What happens when a sequel turns so bad that it hurts the original? Join Nick D. as he takes a look at sequels that ruined great games.
The video game industry thrives on sequels. Fans may lament the slow trickle of new IPs into the market, but, at the same time, there is always a massive demand for sequels of successful games. This leaves the industry in a weird place. Standalone games are less valued as sequels tend to make more money, and letting a franchise die for the simple fact that the story has been told is almost inexcusable from the perspective of publisher and fan alike. This leads to the obvious problem of a deluge of unnecessary sequels being relentlessly spewed onto the market. Many are great, which is a testament to gaming’s focus on gameplay over story; many are not.
However, it takes a special game sequel to not simply be a bad or underwhelming game, but to actually harm the integrity of what came before it. These games don’t even have to be bad themselves, just that they cloak their predecessor in a dark shadow, or throw off the original game in a fit of teen-like angst. Today, I want to examine five such games. Because stories are the ones harmed so often in sequels, this piece will focus heavily on issues with plot. Therefore, it is important to note that there will be spoilers for every entry.
5. DmC: Devil May Cry
This entry is unlikely to rattle any cages. DmC: Devil May Cry is a reboot of the entire Devil May Cry continuity, focusing on a slightly different Dante than the rest and incorporating an anti-control plot that really hits you over the head in its total lack of subtlety. The fanbase was noticeably not pleased. Personally, I wouldn’t consider this a bad game in any real way. The plots of Devil May Cry games were always cringe-worthy. Dante acts noticeably different in every game, and the gameplay remained solid, though less so than the first and third instalment. However, it’s not for those reasons that it ruined the original.
The original Devil May Cry games may not have been particularly cohesive in terms of their characterization of Dante or their timeline, but they did have a cannon. Dante is the son of the demon Sparda along with his brother Vergil, and he runs a demon-hunting agency. The plots of the individual games generally don’t overlap, but there is some development between instalments, particularly between three and four.
DmC is a perfect example of the unnecessary reboot. There are many reasons to reboot a series, usually if the series has become too complex for newcomers or if it had been written into a wall. This hadn’t happened with the main series, which went as far up as Devil May Cry 4. Fans of the old series who wanted to know what was up with Nero’s demon arm or if we’d see a return of Vergil are currently left completely behind. The biggest problem is that DmC didn’t add anything that couldn’t be done in either a new game or another sequel. Retreading old ground, while simultaneously discarding what led fans to love the series, angered a lot of people. For rebooting the series, thus completely erasing what the older games had built without a decent reason, DmC: Devil May Cry takes the fifth place.
4. Final Fantasy X-2
There are so many Final Fantasy games, it would surprise many non-fans to discover that it was only at the series’ tenth instalment that Square made a direct sequel to one of the games. The numbering in the series is misleading. Each game is entirely unique, meaning I would never consider Final Fantasy XIII a sequel to Final Fantasy XII and so forth. However, Square began a trend with Final Fantasy X to make direct followups to the stories of their main games.
Since X, there have been a sequel to every numbered Final Fantasy, and some of the older ones, particularly Final Fantasy VII have been getting the sequel treatment as well. While I’d like to look at the plot holes of Dirge of Cerberus or the ridiculous fanfiction-esque nature of Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, it is Final Fantasy X-2 that most undermines the main game (technically Lightning Returns does more, but I’m not incurring the wrath of the internet by calling Final Fantasy XIII great).
Final Fantasy X ends in a very bittersweet way. It made the bold decision to actually kill Tidus, the main character off, and leave his major love interest behind. It was a brave choice that was equally fulfilling and heart wrenching. Final Fantasy X-2 is of a noticeably lighter tone than Final Fantasy X – which is perfectly fine, and goes a long way in allowing the game to forge its own identity. Where Final Fantasy X-2 really falters in relation to the original is it actively undoes the sad ending of X. At the end, if you get 100%, Tidus is revived and everyone lives happily ever after (don’t listen to the audio play). This completely undermines the bold choice to end the original the way they did. Yes, fans may want Tidus and Yuna together, but sometimes the hard endings are the most powerful, and stepping back after the fact is cheap. For discarding the original’s ending, Final Fantasy X-2 takes my fourth spot.
3. Resident Evil 6
If you don’t know, the Resident Evil fanbase is heavily divided between those who favour the older games (Resident Evil 1 – Resident Evil: Code Veronica) and those who fell in love with Resident Evil 4, which sparked off a new direction of the series. Resident Evil 6 was heralded by Capcom as a compromise between the two groups, providing three totally unique campaigns. Leon’s would focus on the kind of survival horror that original fans would love, complete with zombies. Chris’ on the other hand would feature action elements, mimicking Call of Duty more. Finally, new character, Jake’s, would be more of the Resident Evil 3: Nemesis-style campaign.
