I’ve found myself asking this question more and more of late, especially as beloved franchises of the 1980’s get revived for today’s audiences.

When I saw Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull back in 2008, I couldn’t help but feel confused. This was one of those great moments that you hoped for: A childhood hero coming back to allow you to revisit their world and your imagination one more time. And yet, 19 years had passed in the “real” world, and the roguish, swashbuckling hero was reintroduced as an old man, with a forcible and unwelcome upstaging by Shia LeBouf. The fact that one of my heroes was a senior citizen now was too much of a “wake up call” to the passages of time, and all too much of a reminder that fictional characters age as dictated by their real life performers.

And yet in 2009, the Ghostbusters game came out, reuniting the original cast. Again (with the exception of the seemingly immortal Ernie Hudson), they’ve all aged over the past 20 years…. Yet, the game placed the setting in 1991, and rendered the character models so that only 2 years had passed, and not two decades. Was it a greatly immersive experience back into that world? Definitely. With talk of a Ghostbusters 3 film, am I as excited for that? It’s the “Indiana Jones Factor” all over again. I don’t think I’m ready to see the guys old, or passing the torch, or whatever gimmick they use to sell this next plot.

Last year, Telltale released a Back to the Future game, “set” in 1986 and reuniting Christopher Lloyd with Bob Gale. And while Michael J. Fox doesn’t reprise Marty McFly, the kid who does the voice (A. J. LoCascio) is a total ringer. FUN FACT: Fox does play of Marty’s ancestors for the fifth episode. While now a point and click title, the overall feel is very much in tune with the movie’s pacing. Both Ghostbusters and this title “got” the feeling of their respected series, and were handled lovingly by people who cared.

In looking at both games, both titles invested heavily in proper voice talent, character licenses, music, writing…. It’s a far cry from the movie licensed games we used to (and still often) get. I mean, look at the original Back to the Future NES title.

A lot of movie based games suffer due to having to be ready in time for a film’s release. More often than not, these types of games suffer from a rushed schedule, lack of script/plot information for a “secret” blockbuster title, bad voice acting and delivery, unfamiliar music…. It’s not that movie-based titles can’t be good, but it’s seen as a license that can sell on name alone. While that’s often “enough” for marketing and sales departments, it isn’t for anyone else, especially not fans. Look at Acclaim. They used the SNES as a dumping ground for movie-based platformers that mostly just changed the skins and backgrounds to reflect the current license.

That’s why these current revivals seem to be doing better: There’s no movie release schedule. Kids who thrilled to these types of movies way back when are the programmers of today’s industry. And a lot of them are fans. And a lot of these games tell better stories than recent cinematic counterparts. Look at Transformers: War for Cybertron. A much better narrative outing than any of the Michael Bay… I really hate to use the word “films” for those things.

Hollywood in general is tapped for ideas at this time. This is why we’re seeing films based on board games like Monopoly and Battleship coming out (no, I’m serious). Not to mention all the rehashes and remakes and reboots and every other “re” out there. Same as why 30 year old franchises are being resurrected for new sequels after sitting dormant for a few decades. For fans, the concept initially seems exciting. The end result is usually confusion and sadness.

But why don’t they “continue” these stories through the video game medium?

Seriously, I’d pay for a new Aliens story with a 20-30 year old Sigourney Weaver reprising her role of Ripley. Same for a new Terminator story with Arnold Schwarzeneger and Linda Hamilton. Or yes, a good Indiana Jones game with Harrison Ford voicing his character.

There’s a number of concepts that Hollywood could revisit, free from the restraints of cinematic cross-promotion schedules, and the passages of time, because the game is the lead product. Beloved characters could forever remain in their primes, performing at full capacity instead of being 50-60-70 years old. It wouldn’t matter if backgrounds and special effects would be in CG, because it would all be in CG. After seeing what these products can be, perhaps Hollywood needs to push more to take part in the gaming domain if they are going to continue to revisit older concepts. There’s certainly a lot more freedom.

Have any of you played Ghostbusters or Back to the Future? If you’re fans of the series, do you think the games have accurately captured the “feel” of the eras and franchises? Would you rather see Hollywood put out “official” game sequels to carry film franchises that have been around for decades, instead of seeing favorite characters as senior citizens ready for retirement?

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Filed under: general gaming