We all spend so much time wrapped up in all these games getting remastered that only came out two years ago, that it can be easy to forget about all these wonderful games that existed before 2012. But thankfully, we’ve got Halo 2 being remastered within the Halo Collection soon and also got Wind Waker HD and the remaster of Halo 1 not that far back, which showed everyone that actually, yeah, we could probably take some games from two console generations back and jazz them up and have them be wonderfully playable all over again. So from that basis, I’ve decided to tell you what are objectively* the games most in need of a remake for the new generation. (*these are totally the subjective opinions of me as the writer and if you don’t agree then that’s fine and you’re totally allowed to be wrong on the matter).
Dragon Quest VIII – PS2, Level 5, Square Enix, 2004 (JP) 2005(US) 2006(EU)
I absolutely adore Dragon Quest. Absolutely 100% am head over heels in love with it. Where the Final Fantasy series has generally failed to captivate me or keep me in, Dragon Quest filled the gap. And Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King was the first step in all that. Mostly because its an insanely fantastic and underappreciated gem. And that’s not just because it has this amazing old-school turn based JRPG gameplay style, which can be plenty punishing if you haven’t gotten the hang of the system and prepared properly for what you are about to face; the amount of deaths I had facing dungeon bosses because I hadn’t gotten strong enough yet was crazy. Yes, that is me saying this is a JRPG in which you grind, but the thing about having to grind was that it was never this thing that made the game any less fun, it was just yet more time to experience the game and between dungeons and towns.
The reason it never made the game any less fun, and a large reason I’d love to see the game redone in HD or higher, is that the overall design in the game is fantastic. The character and enemy designs, done by Akira Toriyama aka the Dragon Ball Z guy, are absolutely beautiful to look at and packed with character, which means that grinding and seeing the same enemies over and over or running to a new area and meeting whatever new people and enemies the game has to throw at you never stops being fun. The music in the game is just astounding; the battle theme still sticks with me to this day from when I first played the game, which must have been years back. The whole graphic design of the game generally in its celshaded style is almost like a peak for that look, for me personally; it sits so well with the character designs and gives the world such a great look, while also meaning that the game retains its charm even as its aged quite harshly as an SD game. The voice acting is quirky as all hell; Yangus and King Trode’s voices are particular highlights, but there’s also the fun of the villagers who have voices and various assorted characters throughout the story, who all generally have voices that you can’t describe as typical JRPG fare (Yangus’ wonderful cockney accent will probably stay with me forever as a highlight of voice acting).
Yet, despite all this, the game never got a huge amount of appreciation. It has a cult following, sure, and there are ninth and tenth entries into the Dragon Quest series and Toriyama’s designs have become pretty major within the series now, but its never had the widespread appreciation that say Final Fantasy 10 or 12 have, as the big JRPGs of the PS2. And while plenty of other PS2 games have had these big HD remasters, like Final Fantasy X, or definitive ports, like Persona 4, the best that Dragon Quest VIII ever got was a reductive iOS and Android port. Which is far less than it deserves. So get real Square Enix and get me a full-blown HD remake of Dragon Quest VIII already, you damn fools!
Chibi Robo – Gamecube, Skip Ltd., Nintendo, 2005 (JP) 2006 (NA/EU)
Chibi Robo is not a game I have played. The chances of me having played it were quite low anyway, between not owning a Gamecube and it being a fairly rare game. Even with it having had a remake on Wii in 2009 (Japan-only, mind you), its not a game many people know about or really register on the radar of Gamecube classics. People will happily swing around their Wind Wakers, and their Metroid Primes, and their Super Smash Bros. Melee, and even their Super Mario Sunshines, but often enough, a lot of the particularly odd or bizarre Nintendo games and franchises that started on the Gamecube get ignored. Except for Pikmin. People love Pikmin. Understandably, its insanely adorable. But back to the point at hand; here is this cutesy kawaii-as-f*** game about a small robot cleaning up a household, in some kind of super Japanese version of The Borrowers, and yet, here we are, barely registering its existence and how cool it is.
And this is a game that’s had 2 DS sequels as well. Its not like Nintendo have just given up on trying to push it, like its F-Zero or something. Yet, we can’t seem to get Nintendo to want to make a remake for Wii U, when that could be the perfect platform. Imagine the household duties and problems you could solve with your Gamepad; get involved with scrubbing the paw-prints off the floor by using the touchscreen, see how situations are unfolding between various toys on the screen, use AR elements potentially. Imagine what you could get up to if you got to play online; loads of little house-friend robot people, all trying to do their best to keep a house clean whether its competitive or cooperative. You’ve got to admit that kind of has a ring to it. It’s a game that has plenty of potential to make normally boring tasks even more fun, like games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing, and that would likely only get even better if you used the advances we’ve had since then. Heck, if that wasn’t true, I doubt the Big N would have bothered even making DS sequels or a Wii port after all that. So where’s the Wii U port, huh Ninty, get on that case!
