Faithful Remakes: A Pokémon Battle to Determine the Fate of the Franchise

For my 4th birthday, my mom got me a silver Nintendo Game Boy Advance. She packaged it up with whatever games she thought I’d be interested in. At the time, my small collection of odds and ends was mostly composed of those weird Disney ports that today's YouTubers make niche video retrospectives on. I have fond memories of playing Toy Story 2, Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure, and Spider-Man 2. But my crown jewel on the GBA was always Pokémon Pinball: Ruby and Sapphire. I fell for that game hook, line, and sinker, and I’ve had a love for pocket monsters ever since.

Screenshot for Pokemon Pinball for Game Boy Advance
Pokémon Pinball was a blast. A fun game with a retro style that introduced me to the wonderful world of Pokémon!

Before my 6th birthday, I began seeing ads for Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. GameFreak had me reeled in the first time that they flashed Dialga on the TV screen. I begged my mother for a Nintendo DS so I could play the shiny new game. My birthday was even more exciting than I expected as I was met with not just a Nintendo DS, not just the amazing new Pokemon Diamond, but with a copy of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team as well.

My dearest reader, I regale you with these tales so you can understand how truly invested I am in these games. I was basically learning how to read from Pokémon text boxes, and I was brute-forcing my way through these games without understanding what a "super effective" attack is. It took me months to beat these games because I frankly didn’t understand a thing. And yet I loved them! Some of the most foundational memories of my childhood stem from these games.

That’s why I approached the recent remakes for both games with cautious optimism. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX was released in March of 2020, a remake of that Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team game I got with my Nintendo DS. And Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl were released in November of 2021, a remake of (believe it or not) Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, the other games that meant so much to me.

Screenshot of a classic turn-based Pokemon battle between Chimchar and Starly on Game Boy Advance.
This literally became an integral part of how I learned to read.

I’m now 15 years removed from being that kid tapping away on his DS, and I’m far more jaded with the state of the games industry now. I’m not impervious to the sweet allure of nostalgia, though, and I’ll admit that I spent a lot of time getting hyped up listening to old music, playing ROMs, and watching videos in the months leading up to these releases.

But now that both remakes have had their time in the spotlight, I must admit that one surpassed my expectations, and one left me a little bit disappointed. Here's my in-depth look at these games, in which I pick apart two very different remake philosophies to find out why that is.

Let's start with Mystery Dungeon DX, which does a wonderful job of recreating the original Red and Blue Rescue Team games. Everything from the original games was remade with beautiful new assets. The art style can only be described as a watercolor fever dream. It’s refreshing, and it helps differentiate the title from any other game in the franchise.

Mystery Dungeon DX screenshot showing Pikachu in a charming wooded scene
The updated visuals of Mystery Dungeon DX might not feature "top of the line" graphics, but they’re charming and unique, and that’s what matters most.

More importantly, Mystery Dungeon DX isn’t content to use its predecessor as a crutch. It has a certain reverence for the game it’s based on, but it also wants to stand alone as something entirely new. 

For instance, the developers cracked down hard on some of the balancing issues present in the original games. I’m not saying Mystery Dungeon DX is perfectly balanced. I still wanted to bash my head into the wall any time an enemy Pokémon used Earthquake and damaged my entire party from across a room. But there are some really thoughtful changes here, such as reducing the level grind and rewarding players who link their moves together with more explosive damage output than ever before. There’s no doubt in my mind that the remake offers a more refined gameplay experience than Red Rescue Team.

What’s more impressive, though, is how much new content was packed into this remake. Mega Pokémon. Shiny Pokémon. Primal legendaries. New postgame dungeons. A selection of new playable Pokémon from the Sinnoh Pokédex! These are massive additions that are indicative of just how much TLC went into the making of Mystery Dungeon DX. These are the kind of changes that justify bringing a game back to life!

Screenshot of the Primal Groudon fight in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon DX
The Primal Groudon fight is challenging new content, negating all water-type moves. It shakes the game up a bit!

