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Back to the Past: 6 Classic Games with Modern Incarnations

A breakdown of six 8 and 16 bit classics, from Double Dragon to Streets of Rage, and their recent sequels and reimaginings that brought the famous series back

In anticipation of the newly announced Streets of Rage 4, we take a look at some of the most successful classic game reboots, and how well they stood up to their original titles.

DuckTales

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This all-time classic was an absolute Nintendo must have when it first came out in 1989. Its success led to a GameBoy soon after release. The game was an interesting mishmash of classic platforming with some Metroidvania elements.

You played as Scrooge McDuck, on a quest to find five unique fortunes, and become richer than ever before. There were five levels, each with its own memorable soundtrack and design style. The levels were hand crafted, so you could study them and get better with each playthrough.

The title theme was familiar for everyone who saw the DuckTales TV series.

DuckTales was an overall masterfully crafted title that was equal parts challenging and fun. It was a true commercial success with extremely high critic ratings across the board. Both the NES and the Game Boy versions were Capcom’s bestselling titles for their respective platforms.

DuckTales Remastered

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In 2013, the game received a well-deserved high-definition remake in an all new engine, on every platform from the PlayStation 3 to Windows Phone. It was a genius move by Capcom, to leave the gameplay exactly as it was in the original, and completely overhaul the graphics.

We still have the same characters and levels, but the game is now 2.5D, with three dimensional backdrops that add to the immersion factor of the game.

The soundtrack kept true to the orignal and fans could easily recognize the familiar tune.

The remake proved to be a faithful successor of the 1989 title. In fact, both the original and the remake are definitely worth your time if you’re in the mood for a decently challenging Metroidvania with child-friendly themes.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time

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Turtles in Time was a trend setting arcade title that further solidified Konami’s position as leaders of modern gaming at the time. They developed an amazing engine that was particularly smooth for its time. The machine also made great use of its resources to bring impressive 2D graphics to the masses, and the soundtrack was an absolute gem as well.

The level design was quite simplistic but coupled with the beautiful backdrop art, it did a great job serving as a scene for the many memorable battles. The true unique element to the game was the enemies. They were extremely varied and usually attacked in large numbers. This made them extremely fun to beat down.

The game’s soundtrack wasn’t particularly original – it was another take on the late 80s genre that many Japanese games had adopted by that time. This was by no means a problem. The music was exciting and upbeat, with a sort of rock-electronic mixture of dance-worthy beats. It fit the gameplay like a glove.

The original didn’t receive a lot of critical acclaims, but the few critics that did review it gave it a rating of around 4/5 praising its fun gameplay and visual style.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled

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Turtles in Time Re-Shelled changed a few elements of the original and was quite successful. The game was redesigned in glorious HD 3D and had added functionality for 3D movement across the side scrolling levels.

The move to 3D also made the combat more immersive, as it’s now much clearer where your weapons are impacting the enemies. It’s also worth noting that the short spoken lines from the arcade were re-recorded for the remake, though by the cast of the 2003 cartoon, rather than the original voice actors.

Further, none of the original levels appear in the remake. It is these changes in particular that make the game a bit more of a tribute than a true remake, even though a lot of common elements, like the enemies, remain as they were.

The original music was scrapped completely and a new soundtrack was produced from scratch

Eventually, the game was delisted, due to an expired license, but had still sold several tens of thousands of units.

The remake received a lot of criticism, and critics generally agreed that while the game is a decent and consistent arcade experience, it is repetitive and lacks replay value. Critics also took issue with the fact that the best parts of the original were removed, and the game felt a bit lackluster.

Double Dragon

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Double Dragon was an absolute trend setter. It pioneered the beat ‘em up genre with its super simple concept and straightforward and immersive gameplay. You played as twin martial artists, Billy and Jimmy Lee, fighting against various types of enemies.

Compared to other titles, the music in Double Dragon did not stand out but still was a decent product of its time.

The game seems kind of underwhelming in retrospect, but back then it was so influential that it gained undeniable cult status and spawned many sequels through the years. It even got a feature film adaptation in 1994. So it’s no wonder that years down the line, in 2012, after all the sequels and spin-offs, we got a proper Double Dragon remake.

Double Dragon Neon

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Double Dragon Neon was a more of a reboot than a remake, with modern feature additions, like a proper high quality soundtrack and smooth HD gameplay. The game itself is 3D, but the gameplay remained nearly identical to the original. In fact, the only real change was the introduction of an evade button, for dodging attacks. Beyond that, Neon is the same Double Dragon we had come to know and love but modernized to the brim.

The original was a bit clunky, but it set the stage for the beat ‘em up genre. The remake did a great job of breathing new life into the series. With memorable boss fights and a killer soundtrack, Neon is a definite must play.

The remake, on the other hand, was praised mostly for its humility. Critics liked that it went into a more of a comedic direction than the original, being far more zany and loose. They also appreciated the low price point and thought it was very appropriate. The remake is essentially high quality nostalgia fuel.

Double Dragon IV

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In 2017, we got a different kind of reboot – Double Dragon IV, developed by Arc System Works, who bought the rights to the series in 2015. This reboot, unlike Neon, was entirely retro, completely mimicking the graphics of the original NES port of Double Dragon.

The music, unlike the visuals, was updated and sounds pretty modern and catchy. Besides, players have an option to switch back to retro soundtrack.

