We live in an age in which franchises long thought dead rise from the grave, their shambling corpses draped with the finery of modern popular culture to create the illusion of vitality. Some artistic sorcerers do manage to breathe life into the sleeping characters of our youth, reminding us of times past and refreshing our longing for their familiar faces. What magic brings us successful reboots and restorations like Batman Begins, and what devilry haunts us with abominations like The Smurfs? (That’s right. I’m calling it.). Not all franchise face lifts are the same. By taking a look at film and television, we may stumble upon a taxonomy of reboots and help future videogame necromancers invigorate the forgotten.
To briefly define my terms, I will liberally use the term “reboot” to encompass resurrecting franchises as well as deviations from the norm, be they forays into different genres or aesthetic re-branding projects. For example, I would include Kirby’s Dream Course in my definition of a “rebooted” or “refreshed” franchise because the creators were trying to maintain certain elements of the puff-ball’s appeal while simultaneously moving the character into a different genre context. The important feature unifying game “reboots” is the attempt by designers to maintain marketable familiarity during a time of significant transition.