Bulbagraphic:Is an RS Remake Really Necessary?

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Is an RS Remake Really Necessary?
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  • Tuesday, September 13, 2011

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This article is brought to you by the National Bulbagraphic. Any opinions expressed are those of the author.
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When Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen were first announced, they marked the initiation of an unspoken – and largely unwritten – contract between Game Freak and the Pokémon fandom. The decision to revisit the generation that started it all implicitly stated, “we plan to sell your nostalgia back to you." Game Freak knew that the majority of their fan base, either openly or secretly, yearned for a return to the days of old, and sent them FRLG as appeasement. This is generally how remakes are engineered; while those who did not experience the original the first time around form a sizable portion of the target audience, the numbers of those who did experience it before (and who therefore will want to experience their memories in the present tense) far exceed those of the newer fans. As such, remakes are an incredibly specific form of fanservice.

Does Pokémon Ruby need a remake?

At any rate, when Game Freak initiated the aforementioned agreement with the Pokémon fan base, it released FireRed and LeafGreen as part of the tail end of Generation III. The following generation, the agreement continued with Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, further solidifying the validity of that unspoken promise. Now, with Generation V upon us, and two generations of remakes behind us, it seems that, more likely than not, we are going to be treated to remakes of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire.

And these remakes are unnecessary.

When I say this, I do not mean RS remakes are totally unnecessary, or even less necessary than a sequel to Hey You, Pikachu!. I also do not mean that these remakes would be bad; I personally would be glad to have Ruby and Sapphire remakes, as would a large portion of the fandom. But these remakes would still be relatively unnecessary, especially when compared to FrLg and HgSs. There are numerous reasons why this is, which can be simplified down to three basic truths:

1) We are closer to Generation III now than we were to Generation I eight years ago.

Comparing Generation I to Generation III is like comparing a Ford Model T to a car built in 1995. The list of differences between the two is extensive, and both the big differences (the addition of two types, the un-breaking of the Psychic Type, the Special split, natures, abilities, etc.) and the small ones (the addition of the Running Shoes, the overall aesthetic upgrade, the addition of Contests i.e., distractions from the main game; etc.) contribute to a present-day version that is only vaguely related to the previous one in the eye of an outsider. Extending that analogy, Generation V is a car built in present day. Sure, it’s different from the car from 1995 – likely manifesting itself the form of mp3 players in the place of tape decks, better fuel economy, better crash protection – but the similarities outweigh the differences. Same goes for Generations III and V. Whether we like it or not, Generations IV and V were built upon III’s template, with the Physical/Special Split and Reusable TMs proving to be the only technical differences . Between the base mechanics, the addition of Contests, the overall aesthetic (aside from Gen IV/V’s 3D rendering), and even the story, Gens III and V are closer than two games released eight years apart are normally expected to be.

Pokémon FireRed, one of the first remakes

2) We can still (technically) connect to Gen III

The hypotheses behind the decision to cut off connectivity to Gens I and II range from technical (the change in data formatting would’ve made it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain connectivity) to pessimistic (Nintendo wanted to limit used game sales for RBY and GSC). Regardless, their decision to do so created a demand for Colosseum and FrLg that wouldn’t have existed otherwise: you could have old Pokémon again. The Houndour or Feraligatr you left behind when Gen III began could now be sufficiently replaced. You no longer had to reminisce about the days when you used a Mewtwo to annihilate the Elite Four; now you could actually do it with better graphics and sound. HgSs had slightly less to gain from this, as nearly all the Johto Pokémon lost in the Generational shift could be acquired through Colosseum, XD, or even in DPPt. However, it still benefited, due to both the modest popularity of Colosseum/XD, and to the amount of work required to get the old Pokémon in any of the aforementioned games made HgSs the most practical option.

All this is well and good for FrLg and HgSs, but since the higher-ups realized how devastatingly alienated (and frustrated) their customers would feel if they pulled another stunt like they did with the Gen II-III shift, they’ve maintained connectivity from every Generation onwards from III. This is good from a player’s standpoint, as everything of importance (aside from items) can be transferred to the present generation from the past, but it is not a quality that lends itself to making remakes in this particular series necessary. If we can connect to the present Generation (albeit with some hassle), why would we need remakes? Would there be any real difference?

3) Generation V is supposed to be the future

Even aside from the fact that RS remakes would essentially be glossier versions of games we already have, there remains a troubling contradiction (or even a hypocrisy, depending on how you look at it) with the idea of Gen III remakes in Generation V: Pokémon Black and White were supposed to be a fresh start. Black and White distanced themselves from their predecessors in a number of ways (basing their region upon an area other than Japan; refusing to have any Gen I-IV Pokémon appear prior to the completion of the main plot, and so forth), all for the sake of turning over a new leaf. So far, this has worked, with many fans commenting on how Black and White evoked feelings previously associated with Pokémon Red and Blue. Even the animé underwent something resembling a reboot. But if Generation III remakes were to be introduced, Black and White would lose much of what made them special. How could we praise a generation for embracing progress and rebirth when it is partially built upon a callback to a past we were glad to move beyond? What’s the point moving forward when we are encouraged to dwell upon what was, rather than what will be?

At any rate, I wouldn’t hold out for that Hey You, Pikachu! remake.