When I find myself looking at anime and wondering if it was always just a series of horrible premises and teenage breasts, Cowboy Bebop is kind of my fallback. If you’ve never seen it, you should go fix that, but you could do worse than boiling it down as Firefly without references to the Civil War and with references to the mob. It’s not much of a leap from the two, is what I’m saying.
There have been two attempts to bring the title into video game format, one of which was an on-rail shooter that was more or less forgotten in the time it took to write this sentence while the other almost had a US release before everyone noticed that it was a terrible game. On the one hand, it’s somewhat refreshing to see a popular anime neither based off of video games nor mired in a series of weak and forgettable game adaptations. But what makes a Cowboy Bebop game so hard to get moving in the first place? Is it all the same problems that stymie a Firefly game?
Nope! It’s a comfortably unique series of problems.
Being a fan of Transformers insulated me pretty well. I don’t mean a casual fan that didn’t realize the franchise had run pretty much continuously in one form or another since 1984, the generation that played with the toys as kids and then realized that Michael Bay was making a movie based on that franchise. I mean that I was a fan as soon as I was old enough to understand what the show was. I wrote a long string of fanfics about stuff during Beast Wars. I was a big fan.
So I sure as hell was disappointed when the film turned out to be a terrible cluster of explosions and bland, ignorable characters. But I also knew the difference between that and childhood ruination, which would be impossible without the aid of a multi-directional time machine.
I’m not saying that this franchise and the characters it contained were not childhood icons, because they totally were. I’m saying that the internet is full of people who have either never ended their childhoods or have some really weird ideas about how things happening now would affect their younger selves. If your childhood is being ruined by a modern remake of something you enjoyed when you were younger? Your childhood is way too fragile.
I am as fond of anyone as saying that maybe something isn’t necessarily for you. Which is a great message to internalize until something is for you and it still blows.
The problem with the idea of “it’s not for you” is that it can easily becomes some sort of precautionary principle that shields a game or a book or a movie or whatever from any top-level criticism. If you think that the Game of Thrones series is awash in unveiled misogyny and way too many gratuitous bare breasts, well, it’s not for you. On the flip side, you could also be complaining that it’s a fantasy piece with a lot of swearing and no clear heroes or villains, which… kind of does merit the “not for you” defense.
Point being, the whole thing is a fuzzy area. But there are a few pretty firm signs that someone is complaining about something that isn’t for them or something that is, in fact for them and just not doing a very good job of it.
2014 is just about fading in our collective cultural rear-view mirror, and to that I say “fuck along.” This year has been sort of terrible, after all. But as this blog was started/revived/whatever in March, it’s been around long enough that I do not have immunity to the contractual requirement that you have to do some sort of year-in-review piece. On the plus side, at least I don’t have to cast a vote for game of the year.
I probably should, but I didn’t play all of the games this year, so whatever.
So let’s look back at the collection of broken bottles and drunken notes that encapsulate 2014 and talk about them in hindsight, a hindsight heavily filtered by the fact that pretty much no one wants to remember this year and that I have a terrible time remembering when things actually happened. Seriously, I still think Lost premiered recently. I am not well-suited to retrospectives for precisely that reason.
Remake. The term strikes fear into the hearts of all, because you know you’re in for a ride as soon as you hear it, and it might not be a good one. Someone has decided that your favorite movie or game or show needs to be recreated completely, because for whatever reason the original just isn’t good enough any more.
To be utterly fair, if you’re looking at your favorite stuff with a critical eye, this is frequently accurate. Your favorite stuff is not sacrosanct, and there are times when it completely deserves a redo to be more accessible or just plain better. My affection for older games does not render them immune to the ravages of technology, and bringing them up to date both graphically and mechanically could do wonders for several. I’d love to see the original Phantasy Star games brought together into a fully remade form, for example.
Yet for every great remake in any medium, there are some truly atrocious ones. So let’s look at what can be done with remakes, the tiers that can be aspired to, from the worst to the best.