-by Dylan DiBona
I’ve spoken about sequels plenty of times here on PlayingWithThought; it’s a topic that really intrigues me as a creator. There are so many different philosophies that can be put into a sequel. Do you copy what you did the first time? How much can you add onto the original formula without it being too different? Back when home console gaming was getting a resurgence thanks to the Nintendo Entertainment System, developers clearly had a tough time answering these questions. It’s why we got so many “black sheeps” in long standing franchises.
For those who aren’t familiar with the term black sheep, it essentially means an installment in a series that is different from its predecessors and or sequels. This happened a lot back in the eighties, as developers didn’t want to just rehash old ideas.
Castlevania II Simon’s Quest is the definition of a game coming out too soon. While this entry has obvious problems like AI lying to its players and no guidance at all, the non-linearity is an element of Castlevania that fans and critics praise today. I’m not defending this game because I hate the necessity of walkthroughs; I’m merely bringing it up because Konami found success with a linear platformer and decided to go the opposite direction. Why?
We all know the story behind Super Mario Bros 2 and Doki Doki Panic. Most people know about Zelda II: Adventure of Link. Isn’t it fascinating that even Nintendo themselves decided to forsake formula at one point? One of the biggest complaints towards the company from outsiders is their over-reliance of old IP’s. Would the NES have been an even bigger success if we got true sequels instead of weirder ones?
Personally, I miss this antiquated approach to sequels. For some series I wouldn’t prefer it, but for others why not? Are there any clear examples of a black sheep video game today?
Although it’s fourteen years old today, the first game that came to mind was Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories. The original game on PlayStation 2 was an Action-JRPG, almost a hack ‘n slash at times; then we get a 2D pixel game on GameBoy Advance that uses a card-based battle system.
So not only does this game not play like the original, it doesn’t even look or sound like it.
What’s really interesting in this case is that Chain of Memories actually introduces vital characters and story elements to the franchise while being the black sheep. We haven’t seen a Chain of Memories-esque card system return to the series, which really makes you wonder what Square Enix was thinking at the time.
Black sheep sequels are not a bad thing at all, they encourage creativity within development teams. Sequels today are often scolded for playing it too safe. It’s when developers take the halfway point between reusing ideas and coming up with completely new ones that sequels find overwhelming success.
So while sequels in the NES era were handled quite differenkyt, I wouldn’t mind seeing some developers take the same road as Square Enix and try something completely different with existing franchises. Who knows, they might strike gold.
So what do you guys think about sequels in the NES era? What do you think about black sheep? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply. As always, thanks for reading.