Questioning the Necessity of Reboots in Video Games

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In the video gaming industry, reboots exist from time to time, especially in very popular game franchises such as Armored Core, Castlevania and Mortal Kombat. In fact, I just finished one such reboot the other day, DmC: Devil May Cry, a reboot of the original Devil May Cry franchise, and with the new Tomb Raider coming out soon just around the corner, I had been asking myself, do these games even need reboots?

Taken from wiki - A timeline for Castlevania. The Lords of Shadow timeline is where the reboot starts.

Taken from wiki – A timeline for Castlevania. The Lords of Shadow timeline is where the reboot starts.

What is a reboot though? For those uninformed, a reboot is the act of restarting the settings and story of a series back to square one. Say for an example, a game had 6 main installments, all of them connected with a consecutive story. However, the studio decided they need to “reboot” the whole franchise so that they can build up a new, “alternate” story from scratch, and that, in hindsight, is a reboot.

To me, reboots are very risky moves, it’s like a gamble, especially if you’re rebooting games of legendary status. Game studios will be changing and “resetting” a franchise in which people are incredibly attached to, from the very oldest installment to the newest, they might even be “resetting” some of the characters who had already became an iconic figure in the original franchise. For reboots, they are no doubt difficult to achieve such level of success though I’m sure they are a few exceptions. Are reboots a catalyst of damnation? Or a salvation? We will have a look at two of these games I came across recently, DmC: Devil May Cry and the Tomb Raider reboot.

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At the time when DmC haven’t been released, the fans almost went nuts after looking at some of the promotional pictures and teasers. For long time fans of Devil May Cry, we are all familiar with the badass, silver-haired Dante, taking down his foes with style. The new DmC reboot turns into an almost 180 degrees in terms of appearance; the new “Dante” has an appearance which looks like he’s part of a screamo band. He drinks, cuss, and others akin to a typical gangster while the old Dante doesn’t do all those things and could still managed to achieve a level of badassery none could easily attain. When compared to that, the new Dante’s awkward attempts at being badass looks like failed Dante wannabee instead. In terms of characters, the reboot had already ruined it even before the game started, and that’s sad, considering that the game actually had an interesting enough premise, a dark but oddly entrancing world, and satisfying battle mechanics (though a bit dumbed down).

After I finished the game, I thought that it wasn’t as bad as what most people make it out to be, but it’s still a shadow of it’s former self. It’s a good game, no doubt, but it’s horrid when compared in DMC standards. Besides, Devil May Cry aren’t an extremely old series, at least compared to other series like Castlevania and Sonic which had already reached about 2 to 3 decades long. It doesn’t even have as much releases compared to the others, so I had no idea why would they feel the need to create a reboot since their own original franchise are still so expansive; they even had a new character they could expand and develop on, namely Nero. In the end though, Devil May Cry is still a phenomenal series even though it isn’t as old as other popular franchises, and rebooting such series always led to heavy scrutiny.

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Another example is the Tomb Raider reboot, the game haven’t been released yet so I haven’t had the chance to play it yet obviously, but so far, the “resetting” phase for it focuses on making the Tomb Raider protagonist, Lara Croft more “human”. Unlike the usual badass dual-pistols wielding Lara Croft we are so accustomed with, the new Lara starts in an isolated island with exactly no weapons, tools or even experience. Instead of defeating the cruelty of nature with firearms, the new Lara focuses more on survival instead of superiority. Interesting to note is that, last year, the upcoming game faced heavy controversy when a video of “attempted rape” on Lara was shown to the public.

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Either way, rebooting a game is an incredibly dangerous move, and since chances are, the game in question already had so many supportive fans, just one slight wrong move with the reboot, and it will be faced with extreme criticism from fans. Whatever they do, the reboot will be heavily scrutinized by veteran fans and followers of the franchise, even including the slightest of details, like the Tomb Raider “attempted rape” scene. I understand that the maker was trying to highlight the emotional impact Lara felt when she kills a human for the first time, but their way of execution made the fans question something else entirely.

At that end, does reboots help a franchise? Do the games even need them? I would say it depends, both on the timing and the maker. Some games had grown stale over the years and it’s those games that need the reboot. Other games which are still expandable shouldn’t have a reboot, in fact, that might even spoil whatever good elements left in it. The creators behind the reboot should also definitely know what they are doing, since once their works are published, it will be met with the harsh judgement of the fans.

