Like many movies, many video games also have sequels, and just like movie sequels, video game sequels can range from terribly bad to as good as the original masterpiece.
Video game sequels usually continue upon the story of their predecessors, hence “sequel.” These sequels can occur in the same universe as the game’s predecessors and follow the original’s story; this is usually referred to as a direct or canon sequel. Sequels that use the same characters in a different realm are often referred to as indirect sequels.
Unlike movies, video game sequels must deal with the adaptation of new technology. Because video game consoles upgrade roughly every three or so years and constant changes are being made to the systems already on the market, a sequel to a video game may exist in the same realm with the same characters, but often these sequels have their own unique feel. The change in gameplay style is the make-or-break for the popularity of the game.
A good example of the constant need for adaptation is Nintendo’s “The Legend of Zelda” franchise. “The Legend of Zelda” has been around since 1986 and has been adapted to more than 10 different consoles. Back in the day, you pushed a button to swing the sword. Now, you’re actually swinging a Wii Remote to make Link swing his sword as well.
For many sequels, the controls or game style do change. These changes can be subtle, like a few tweaks to the battle camera, or even drastic, like adding a monster training section to a game and battling with them. Changes are generally based on the popularity of the previous game as well as the type of game. A whole new fighting style likely will never work with a super popular game, but changes like battle camera and some battle mechanic changes will likely be more acceptable (as not to alienate fans or affect sales and general attitude toward the game).
While “The Legend of Zelda” games are not direct sequels, they still exist with the same characters in different universes like many other video game sequels. Usually the indirect sequel stands stronger than the direct sequel approach anyway.
Direct sequels end up taking the previously-completed story and continue it after a period of time or with a new type of villain. The issue with the direct sequel is that often many take the past story and add new mythology to the already existing story. “Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of a New World” does this as well. It adds new mythology and characters after two years pass since the original “Tales of Symphonia.” The story comes off rather disjointed and seems like bad fan fiction. The “bad fan fiction feeling” is unfortunately prevalent in many direct sequels to games, which is why usually fans will buy the sequel and beat it but not consider it to be an extension of the predecessor’s story.
Being completely unique to video games, some sequels of very successful franchises have no place in the newer generation’s consoles. Or at least no real place without a complete redefinition of the game. An applicable example is Sega’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” franchise. “Sonic the Hedgehog” was originally designed for the two-dimensional gaming experience and suffered a major hit when it went to the three-dimensional realm. Although there were some adaptations of the “Sonic the Hedgehog” that were incredibly successful, namely “Sonic Adventure 2 Battle” and “Sonic Adventure DX,” many of the games became lackluster by attempting to over-incorporate new features, such as giving Shadow a rifle in “Shadow the Hedgehog.” Sega has also attempted to preserve the straightforwardness of the old “Sonic the Hedgehog” games.
Games that have to overcome the shift of dimensions usually take a sales hit and falter for a while but come out all right in the end, except maybe “Sonic.” Attempting to bridge dimensions with sequels to already-popular games is a way companies are able to test out new features and explore the new capabilities of consoles, but success is varied, as I have previously stated.
Sequels come from the natural desire to know what will happen to the world that a player has just saved. They provide video game creators with an opportunity to further develop the worlds they have created while implementing new mechanics. These usually do not work as well as the original games do, but instead create a jumping off point for more games to be developed. The large fan base from the original games lead to good sales and allow the game makers to take more risks in development.
There is an unfortunate amount of bad fan fiction story lines prevalent, but overall, video game sequels should not be discounted as fun gaming experiences, even if viewed as separate adaptions.