This was a very bad move for the developers, as the reception was mixed to negative. Critics and players alike hated the fact that the game felt like an original NES title through and through. This wasn’t a retro game tribute, it was a retro game, in 2017.

River City Ransom

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River City Ransom, aka Street Gangs, was a very strange video game when it came out in 1989. It was a NES beat ‘em up, with all the gameplay functions we’d gotten used to at the time. You would fight wave after wave of baddies, pick up their weapons, all the while making efforts to rescue a damsel in distress.

What made it strange and unique was an odd combination of somewhat mature humor and a completely open world. That’s right – River City Ransom was an open world beat ‘em up with RPG elements, like purchasing weapons and upgrades for your character. It even lets you save your game by way of writing down a password to restore your character.

The soundtrack was a classic 8 bit representative, which went great with the gameplay.

River City Ransom received extremely mixed reviews. Some critics found the game literally unplayable, while others were quick to give it a 10/10 on the RPG elements and open world gameplay alone. Most critics also agreed that the game was a memorable cult classic that genuinely stood out among its peers.

River City Ransom Underground

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For the longest time, we didn’t think we’d ever get a remake for River City Ransom. That was until a previously unknown developer by the name of Conatus Creative managed to acquire the rights to the game and did a fine job at modernizing this gem. They stayed true to the original art style, only upgrading the visuals in resolution and clarity. The game still looks like the adorable mini experience it was back then.

Sadly, due to legal complications, the game could not contain the original soundtrack as initially intended. But the new version was a perfect successor of the original.

Modern retrospective reviews, and reviews on the remake, have all been extremely favorable. IGN specifically said that ‘’the fighting mechanics are exceptionally achieved’’ and ‘’the RPG-esque elements’’ give it ‘’a ton of depth and replayability’’.

The open-world gameplay is there; the bosses are there – it is a full-fledged experience. One minus could be the loss of the original music, but it was well replaced. Still, the remake is an absolute masterpiece, and well worth a full playthrough, even if you’re not a huge retro buff.

Streets of Rage

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This classic beat ‘em up slid a bit under the radar when it first came out in 1991. In the wake of games like Final Fight, Streets of Rage wasn’t given enough of a chance to shine. The game was originally a 16 bit classic – you move to the right and punch baddies as they enter the screen. The story too, was far from original.

But among other beat ‘em ups at the time, this game stood out in one amazing way – It had mind-blowing music

Streets of Rage received great reviews from critics, averaging around 9/10 in ratings. In terms of sales, official numbers are unavailable, but it’s safe to say that the game wasn’t exactly a smash hit, commercially. It did, however, become extremely famous after it was ported to other consoles several times over, and it’s now a solidified cult classic.

Streets of Rage 4

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Publisher DotEmu recently announced that we’d be getting Streets of Rage 4 soon, with modern reimagined graphics. Now-legendary composer Yuzo Koshiro, who had done all the previous Streets of Rage soundtracks, stated that he could neither confirm nor deny involvement with the project. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance of getting a full-fledged Streets of Rage sequel with the same memorable music we’ve gotten used to.

The original game had a very late 80s inspired soundtrack with dance themes that were good enough for the dance floor. Granted, the sound quality was a bit limiting, but if any of those pieces get reworked for the upcoming SoR4, we’re going to have a blast. Some of these tracks are so good, you’re going to want to put them on your phone and listen to them daily, on your way to work or at the gym

In the sequel, we get to play as well-known characters from previous games. The visuals and gameplay look quite impressive. Just add soundtrack to match the original’s quality and we’ll definitely get a hit.

Battletoads

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This game started out as a bit of an experimental title and took off like wildfire. It was a beat ‘em up, but it was loaded with carefully detailed levels and gameplay mechanics. The game was two dimensional, of course. It was a NES title after all.

So how did it stand out exactly? Well, the developers poured a lot of man hours into the design aspects of the game. Some of the levels were static and could be explored in three dimensions, others you side scrolled through, and a few were perfectly 2D.

This gave the game a very liberating feel of freedom and adventure. It also didn’t hurt that you got to experience different gameplay throughout different levels. One second you were crawling through a dungeon, the next you were surfing your way down a river.

There were also a lot of elements that were uncommon for the year it came out, like the ability to pick up items and use them in combat, or contextual attack animations that made the game feel extremely cinematic, even though the player was in control at all times.

The music was also extremely memorable and catchy. It had a certain adventurous vibe to it, that had you on the edge of your seat for the next enemy encounter

There was some criticism on the game being intentionally difficult past the beginning levels. Some critics believed this to be an attempt to encourage people to buy a copy of the game instead of renting it out. Still, the game’s graphics, gameplay, and general ensemble were all praised by one critic or another, with extremely favorable reviews. The game also received several awards, including ones for graphics, theme, control and co-op play.

Battletoads 2019

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These days we take well-polished games for granted, but in 1991, Battletoads took the gaming world by storm. So it’s no wonder that we recently got an announcement for a brand new Battletoads, with 4k textures and the same lovable frogs from the original.

With only a brief teaser announcement, we can’t really draw a comparison.The new game is going to have a 3-player couch co-op, so we could get frustrated over a hardcore gameplay together with friends. All we can do is hope that the game mimics the gameplay mechanics we got to enjoy in the original, with the same unique level design we’ve come to know and love.


Viktor Zafirovski September 19, 2018