Eurogamer Q&A: What’s the best reboot?
Consider the playground game “Telephone” – where players pass a message along a chain of people, by taking turns whispering into the ears of their friends.
As the message passes down the line, it becomes twisted and malformed, either by simple miscomprehension or childish caprice, typically arriving at the end of the chain a completely different sentence.
Now consider video game franchises. Much like with Telephone, the same story can only really be told finitely before the whole thing begins to fall apart. The rough bones might resemble where we started, but in an effort to drive the narrative forward, the endpoint is rarely recognisable.
Rebooting a series, then, is like a franchise starting a brand new game of Telephone, right back at the start of the chain. It’s a chance to freshen up and rejig the narrative, the style, the perspective. And it has saved a number of video game series from settling into mediocrity.
God of War is the latest franchise to receive such a kick up the pants. Happily, not only might the latest addition to the series be one of our favourites, but the pivot from a story told on the back of Greek mythology to one instead dripping with Viking folklore makes this an accomplished reboot of the whole series, too.
With this fresh in my mind, I thought I’d ask some of my colleagues here at Eurogamer about some of their other favourite game reboots, and braced preemptively for the piping hot takes I had no doubt invited into my inbox.
Johnny Chiodini, Video Editor
Mortal Kombat (2011)
I grew up playing Mortal Kombat, which is one of the many reasons I’m utterly rubbish at Street Fighter. The series was a constant for me throughout my childhood, from Mortal Kombat 1 on the SNES right the way through to Armageddon on the Xbox and PS2. I even enjoyed the series’ weirder moments like the utterly bizarre Kombat Chess, or the overlong action spinoff Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks.
As much as I still love these legacy titles, however, I’d be the first to admit Mortal Kombat was in dire need of a reboot. By Armageddon, Mortal Kombat didn’t resemble a video game so much as a drunk uncle – one who tells long, rambling anecdotes that never seem to go anywhere but always involve a punch up in a seedy nightclub called Chaosrealm.
Much like a drunk uncle, it also had a bit of an issue navigating a 3D space competently. Fighting in a 3D arena, in my opinion, never really worked for Mortal Kombat. It forced the game to try and be something it wasn’t and to attempt something other games were better at doing. The 2011 reboot, meanwhile, gave Mortal Kombat the licence and the confidence to go back to what made it great in the first place – robust (if not necessarily the fastest or smoothest) combat on a 2D plane with a strange cast of characters and some preposterous violence. It was glorious.
Christian Donlan, Features Editor
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX (2010)
My favourite thing about Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is that it’s a reboot of a game that was already absolutely brilliant. Pac-Man Championship Edition reimagined Pac-Man as an arcade game for an era of friends lists and online leaderboards. In doing so, it tricked out the classic Pac-Man look with disco lighting and a widescreen maze that redrew itself intermittently as you moved through it. All of these tweaks, taken as a whole, made a frantic game from yesteryear look rather sedate.
DX, though? DX reboots the reboot. It introduces sleeping ghosts which, once woken, join the original pack of hunters until you’re racing along, trailing a conga-line of creepy monsters who follow you through every twist and turn. This means, when you eat a power-pill, you get to chew through not one or two or three or four ghosts, but maybe ten or twenty or thirty. The hit-pause that each ghost gives up as you bite into it? This hit-pause slams into the hit-pause from your next victim and on and on and up and up until each high-score run is accompanied by this devilish corrugated chug of victory that is so satisfying it’s almost shameful.
Guess what? Pac-Man Championship Edition DX makes Pac-Man Championship Edition look rather sedate. And when we’re talking about reboots in the twitchy world of arcades, isn’t that the ultimate objective?
Tom Phillips, News Editor
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)
Zelda games frequently reboot the same old ideas, settings and characters but Breath of the Wild offers the clearest, cleanest break from any other adventure in the series. There’s its story, divorced from any particular branch of the saga’s loose overall timeline, and its setting, a broken Hyrule set thousands of years into the future. But its key change lies within its new gameplay systems – which flow through the game’s sprawling open world.
The idea of Nintendo implementing a physics engine into Zelda should not, on paper at least, be particularly revolutionary. Games have done weather and fire and forces before. It’s the way Nintendo does it all, though – and what it’s all in service of – which make Breath of the Wild feel unique among its peers.
Previous Zelda games are filled with puzzles – secrets to find, dungeons to uncover, keys to unlock – with one very specific solution. But Breath of the Wild’s physics and chemistry lets Nintendo throw all this out the window. In the past, finding a solution was a predictable process, where dungeons had themes to learn and a new item to eventually solve things with. Breath of the Wild hands over the majority of its powers to you in its first half hour, and sends you off into a sandbox full of ideas instead. Do you want to solve a Shrine this way? Or perhaps this? Maybe this idea will work – or all three? It is a revolutionary new path for the series. Now, we just need its place in the timeline…
Paul Watson, Social Media Manager
Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014)
You get to shoot Nazis on the moon. I don’t think I need much more of a reason than that.
You’ve heard ours, but now we want yours. Does a certain reboot stand out in your mind? Or is there a particularly stale franchise out there which could do with rebooting? Let us know in the comments below!