Star Wars: Dark Forces has been revealed at Games-Com, and it's proof that classic games need to be protected for future generations. The prospect of losing some of gaming's best and most important entries has been a hot topic for years, but at least some studios are taking game preservation seriously.
While you can play classic games via emulation on the best retro consoles, being able to experience them remastered with new technology on modern hardware is a different proposition. Star Wars: Dark Forces, the iconic shooter from 1995, is being remastered by specialists Nightdive Studios in 4K resolution at 120 FPS. It will release 'soon' on PS4/5, Xbox One/X/S, Nintendo Switch, and Steam on PC.
Better still, this classic Star Wars game will feature reworked cutscenes and current 3D rendering techniques. It plays how my old brain remembers Star Wars: Dark Forces running, but of course the edges have been smoothed out and the experience revised. This is the difference between a remaster and a remake; remasters play how you remember but they are not exactly the game you played, remakes can alter the game completely, add new content, remove content, change controls and more.
There is, of course, a new retro angle to Nightdive Studios, as the team behind classic game System Shock is now owned by Atari. The studio has a track record for excellent remakes, including Nightdive Studios Turok, Doom 64 and Shadow Man. Its recent Quake II remaster is an essential summer shooter.
Star Wars: Dark Forces is not the only old game making a comeback and it's important. I believe creating good remasters is an art often overlooked in video games as the race for something new trumps preserving the best of the past.
As well as Star Wars: Dark Forces, Nightdive Studios is also working on a remaster of Nintendo 64 shooter Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion, a game released by the defunct publisher Acclaim back in 2000, releasing this November. The remaster will feature upgraded gameplay, high-resolution textures with enhanced lighting and rendering.
"The Turok series is one of the classic touchstones of gaming and being able to provide the newest and improved version of Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion is a great feeling," said Larry Kuperman, Director of Business Development at Nightdive Studios at the announcement. "It makes full use of the latest version of our KEX engine, and we're excited to share the game with players later this year."
Why do video game remasters matter? Bluntly they're a great way to tap into our nostalgia, but remasters and remakes are more important than this instant hit. Video games are unique in that many titles are tied to the consoles they released on, and this hardware-specific anchor both defined how they looked and played but also how we can play them in 2023.
The fear is we may lose great games to history, a lack of old hardware making it impossible to replay them - and we need to learn from some of these titles to develop game design. While modern remasters can be viewed as interpretations of classic games, they still enable us to experience them again.
The new remasters keep coming too, you can now pre-order Persona 3 Reload, which is due for release February 2, 2024 for PlayStation 5 and on Xbox Game Pass. If you want to play some excellent remasters now, the Nintendo Switch is an ideal console, as a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online offers classics from NES, SNES, N64 and GameCube for free.