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The Problem With RPG Sequels - Editorial

InstaTrentInstaTrent Opinion GuyRPGamer Staff
edited March 2013 in Latest Updates
Sequels litter today's video game landscape, but not all are made equal. Is there a right way to make an RPG sequel? What are the wrong ways?

"To tell you the truth, I like drinking tea and eating fresh vegetables, but that doesn't fit with my super-cool attitude. I guess I have to accept this about myself."


  • smacdsmacd Full Members
    edited March 2013
    You mention basically three of what I see as being the major "sequel" types:
    - A game with some similar themes and add +1 to the previous iteration
    - A set of games set in the same 'world', but not necessarily tied together
    - A set of games tied together to tell a single story

    I don't see these as particularly different from movie and book sequels. There are obviously differences in each approach, and definitely something to be said about the success and demise of a franchise in each of these styles.

    Probably the biggest series for the first one is obviously Final Fantasy. On the good side, it makes it so that gamers can love one game (like 6), hate the followups (like 7 & 8), but still be able to look forward to another great game in the franchise (like 9). And you can miss iterations without feeling like you missed anything important you need to know for the next game.

    The biggest example I can think of for the second would be The Elder Scrolls, which you mentioned. As someone who has played through the series since the beginning, its nice to know that with each new game I can explore the same world, read some of the same books I've seen since the beginning, but also hear and see references to my own past adventures. I love hearing about the Nerevarine when I travel to Solthseim in the Dragonborn DLC, or even catching a brief reference to Jagar Tharn and knowing that I get it, but most newer gamers have no idea who he is in the series lore.

    The final type has a few examples, Xenosaga being one mentioned, but I think Mass Effect is a much more prominent example. This type has so much potential, and rarely ever is pulled off right. You have to pull people in with the first game and have encapsulated stories that tie into a much bigger overall plot. It is difficult to pull in new gamers generally, because they miss parts of previous games, and the expectations build so highly that the ending of the final game is more than likely to fail to live up to the expectation of the players. I would love to like this style more, but I'm wary of getting into series like this now until they are completed (much like with book series, curse you GRRM and RJ).

    In the end, I don't find anything inherently wrong with sequels. There are plenty of ways to ruin them though, like poor planning - ME3, drastic changes in style - FF7, and rushing out the door - DA2. I think the key for all developers is to listen to their customers more, however that is a double edged sword- they need to listen to existing fans. Its too easy for them to look for the quick buck, and dumb down their games for wider appeal rather that sticking to what made the previous game(s) great.

    On the other hand, it does feel like some companies rely too much on sequels and not coming up with new ideas and IPs. Which need to be marketed better when they do come up with them.
  • riulynriulyn Member Full Members
    edited March 2013
    I prefer the sequel that is set in the same world but not necessarily tied to the first. It could be seen as milking the same assets, but if it's done for the right games, the world and lore of the first game has enough interesting content that it is worth exploring that in a sequel.
  • ChickenGodChickenGod Overdosing Heavenly Bliss Moderators
    edited March 2013
    Unfortunately some sequels, however you want to categorize them, just end up being poor products or betray that particular gamer's tastes. I think we're more likely to forgive if a series returns to form in some manner. Take Suikoden 4 and Tales of Legendia. They are the black sheep of their respective franchises, but fortunately we also have Suikoden V and Tales of Vesperia to offset those who were displeased. On the flip side, things like Mass Effect 3's ending, The 3rd Birthday, DA2, and Sticker Star are all the latest games that each series has.

    Right now the biggest offenders for me are generally the Kingdom Hearts filler titles that are making the series worse with each and every release. Not only are many of the worlds, characters, and gameplay ideas straight up rehashed, but they make an already convoluted story practically unintelligible. When I played the latest 3DS KH, all I could think to myself was why am I even trying SE's latest milking of the KH franchise?

    You make an excellent point about FF13-2 near the end of the paragraph discussing it, saying that these types of sequels seem superfluous and offensive to fans of the original game. More power to the people that love FF13-2, but those two games are so heavily different from one another that it is hard to imagine many people are going to gel with both of them. As an FF13 fan I was overjoyed at the news there would be a sequel to it, but after playing I'd like to pretend 13-2 doesn't exist. I'm hard pressed to think of a less deserving trilogy than this one. On the one hand you have the original 13 that is hated internet wide, and then you have its sequel that turned someone like me who loved the original off of the concept. When you factor in the changes in formula from 13-2 to 13-3, even those who loved the direction of 13-2 might be left scratching their heads.