Mystery Dungeon DX embodies what I believe a perfect remake philosophy should be: Rebuild something worthwhile from the ground up, improve it for a more modern audience, and add new content that couldn’t be there when the game was originally made.

But then you have Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. These are not bad games, not at all. They’re like comfort food. They don’t take risks. The devs took a much more conservative approach to remaking these games, and I think that plays out to their detriment.

There aren’t many changes made from the original games that I can see in these remakes. Trainer battles are slightly more challenging to compensate for how Pokémon experience gain has changed in the franchise over the past decade and a half. The need to keep an HM slave Bidoof in the player’s party throughout the game is gone. Hooray!

In this remake, new areas are added to the underground, allowing the player to find rare Pokémon as they gain gym badges and travel around the region. Now, if you want a fire type that isn’t Ponyta or Chimchar, you can actually get one before the end of the game. And Ramanas Park was a nice addition as a way for players to catch all of the legendary Pokémon from generations 1 through 3 without needing to use Pokémon Home’s cloud service (provided you have a copy of both Brilliant Diamond AND Shining Pearl, because of course you’d need both).

These are all definitely nifty little "bumps" in the game’s overall quality, sure. But guess what? These aren’t the first Diamond and Pearl remakes that have come out! Pokémon Platinum, a straight upgrade to its predecessors, was released back in 2008. The remakes of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are very conspicuously missing almost all of the improvements made to the Sinnoh region in Platinum. 

In fact, large swaths of content from Platinum were cut from these remakes altogether. For one, the entire Distortion World adventure was cut. This is a damn shame, as it would’ve been really fun to see that part of the game in an updated visual style. Worst of all, though, is the omission of the Battle Frontier, which was what gave Platinum so much replayability. Without that robust endgame, I simply don’t feel the urge to go back to Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl when a better postgame already exists elsewhere.

Screenshot from the original Pokemon Diamond and Pearl video game.
How cool would it have been to see this in the updated Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl visual style?!?

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are the products of a strict remake philosophy: they offer some quality of life upgrades and a smattering of new content, but it’s plain to see that the developers were far more concerned with creating an exact replica of the original product.

The different remake philosophies of Mystery Dungeon and BDSP are illustrative of design approaches in the wider gaming industry right now, and that’s why I think it’s so important to highlight them.

We’ve reached a point in the games industry where the "power players" and Triple-A companies seem to want to remake every game that they feel like they can turn a second profit on. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, honestly. There’s definitely a market for fulfilling the nostalgic whims of an older gaming audience.

What I do think is a bad thing is when these supposed "remakes" are just $60 remasters of games that were released a decade and a half ago. That’s not taking care of a consumer need, that’s preying on the goodwill these developers built up with their initial game. Why would I buy a remake that does the exact same thing the original game did? Emulators exist for a reason, after all!

Instead of giving me remakes, I want to see that the game companies have taken some risks. I want something that captures the spirit and story of the original game, but that also mixes things up a little! Hell, let’s see some more wild shit like the Final Fantasy 7 Remake!

What do you think about the state of remakes in the games industry? Do you prefer "faithful remakes" that are just remasters of the original, or do you think that developers should mix it up a bit?

5 Video Games Perfect For Theme Parks

At the 2020 Nintendo Direct live streaming event, Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Super Mario, gave viewers a brief tour of the brand new Super Nintendo World in Universal Studios Japan. Set to open in February of 2021, Super Nintendo World is a Super Mario video game come to life with everything from special interactive power-ups on item boxes, apps that sync with a special wristband to collect coins from various locations, and fully realized sets recreating the iconic levels of the franchise. 

To top it off, Miyamoto previewed a state-of-the-art ride with never-before-seen technology that puts guests right into the heart of an epic race called "Super Mario Kart: Koopa's Challenge." If you've ever wondered what it'd be like to wander through a warp pipe and end up in the Mushroom Kingdom, Super Nintendo World will give you that experience tenfold.

As a theme park enthusiast and a former Cast Member for Walt Disney World, I've been fascinated with theme parks from all around the world. With the creation of Super Nintendo World now coming to life, I've compiled a list of what I believe to be the five video game franchises that would be perfect for theme parks. Some you may expect and some may surprise you. Either way, it's time to level up the world of theme parks with my very own wishlist.