It didn’t work, and Resident Evil 6 got some pretty lukewarm reviews for being so unfocused. However, I didn’t include Resident Evil 6 on this list simply because it is a bad/disappointing/mediocre game. It is my example of a game that jumps the shark, demeaning all that came before it, and leaving the future of the series on shaky, perhaps completely undermined ground.
The story focuses heavily on the worldwide outbreak of the latest virus de jour. It is a conflict that ranges across the globe as the three protagonists save the entire world by destroying massive monsters and lots of intelligent infected. The problem with this is that it’s too big. The first three Resident Evil’s focused closely on Raccoon City, and the nuking of that locale was a major plot point three games in the making. Resident Evil 4 also took place in a remote area. By making the game a global affair, the game undermines these smaller scale approaches. This is particularly true as the protagonists punch and kick their way through hordes of monsters without a fear in the world, whereas, in the original game, even a few mindless zombies/dogs/B.O.W.s were enough to wipe out a trained military team. Resident Evil 6 goes big and, by doing so, it makes the rest of the series look rather small. As such, it takes my number three slot.
2. The Third Birthday
Parasite Eve was a cinematic horror RPG created by Squaresoft for the PlayStation. The game’s plot focuses on mitochondria, which you may remember from biology class, and its evolution. An evil strain of mitochondria wants domination over the nucleus, which leads to it taking over the body of an opera singer and carving a gooey swath across New York City. The protagonist, Aya Brea’s, mitochondria have also evolved, but to work with the nucleus instead of trying to take over. This essentially gives her powers above regular humans, which allows her to battle the evil mitochondrial Eve. Video game plots are strange; just go with it.
The Third Birthday is the second sequel to the original Parasite Eve, and it’s very, very strange. Firstly, though starring Aya Brea, they’ve taken away her memories and make no direct reference to the events of the past two games. Thus Aya is a mystery in this game, though she should have extensive files on her since she was with the NYCP and later FBI. This is so they can have a plot twist at the end, but it doesn’t make sense. Secondly, the events of the previous games are almost completely forgotten. You won’t hear the word mitochondria once even though it was the principle focus of the previous two games. Characters come in from the previous games, but their relation to Aya is rarely explained adequately, nor do they add any insight into her character or the insane changes.
The reasons Third Birthday ruins Parasite Eve spot is simple – it pretends nothing from the previous games happened. It is a reboot without the actual reboot. The previous two games happened, but the developers aren’t going to even so much as turn their minds towards them. For ignoring the originals, and making the game worse for it, Third Birthday clinches the number two spot.
1. Chrono Cross
I like Chrono Cross. I think it’s a well made game with some memorable characters, a solid battle system, and a soundtrack to die for. But Chrono Cross is quite possibly one of the worst sequels ever made. It is the follow up to Chrono Trigger, which is often cited as one of the greatest games ever. This makes it a hard game to follow up especially since it ends definitively with little obvious room for a sequel.
Chrono Cross, at first, seems to forge its own path. Instead of having a continuation of Chrono Trigger’s story, the game seemed to be pulling a Final Fantasy and having the only connecting points between the two games be various tiny things such as soundtrack, moves, or monsters. The story focuses on a new voiceless protagonist in an archipelago, which does not feature in Chrono Trigger. This all works well until you start to realize that this is indeed a direct sequel to Chrono Trigger and they completely messed it up.
It begins slowly with mentions of past party member Lucca, and the Porre army invading. Fans may have smirked since Porre was a tiny place in the original game. Then we start getting hints that something really horrible happened on the mainland until we are explicitly told that the friendly Guardia kingdom fell and the Masamune sword played a role in the eventual slaughter. In other words, that happy ending from the first game, the one that didn’t have any obvious jumping off point into a new game? That didn’t last. Something horrible happened and everyone from the first game may be dead or maybe not. It’s a mystery.
The biggest problem? The mystery of what happened to Guardia and the Chrono Trigger crew was never resolved. Chrono Cross ends ambiguously (or just really badly), and it has been fourteen years since then with no clear plans to continue the series. Thus, we are left with a game that completely undermines its predecessor for no reason and with no relief in sight. Possibly, this was to hype up a new game, but we’ll never know. For this, Chrono Cross takes my number one spot.
That’s my list of five sequels that ruin great games. I tried to pick games that didn’t accomplish this feat in the same way. DmC: Devil May Cry looked at unnecessary reboots; Final Fantasy X-2 involved chickening out and retconning a bold ending; Resident Evil 6 was jumping the shark; The Third Birthday was ignoring cannon; and Chrono Cross was the cliff-hanger/actively, unnecessarily turning the last game dark. As a strange note, with the exception of Resident Evil 6, I actually like all of the games on this list despite their flaws, which just goes to show that a game can be a horrible sequel and still be fun. Let me know if you agree/disagree, or have others to add in the comments.