What do you think of game reboots?

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15 thoughts on “Questioning the Necessity of Reboots in Video Games

  1. I guess video game companies figured, if Hollywood can milk franchises with unnecessary reboots, why can’t video game developers? Oh well, we did get the awesome Mortal Kombat reboot so they are not all bad. No wait, MK9’s a retelling, not a reboot. Never mind.

    Hmm… a good reboot of a beloved franchise…I honestly can’t think of many.

    • P.S.: The reboot isn’t bad at all, it’s just that hardcore fans hate change. Even though I can understand why they would complain, taking it as far as the DMC fans did…yeah.

      • Yea, it wasn’t as bad as I thought, but in terms of standard DMC, it’s definitely one of the lowest.

        *spoilers I guess* Some boss fights, like the boss fight against the news reporter are one of the most awkward and poorly designed boss ever. Gameplay is good and I like the pulling and yanking abilities he has via his devil and angel mode, but the lack of lock-on is a blunder. Ah well, more about this at another time, who knows I might write a review for this (still not sure if I want to).

    • Guess it’s easy for them to make some easy money by borrowing titles from a legendary game.

      Lol, guess my knowledge on gaming is still not quite there yet, what’s the difference between retelling and reboots again? Even wiki does say it’s a reboot o.O

  2. Studio’s make reboots when they’ve reached a certain point in a series or franchise where they’re too afraid that adding on to it will only guarantee failure; like if you were stretch out a continuous story into a dozen game, or try to fit something into an already tightly packed timeline. Reboots essentially give creators the freedom to try new things and continue milking a cashcow at the same time.

    So in theory they’re a great idea, but in most cases they simply can’t live up to the greatness of their predecessors and fail.

    • Indeed, that’s a good time to try out a reboot, but for some games, the original franchise was still expansive so making reboots for those is a bad choice imo. Guess games without continuous storylines in their sequels have it a little bit easier.

      I read somewhere that there is a case of a particular series which had grown so stale and dull that nobody even heard of it, and when they made a reboot for it, the popularity of the franchise suddenly revived. I can’t really remember the game title though since I read it a long time ago, lol.

  3. Aha, I wrote about DmC a while ago and its comparison to DMC3. Vergil is so pathetic in DmC compared to DMC3. We’ll see if he can at least redeem himself after his DLC comes out.
    Would you consider Metal Gear Rising/Revengeance (I don’t even know what they’re gonna call it for the final run) a reboot? I mean Old Snake did his thing in MGS4, Raiden is starring in the new one while Big Boss is getting himself a new game Ground Zeroes and MGS5 I think

    • That’s quite an unfair comparison. You’re comparing one of the worst DMC games to one of the best, lol. Both of them are, and their smirking face pisses me off so much, lol.
      I don’t think I’m even interested in the DLC..

      I didn’t play a lot of MGS sadly which is something I really want to remedy myself soon but I think it’s safe to say Metal Gear Rising is a spin-off, from what I can see, it seems a bit too different from normal MGS styles. Not too sure about MGS5 and ground zeroes though but they seems more like genuine addition to the MGS universe. Again, not too sure though since I haven’t played much MGS (yet).

  4. Generally, reboots are unnecessary unless you really done so much with the series that you can’t really make any more sequel. Typically, I see reboots rather common in JRPGs (or rather, people call them new stories), especially the Final Fantasy and Tales of games as each game’s story is completely different from each other. Sure we see a few sequels here and there, but it’s not usually the case.

    In my opinion, I think reboots can be risky as they can change a lot of things that cause fans to become dissatisfied. While I’m not a DmC fan, I did saw a review of the game from Angry Joe and I can get why most people were complaining. It seems that they wanted to make the game more accessible in the reboot, but its like a double-edged sword.

    • For the Final Fantasy and Tales series of games, I think the newer titles are more like spiritual sequels, then actual reboots, but that’s just my 2 cents. And certainly, the timing with making reboots are certainly important.

      Is Angry Joe praising or disproving it? When I checked some reviews of DmC, I’m actually surprised there are quite a number of positive reviews, not just one or two, but quite a lot of them.

