The Ryan Lambie Column: Five of the worst retro game reboots

It's not just movies that get tepid reboot treatment. Here are five old games that should have stayed in the grave...

Mr Ryan Lambie's amazing joypad.

As Hollywood continues to plunder history’s back catalogue of films and television shows, the land of video games sees a steady trickle of its own remakes, reboots and reworkings. Some of these are excellent (GRINS’s Bionic Commando Rearmed), some are mediocre (GRIN’s Bionic Commando), while others are just downright awful. And that’s where this fistful of horrors comes in…

1. Golden Axe: Beast Rider (XBox 360, 2008)

The original: Basic but brilliant scrolling beat-em-up with a sword and sorcery theme, three characters to select (Muscly bloke, bikini clad bird and short person with beard) and a whole army of Tolkien-esque drones to batter to death.

The remake: Last year’s current gen reboot gave the muscly bloke and bearded dwarf short shrift, focusing instead on the bosomy charms of bikini clad bird (or Tyris Flare if you’re really bothered), a decision that could be seen as a cynical attempt to sell a shoddy game with gratuitous glimpses of flesh. In fairness, the game does nothing to dispel these suspicions, with a camera that’s rarely less than a few pixels from Flare’s arse, and Ninja Gaiden style blood and guts completely failing to paper over a mediocre game with leaden controls. Dreadful.

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2. Final Fight Streetwise (PS2, 2006)

The original: Capcom’s 1989 coin-op introduced the unsuspecting game playing public to Mike Haggar, the wrestling mayor who’s so hard that he battles the scum of Metro City topless. There were two other characters you could play as here too, but they both looked like a pair of girls. Haggar meanwhile was a great lumbering brute of a man, and Final Fight was one of the first games to make you feel as though your character had real physical weight – he towered over most of his early opponents, who didn’t stand a chance against his flailing tree-trunk arms of death.

The remake: The team behind this unholy reenactment were also involved in the production of Golden Axe: Beast Rider, which should immediately set alarm bells ringing. Some bizarre mini-games (including cockroach stomping, for God’s sake) punctuated a series of ugly, poorly designed levels that had no respect for the original game’s colourful characters at all. Swearing and buckets of blood were added to the mix apparently to make the game more ‘gritty’, but only served to make it more insulting and odious than it might have been. Haggar wisely retired before this sorry effort, leaving vapid second fiddle Kyle to carry the can by himself.

3. Galaga: Destination Earth (PS1, 2000)

The original: A stunning successor to Galaxian, Namco’s Galaga is still a frenetic, addictive blaster even after 28 years. Bonus stages, an ingenious risk/reward weapon system and fearsomely fast aliens make this an absolute classic – it’s hard to believe that only three years stood between this and the monochrome march of Space Invaders.

The remake: A polygon-based 2K reboot with a mix of 2D levels that aped the original and mostly broken 3D sections. Many of the attack patterns and gameplay made it into Destination, but somehow the tension was mislaid. Worryingly, I seem to recall Raffaele Cecco, the genius behind ZX Spectrum classic Cybernoid was behind this; how the mighty have fallen.

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4. Project Altered Beast (PS2, 2005)

The original: Another Sega coin-op from Makoto Uchida, the developer behind Golden Axe and Alien Storm, Altered Beast was a mindlessly enjoyable side-scrolling beat-em-up with an odd Greek/fantasy theme. The repetitive two-move gameplay was spiced up a bit with a mutating protagonist: collect the floating wolf souls (told you it was odd) and your character would gradually mutate from a skinny man in underpants to a hulking, musclebound monster.

The remake: 2005’s Project Altered Beast took the original concept and moved into the third dimension but failed to update the repetitive gameplay – a dreadful camera system only added to the misery, and unsurprisingly PAB never made it out of Japan.

5. Space Invaders: Invasion Day

The original: The great granddad of all shoot-em-ups, Tomohiro Nishikado’s arcade classic was a revolution in 1978 but now looks and plays like the most austere game imaginable. Still a classic though.

The remake: This PS2 outing had virtually nothing to do with the original game whatsoever, unless you count the parts where you stood behind dustbins while aliens headed down an alleyway towards you. A tedious, horrible game deservedly forgotten – Space Invaders Extreme was a far more worthy tribute.

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Ryan writes his gaming column every week at Den Of Geek. Last week’s is here.

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