A while back, I remember writing a post about Nintendo remaking a Commodore 64 game and releasing it on the Wii Store. I can't find the post, but I think the game was Impossible Mission. And we're not talking about a straight port like they've done with all the virtual console games - we're talking a total remake. The remake I've just seen of Dr. Mario which is part of Brain Age 2 has made me realize how well this can be done. It's got new graphics, and a new arrangement of the same old music. It's excellent.
Certain Commodore games I loved were actually arcade games, such as Marble Madness, Wizard of Wor, Arkanoid, OutRun, Congo Bongo, Crystal Castles, Spyhunter, and Yie Ar Kung-Fu. Their MAME versions are likely far superior, and so the notion of a remake is out. Others, such as International Karate, Rock & Wrestle, Skyfox, Up'n Down, Blue Max, and Way of the Exploding Fist were genre games (in the fighting/racing/flight sim genres) that have long since been improved on and can't realistically be remade well.
Others have already been remade. The new Bards Tale didn't make too much of a splash, and the remade Pool of Radiance was probably the worst game I've seen since the abyssmal Archon 3. And we've seen the various sequels to the original Commodore 64 Castle Wolfenstein. But the remake of Wasteland became a little game called Fallout which saw immense success - the third game in the series has already been announced. Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders had fantastic fan remakes. And Sid Meyer's Pirates was remade to critical acclaim. While I never played the remake of Pirates, I used to play the old version on my Commodore for hours at a time. Defender of the Crown seems to have been remade; I've even found a flash version of the game which you can play in your browser. Games like 720 Degrees would no longer be remade because of titles like Tony Hawk, and games like the wonderful Skate or Die fall half into that category, and half into Grand Theft Auto's territory. Likewise, Little Computer People was a predecessor to The Sims. Old school platformers like BC's Quest for Tires, Montezuma's Revenge, Sabateur, Zorro, and Realm of Impossibility probably would never be remade because their style is simply outdated - I'm not sure I could play through one of those today. And text games like Zork, Wishbringer, Enchanter, and Tass Times in Tonetown can sometimes be found free online, or even via IM. Try sending an instant message over AIM to InfocomBot.
There were a number of excellent RPGs on the Commodore, but while I'd love to play a remake of or Times of Lore, they might be too time-intensive to remake. And there are others, such as Phantasie, that even I would have no interest in replaying.
This article is being composed over about a week's time, and during that time, I've looked over a few dozen old Commodore games, so I'll now detail the ones that I owned and enjoyed when I had my Commodore, and which might actually do well as remakes, but which I don't personally think should be remade. First, Spy vs. Spy. The game, and its sequels, were lots of fun - even more fun two player. I guess they'd do well on XBox Live Arcade. But the franchise of Spy vs. Spy is well past its Mad Magazine heyday, and just no longer seems relevant.
Forbidden Forest was a great game, and I spent hours playing it on my Commodore. But the fact that there was only one enemy per level, and that there were only seven levels in the game is something you just don't see anymore - I can't see them remaking this game. Aztec Challenge won't be remade for the same reason: one type of challenge per level, and the levels were rather monotonous and simplistic. First level: jump over or duck under spears. Really just a glorified reflex test. Ghostbusters and Friday the 13th were two more really great games which won't be remade, simply because the IPs on which they're based are way outdated.
Gemstone Warrior was a single-player Gauntlet-like game I had a lot of fun with, but in retrospect, it seems incredibly monotonous. Run around, blow up bad guys, find the magical object, escape the maze. It would've been a lot better if hand-drawn maps that I'd made had been any use. The roguelike game Sword of Fargoal would be a fun game to remake too, but roguelikes are passe.
There was a game called The Great Giana Sisters for the Commodore that I played with my brothers for long periods. We even made up names for the various monsters in the game. But it was a blatant knock-off of Super Mario Brothers. If it ever got remade, someone would definately get sued.
I had another game called Park Patrol which was a lot of fun. You played a ranger who crusied around a park, navigating mainly via the river in an inner tube. You had to pick up all the garbage to clear each level. And if a swimmer ever started drowning, you had about 20 seconds to save him. Meanwhile, you had to dodge snakes, quicksand, and other hazards. It was pretty fun, but most of today's gamers would categorize it as ghey. Also on the ghey front is another game called Below the Root, which I've written about before. It was based on some classic books, and today would be categorized as a adventure/platformer hybrid. Although the game had no combat, and no real action other than jumping, it was ahead of its time in many ways. Yet today, it's still far behind the times, and I think the very concept wouldn't fly with modern gamers.
