RPS At E3: Returns To Monkey Island

By John Walker on June 9th, 2009 at 10:00 am.

They now look the same in close up as they do in the main game.

Even a week after the announcement, the news that there’s to be more Monkey Island still seems hard to believe. LucasArts, once an adored development house, has become known in recent years for little other than churning out Star Wars themed products of varying quality. Attempts at new licences during president Jim Ward’s realm failed (possibly in no small part because they very were attempts to create new IP, rather than just damned fine solo games), seeing the company once more fall back into the space flick’s safety net. Last year saw Ward step down, and in April he was replaced by Darrell Rodriguez. A man who, if the murmurs I heard at E3 are true, is genuinely trying to see the company rediscover its roots. Then there’s the news that Telltale are to be making brand new episodic Monkey Island games, with original LucasArts developers on the project. Reimagining the original Monkey Island is an important act for a number of reasons.

Compare and contrast.

It’s an experiment. LucasArts have clearly been far too terrified to touch an adventure game in almost a decade, with occasional rumoured projects getting shitcanned before anything concrete can prove itself. Taking the original Secret Of Monkey Island, updating its interface and graphics (while keeping them hand-painted and 2D), and releasing it digitally (this will be the first game LucasArts have released that won’t have any boxed presence) is a cautious toe in the water. Should it prove successful, my sniffing around suggests there are many within the company who are dying to leap into action.

That’s the other reason it’s important. LucasArts is currently employing a generation of developers who grew up playing LucasArts games. Of course these included X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter and Dark Forces, but they were alongside games like Maniac Mansion, Indiana Jones & The Fate Of Atlantis, and of course, Monkey Island. Three LucasArts employees I spoke to, including web producer Brooks Brown, cite the adventure as the reason they fell in love with games, let alone why they got jobs at the studio. There’s people with passion wanting this to work.

The new look is obviously going to be a matter of personal taste, and die-hard fans of the original may well be upset at the changes. But there’s little cause for complaint, since one of the more splendid features I was shown was the ability to switch back and forth between the modern and classic version at any point, at the press of a button. The fullscreen presentation of the new design pulls back into the windowed old style, with the verb options appearing at the bottom of the screen.

It couldn't be much more faithful.

Being developed for PC and Xbox Live, the controls have received an overhaul such that they’ll work naturally on a 360 controller. This does, horror of horrors, mean the SCUMM verb table isn’t on screen. It can be pulled up, as mentioned, and gamepad buttons default to the more obvious options.

Also new is the recorded dialogue. Obviously getting anyone to deliver Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert’s well known words was going to be a risky business, but once again the was a task given to lifelong fans of the game, who hired as many of the Curse Of Monkey Island’s cast as they could to ensure consistency. This means Dominic Armato will once again be Guybrush. And they all sound damned good to my ears.

The overriding philosophy seems to have been a desire to preserve the original in a way that’s approachable and playable for a new audience, without falling into any of the traps that have hindered modern adventuring – clumsy 3D interfaces, over-simplified controls, and a lack of minute detail. In fact, all the original jokes are in place, including a couple of restored close-ups that were lost from the original version due to a lack of space. While the new hint system is designed to help the wary, those in the know will still be able to delight at jokes like the pirate wearing the LOOM badge that will only mystify the sickeningly young.

It's less offensively 3D than the actually rather good Return To Monkey Island

Then perhaps even more surprising is the news that Telltale are making the brand new Tales Of Monkey Island games. Following their episodic tradition, five episodes released monthly, the new games are in 3D, but it’s the familiar style they’ve used in all their games so far, sort of a 2.5D. Again, the new look will piss off as many as it pleases, but to my eyes it seemed a reasonable compromise between the classic look and a modern world. Unfortunately it will be using Telltale’s woefully poor cursor system, meaning you’ll have the elaborate choice between clicking on something, or not clicking on it. It’s unfathomable to me why they won’t upgrade to the rotating cursors that proved far more effective, involving, and entertaining during the late ’90s. The potential for jokes, puzzles, and challenge for the player that removing this loses makes my soul sad.

However, the splendid news is that former LucasArts adventure veteran Dave Grossman is overseeing the project (he worked on the original MI in 1990), and the first episode is being written by the best adventure writer in the business, Mike Stemmle. Rather than stand-alone episodes, Tales Of Monkey Island will be one story broken into five parts, potentially allowing for a bit more depth in the narrative.

All the familiar characters will make appearances.