Mercenaries: Playground Of Destruction – PS2/Xbox, Pandemic, LucasArts, 2005
With a name like that, why would you ever need to explain the game? But seriously, no, this game is probably one of my favourite sandbox games from that generation, and its a shame that EA never picked it up and made a sequel, because I’m sure a PS3/360 sequel would have been really good if it existed. The gist of this game is; you’re a gun for hire, in the middle of a big war in Korea, between North Korea, and the ‘united’ forces of China, the UN, South Korea and the Russian Mafia (known for their fantastical love of military campaigns against dictators, obviously). And you get to make a real killing, excuse the pun, playing the field and taking down the North Korean regime. Now, when I say taking down the North Korean regime, I don’t just mean shooting millions of conscripted soldiers; I mean literally taking down every building in site with every air strike, artillery barrage and weapon you can get your hands on. This was, probably alongside the classic Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, the game that started the world’s love of shooty games where you blow your way through buildings just like you do with people.
Another important part of why the game was so great was the fact that it struck that amazing Saints Row 2 equilibrium of ‘bizarre partly-emergent hilarity’ and ‘totally self-serious tone and story’. When a game takes itself seriously, as the world goes to pot in the most bizarrely funny ways, it only helps me have more fun, because it gives it this great accidental-cult-B-movie tone which I can never get enough of. I mean, here’s this story that talks a bit game about you going and beating the North Koreans and saving the peninsula and maybe the world, and then you just run it and kick some guys and blow up a giant arch and a few buildings and run a tank through a military base, and your cash goes in, and you’re like HAHA SUCK IT KIM! It’s a game that is wonderfully at odds with itself, without being so at odds with itself that it suffers. The game never deviates from being a serious shooty game, despite the havoc, despite the huge bunker busting air strikes and mini nuclear attacks, despite your erratic behaviour as a mercenary. The vehicles were also pretty great in that game. It had your typical military open world set; cars, tanks, helicopters, all that lot, and they all worked as expected. The fun of all that came in with the open world destruction, as it did with most things in that game. Just running into one of oh so many North Korean bases and getting hands to an attack chopper then launching a bizarre one man assault on Pyongyang wasn’t really something you got elsewhere.
Looking back now, with Shadow of Mordor a popular thing because of its Nemesis mechanic, it also seems handy to note that this game had a similar static system to keep you exploring endlessly for the people you need to take down, in its ‘deck of cards’ system. Essentially, the 52 most senior and dangerous folk in this fictional North Korean government and military were assigned a card each, and all these people were scattered away in the world, for you to stumble upon and then hunt down to capture or kill for rewards. While this isn’t the same dynamic, experience-driven AI that Shadow of Mordor has, it was nonetheless a huge part of what kept pushing you through the game’s environments, and the particular missions in which you took down the Ace officials are, to me, an example of structuring around a system like that which game developers could learn from. The one that sticks with me is the first Ace mission, for the Ace of Clubs, where you sneak onto an island, cripple its surveillance, break into the city on the island fighting a big military force as you go, then destroy his giant reinforced tower with the newly unlocked and totally-free-at-the-time bunker buster air drop. It is your first sight of total insane-level destruction with an air strike that should cost you something like $750,000. And it is glorious. And then you go chase down the Ace and grab him and leg it before you end up getting killed. Now if that description didn’t get your blood boiling, you’re free to go run off and kill some randomised orc, but if it did, then you can help me try and figure out where the hell we need to go to get Mercenaries remade!
Ribbit King – PS2/Gamecube, Jamsworks, Bandai (Now Bandai Namco), 2003/4 (Its complicated)
This is a game, that if Youtube weren’t a thing where bizarre games are documented, I probably could have sworn I hallucinated playing and owning. The central conceit of this game is a sport called frolf. By frolf, I’m not referring to Frisbee golf, the classic college sport alongside beloved games such as hacky sack. No, by frolf, I’m referring to a portmanteau of frog and golf; yes, this is a sport where you use frogs as golf balls, and hammers as golf clubs. You hit frogs with hammers to play golf. And the golf courses are all bizarre and bounce you around from place to place and have lots of things that you’re supposed to hit to get your score up because this is actually a score system rather than a straight golf system. And all the characters are insanely bizarre and their frogs are styled to be like them. And the story was some bizarre thing about travelling across the universe challenging people to games of frolf for some reasons that I can’t remember any more in your big rocket.
Looking at my description, this game does sound like a fever dream. But I do remember owning it, at one time, and I definitely remember playing a demo on one of my PS2 demo discs. And there are definitely videos on it, because Game Grumps covered it. But even if it had just been a fever dream, it was a damn fun fever dream. Ribbit King is just that kind of bizarre game that you have trouble even finding in the indie community now; its just absolutely insane bonkers mechanics with little framing or anything that makes sense, but it all holds together perfectly and its fun and it works quite neatly. A bit like Super Monkey Ball in that subversively-weird fun that isn’t like much else thing (side note: where’s my new Super Monkey Ball, or even a remake of Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, EH, SEGA?). The kind of thing that only really came from those weird middle of the row publishers like Bandai who didn’t seem to have much clue what was going on but didn’t care and churned out bizarre games.
I don’t know if I can really tell you huge amounts about the game any more besides all that weirdness, because what little I remember from playing it probably 8 years ago at least straddles the line of “Yeah, I remember that” and “Am I making this up in a weird dream about this game that I just remember being super crazy”. So yeah, even if just for my memory, get on the case and remake it Bandai Namco. Its not like you’re up to much else besides Tekken nowadays anyway.
Joe Trail is the editor-in-chief of Don’t Be A Pixel. Mostly because he says he is, not because he has other writers to edit over. But such is the life of a busy editor-in-chief, obviously. He’s also an avid writer for the site. Of course.