Lastly before I reach my real list, the most bizarre of all. Star Paws. In Star Paws, you were a cat in an astronaut helmet, running around on some moon-like planetoid, chasing down space road runners. Along the way, you could find food, Ray Guns, flying surfboards, and other objects to help you catch the road runners. There were also multi-level caves with birds in them. The goal of the game was to catch all 20 birds. I never did it. Your main danger was hunger - a hunger meter would continuously be counting down, and if it reached empty, you'd die. Each time you caught a bird, it would fill. There were also a couple mini-games. One was a puzzle mini-game very similar to the puzzle minigame in Impossible Mission. Another was a cannon minigame where you adjusted trajectory and fired cannonballs at the road runner. The game was loads of fun, but I think it's just way too odd to remake.
That was quite the preamble. Now, on to...
Commodore 64 Games I'd Like To See Remade
It's hard for me to come up with a stronger candidate than this. Autoduel was a RPG, but there was a good amount of action too. Your character only had three stats: Driving, Gunning, and Mechanic. You could improve them over time, and earn money to buy better cars. You started with no car at all, driving rented "Killer Karts" in the arena which had only a front-mounted machine gun. When you could afford to build your own custom car, you could add recoilless rifles, rocket launchers, one-shot rockets, flamethrowers, even lasers. There were also drop weapons such as spikes, mines, oil slicks, and smokescreens. You could mount weapons on any of your four sides - I always liked circling another car with a side-mounted machinegun. Your car could have different bodies, different engines, different tires, and you could place the armor however you liked, but you had to watch the car's weight and of course the price tag. During the game, you could buy clones to ensure your survival in case of a fatal encounter, salvage the remains of defeated cars, go on delivery missions, assassination missions, or work for the FBI.
Keeping the top-down perspective would work best for the remake. It could be very similar to Mexican Motor Mafia. As long as the graphics, sound effects, and engine were given a slight update, the game would rock. The addition of music might also be nice - the original game had none. And if they got really ambitious, the designers could implement turrets, firable via mouse control. This is my #1 pick for a remake.
I'm willing to bet that few if any of you have ever heard of Mail Order Monsters. I stumbled across it myself, when I rented it from some little store right next to Maple Pizza in my hometown of Bristol, CT. The basic premise is that you build a custom monster and battle it against other monsters. But it's so much more than that. Aside from the regular battle mode, you could also play capture the flag mode or cooperative mode against The Horde. You could choose from about a dozen different basic templates for your beast. The Brontosaurus was very strong, but slow and stupid. The Homnid model was very smart (fast reload) but weak. The Wasp and Spider models came with a sting and web respectively, but had no hands for holding guns or swords. And yes, there were guns, swords, grenades, armor, and even scuba gear. Enough money, and you could buy it all. Victories would also give you creature points with which you could add on gills, hands, tentacles, stingers, wings, or even photosynthesis. What I'm giving you is only from memory, but the options were many. A remake of Mail Order Monsters would be awesome for playing multiplayer online on XBox 360 or Nintendo Wii. The thing that makes all this really rough? When your monster loses, it's dead. That's it. So there'd have to be matching that prevents a veteran monster from battling a newly created one, and the focus would be more on developing good designs than on keeping a single monster alive forever. This would be a killer remake.
Druid was a fun game, although I never got much further than the fourth level, which I'm sure was less than halfway. You played from the standard top-down view, looking at the top of your druid's head as he ran around killing monsters. Your ammunition: Lightning, Flame, and Water. Each monster would be differently damaged by different elements, so if you ran out of water, you could kill those ghosts with lightning, but it would take three shots instead of one. And it might take six shots if you used Fire. The elements were available in different places in differing amounts, along with other power-ups: invisibility, healing, keys, and golem scrolls, which you could activate to summon a computer-controlled golem companion. The cool thing was that while it was primarily a single-player game, you could attach a second joystick and have a second player control the golem. The golems never lasted long before dying, but you could summon many throughout the course of the game. Other than that, it was much like Gauntlet: maze-like, with 8-10 levels in the game. The remake wouldn't be complex, but I think it would sell. And I can still hear the very catchy theme song from Druid in my head as I write this...
Archon was my favorite of all the old school battle chess games. Pieces don't move in specific fashions as in regular chess, nor does the attacking piece always win. Instead, pieces that end up on the same square move to a full-screen real-time battle. While it's theoretically possible for a goblin or knight (the pawns) to defeat a more powerful piece such as a Manticore or Archer, it's much more likely that the stronger piece will win, due to superior capabilities. The pawns have melee weapons, and most other pieces have some form of missile attack, but there are a few unique pieces. For example, the Phoenix turns into fire, which acts as both an attack and a defense, as it is invulnerable while in this state. The Banshee has a force field attack which doesn't defend it, but drains the enemy's life and adds it to the banshee's. And the shapeshifter takes the form of whatever it's fighting.