Following tradition, Guybrush will begin the games as a successful mighty pirate, awash in wealth and power. Which he of course immediately loses, along with Elaine, in a failed attempt to defeat a once more resurrected ghost pirate LeChuck. Along the way his hand becomes infected by a voodoo curse (Evil Dead 2?), and he’s stranded on Flotsam Island, a place which despite a strong pirate population has grown to fear and loathe piracy. Guybrush is trying to bring the noble tradition back to the island, while working out how to once more defeat his arch nemesis.

Not much was shown beyond a short gameplay video, but we saw glimpses of traditional jokes appearing. A building was named “Blowmedown Glassworks”, which sounds like a joke bad enough to have appeared in the earlier games. And despite the crappy cursor, the regular Telltale inventory has been improved, finally offering the ability to combine objects, and thus improving the potential for depth for puzzles. (In a couple more years they may have caught up with 1998 completely!) With Stemmle writing the opening episode’s puzzles, there’s good cause for hope in a risky project.

Edit: For those explaining how Guybrush “should” look, I’ve put together this handy guide:

So hush.

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97 Comments »

  1. Tricky says:

    It’s all good as far as I’m concerned. For all those naysayers to this project, try looking at it this way:

    If you don’t get this then that’s going to be a clear indication to Lucasarts that they were right to not touch adventure games for the last decade.

    Plus for all the people hating the new graphics (why, I can’t imagine – it looks great) you can still switch back to the original look. So it’s a day one purchase for me, despite the fact that I’ve played this game umpteen times, because I want them to make more!

    I’m also waiting for them to rerelease Grim Fandango with it fixed so that it will run on modern OSs – it’s the only Lucasarts adventure I can’t play any more due to crappy OS incompatibility :-(

  2. Larington says:

    I’d love to see Fate of Atlantis getting a re-imaging as well. Heck, they should make a Fate of Atlantis film as well, it’s far more likely to please old time indy fans than the fourth film did.

  3. Bobsy says:

    I physically sighed with pleasure when I read the words X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter. Oh, but we can hold on hope.

    EDIT: and yes, YES for a remade Fate of Atlantis (one which gets rid of the relatively poor randomised door-maze puzzle near the end, for preference). But I would settle for nothing less than high-quality versions of the original voices, and I get the feeling that LA wouldn’t have kept them. Weep.

  4. jalf says:

    Oh, I wasn’t aware Ward stepped down. I guess that explains why they’re rushing at MI all of a sudden. I already preordered the Telltale eps.

    @Tricky: By modern you mean…? I played Grim Fandango with no problems on XP. I haven’t tried on Vista or 7 though.

  5. Helm says:

    I never liked the Monkey Island games to begin with so I guess this whole thing isn’t for me, really. As a pixel artist I think I am allowed to say that the remake graphics do not seem to improve on the originals. If all this leads to Lucasarts attempting new adventure games with full-budget determination and vision though, I’ll be interested.

  6. Mike says:

    I like it. It’s just the new visual look seems odd. It’s not that it’s not pretty. But things don’t sit right on the backgrounds.

  7. Ginger Yellow says:

    Grim Fandango doesn’t work naturally on Vista, but there are workarounds. I’ve been playing it this past week.

  8. jalf says:

    @Helm: The new graphics improve on the original in one important way. They’re not as horribly pixelated. Keep in mind that the new graphics are mainly meant to make the game more approachable to newcomers. 320×240 graphics are probably a bit of a turn-off for anyone who don’t have the nostalgia factor to fall back on.

    But apart from that, I agree, the new graphics don’t really seem to fit in.

  9. Richard says:

    Unfortunately it will be using Telltale’s woefully poor cursor system, meaning you’ll have the elaborate choice between clicking on something, or not clicking on it. It’s unfathomable to me why they won’t upgrade to the rotating cursors that proved far more effective, involving, and entertaining during the late ’90s. The potential for jokes, puzzles, and challenge for the player that removing this loses makes my soul sad.

    I couldn’t agree more, John. The single interaction cursor was Sam and Max’s major flaw in my opinion (worse than the sometimes flat humour). How much effort would it have been to do this properly. It dumbs down the whole experience.

    However I am so happy that the 2d point and click adventure game might make a come back if it sells then there might be the potential market for more. Everyone who signed that Sam’n'Max petition a few years ago needs to put their money where their mouth is. I shall be buying at least two copies.

