Is Nostalgia Strong Enough To Carry Reboots Like Saints Row To Victory?

Is Nostalgia Strong Enough To Carry Reboots Like Saints Row To Victory?

Nostalgia is a powerful thing, but how much can it carry a video game reboot when said reboot relies heavily on a series’ historical reputation?

My weariness with lazy reboots started in the movie world. I was at a movie theatre and looked around at the posters for films ‘In Cinemas Now’ and ‘Coming Soon’. Can you guess what I saw? That’s right. Reboots. Sequels. Nostalgia bait and reliable moneymakers. Nothing new or original, just the same old stuff that companies are clinging onto because they know people will want to see what their childhood favourite will look like with a fresh slop of paint.

That’s not to say that all reboots are bad or unoriginal. I quite liked Blade Runner 2049. There are a few rebooted franchises that I really did enjoy. At this point, you can tell what was made with a genuine interest in expanding on an IP and what was made for a quick, hopeful hit of nostalgia (I mean, who amongst us was asking for a Marmaduke reboot?).

Within the video game world, it’s a little different. Game franchises can still thrive and not feel cheap, thanks to the beauty of interactivity and the possibility to continue making something a bit different each time. Video game reboots can be good; they can even be great. The best ones, though, are transformative.

God of War, very good reboot! (Image: Sony)

See, I’m not talking about remakes and remasters here. In fact, the two are entirely different. Indeed, remakes and remasters command their own entirely separate can of worms. A complete remake or remaster of a game can use the new age technology to infuse an older game with that sweet gamer goodness to make it look and feel sparkly and new. Sometimes it works and makes the experience better, introducing a whole new audience of people to a game loved by many in the past. And sometimes it doesn’t work, flops, and looks like ass.

Reboots are different, though, in my eyes. Reboots are taking a franchise that has lain dormant for years and making a whole new game to bring it back to life. Sometimes, this means doing something completely different, letting the franchise take on a new life entirely, a la Fallout 3 and Grand Theft Auto 3.

Similarly to remakes and remasters, sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. But are we getting to a point where maybe the nostalgic charm has worn off? It’s hard to say. For me, at least, I yearn for something new. But that doesn’t just mean new games entirely, of course.

I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few franchises I’d want more from, though. I’d love to have Bioshock, American McGee’s AliceCostume Quest, Pikmin back, and probably more. However, I feel like, over time, more and more interest has grown in the indie game scene because they’re making new things. Indie developers generally don’t have franchises to fall back on, so their only option is to create something new.

What I see as a hurdle for video game reboots is that the expectation of greatness depends on how people feel about the series one is trying to reboot. That, and what one does to make it not only new but also improved. If a franchise is considered pretty stinky, you’ve got middling expectations for what’s to come with a reboot. As long as you release something better than the original, you’re sweet. On the other hand, if you’re rebooting a generally well-loved series, the expectations are reeeeeeal high. What’s the point of rebooting a classic series if you’re not going to do it well, right?

Need for Speed, not a great reboot! (Image: EA)

The Saints Row reboot

So that’s where Saints Row (2022) comes in. Rebooting a series like Saints Row comes with the expectation of more, and it’s hard to do more when the series is already known for being over the top and wacky as hell. The highest-rated game in the series is one where you are the leaders of the free world fighting against aliens, so it’s a bit hard to go back to just a standard build-your-own-gang game.

Of course, the odd bug and glitch will be an eyesore for those wanting to see polish in a video game reboot. But the problem runs deeper than that. It’s thematic. When your brand is silliness, and the bar for that was raised so high in previous games, how do you get the crowd excited about a back-to-basics approach?

That being said, there’s always going to be an audience for reboots. It just depends on what the game is. Every game has at least one fan that wants sequels arriving until the end of time. I’m sure there will be plenty of people who enjoy the new Saints Row for what it is, a dialling back of a series that has gone above and beyond in its goofiness with each new addition. Different strokes, different folks. That’s the beauty of video games.

On the other hand, maybe nostalgia can only do so much of the heavy lifting before it feels like the video game-loving kid we used to be is being squeezed for our pocket money. On top of that, the indie game industry has been on the up for years and years now, and maybe it’s because they’re doing what people want: making something new. It’s a toughie, huh?

What do you think, though? That’s just how I see it, at least, personally having a bit of a love-hate relationship with reboots. But how do you feel about them?

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