    As for direct sequels, there are some great ones out there. Digital Devil Saga 2, Xenosaga 3, Borderlands 2, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, and probably the whole Sora no Kiseki series comes to mind.
  • RealityCheckedRealityChecked Member Full Members
    edited March 2013
    I love the idea of direct sequels, but the reality is they are almost impossible to pull off in any media. The better the first game, the more likely there will be a sequel and the less likely it will live up to the first, thus driving up the % of ‘bad’ sequels.

    I agree with Trent on FF and Chicken on KH. FFXIII-2 should be the poster child for this problem, and KH seems to be following the oft used anime rule of ‘whatever you do, don’t end the series’. Alas for big companies it will always be about the $$, whether they (or we) like it or not.

    The funny thing is I could list a half dozen games for which I’d kill to see a sequel, knowing full well that it is likely the worst thing that could happen to the original. As much as I’d like to see a character or a world again, I guess maybe I should just hope for closed ended games and count on replays, soundtracks, and YouTube tributes.

    The way something ends is much more important than how it begins (and more difficult to do right). I’m mildly interested to see how Disgaea does, and mildly obsessed with getting a chance with Trails 2 & 3.
  • watcherwatcher Veteran RPGamer Full Members
    edited March 2013
    ChickenGod wrote: »
    As for direct sequels, there are some great ones out there. Digital Devil Saga 2, Xenosaga 3, Borderlands 2, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, and probably the whole Sora no Kiseki series comes to mind.

    I'd like to throw Arc the Lad 2, Star Ocean 2 and Earthbound (at least I think that was a direct sequel) on to the good pile.
  • ClixClix Listmaster Full Members
    edited March 2013
    KH seems to be following the oft used anime rule of ‘whatever you do, don’t end the series’.

    It's pedantic of me to do this, but the correct way to phrase this would be "manga rule." Anime ends ALL the time. Roughly a dozen to twenty series every three months. And may will not get more seasons despite having enough content or selling well enough; to end a season is a potential black mark because of how anime is scheduled and produced.

    Manga, meanwhile, is where things start going until the author dies or it simply just doesn't sell. Now, the anime of those kinds of show do end up gain semi-immortality as well, but it's all a reflection of how messed up the big manga industry is (conversely, the eternal status of some keystone series means that new series have about 5 minutes to sink or swim--guess what happens more often?).

    Honestly, for a while now, I've seriously wondered if Nomura really wanted to be a manga artist, since his plots are devolving into trash pulp the likes of such "esteemed" authors like Tite Kubo and Masashi Kishimoto.
  • retrodragonretrodragon Member Full Members
    edited March 2013
    My all time favorite direct sequel: Shadow Hearts Covenant. It improved upon the previous game in every way, and maintained an excellent follow up to the previous games characters, themes and story. But the reality is that it worked because the original Shadow Hearts had many flaws, so it is a rare case of a direct sequel improving a game in almost every single category, which is unusual because often its more of a mixed bag.

    Take Xenosaga for example (another enjoyable series on the ps2 IMO), the first game was solid, but while a few improvements were made for part 2, they kind of butchered some other elements, which annoyed me to no end. So I kind of think that a direct sequel might almost always be a bad idea. You are stuck between a rock (gamers expectations based on previous titles) and a hard place (needing to bring in new fans, as well as make adjustments and improvements to keep the series fresh). So basically we should thank the hard work of teams that make successful direct sequels for doing what is almost impossible.

    As for the classic Squenix sequel craze, lets face it: they will release as many sequels and spin-offs as they possibly can as long as they can make a buck off of them. And I don't really mind that much; ultimately it means a larger rpg library, and more cash in the pockets of one of the few remaining jrpg console developers. For me, I've been around long enough to know what to expect from the sequel craze, so I'm not too disappointed anymore. Unplanned direct sequels are probably always going to be mediocre games that exist to generate revenue. It's sad that the industry almost expects it now, but there's no point in being upset by it.

    Well, I'm off to go play some FFX-2. Now where was that Dark Knight dress sphere again...
    Playing: Wild Arms 3, Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning, Star Ocean First Departure
  • retrodragonretrodragon Member Full Members
    edited March 2013
    Amusing sequal chat update: apparently the HD release of FFX will include FFX-2. Haha classic timing. I'll buy em both on release bc I love X but still kinda funny
    Playing: Wild Arms 3, Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning, Star Ocean First Departure
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