  10. Wirbelwind says:

    I’ve never been an adventure game fan but I will pick this up and try it regardless – anything that can bring LEC back to its roots is worth it. They’re stuck in a vicious cycle of churning out horrible clone wars games.

    Jedi Knight and Rogue Squadron please.

  11. Tom says:

    Here’s hoping they do this for a couple more of their back catalogue.
    Sam n’ Max or DotT would be awesome.
    Maybe update Grim Fandango’s engine to support newer OSs and a spot of anti alaising.
    That would be nice.

  12. Sunjammer says:

    Well thank god for the option to switch back. The new hydrocephalous Guybrush makes me want to kick someone in the face. I just can’t stand that washed out smeared out Painter newbie look. Especially the character portraits are utterly vile.

    But woo! Monkey Island!

    Also, Grim Fandango remake please. I can’t get the bastard to work on my modern PC anymore, and that’s a real cultural gem lost. Oh beloved sanspoof..

  13. unwise says:

    The special edition looks great, and if I personally have to buy enough copies in order for them to follow up with Monkey Island 2, I will certainly consider it!

    I’m sure Telltale’s series will also be very impressive, though it would be nice if they could crank up their usual level of humour from ‘often amusing’, somewhere a little closer to ‘frequently hilarious’.

  14. Colthor says:

    “It couldn’t be much more faithful”?
    They’ve RUINED it!
    In that screenshot Guybrush is facing COMPLETELY THE WRONG DIRECTION!
    WHAT are they THINKING?!

  15. Chryso says:

    Can’t wait! It’s been way too long since the SCUMM games got a reissue of any kind, much less something like this. It’s not the Criterion Collection, but I love that someone at Lucasarts is finally taking a custodial approach to their old properties. Just hope they do something similar with X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter later on; they could dominate two dead genres at once.

  16. yhancik says:

    But the new graphics look so… serious.
    Aside from that, yay, I guess.

  17. Helm says:

    The original game didn’t treat the picture element with a lot of respect to begin with. The graphics were what we now call index painted in the pixel art culture, which is to say, used deluxe paint as a low-powered version of photoshop with an indexed, 16 color and then 256 color palette. Messy, lots of gradients, lots of smudge tool, lots of vague volumes.

    So yes, being able to see chunky pixels on screen doesn’t benefit Monkey Island as much as it does something that was made intently so that the finite picture element would have its potential maximized. Not all art that is made of pixels is pixel art. I think it’s safe to say that when pixel art is attempted, even modern gamers recognize visual strength there.

    The complaint ‘man it’s so pixelated’ is a remnant of the video card wars mentalities where a higher resolution, more points of automated aa, always meant better fidelity because the engine of a game was trying to show always more than the computers we had were capable of. Games specifically designed to be made of big pixels in modern systems however, do not connote a loss of fidelity, they do not bug the viewer by promising better looking graphics, if only they had a stronger video card. Look at http://www.pixeljoint.com/pixelart/29178.htm this for example. Would this look better if you eradicated the picture element aesthetic?

    My problem with the new art is that it exacerbates the problems of the original art (messy, lots of gradients, lots of smudge tool, odd volumes) because it tries to be so faithful to it, while just upping the resolution. I would prefer it to be tighter and reconstructed by more capable artists even if the game lost points for nostalgia.

    The update doesn’t take the graphics into modern times, it takes them into 1998 times. I don’t think it’s a brave move for Lucasarts and if it doesn’t do well they should consider that perhaps braver moves would have.

  18. BooleanBob says:

    “If you don’t get this then that’s going to be a clear indication to Lucasarts that they were right to not touch adventure games for the last decade.”

    Disingenuous nonsense. If people don’t buy either game it isn’t really a clear indication of anything, because they might not appeal to the consumer on an individual level for myriad reasons: the price, the art styles (which are a subjective matter), the quality of the writing, puzzles, or voice acting; good or bad reviews, good or bad luck with the metacritic score, and so on.

    Besides which the relative success of these games is never going to shed any light on how well different adventure games released at different times over the last ten years may or may not have done.

    Personally I was a little angered when I first saw both announcements. Neither the revamped artwork in the rerelease, or the trailer for the Telltale episodes appealed to me much on a personal level, and I was worried that this was an exploitative move from LA, rather than a new beginning.

