Asking Big Questions #008: “What Video Game Series got Infected with Sequelitis?”

We’re doing a sequel
That’s what we do in Hollywood
And everybody knows
That the sequel’s never quite as good
Muppets Most Wanted
(aka Deadpool but PG and with puppets)

 

 

Twitter asked recently what I learned from Star Wars and I said: “Quit while you’re ahead.” We’re not talking about Star Wars today, though. Oh no! Today, as ever, we’re talking about video games.

Hi, NPCs!

Welcome to another Asking Big Questions post, our eighth since the series’ inception. The goal has been to generate civil discussion and just have fun talking about the things we love (or love to hate about what we love). The past few entries have leaned toward heavier subject matters with jaw about violence in games and the questionable use of the phrase “real gamer”, so I thought we’d go with something a little more mellow this time around.

The idea for our eighth question had been banging around the back of my mind for a while now but it took, you guessed it, a conversation to get it out. Sub-note: this is yet another reason why communicating clearly and kindly with others is a great thing. It can introduce us to previously unknown ideas, patch up some old ones, and serve to inspire us to create something new. Words are powerful.

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Anyway, the conversation I had was with that cache of inspiration, that conversationalist par excellence, the Mail Order Ninja Mage (aka Daniel Flatt of Home Button). We were talking about… well I guess you could call it the validity of older games that have been bettered by later games in their series.

I’ll leave the Ninja Mage to describe his own opinion on the matter but I suggested that games like movies or books don’t become invalid when new, better entries come out in their franchise. This could be tied to narrative being a decisive factor. Then again, older games being worse could be due to gameplay-emphasizing games where clear improvements are evident.

That got my ponderer pondering about the very opposite of what we were talking about: game series not getting better but getting worse. Ah, Sequelitis! Allergies are annoying but then there’s Sequelitis. It can be positively deadly! You know, the concept that the more sequels there are, the more potential there is toward a downgrade in quality. You can easily see it in many film franchises.

Take it from Spidey…

 

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Entertainment history is stuffed full of incidents where the sequel didn’t live up to its predecessor. Sometimes this is because of hype. Sometimes this is due to the next game being a legitimately poor one. Maybe it took too many risks. Maybe it was too far a departure from the original. Maybe in the rush to create new titles, the series lost what made it special in the first place. It seems to me that Sequelitis is best judged on a case-by-case basis.

That brings us to our question, at last. “What Video Game Series got Infected with Sequelitis?”

NOTE: It’s easier to hate on something you already hate or have a long-standing bias against so let’s make the question harder with the following modification: name a video game series/franchise that you love, one of your favorites, that was unfortunately infected with Sequelitis! Again, that’s a favorite series that died or continues to limp on (or maybe made a shocking recovery) due to its sequels progressively getting worse and worse. Feel free to respond by creating an entire blog post for this question (or conversely leave a comment for us), just be sure to link to this article so we can find you!

Ooh! Ooh! Can I go first?

Of course, I can.

Though one of my favorite examples of downhill momentum is the Earthworm Jim series (from amazing to tired jokes to horrible 3D), I’d like instead to name the Mega Man X series. Everybody knows I love Mega Man. If you didn’t know that, now you do.

MegaManXSeriesPorts_thumb

The classic Mega Man series has petered on with game after game after game, simultaneously saved and doomed by its own rigid, cookie-cutter formula. There’s not much risk and not much change and therefore not much opportunity for Sequelitis in the classic series, though of course its impact has shrunk dramatically over the years.

Mega Man X on the other hand started off brilliant and… is Capcom still making these? Does anyone know? The first game, Mega Man X, was this heavier, darker take on the Blue Bomber set even further into the distant future where Dr. Light has already died and X’s own origins are something of a mystery. The music, the world, the danger… everything felt as if it was imbued with so much more weight, with extra gravitas.

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To be fair to the series, Mega Man X went a long nicely for the next two games or so. Though MMX was this bold departure from the classic series, taking Mega Man from the kid-android to a full-formed adult machine, Mega Man X2 and Mega Man X3 demonstrated that the only significant change the series was interested in was making the games darker (minus playing as Zero). A new but familiar cookie-cutter formula was established and the games went on much in the same way that the classic series did.

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Then you get to Mega Man X4 and they brought on anime. Never a good idea haha! The cutscenes were cool as they ushered in more opportunity for storytelling, except it appeared there wasn’t much story to tell. Not even elevating Zero to series mascot above Mega Man could save the franchise from its new look, its ugly sprites, its dead-pan voice acting, its boring new characters that were as 2-dimensional as the cardboard anime they were cut from, and certainly I can’t fail to mention its lackluster music. Seriously, this series went from the energetic rock soundtrack in Mega Man X to tracks that sound like elevator music. Compare these.

How the mighty have fallen.

