Let’s Discuss – Remaster vs. Remake, Which is Better?

Welcome to PlayStation LifeStyle’s newest feature, Let’s Discuss. In Let’s Discuss, we’ll be grabbing members of the PlayStation LifeStyle staff to discuss various relevant topics within the games industry. We want you as part of the discussion too, so feel free to join in with your thoughts in the comments below.

Our first one comes on the heels of Mass Effect Legendary Edition and right alongside Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade on PS5. Editor in Chief Chandler Wood and Senior Editor Cameron Teague discuss the constantly blurring lines between remakes and remasters, from simple graphical overhauls to entirely new stories and gameplay mechanics. Which is better, remakes or remasters?

Cameron – There have been lots of recent and not so recent examples of this, with remasters such as Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD on the table and then of course remakes, like Final Fantasy VII Remake. I know that a lot of what goes into this is $$$ based, but if I throw that argument out the window, I would much rather the people involved take the time to lean towards a remake. Sure, you can keep things about the game in tact, but I want to see new ideas brought to life in the same great world we grew up loving. I spent some time with the remastered Shin Megami Tensei III and I just walked away so underwhelmed. While I am sure people will scream that it stuck true to the original, it also stuck too true to the original, feeling like an ancient game well behind the times that was just ugly and boring. You can pay tribute to something while still giving it new life and that’s what I want to see. FFVII was a great example where it brought a classic back to life in such an amazing way, while still bringing so much of what made it great before back to the table.

Final fantasy VII remake story

Chandler – This is a conversation that starts to get really messy when you include even more words like reboot, re-release, and others that mean effectively the same thing. You have to start asking, with a game like Mass Effect Legendary Edition, is that a remake or a remaster? Yes, Final Fantasy VII Remake has remake in the title, but is it a remake, or a whole new game with how much its changed? What about Ratchet and Clank 2016, which was a remake of the original Ratchet and Clank, but remained faithful to it, so effectively was a big remaster? I do prefer remakes with one big caveat: there has to be a good reason for the game to get a remake. You have to really lean into that remake and make it something special. There has to be a good reason to remake it, like why it took Final Fantasy VII so long to get one. Otherwise, give me a quality remaster that preserves the original experience in the purest way possible.

Cameron – You bring up a great point about how the lines have really been blurred at times with a lot of these remasters vs remakes vs re-release and reboot. At times, it’s really hard to tell what “re” you have on your hands. I will also agree on your point that unless you have a great reason to remake the game, a quality remaster is probably the right avenue for you to take, but just don’t shortchange people. It can’t be just a once over in the paint booth with trophies added. Look at places where you can make small tweaks to improve the game. I hate to go right back to Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD, but that is a game where I never played the original, but when playing the remaster, I couldn’t help but be frustrated with how old and dated everything was. Again, I know it is an old game, but as someone playing it for the first time, I don’t mind seeing the roots, but give me some highlights as well. Too often it just feels very lazy with a remaster and I hate using that word because I know there is a lot to the process, but it just feels that way.

Shin Megami Tensei 3 Nocturne HD Remaster ps4

Chandler – We’re at a point where even with a “remaster,” the game needs to feel good with modern standards. I’ve recently been using my PS5 to play the PS4 digital release of the PS3 remaster of Jak and Daxter, a PS2 game. It’s nostalgia overload, and I’ve played the hell out of this game again and again over the last 20 years, but WOW are there some design and mechanics decisions (namely its terrible camera) that are painful to engage with today. Not every game needs a Final Fantasy VII-scale complete ground-up remake, but at the same time, sometimes a layer of visual polish just won’t do. I think great examples of this balance are games like the Crash N. Sane Trilogy, Spyro Reignited, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2. These games were “remake-lite.” They didn’t make drastic changes, but they were developed to recapture nostalgia, not reality. They take how we remember the classics through rose colored glasses, and they make that real and seamless with modern day expectations.

Cameron – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 is a perfect example and I am so glad you brought it up. That is a game that made just the right kind of changes to make it feel fresh to death, while also feeling like a blast from the past. Spyro Reignited also tight roped that fine line to near perfection, and it works. It’s hard to find that balance but when it’s found, it creates something special.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 PS5 Review 1

Chandler – Precisely, and then those can lead into great new things, whether it’s finally getting a proper Crash Bandicoot 4 that evolves on that old style, or Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart clearly taking influence from Insomniac’s work on the Ratchet and Clank 2016 remake. If it helps us avoid disasters like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, developers toying with old games to remake or remaster them can lead to a better understanding of how an entirely fresh entry could fit in today.

What are your thoughts on the remakes vs. remasters discussion? Hop into the comments below and discuss with us and each other, and let us know what future topics you want to see us talk about on Let’s Discuss.