    The anger was irrational – as John says, Lucasarts are at least experimenting with the genre again, and I’ve love to see a new golden age of adventures as much as anyone else. Plus no one is actively and personally committed to doing a little jig and then a little wee on the memories of my Halcyon adventuring days (of, erm, 2006 – I played it on Dosbox). But my concern – and I suspect it’s one that others share – is surely legitimate? Might it be possible that big financial success for a rerelease of an old property leads, not to new games, but to further retreads of old ones?

    Thankfully much that’s in the article goes to suggest these fears are perhaps unfounded. We shall see.

  19. Tzarkahn says:

    What is LOOM?

    Also this does look good, the remake, not the new’un I am sceptical after Sam & Max

  20. GLOWi says:

    I don’t like the visuals of neither the remake nor new episodes. I don’t like the looks of Guybrush in particular.
    But I may be accustomed to the cartoonish style of the third Monkey Island, which I played with my son many times.
    Still, it’s good to have the remake. The 320×240 graphics have discouraged me from the original.

  21. Sinnerman says:

    I really enjoyed the “host master and the conquest of humor” adventure game that Doublefine put on the web for GDC and sort of wish that someone would make a new full game using that retro style. Capcom did Mega Man 9 for the filthy consoles in a retro style and it seemed that fans loved it.

    To be honest, the only message I try to send to publishers by buying games is “I want to play this game.” I played my copy of Monkey Island recently with the graphics, verb menus and lack of voice acting that I like. I’ll wait for reviews of the Telltale game before buying to see if they have made the sort of game I want or the sort of game they like to make.

  22. Risingson says:

    I don’t like the new look very much, but this is a personal opinion. What I don’t agree is the approach of “bringing the game to new generations”: if someone doesn’t enjoy Monkey Island for its old graphics, its his/her fault. I don’t have any problems enjoying old sci/fi movies despite the lack of special effects, or playing text adventure games despite the lack of graphics. And yes, both things are comparable.

  23. Legandir says:

    My initial reaction was “No! Don’t change it at all!”. Now, the idea is growing on me. I still think the characters look awful. The backgrounds look great, the voice acting sounds great (from what i saw in the trailer), even the new interface could be good. But i can’t stand the look of the characters.

    I’ll probably get Tales either on preorder or after the season finishes when they discount it. If its anywhere near as good as their strong bad games i’m in

  24. Solar says:

    Tzarkan: LOOM is an early Lucasarts adventure, fusing music into the control interface. Quite unique in terms of adventure games and memorable story too.

    It was Day of the Tentacle that first got me into point and clicks. Joyous. I also got swept into the magic of The Secret of Monkey Island and had to play the sequels, of which 2 is the longest but Curse felt the most dynamic. As far as remakes and the telltale games go I’m not itching to play them again, but would be interested to see what they do. The artwork looks crisp, and it was quirky in the original, but it was never the real reason I played it, it was the humor and voice acting. (oh and the puzzles)

    Also Fate of Atlantis was stupendously good. Still never finished the fighting arc. Why they didn’t make that the next film I really don’t know. Twas awsome.

  25. animal says:

    My attacks have left entire islands depopulated!

  26. Rei Onryou says:

    It should practically be law for all PC gamers to buy the remake. I don’t care if you already own it (I do) or if you don’t like the new art look (I think its a darned good attempt at attracting those console “graphics > gameplay” players while remaining faithful to the original), just buy it and enjoy it.

    Voices!

  27. Clovis says:

    Ya, Telltale need a more robust cursor system. I really want to be able to “taste” everything in the game.

    I don’t think this will usher in a new era of 2D (or even 2.5D) adventure gaming. I’m still hoping the Penumbra style of adventure game will catch on since it should be a little appealing to Half-life players, so it seems like maybe it could invigorate the genre. Probably not though.

    The main problem with the cursor system is that you are using a cursor. I’ve played tons of AGs, but I still think pixel hunting is just lame. I liked rummaging through drawers and knocking stuff around to do my “exploring”. I found this to offer a similar level of difficulty, but it actually feels like you are searching (and destroying!) a room.

  28. Golden says:

    Yeah.
    I’m all for nostalgia but nostalgia isnt just the game its the life you inhabit at the time.
    A low-res game in a life where you know have to pay council tax and can only play after 11pm when family and wife time are done just wont cut it.I’m looking forward to this reinvigorated franchise.
    Grim next please and then Indy

  29. Ginger Yellow says:

    Ihave to say I’m not sure I’m too bothered by the existing Telltale cursor system. While it’s clearly more simplistic than most adventure games and doesn’t allow for some kinds of inventive puzzles, a) the glorious Grim Fandango had next to no object combinations, and b) games which require you to try every item combination in your inventory to solve an impossibly obscure puzzle aren’t sophisticated, they’re just frustrating. I don’t think Monkey Island was ever that unfair, but some LucasArts games were.