Kingdom Hearts - Tokyo Disneyland Park

The Square Enix/Disney crossover franchise is an obvious choice to be an extension to the Tokyo Disneyland park in Japan. Through the magic and ingenuity of the brilliant Disney Imagineers, guests would enter a secret portal on Destiny Island into Traverse Town being greeted by Sora as well as Donald, Goofy, and Mickey in their respective Kingdom Hearts costumes. Upon arrival, Guests wearing their park exclusive Magic Bands with the Kingdom Hearts logo will be able to go on an interactive quest throughout the park helping stop the Heartless from taking over designated areas around shops and character meeting areas.

The main attraction (or E-Ticket Ride as it's known in the Disney Parks lingo) would be a ride called "Journey into the Realm of Darkness'' where guests journey together to face the Darkness in their Gummi Ship while using Keyblades to fend off foes sent after them by the evil Maleficent. It would be a combination of the vehicle technology used in "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" in Universal Orlando Resort and the laser blasters in "Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters" in Disneyland, plus some 4K digital mapping projections.

Uncharted - Universal Studios Epic Stunt Show

Stunt shows are a staple of theme parks around the world and there's no better franchise that lends itself to it than the Uncharted franchise. Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles would be a perfect park to have this show. A grandiose outdoor amphitheater showcasing an exotic temple would be the perfect setting and size for Nathan, Elena, and Sully to climb, shoot, and drive in a series of action-packed stunt scenes. Water would surround it like a moat for jet ski chases. Set pieces of all sizes would fill it out perfectly for Nathan’s signature climbing and jumping while fending off evil mercenaries. Fill in the ground with a huge track for stunt car chases and you've got yourself a three-tiered show capped off with pyrotechnics of all kinds!

Stunt shows usually have pre-recorded vocal tracks that actors lip-sync to and this would be no different with Nolan North, Emily Rose, and Richard McGonagle reprising their respective roles. What better way to see your favorite characters in real life than to hear their actual voices on stage? Imagine, if you will, a scenario where Nate has once again found himself in the midst of an epic journey to find an ancient relic thought to be lost to the ages. With Elena and Sully by his side, the three of them fend off an evil group of mercs hired by a rival treasure hunter intent on stealing it for themself.

The action-movie style of the franchise is perfect for a stunt show of this caliber. The humor, the fight choreography, simulated shootouts, and car chases, all kept at a pace with a sweeping score from the original game's soundtrack, would make this stunt show a signature piece at any theme park around the world.

Bioshock - Islands of Adventure Hybrid Thrill Ride Experience

Imagine walking through the Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando with all the fantastical buildings surrounding you and, in the distance, an unassuming simple lighthouse. You walk through a winding path filled with aged newspaper postings on signs talking about the amazing eighth wonder of the world built by the infamous Andrew Ryan. Once inside the lighthouse, you find yourself presented with a staircase that goes down to an antechamber filled with propaganda signs from Andrew Ryan himself promoting his underwater city, Rapture.

Soon, attendants dressed in the finest 1950s uniforms designed by Ryan Industries invite you to step into designated patented multi-rider bathyspheres. Once inside, you're taken on a (motion-simulated) journey underwater and transported to the marvelous city of Rapture. However, on the way, the recording of Andrew Ryan's voice becomes distorted and suddenly the recording is hijacked by a mysterious character who warns them that all hell has broken loose in Rapture and they need to turn back.

But it's too late. Once you've emerged from the depths, you're suddenly confronted with a Splicer (portrayed by a live actor) who attempts to break into your bathysphere. A large bellowing voice scares them off and your vehicle opens with a tattered-uniformed guide claiming to be a friend of the voice that warned you to turn back. Collectively you all walk through the dilapidated city and back towards an emergency exit avoiding any trouble you encounter along the way. Eventually, as you are surrounded by a multimedia experience with special effects to fully immerse you in the city of Rapture, you make a daring escape in a submarine while a Big Daddy attempts to break-in.