The board's squares cycle through colors, and battles that take place on dark squares favor the dark pieces and vice versa. The side with an advantage does slightly more damage. If the square is completely black or white, the advantage is exaggerated. Each side's "king" - the wizard or sorceress - can use a turn to cast a spell instead of moving. Spells include heal, teleport, revive, imprison, and summon elemental.
The game is won when one side has all its pieces destroyed or when one side occupies all five of the board's "power point" squares. A remake of Archon would be good if it simply had updated graphics and sound, but the engine of even a simplistic first-person shooter would make the battles more relevant in today's videogame landscape. I've seen a very old battle chess game on the TRS-80 which used a first-person view for the battles, using vector line graphics for the pieces, but movement was sluggish and the scenery was nonexistent. A new Archon could be revloutionary.
While not a lengthy or complex game, Law of the West was innovative, and I include it in my list only because of how perfect it would be for the Nintendo Wii. Law of the West was a game that consisted primarily of conversation. You play the role of a Sheriff in a frontier town, and you speak to a townsperson or a shady character, choosing various conversation options, influencing how the person reacts. Often, the person you're talking to will draw a gun and start shooting, at which point you'd better shoot him first. Your goal is to make it to the end of the day alive, and your score (should you live) is determined by how well you managed to talk certain characters out of violence, and how well you managed the townsfolk in general.
With a remake on the Nintendo Wii, you'd be required to point the Wiimote in a generally downward direction while using the D-pad to choose conversation options. Should you be required to draw your gun, you simply raise the Wiimote to the screen and pull the trigger. It's a perfect fit.
On the surface, Jumpman was just another Donkey Kong clone. The goal, instead of reaching the top of the level, was to collect all the red dots. And while the only hazard during level 1 is the potential of falling, things quickly become more complex. Throughout the incredibly varied levels, hazards include rolling barrels, flying bullets, falling bombs, bats, UFOs, killer robots, falling ceiling fragments, hailstones, chickens, and enemies that paralyze you or force you to jump. One level lets you run free for ten seconds or so before sending a clone after you who exactly imitates everything you've done, eventually catching up to you. If he touches you, you die. Another clone is released every ten seconds. That one was hard.
Different levels allow you to shoot a gun or throw spears rather than jump, and one even has you causing explosions every time you jump. The game's real appeal is in its variety. It had thirty levels, and you could choose to run through them randomly, which is the only way I was ever able to see all the levels.
A remake of this game would first and foremost need more than stick-figure graphics. Some background music would be nice too.
I remember the Commodore having a number of games in which you could build and race on your own tracks. The other one I owned was called Fast Tracks. And while I played both, The Racing Destruction Set was by far the better. This game let you customize not only your tracks, but also the cars you'd race on those tracks. You could choose from the Can-am road racer, Jeep, Baja Bug, Pickup, Stingray, Stock Car, Dirt Bike, Street Bike, Indy/Gran Prix, or Lunar Rover. Lunar Rover?? Yeah, the thing was useless. Top speed 40mph. On the body you'd chosen, you could install various engines - the heavier engines provided more power, but increased your weight which could affect your speed and acceleration - and different tires: street tires, slicks, spiked tires (excellent on ice), and knobby tires. The customization of cars in this game got nearly as complex as customization of a mech in mechwarrior.
You can set each race to "racing" rules, or "destruction" - in destruction, you're allowed to use Oil Slicks, Land Mines, and "Crusher" - adding crusher to your car means that if you ram the other guy, he'd better have armor, or he gets hurt bad. I've had cars so damaged that I literally couldn't get them up a hill.
But while customizing a car was fun, building your own track was even better. You could build hills, ramps, curves, and forks in the road. You could make the roads wide or narrow, and change up surfaces: pavement, dirt, or ice. You could even change the track's gravity. I built so so many tracks. I built tracks with long jumps, endurance tracks, which-way tracks, and tracks that were supposed to be impossible to complete. And it was fun.
A remake would be great if it had even a modest graphical update. Allowing more than two players to race and perhaps adding a few more weapons for destruction mode would be awesome. Players could trade tracks online and race against each other via WiiConnect or Xbox Live. Twould rock.
For as simple a game as it was, Raid on Bungeling Bay was the best helicopter game I've ever played. The premise: you're at war with some other nation, and it's your job to take them down. Your only assets: an aircraft carrier and three helicopters, which mysteriously can only fly one at a time. Your helicopter was armed with unlimited bullets and limited bombs, and your duty was to destroy six factories. You could replenish your bomb supply and repair any damage to your copter by landing on your carrier. Your enemies included wimpy boats and tanks, tougher turrets and jets, and the very dangerous missile turrets. The more dangerous enemies would begin appearing later in the game, after you'd destroyed a few factories.
