all settled a long time ago. People are starting to mix up what things mean again as we get a whole new generation of Remasters, Remakes, and Rereleases coming down the pipeline. I don’t blame people, sometimes it can get a little confusing, especially when even companies might use the wrong one to come off in a better light. So, let’s talk about what these terms all really mean and the ways that the lines can sometimes blur between them.
Let’s start with the most simple one to understand. A rerelease is taking a game that was previously available on one set of hardware and making it available on another. These are actually becoming a little less common these days with the emphasis on backwards compatibility making more games simply playable without having to do any new releases, but they still do pop up from time to time. When we see these nowadays, they’re typically for games that are a few generations older at this point and had their backwards compatibility broken off. The best way to think about these is that they are, in essence, a port of the game.
For the Playstation, we typically see this with the Playstation 3 and earlier, since that was their cut-off point, and the Nintendo Switch has seen it’s fair share of rereleases over the last few years. Heck, we sometimes even beg for them from Nintendo, like how everyone was really wanting to see the Super Mario 3D collection (at least until we actually got them). And let’s not forget that we do get rereleases on PC as well. Sure, you’re more likely to get an update, but there’s been a fair share of games from the early to mid 2000’s rereleased on Steam over the years. Some of the games you might remember from childhood may have been rereleased there in a format that no longer requires emulating your old Windows95 computer in order to get them to run.
Remasters are the next step up from the rerelease. These are where some effort has been put in to zhoosh up the visuals or content of a game. Typically you see this in a game that has pretty strong visual upgrades with the same basic game code running underneath it. There’s still not going to be any major changes made, but it will look, and possibly run a lot better than the original game did. You may even get some animations or other art fully updated to a more modern standard. However, most of the code running underneath will be the same as it’s ever been.
The downside to remasters is that they can be something of a mixed bag. On one end, you can have something that is very lovingly upscaled with a lot of work put into making sure that the new textures and other visuals look just as good on your big high-def TV as they did on your childhood CRT. However, you can also get cases such as the recent GTA trilogy remaster where the new look is blurry and unimpressive and it’s clear that in some cases that a computer was told to take care of the upscaling on its own without the hand of the developer to guide it through the finer details.
The other issue with remasters is that they can come far too soon after the original to make a impact sometimes. Much fuss was made of the remaster for the Playstation 4’s Spider-Man game, coming only two years after the original. Did it have some shiny new bells and whistles to make use of the new power afforded by the Playstation 5? Yes. Did it have a whole new face for Peter Parker? Yes. Was it really 100% needed so soon after the original launch? No, not really. Especially since the Playstation 5 has backwards compatibility and could play the original.
A remake is the most extensive of the three. This is where you won’t see much of the original game left over when the new version comes out. It’s a game built from the ground up all over again, maybe with a little help from the old code, but without relying on it. These typically are reserved for what a developer thinks will be a surefire investment. A small game that didn’t have much love back in the day but has a cult following now is more likely to get a rerelease, but something sure to sell might be worth investing in a remake for.
These are the belle of the ball for many people, but they do come with their own share of downsides. Expectations can be built up so high that it ends up leaving players disappointed when they finally do get their hands on that remake. There’s also the risk in building something fresh that it might lack that original feel that made it so beloved in the first place. For instance, the Crash N. Sane trilogy was quite well received, but players who had put hours upon hours into the originals did end up having a little trouble as the hit-boxes were slightly different enough that it made the feel of some jumps completely different.
The benefit of a remake, though, is that they can give some modernizations that the others might not have. There might be the addition of an online multiplayer to a game that used to only be playable with friends on the couch. A game that once had checkpoint saving may now offer autosaves as an option. These abilities can often make the risk of a game feeling different completely worth it.
The Fuzzy Edges
The lines between these three can get confusing and blurry, though. For example, what do you call a game that is being released again on a new platform with little to no changes, but content that was cut from the initial release has been added back in. Is it a rerelease or a remaster? Everyone is going to draw the line somewhere on what tips a game from being one to another, but it’s not uncommon for a simple rerelease to actually have new content without the enhancements that a remaster would provide.
Definitive editions are a good example of this, with DLC content being included where it previously wasn’t, but even just releasing on a new platform can bring new content. Undertale’s release on the Nintendo Switch brought with it a brand new boss, but no other changes to the visuals or gameplay. It’s pretty definitively a rerelease, close to a simple port, but with something extra added on as an incentive to buy again even if you already own it. However, when the terms are used interchangeably due to these differences from the original release, it can make discussion a little confusing. Especially when you can have a rerelease add in a modern feature, such as the Pokémon Red, Blue, Yellow, Silver, Gold, and Crystal rereleases having online capability for the first time ever.
Why it Matters!
So why is this so important that I spent just over a thousand words laying it all out for you? Well, because it’s helpful to know if you’re figuring out where to spend your hard earned money! Let’s face it, a remake is likely to give a little more bang for your buck than a rerelease is, but knowing the difference is going to be what helps you determine that. It’s also important for being able to set your expectations when something gets announced. (Be sure to check our piece out about tapering expectations here.) If you get told that a game is being rereleased for a new console, best not go in expecting something that is at the modern standard that a remake might have. It’s also important because you need to be able to keep an eagle eye out when looking at the marketing of something that is coming up. Some people might like to call something a remaster when it’s really not, just because it makes it sound better when trying to make that sale. Be ever vigilant, my friends!