  5. I think companies choose to reboot games in order to bring in fresh fans. As people who played the original get older, they eventually lose interest or just don’t have time for games. A young person looking for something to play won’t pick up a title that’s on it’s 4th or 5th installment because that means he’ll have to play the first few installments to get everything. In that sense, rebooting a title probably does well for a company.

    • Ah that’s a good point, I guess it might works for newcomers to the series unfamiliar with it, but doesn’t work as nicely with people familiar with it. There are quite a number of games that I had been wanting to play, but haven’t yet started due to the need of playing from the very 1st game.

    • Nopy is right in their comment. The reasoning for reboots are done almost entirely for commercial reasons.

      You said they could’ve had the series focus on Nero – they could, but had they given it the name DmC 5: Nero’s Adventure, then new players who go into the shop to buy a game wouldn’t have purchased it – simply because they hadn’t played 1-5 and have no clue who Nero is supposed to be.

      Also, you liked the old Dante, so decided the new Dante is a poor substitute. Don’t think of it that way, don’t think of it as an alternate retelling – it’s not. Think of it as an entirely new franchise, with completely new characters. The only reason they call it DmC and not “Demon Slayer with a Trenchcoat” is for the same reason they had a reboot – the reboot was to attract new players, them keeping the old name was to retain some old fans’ attention and gain their money.
      Also, DmC is a “reboot” of sorts of Resident Evil without keeping the name, which allowed them to change some more things. Interesting.

      Games such as Final Fantasy are different, because they’re so well known that people know that each “number” stands on its own.

      • But if they continued the main story, it would attract gamers to the older titles and eventually, the franchise as a whole. It might takes time or effort to actually be able to play the older series, true, but I always feel that one can attain the most satisfying journey by playing from the very beginning, especially so if all the stories are connected, in contrast to spiritual successors. Besides, Devil May Cry doesn’t even have a lot of titles, so it wasn’t impossible, as excluding DmC, it only had 4. Even if they don’t want to focus on Nero, Devil May Cry can do a lot of things, since the titles are in a non-chronological order after all, say for one, they can focus on a huge prequel (even before DMC3) where we play as Sparda – I think that would be awesome.

        Speaking from personal experience of mine, I wasn’t even into Metal Gear Solid before, but I played all the way from MGS 1 to 4, in doing so, I easily became a fan. I feel that a series’s ability in pulling it’s gamers into playing their old title is another beauty in itself. Once again, I admit it takes time and effort, and there are a number of games I haven’t yet play due to this very reason, but it does takes effort to attain a pleasurable satisfaction after all.

        About the monetary basis in behind most game studios, sometimes it might produce good releases but often times, series heavily “monetarized” seem to pale in comparison, with the only positive things about it are the expensive high-budget productions. I admit that I may be a bit biased towards the old DMC more than ordinary as DMC was one of my favorite games, but I feel that DmC falls victim to what I just mentioned, though luckily, it was able to somehow redeem itself with a satisfying gameplay mechanics. I guess like you said, I should think of this as a completely new game with new characters, but it’s kinda difficult when the characters even had the same names as the original characters, and even wield the same weapons the originals use.

        And the fact that all Final Fantasy are spiritual successors (except for “proper” sequels like FF X-2, XIII-2, XIII-3, etc..), they never need a reboot, each title breaks down the world and settings of the old title and craft completely new worlds, settings and even characters.

        • 1. Final Fantasy is an exception, since everyone knows that’s the way it works.

          2. You’re an exception, most gamers who buy games, especially on release and thus who pay more are those who are attracted to new games – they are not very likely to embark on the same journey as you and I. Of course it’s oftentimes more worthwhile, but they won’t do it – they want to play the newest game everyone is playing and talk about it with others who are playing it in real time.

          3. Game companies don’t earn much from older games, their prices are discounted, people often buy used copies, and often they either don’t want people to play them or people don’t want to play them – they are graphically inferior. Devil May Cry 1 is a PS2 game, it doesn’t look that good in today’s standards.

          4. Metal Gear Solid has two different things going for it: The first is that people keep telling newcomers “You need to play the other games!” – but as you yourself said, DMC/Tomb Raider are stand-alone games, so there is no real need for that. The second is that when a HD version is released, it’s an opportunity to treat it as a “new game” for many gamers. MGS had so many re-releases…

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