A full remake of Demon's Souls (2009) featuring improved graphics and animations, sound and lighting tweaks and a reimagining of many of the visual, musical and mechanical aspects of the original game.
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I think most of the problems i have with this remaster are just like... taste things. So much of the presentation of this game is genuinely breathtaking, but some of the reasons I loved DeS so much is because of how small and compact it is. This feels huge, epic, and breathtaking, but it's not what made the original so powerful to me.
I do not envy Bluepoint and SCE Japan for trying to remake Demon's Souls. I don't think there is a perfect way to do so, honestly. DeS 09 is a very weird looking game. There's a weird sheen to the whole thing, the lighting is kinda bad, it literally flips assets from Enchanted arms and fucking Ninja Blade - the whole thing is honestly kind of a mess.
And honestly, I think Bluepoint/SCE Japan has mostly got it right here. DeS '20 definetly has some missteps in the remake, but I think they've mostly done a fine job of this remake.
And I will say there are definetly missteps here. Much attention has been given to changes in some character/enemy designs. Whilst I think some of these are pretty bad (Adjudicator and the Fat officials are the most obvious), I can at least see where most of them come from and honestly, the majority of characters remain fundementally intact.
And the strength of Demon's Souls aesthetic was never in it's character designs or assets. It was in it's atmosphere, sound and level design. And fortunately, the Remake retains that. The only area that I'd say feels worse than the original is probably boletarian palace, which is a bit too clean for my liking and doesn't really feel like a fallen castle town for the most part.
But Latria, Shrine of Storms, Valley of Defilement and even Stonefang come out of it feeling not really significantly different - and SoS and VoD both benefit from improved fidelity in particular. And running at 60fps is a godsend.
Also, the 3D audio is exceptional. I think it's honestly the biggest improvement in the entire game and I would implore anyone playing DeS '20 to wear headphones. Its an excellent extension of the sound design of the original game, particularly in Latria.
Of course, on the audio side, I have to say the soundtrack is a big step down. I know Kida gave it a pass and seems to have worked on it in some capacity, but there's a couple of moments where the new tracks just do not work, particularly Fool's Idol, one of my favourite original tracks. The arrangements are pretty alright on their own for the most part but a couple of tracks don't vibe with their original bosses very well. If the original soundtrack was an option this remake would definetly be closer to 5 stars than 4 for me, and I hope it happens - Bluepoint/Japan Studio have already listened to some feedback regarding the remake so I wouldn't count it completely out.
A few quick points before I finish
- The new animations are fantastic. I think the originals in this style would have looked a bit goofy.
- Whatever font they're using for the big screen messages has the worst U i have ever seen. actually the worst part of the remake.
- The quality of life additions are great, particularly those involving item burden.
- There's a weird dissonance with the game having a skin of a 2020 game but still playing like the budget 2009 jank. I have no idea how to feel about it.
- I could probably have a day-long conversation about them not doing anything with the broken archstone. I'm incredibly torn and I can see why they didn't add too much new stuff.
But yeah, I could go on about the minutae of this remake for ages. It's not perfect, theres definetly mistakes here - but what I think really matters I think Bluepoint and Japan Studio have gotten right. I think the results are far better than that of the Shadow of the Colossus remake, for instance - and I adore both original games.
I think if you put a gun to my head and said I had to pick between a 4k 60fps version of the original game and this, I'd probably say this (though yes, I would like both). I would not say the same for SOTC. So, yeah, as muddled as my feelings are on DeS 20 - I think its a fine job in the end.
cannot say i am particularly enamored with the idea that we should frame this discussion in any way that pretends it is not ultimately a willful net loss for games preservation. the idea that in order to aggressively push hardware a development team was enlisted to resurrect a long forsaken ip, in the process fundamentally misunderstanding the majority of its artistic sensibilities (sometimes aggressively so) to showcase a console’s power rubs me the wrong way for several reasons. and there’s potent irony here because we must also remember that in essence sony is banking on from softwares death cult to launch a console cycle for the second time in a row now. recall the invective words of shuhei yoshida, 2009: 'This is crap. This is an unbelievably bad game.' surely what is now a valuable ace in the sleeve for sonys financial strategy in the 9th generation of consoles onwards deserves more respect than this?
as an immediate contrast in the field of remakes, i’ll put forward that at the very least, ff7 is one of the most ubiquitous games of all time - to such a degree that altering its content and expanding on its themes in a rebuild-esque scenario is not only sensible, but appreciated. the same case is difficult to make for demon’s in my opinion.
perhaps bluepoints alterations, seldom rooted in any reverence for aesthetics but instead prioritizing largely perfunctory gameplay, are to your tastes. but they are not to mine. the original demon’s souls is an intensely difficult work to assess, litigate, and reconcile with, to be sure, but whatever your stance on it, it’s difficult to deny how exquisitely it worked with its limitations to fashion something that was entirely inspired and bold, yet quintessentially from software. none of that same evocative ethos is reflected here, and for these reasons i find bluepoint’s iteration extremely difficult to respect - doubly so because im in a position now of having twice been told to give bluepoint a chance on a remake, both times to personally and deeply unsatisfactory results. i only wish more folks had a convenient way of experiencing the original so they were free to pass their own judgments
This is my first time playing Demon's Souls despite playing every other Souls-esque game Fromsoft has put out in the past 10 years and even some from before then (Evergrace!). So while I have my issues with some art direction stuff it's mostly on this remake's own merits, and not directly comparing it to the original.
First things first, this is the most graphically impressive game I've ever played and a fantastic first impression for the PS5's hardware. I found myself stopping to just take in the scenery so many times through the game and every environment is gorgeous in its own way.
From a gameplay perspective - yep it's a Souls game. Pretty much everything about how your character moves, attacks, or interacts with the world feels very deliberate and slow in a way that reminded me a lot of Dark Souls 1 (which is a good thing). One thing that I found interesting was that despite feeling consistently challenged throughout I found most of that challenge coming from regular enemies more than bosses. I think I died to the mindflayer on the stairs going to Maneater more than I actually died to Maneater. This is mostly due to the fact most bosses are piss easy, because they focus on a gimmick (ie Old Hero being blind) rather than being a huge test of skill.
The thing that I think sets this game apart from subsequent releases is that, for better or worse, the level design philosophy is VERY different. You essentially get 1 checkpoint per level with very few extra shortcuts along the way which turns the levels into intricate tests of endurance. This serves the game really well in areas like 1-1 where you explore a huge castle and loop back around to fight the boss at the very beginning. This does not serve the game well in areas like 5-2 where you spend 20 minutes stumbling through a poison swamp only to unlock a shortcut that's completely unnecessary due to being before one of the easiest bosses in the game.
Overall, I think it's really interesting to see the contrast of the unrefined Souls formula with this insane graphical fidelity. I have very few problems with the game itself and even fewer with the remake aspects.
The new fat official is pretty fucking bad tho let's be honest.