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Played Out: Fan Remakes

All these years, I've been typing about video games that have to be purchased with money. What a fool I've been! You people are reading this on the internet, which means you must be those computer pirates I hear about. You want your games for free, just like you'd want your bologna sandwiches if your inkjet printer were capable of printing them out.

Well fine. I'll do anything for a hit, and I need that ad revenue (pending). But no I ain't talking about Farmville, so if you want to pick your cherries just go right on back and do that. I'm talking about two fan remixes that have, in a way, demonstrated the potential for video game "sampling." People have messed with games for years now, probably going back to all those nude skins I downloaded for my NES Barbie rom in college before realizing that I was about as attracted to naked pixels as I was to naked dolls (very). Only recently, though, have I encountered projects that appear to actually be worth paying for, in a hypothetical business environment where that would be reasonable.

Whether that environment will ever exist is one question. How likely is it that an extremely Japanese company like Nintendo will let someone else make money off their licenses? Surprisingly, they've actually been quite lenient towards the community of late, not shutting down enthusiast apparel/kitsch sites such as fangamer.net. And the fact that Super Mario Bros. X is still readily downloadable would have been a wow even a couple years ago. Maybe executives have realized that allowing such a community to exist translates into continued consumer support for future franchise releases? So long as the free community games remain blatantly community and entirely free, of course.

Super Mario Bros. X is, from the 15 minutes I've played so far, a pretty inspired take on Super Mario Bros. 3. A lack of cohesiveness (similar to this post) is noticeable from the beginning, with some spattered level design, but that's to be expected from creators who obviously put their focus on capturing the character of the Nintendo universe. Music and enemies from any-bit era threaten to attack you with nostalgia whenever you enter a new level, and the real joy is the ability to enter that level with a variety of varied characters (Those who've played Mario 2 know the purposefulness of my redundancy). Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess are more than palette swaps; they all have differing abilities, and they now have them together again for the first time since wood paneling, whatever that means. Plus, there's the awesome option to play as Link from The Legend of Zelda, which results in such appreciable changes as mushrooms transforming into heart containers and coins into rupees.

Nintendo hasn't exactly failed in the throwback arena lately, offering up New Super Mario Bros. Wii last holiday season to the joy of fine-tuned sidescroller fans everywhere. Having recently celebrated Mario's 25th anniversary by releasing a console equipped with an original version of Mario Bros. that does nothing but change the coin boxes to display the number 25 instead of a question mark, however, Nintendo definitely has room to remix... if it wants to. Until then, I'm glad they're letting the fans have their fun.

My short-term happiness aside, the question of if video game developers should allow the sampling is undoubtedly more complex. It's understandable that creators would want total control over the legacy of their inceptions, and the trailer for MTV's new Teen Wolf series re-emphasizes the importance of simply leaving a franchise be. Then again, the new Battlestar Galactica was a great addition to pop culture and vastly improved over its original in the face of its grumpy progenitor.

So video games, right? Okay. Now sit down, Sally: In the video game industry, there is sometimes a beloved franchise that, for whatever reason, is consistently and continuously placed in the hands of developers who don't understand why players fell in love in the first place. That franchise is Sonic the Hedgehog, and Sonic Fan Remix is the number one reason I'm in support of game sampling.

The remix is only a 10-minute demo right now, but it's absolutely beautiful -- more beautiful, in my opinion, than the recently-released official sequel, Sonic 4. But where beauty is in the eye of the beholder, control is in his hands, and I defy anyone to play both the unofficial and the official and tell me that the latter feels better. And even if you do tell me that, I won't listen to you because I only respect my own opinion and I can't hear you nah nah nah. Sonic 4 is a floaty mess that feels too much like a budget Flash game, whereas the remix actually gives some weight to the hedgehog and makes his all-important jumps feel right. This arguable assertion isn't accurate because of some arbitrary physics expectation, either. It's right because it's the way that Sonic used to jump, back when his games were legitimately fun and successful because of it.

Right now, Sega is cashing in because people want Sonic to be more fun than it is. Sonic Fan Remix is a taste of what-could-be if the company put half as much soul into the project as their unpaid counterparts, and it's a strong statement in favor of letting the public mess with what came before.

It's not like there are any original ideas left in our meta-society, anyway.

Remix that dangling thesis as you please.

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  1. Blogger chris | 3:05 PM |  

    Soon we WILL be able to print bologna sammies! 3D printers!

  2. Blogger Alexander | 9:39 PM |  

    I whole-heartedly agree with you. Super Mario Bros. Crossover was a flash game that almost perfectly emulated the original SMB, leaving out glitches like WORLD -1, while giving us more playable characters from other NES titles like Mega Man, Samus, and Simon Belmont, to name a few. Each character has his own unique abilities, advantages and disadvantages. For example, if you want to get past a water level, Link's your best choice, since he can do an upward/downward thrust in mid-air, making it easier to make it past bloopers, but if you need to take out a bunch of enemies, Bill R. (Contra) is your best bet. Nintendo would never make such an awesome game, as they don't have the rights to all the characters, but luckily for us, fangames are able to break some boundaries.

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