So here’s how I view a successful remake in a context that applies to anything, not exclusively video games. If you’re given the opportunity to remake a film, a play, a video game or just your aunt’s overly-quirky fashion sense you have every right to fix what was wrong with the original product.
I admit, it can be a fine line to walk: You want to recreate something so that it retains the core of the original experience but at the same time you have an opportunity to mend the mistakes that may have been committed on the first try. With remakes becoming increasingly popular due to the success of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and the Spyro Reignited Trilogy, many may begrudge the trend that sees beloved games trawled up from the past and spruced up for old fans and potential new audiences alike.
Yet I think it’s actually really cool, an opportunity to rekindle the love for games I have enjoyed for many years despite the passing of time maybe not being too kind to them. Such is the case with the newest remake of one of the PlayStation’s iconic but perhaps underappreciated characters, Sir Daniel Fortesque. Yet as charming and nostalgic as the trip back in MediEvil is, it still manages to show its creaky age.
The MediEvil remake takes the route of “Make what already worked better and ignore everything that didn’t work in the first place.” Following the structure children’s gothic folktale of, Sir Dan is unknowingly resurrected from the dead by his nemesis Zarok and begins his quest again to slay the evil sorcerer and claim the title of “Hero” considering he missed the opportunity to actually be a hero on his first try. What worked so well about the original MediEvil was how good it looked on the original Playstation, the limitations on the hardware giving everything a strange, angular appearance that only helped to sell the aesthetic of gothic fantasy. While those visuals are obviously gone, MediEvil retains its wonderfully charming art style with a look that carries the game on its back. Every location is lovingly recreated with a cartoonish style that makes everything feel familiar- yet fresh at the same locations. Helped along by a fantastic voice cast that should have been given more to do, MediEvil is as funny and magical a world to mess around in on the PS4 as it was back on the PS1.
That being said, not everything about MediEvil has aged as gracefully as its charming aesthetic. My biggest gripe with the remake is how wonky Sir Dan controls. What I suppose could be a design decision (who am I to attempt an explanation as to how a skeleton in battle armour should move?) unfortunately makes Dan move with the grace of a bucket laden with steel rods. While there’s not a lot of platforming in MediEvil, there’re enough to really highlight how frustratingly stiff Dan’s movement is. Whenever basic platforming was required I was never completely sure I’d land where I wanted to, a problem made worse by a camera that sometimes just doesn’t want to play ball. In fairness to the camera, it’s at least more dynamic than the original MediEvil and easily adjustable but quick-cuts between locations often result in just enough disorientation to at best take a cheap hit and at worst fall off a ledge.
As I said, remakes should update what worked and fix what didn’t and MediEvil drops the ball on not optimising the controls to be more precise in an age where games are so often made or broken based on the tightness of their control. It’s a problem that also bleeds into the game’s combat which also largely remains untouched since the original. While by today’s standards it’s a reductive system of mashing the attack button fast enough to dispense of any surrounding enemies and I’m not going to begrudge the game for that. The variety of weapons at least keep things slightly interesting and the large roster of evil-doers is equally as entertaining to slay. Yet the overly sticky and sometimes unresponsive controls often result in Sir Dan taking a sucker punch to the face just because he wouldn’t move fast enough. Maybe I just missed something, I’m more than willing to sit down with a MediEvil speedrunner and be proven wrong, but the janky controls turn an already simplistic (yet enjoyable) combat system into a frustrating debacle of running in circles while swinging your biggest weapon until everything is dead.
Yet, all those complaints aside, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy my time with MediEvil. Beyond the controls, it’s a game that knows that the biggest thing going for it is its charm. Which is a difficult thing to quantify or evaluate because while mechanics can be objectively wonky, the idea of “charm” is so subjective. I couldn’t help by smile at bestubbled cockney fairies or talking Liverpudlian statues. Even Sir Dan’s brief lines of groans and moans (he doesn’t have a jaw, so fair enough) always elicited a chuckle.
It’s a fun game if you look past its flaws and view it as an explorative trip into the past of action-adventure games. It’s still fascinating to see the lineage of such a beloved classic reimagining for a modern audience. Games like MediEvil just don’t get made any more so if you can look past the awkward controls, I think there’s a good weekend of fun to be had here. Just make sure you’re ready for a trip down memory lane in more than just appearance.
I guess sometimes it’s possible to be a little too faithful to source material.
Last Updated: October 23, 2019