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If you would have told me two, five…even ten years ago that we were getting a Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic remake that would update the beloved 2003 RPG with modern graphics, modern audio, and a few mechanical improvements, I would have been thrilled.
In fact, I probably would have been upset if you told me that remake would go so far as to significantly change any aspect of the original game’s combat, story, or any of the other elements that have led many to call it one of the best RPGs of the last 20 years and arguably the best Star Wars game ever made.
After seeing the first teaser trailer for Aspyr’s upcoming Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic remake for PS5 and PC, though…well, I’m honestly starting to feel pretty good about the possibility that this remake is going to change quite a few elements of the original game.
To be clear, we don’t know how much of the original game Aspyr will ultimately change. However, in a recent blog post, producer Ryan Treadwell noted that they’re “rebuilding one of the greatest RPGs of all time for a new generation” and that this remake is a “tremendous undertaking, encompassing almost every aspect of the original game.” Elsewhere, the team really tried to emphasize that this will be a complete remake and not just a case of some updated visuals.
Now, those statements don’t mean that Aspyr’s remake is going to be a completely different game. Actually, similar language was used to describe the recent remakes of Mafia and Demon’s Souls which were certainly true remakes but ultimately stuck fairly close to the original experiences in terms of structure, story, and other trademark elements that fans associate with those titles. Aspyr’s KOTOR remake may end up being closer to those games, and that would probably be better than fine. After all, those were two of the best remakes of last year and two of the better remakes in recent memory.
Yet, it’s hard to look at the upcoming KOTOR remake and not think of the best remake of 2020: Final Fantasy 7.
Final Fantasy 7 was an incredibly divisive game. A lot of people were expecting it to be the original game with high-end modern graphics, and they instead received an experience that not only changed the original game’s combat system, story, and key characters but established a strange meta-narrative that figures to impact future chapters. It was certainly a lot to process, and it was ultimately too much for some. Others simply didn’t like the specific decisions that were made.
However, the Final Fantasy 7 remake also reminded us that some of the best remakes across all mediums are those that dare to be different. Movie remakes like The Thing, Scarface, and Ocean’s Eleven along with game remakes such as Resident Evil 2, Black Mesa, and Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes changed significant parts of their inspirations while still staying true to the spirit of those original works. Final Fantasy 7‘s remake may be one of the boldest remakes we’ve ever seen so far as that goes, but it’s also a testament to the idea that the best remakes are often made by those bold enough to say “we’re going to try to give you more than what you’ve seen before and what you can still go out and experience now.”
That’s the big point here. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is sacred, amazing, revolutionary, and, it has to be said, readily available. You can play it on pretty much any modern computer, an Xbox, or even your phone whenever you want. This is not one of those games that have been lost to time and thus cries loudest for a simple way for us to be able to easily access it again. Whatever happens next, 2003’s KOTOR will always be there.
That being the case, I just don’t want Aspry to let the potential blowback (which is almost always inevitable in the internet age in some shape or form) lead them to believe that they can’t make this game their own. Is a modern version of KOTOR better with real-time combat (or more active combat), a different twist, new locations, a different ending, or massive character changes? That really all depends on how well Aspyr executes its vision, but I’m very curious to find out it is. There’s a world where the studio takes some big swings and misses on all of them to the point where we all wish they’d done something simpler, and that’s just the nature of the risk associated with these kinds of projects.
The best kinds of remakes are often those that either drastically improve upon the original or reframe it in a way that allows you to experience how you felt when you first played/saw the original rather than how you would necessarily feel if you played/saw them again exactly as they were. In both cases, you don’t get there if you’re not willing to take some risks. I just hope that Aspyr isn’t afraid to take those risks.