  30. Voidman says:

    I probably won’t try the Telltale episodes (like so many here the style just doesn’t sit well with my taste). The remake though, that’s a different story. As long as it is the same game but with updated gfx and sound I’ll be entertained. Heck, even if it wasn’t the same game but still a SCUMM adventure with 2D gfx I would be pleased.
    This is really very simple:
    A) a contemporary version of a beloved classic in the making – if you’re a fan you’ll get it and play and have fun. GFX style is a matter of taste but it could have been worse.
    B) if you’re not a fan or you’re offended by the travesty of stylistic gfx update – don’t play it – no one will take away your own private nostalgia trips using SCUMMV.
    C) if this catches on there is a chance of more remakes like that. Lucasarts has got a really good portfolio but there is also Sierra.

    I don’t have a problem with “bringing the game to new generations” simply because that does also mean “… and everyone else” (and this includes me among others). I think that the industry should endorse remakes as a rule (and a way to capitalize on their old products). Coz let’s be honest it wouldn’t be just cosmetic upgrades but to some extent technical ones as well. Think of the possibilities if this became a trend. Updated hits of yesteryear: System Shock, Tie Fighter, Freespace, (and I dread to mention even)… Fallout – to mention just a few. Sure not all games would fit the bill but there are plenty of them which would shine a new light.

  31. The Sombrero Kid says:

    i don’t think they’ve went far enough with the monkey island upgrade the graphics look like early 90′s prerendered videos.

  32. Ashurbanipal says:

    As someone who really only knows about Monkey Island by reputation, to the point of having absorbed some of the jokes by osmosis (I lie, as I believe I originally played demos), I definitely want to give it a go. If it’s reasonably priced, that is. Although I was playing games at the time they were released, I appear to have missed out, and clunkiness has been a big obstacle to enjoying any of those old games in their original form.

    b) games which require you to try every item combination in your inventory to solve an impossibly obscure puzzle aren’t sophisticated, they’re just frustrating. I don’t think Monkey Island was ever that unfair, but some LucasArts games were.

    Man, I’m with you. Some were entirely batshit. I recall a funny Old Man Murray article that kind of highlighted everything that went wrong in the increasingly opaque puzzles of certain adventure games.

  33. Nick says:

    That failed at making Guybrush look like Guybrush, which is a pretty big failure. Other than that, glad to see them doing something that isn’t shit for a change.

  34. The Sombrero Kid says:

    as far as i can tell no adventure games have copied blade runner with the multiple ways to solve a puzzle thing and i’m totally baffled why, the major failing of the adventure game genre is that if you can’t figure out the one sequence of events you can’t progress, the truth is the only reason adventure games were any good back in the day is because we didn’t know any better and they were funny.

  35. Ginger Yellow says:

    Asurbanipal: funnily enough, that was one of the puzzles I had in mind.

  36. Ginger Yellow says:

    Somberero Kid makes a great point. A remake of Blade Runner would be awesome. Or, even better, a game of Ubik based around Blade Runner’s mechanics. That game totally blew me away.

  37. Ashurbanipal says:

    Ginger,

    Not surprised. I think I gave up on that bloody game halfway through. Almost attributed it to Roberta Willams when it was in fact Jane Jensen. Actually, I think Roberta Williams’s stuff was not nearly as bad, though Gabriel Knight might have had the better stories.

    Postcript: By the by, there was actually a pretty average game that was inspired by Ubik published by Cryosoft. It was actually quite serviceable. Shoddy controls, though.

  38. JonFitt says:

    It’s just a Squee! from me. All good news.

  39. jackflash says:

    @Larington – agreed. Fate of Atlantis is probably my favorite adventure game of all time, except for various of the Space Quest games. And, yes, it was about 10x better than Indy 4.

    I will totally buy the new Monkey Island, btw. Never played it as a kid, and it was always a real regret of mine.

  40. Optimaximal says:

    @animal

    With your breath I’m sure they all suffocated!!!

    Also, I am still failing to understand what is up with Guybrush’s hair in this Special Edition – Did the visual artist take his entire inspiration of hairstyles from that scene in There’s Something About Mary or what?