As your helicopter was hit by bullets and missiles, its damage would increase. As it approached 100, it would fly more and more poorly. A tank bullet might only do 2 damage, but a missile would do 30. When your damage hit 100, you'd lose control and crash. If you got lucky, you could manage to crash into a target and destroy it, as your crash would do as much damage as two or three bombs. If you could land on the carrier, all damage would be repaired. From time to time, you'd receive a message that your carrier was under attack, always by enemy jets. You'd have to fly over and save it, as the carrier had no means to defend itself. If the carrier was destroyed, any remaining copters (lives) you had were lost, and you'd lose the ability to repair and to restock bombs.
As the game progressed, the enemy would be building their megaweapon: the destroyer. You could bomb the destroyer while it was under construction and delay its progress indefinitely, but you could never completely stop it from being built. Whatever you destroyed eventually got rebuilt. Once that thing was done, it was a monster. It had multiple turrets that all fired guided missiles, and it took more bombs to destroy than you could carry in one run.
A remake of Raid on Bungeling Bay for the Nintendo DS would be perfect if anyone could get the rights from Broderbund. The top screen would be map and stats, and the lower screen for gameplay. I'd buy it in a minute.
Into the Eagle's Nest was a top-down gauntlet-style shooter. Single player, of course. You play an allied soldier escaping from a Nazi castle. Along the way you'd collect keys to open doors and ammunition, and you could take up to 99 hits before dying. Strangely, while the enemies had guns, they never shot at you. They'd run into you, and your hits counter would rapidly increase.
There were numerous crates, which you'd have to shoot to open. But shoot carefully - a second shot would cause you to shoot the crate's contents. Sometimes they'd contain ammo, food, or valuable art, and if you shot that it would be destroyed. Sometimes, they'd contain explosives. If you shot that, you'd die.
This game would be a good remake because of its simplicity. It was difficult as hell, but fun.
Probably the best of the Cold War games. The scenario: Moscow has launched nuclear weapons at the U.S. and you must stop the missiles by destroying the launch sites. Not sure how that works, but apparently in videogames in the eighties, it does.
Raid Over Moscow takes place in a number of stages which are practically different games. First stage: takeoff. You must pilot your aircraft out of the hangar. This actually wasn't easy. There was a tiny exit gate, and your aircraft only had forward thrust and no brakes. Crash into the wall, and you explode. You had nine aircraft to pilot out, and however many you got to exit successfully, that's how many lives you had in the game.
Second stage: Attack! This was a Zaxxon-like game in which you'd fly your plane left-to-right, blowing up tanks and planes and dodging various pillars, bridges, and other obstacles. In the third stage, your plane would hover at the bottom of the screen, and you'd shoot upwards at the five launch silos. An enemy plane would return fire, and missiles would sometimes appear from behind you. The targets on the silos were tiny and difficult to hit. But if you succeeded in destroying the main silo, you'd advance to the next level.
Three levels pass this way, each a different Soviet launch site firing nukes at a different American city. Once you got all three, you could attack Moscow.
You then found yourself outside the Kremlin with a bazooka, from an over-the-shoulder view. You could only fire the bazooka once every five seconds or so, and there were snipers positioned along the left and right walls and a tank in the yard. You adjusted your vertical trajectory and moved left and right, then fired. The trick was that you really couldn't stay still for more than a second or you'd be shot. Heck, you might be shot anyway. The goal here was to shoot down the Kremlin doors until you found the correct door, although taking out the snipers and the tank made that easier.
You then found yourself in the reactor room where you had to battle two robots using only these Tron-like discs. The robots were invulnerable from the front, so you had to bounce the disc off the wall behind them and hit them in the rear. Once you destroyed the first robot, you only had 2 minutes to finish off the second. I only beat the game once or twice in the whole time I had it, but what a sense of accomplishment!
This would be a great Xbox Live arcade or Wii downloadable title.
The Detective Game was one of the earliest adventure games to be non-text based, contemporary with the LucasArts classics. The year is 1976, and you're called to a mansion to investigate the death of the wealthy owner, a la Clue. As time goes by, there are more murders. There are numerous timed and action-triggered events, such as the murders. I found a ton of clues in this game, and felt like I'd gotten pretty far, but in actuality I likely had not. The game was hard.
It would be perfect for the DS, although games of this degree of difficulty pretty much no longer exist. Still, I hold a fond place in my heart for it, and it seems to have squeaked its way onto the end of my list.
As I can remember no more Commodore 64 games that would make good remakes, I'll end this lengthy post here. Hopefully at least one or two of these remakes is published someday.