Reboots are a necessary part of pop culture, not so much for the fans or for their almost guaranteed monetary return, but for the themes. We can turn to Batman to show us psychopathy, existentialism, or more recently the effects and consequences of terrorism and freedom (not to mention how to make a terrible, plot-hole ridden movie). We turn to Spiderman to understand teenage angst and how those who are thrust into a position of responsibility deal with it. And we (used) to turn to Final Fantasy to see how small events and the will of few, can have global effects. Character, plot, dialogue, scenario, and all of the other delightful things that make up story are simply the bearers of the palanquin that carries the all important, all powerful, theme.
Like many Devil May Cry fans, I was sceptical of Dante’s new appearance, and dubious about the world he seemed to inhabit. It wasn’t because Dante now looked like a 90’s emo or because the whole ‘you will question reality!’ schtick of the level design is old hat. It was because I still had questions about the camp, sarcastic Dante I had grown to love. Did he ever get over his brothers death? What kind of weird world did he live in? Whatever happened to Nero? Was he simply content with fighting demons, or was he searching for an end goal?
Then Gamescom rolled around, and I saw the trailer above, and I realised why the reboot was necessary. Camp Dante was done, his story told, his motivations and feelings revealed, and his universe explained. There was nothing more to it than the shallow presentation that we’d been given.
I started thinking of camp Dante as a bumbling explorer in the jungle, searching for and occasionally tripping over themes that define our existence. Good, evil, power, the bond between siblings and what it ultimately means to be human. Instead of cherishing these artefacts, thinking about them, digesting their meaning, he simply hung them on a wall under the broad heading of ‘Some Emotions.’ Emo Dante has a chance to be a better explorer than camp Dante, because his jungle makes him think, and gives us a chance to see him thinking and to think for ourselves. Seeing him become initiated into a group that is set on the eradication of demons will give us a chance to see what he really thinks about his situation, and how he reacts to it; and watching him meet and get to know his brother will reveal more of his character. I’m guessing there’s a 99% chance of Virgil betraying Dante, but I really, really hope they separate on issues of what’s right rather than ‘Mwahahahah, Dante I really love demons, we are BFF’s 4 life!’.
Similarly, Lara Croft is set to reboot. Whereas once upon a time it was fun to see Lara kill endangered species and fight dinosaurs, we’re living in a different world now. A world where seeing a hero come into their own is more important and more interesting than watching them do what they’ve already done a thousand times before. I know Lara is supposed to embody feminine strength, I know she’s a puzzle solver, I know that she’s going to do whatever it takes to get shit sorted. Now I’m going to see how she got this way, allowing myself and a whole new generation to fall in love with her again.
While the ‘rape’ scenario in the new Lara Croft was hotly debated, I think the inclusion of this theme is almost an essential part to the reboot. Lara is young and hot, and she’s on a deserted island with what I’m assuming are some kind of pirates/treasure hunters/scum of the earth. Unless each of these men has been castrated or has a delusional belief of Vagina Dentata, then there will be a damn good chance of someone trying to molest her, and this is a good thing. Rape is a common crime in the world, especially in the military (whether it be against a fellow soldier or the enemy civilians), and it’s an issue, a theme, that women the world over have either faced, or fear facing. It’s also a theme that men have basically no grasp on, need to be aware of and need to empathise with. Lara’s journey will have her facing the seven layers of hell, and at least one of them will be based around her gender.
It could be argued that reboots aren’t necessary, that these themes could just as easily be explored by new characters in new places, but these titles that we’re familiar and comfortable with are vessels that have proven they can communicate these themes effectively. Why needlessly throw away those we love when they can prove to us they’re still relevant? Gamers are currently caught in a strange middle ground of being hungry for new IP’s, in some instances to the point of starving, while still craving the safety of those characters and places that we know and cherish. Reboots answer both problems. Your old games in a new way, your themes revisited, your love recycled and brought back to you, brand-spanking new.
Dante, Lara, I’ll be waiting for you.
Probably moreso Lara.