  41. TauQuebb says:

    I wish people would stop winging about niggling details like hair, there are things called scissors and hair gel. The choises you get are either no new games, or new games that look different here and there.

  42. Nick says:

    Yeah, only its not a new game its a redrawing of an old game where the guy doesn’t even look similar but everything else does. The actual *new* Monkey Island episodes *have* made him look like Guybrush.

  43. JKjoker says:

    i wish they would use handpainted art instead of cg, it kind of looks like crap, not really that much better than what it was originally, in fact in the case of the lava, it looked better before

  44. TheBard says:

    Concerning the resolution … when I played Monkey Island 4 again a few years ago, I took a hex editor and played around in the game executable. In runs in OpenGL, so the resolution should be changeable, but it was hardwired in the exe. I tried to find entires for 320 and 480 near each other and finally managed to hack the executable to run the game in 1280×1024, my monitors native resolution at the time.

    It looked great.

    The same should be doable in Grim Fandango, if anybody wants to give it a try.

  45. Rich says:

    Oh man. I’ve been waiting for LucasArts to return to their ‘roots’ for a decade. Grim Fandango was their last great game (though MI4 had its moments).
    Please PLEASE bring Full Throttle back. I will die happy.

  46. Matt says:

    I imagine that if you are an adventure game veteran, telltale’s system is maybe a little simple. But as someone who’s just coming into the genre after picking up just about all of telltale on Steam, I find that the interface is easy to use and all of the puzzles make sense.

    I had heard horror stories of adventure game puzzles, things like the Gabriel Knight thing mentioned above, that had always kept me away from the genre. But one drunken purchase on Steam is opening up this world to me, and I imagine that had I ever run into a multiple cursor obscure-as-hell puzzle in Sam and Max season one, I wouldn’t be here talking about how I’m starting to get into adventure games.

    I’m very excited about both of these Monkey Island games, the first because I’ve never played it but would very much like to, and the second because I really like the Telltale games I’ve played. Dumbed down or simply streamlined, I like that I can come home from work and play an episode of a game in a night without having to spend hours clicking on things in order to find the obscure item that triggers the next stage of a puzzle.

    But … maybe it’s not ‘for’ me. I grew up on platformers and JRPGs. A console kid. So the world of cursors and clicking is new and strange.

    That said, I like the effort to turn an otherwise completely niche, inaccessible genre into something I enjoy playing. But maybe I’m in the minority.

  47. much2much says:

    I look forward to the Telltale games but you make a good point about the cursor simplicity.

    I think thats probably necessary for the go ahead. Put a free demo out and have a high conversion rate. Whereas a more complicated game would only interest those who were already keen….

  48. Wilson says:

    I agree with all those citing Fate of Atlantis and Full Throttle as awesome. I also liked The Dig, though I’m not sure anyone else really did.

    Personally, I don’t mind the old fashioned graphics. I’d buy a new game with the same old style graphics but improved gameplay (basically a good hint system so you never have to get a walkthrough if you’re momentarily stuck, and possibly a branching plot kinda like Fate of Atlantis but with more depth). I should mention that I think the new graphics look quite nice too though.

  49. Demikaze says:

    This is really good news and though I haven’t been entirely convinced by the Sam and Max episodes, this is Monkey Island and the series is part of childhood.

    My primary concern is that I don’t feasbily see how it can possibly match the genius that is Limbo of the Lost.

  50. jalf says:

    The complaint ‘man it’s so pixelated’ is a remnant of the video card wars mentalities where a higher resolution, more points of automated aa, always meant better fidelity because the engine of a game was trying to show always more than the computers we had were capable of

    No, it is simply that the original’s graphics look awful on today’s monitors. If you want a game to be accessible by people who don’t have the nostalgia factor, the very first thing you *need* to do is up the resolution so it doesn’t look like everyone are built from Lego blocks. (which is exacerbated by today’s monitors being *huge* compared to what it was originally designed and played on). Back in the early 90′s, it wasn’t much of a problem. People typically played on 14″ or 15″ monitors, and everything else was equally blocky anyway so it didn’t stand out. Rendering the same 320×240 image on today’s 20+” monitors, when everything else is rendered at 6 times the DPI just doesn’t work.

    I don’t think it has anything to do with pixel art as such. I’m not saying anything about what art style they should go for or how they should produce it. Just that taking 320×240 images and upscaling them for todays monitors is a good way to turn away newcomers. The picture you linked to is not 320×240 for the same reason.