This idea was inspired by Disney's "Rise of the Resistance" attraction in Disney's "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" theme park. It would consist of a simulator ride through a virtual ocean, a walkthrough experience with live-action actors, fully realized set pieces, state-of-the-art animatronics, and digital projection mapping, and LED video to simulate the infamous underwater tunnels. The ride would conclude with a thrilling simulated submarine ride and a terrifying encounter with a full-sized Big Daddy animatronic. It would be an incredibly ambitious attempt at bringing the world of Bioshock to life.

Resident Evil - Universal Studios Japan Horror Maze

Every year in October, Universal Theme Parks in California, Florida, and Japan hosts an event called “Halloween Horror Nights.” Themed mazes litter the park and have delightfully frightened park goers with creatures and characters from the most famous horror films and television series. 

In 2014, Universal Studios Japan went a step further and dedicated an entire zone of their park, from August to November, to the video game franchise Resident Evil (known as Biohazard in Japan). Characters from the game were scattered throughout the area, and live-action re-enactments of scenes and encounters from the game were played out right in front of guests at periodic times throughout the day. 

In my idea for making this a theme park attraction, I'm taking all of this one step further.

A year-round horror maze is not uncommon these days, but what if you were to take all the great elements of a haunted house, live-action presentations, and state-of-the-art special effects and then combine them with the added bonus of augmented reality? All of these elements under one roof would make for an incredibly immersive experience.

Guests would enter through a STARS-themed queue with video monitors describing what they're about to experience all along the way. As the line moves, guests learn they have volunteered to try out a brand new technology that will allow them to help the patrol identify early-onset infections of the t-Veronica virus. They are also being trained to learn how to eliminate the already infected as they'll be given specialized weaponry. In reality, guests are putting on special augmented reality equipment used in such experiences as "Ghostbusters: Dimension" created by AR event creators, "The VOID."

A walkthrough set, live-action zombie actors, digital projection effects, a specialized HUD on your equipment, and immersive effects surrounding you at all times--you’ll feel like you're inside the video game. It would not be for the faint-of-heart, to say the least.

World of Pokémon - Full Theme Park

The Pokémon franchise is too big to put into one ride, one live show, or even one park. This nearly 25-year-old franchise deserves to have its very own theme park. The World of Pokémon would be an absolutely immersive experience from the moment you step through the gates. Entirely enclosed so that year-round access is guaranteed, the World of Pokémon would be divided into several areas taken from the most famous locations in the video game franchise. 

Guests would wear a special RFID chip wrist-band with a signature pokéball on it that would act just like the item does in-game. Connecting via Bluetooth to an exclusive downloadable pokédex app, guests would find themselves in a park-sized spanning game of Pokémon Go! Instead of virtual images on their phones, guests would be able to use the app to find special locations where scale animatronics of the most famous original 150 would be scattered throughout the park. They'll be able to see their own starter Pokémon in real-time battle with the other creatures on their phone. And if they're lucky enough to capture five of them, they can take them around the entire park to do special AR challenges and even compete for gym badges.

Beyond the fully immersive premium encounter game, guests can have meet-and-greets with an animatronic Pikachu, eat signature dishes inspired by the game at the many eateries, ride roller coasters inspired by the Legendary Pokémon like Articuno, Zapados, and Moltres. Or even see a live-action Ash, Misty, and Brock face off against the evil Team Rocket in a special effects show using high-end screen projections. The big-ticket ride would be a 3D dark ride where park-goers would take a special tour through the famous cities of Pokémon only for their ride to be hijacked by Team Rocket with Ash and his Pokémon following to save his new friends.

Combining the look of the worlds from the video games, the animated series, and the live-action movie "Detective Pikachu," the World of Pokémon theme park would be the number one destination for all things Pokémon. You will absolutely know the true meaning of “gotta catch ‘em all” by the end of it as you try to become a true real-life Pokémon master.

Those are my picks for video games I feel would be perfect for theme parks. What games would you like to see come to life in a ride, show, or full-fledged park? Which ones from the list would you want to see the most? Let me know in the comments below.


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