Where is the Mega Man X series now? Who knows. A truly new Mega Man X game hasn’t been seen since the PS2. It’s been relegated to Legacy Collections, i.e. digital museums. The latest entry in the series was apparently Mega Man Maverick Hunter X for the PSP, a remake of Mega Man X. Not a good sign: a remake on a handheld. Is that the legacy of this great reimagining?

Ultimately, the series was dead when it got to Duff McWhalen. What is that? Oh it’s one of the names of the bosses in Mega Man X5, though it limped on afterward for a few more outings. Compare Duff McWhalen to… well pretty much anything that came before. Storm Eagle! Crystal Snail! Magna Centipede! Flame Stag! Frickin’ Boomer Kuwanger!

…Duff McWhalen?

duff

And that’s before you even get to RIDE BOARSKI in Mega Man X7…

Duff McWhalen is so bad that you can use it as a byword for Sequelitis.

That series is Duff McWhalen it. It got Duff’d. Man, it’s McWhalen on me. Other improvised catchphrases.

 

And that’s that! If you’re interested in partaking in this Mediumish-sized Question, generate a blog post response and tell us about your favorite Sequelitis-infected series, what happened to it, where it’s gone, where it’s going. Conversely, you can drop a comment here if you don’t run a blog or can’t be bothered. Either way, enjoy the discussion-making!

 

In your service,
Well-Red-Mage-Black-.png
-The Well-Red Mage

 

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20 thoughts on “Asking Big Questions #008: “What Video Game Series got Infected with Sequelitis?”

  1. Before I met Lightning Ellen, I probably would’ve said the Final Fantasy series (and I’m sure someone has already mentioned it lol), because I made the rookie mistake I ALWAYS do and listened to the crowd before forming my own opinion. Now I’m in limbo with this question because I haven’t played any FF past XII, so I can’t say anything about the series. I do think Squeenix milked (and is still milking) the cash cow too much with my beloved FFVII even though I loved learning more about Sephiroth’s tragic back story in Crisis Core, I didn’t finish it because I hated the portrayal of Aeris so…GD…much. I can’t completely hate anything they produce about VII because it all adds a bit more to a story I love.

    I’ll say this. Maybe it’s just me, but games seem to suffer less from sequelitis than other forms of media, and I’m not sure why. It could also be that I can’t think of any other series that do so, because they died out before they reached that point hehe. It could be because games are much higher priced than say a book or movie ticket, so if they don’t keep people entertained, they’re not going to make another sale. Many lifetime fans will put with an author or film franchise have a few bad apples.

    If there was a Land Before Time game series, that would be my go-to. The first one was all I needed 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I nominate the Tomb Raider series. I remember playing the first game in the series (after mainly playing 2D games) and being impressed by the elaborate level designs, huge 3D structures, enjoyable gameplay and in-depth story. The next game focussed on more man-made structures and emphasised the gunfight aspect of the gameplay. The third game gave the player more control over the story and used some diverse ideas. The fourth game made the levels feel more connected and created an effective apocalyptic atmosphere.
    The sixth game in the series, Angel of Darkness, however was disappointing. The story and setting for the game were much grimmer than previous games (with a plot that used similar ideas to those in the Da Vinci Code and incorporated serial killer and horror elements). The game did not use structures based on ancient civilisations, instead using more urban and science-fiction settings, with a few ruins added. There were changes to the gameplay that felt less appropriate for a Tomb Raider game. The story also did not end with a satisfactory conclusion. There were some interesting ideas used in the game, however, as some of the visuals used in the game were interesting and the Sanatarium level did feel disturbing.
    What was Mega Man X? How was it different to the Mega Man series?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I could say Suikoden series qualify for the Sequelitis. I love the series and wished there is Suikoden 6 – and still have no idea how grandeur really is the Holy Kingdom of Harmonia could have been in-game.

    While story-wise, the order by timeline starts at Suikoden 4, then 5, then 1 thru 3, the transition from 2d to 3d is a good upgrade. It’s unfortunate that Konami stopped with V, like I want mooooore.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is quite like the Peter Principle. Sequel evolve from successive glory, until the fall.

    But I will let the author Laurence J. Peter explicit if himself:”The Peter principle is a special case of a ubiquitous observation: Anything that works will be used in progressively more challenging applications until it fails. This is the “generalized Peter principle”. Peter noted that there is a strong temptation for people to use what has worked before, even when this might not be appropriate for the current situation.”

    And my exemple will be Final Fantasy. It was so great that it established a dying Company to one of the most prolific one in a single game… or two. Alas each successive sequel bring the risk of toppling the series in jeopardy. You cannot reinvent he same thing forever. For me it was 13 that toppled the series. But really if as begun before that with 10 being the last great one, passing to Online demonstrated that they (square) didn’t knew where to reinvigorate the series. And 12 isn’t the most brilliant game in the series either.

    Fact is when you see the flagship father of a serie quitting it, it probably announce the downfall. Nobuo Uematsu quitting for his own company and creating a Final Fantasy Hybrid (Lost Odyssey) more whorty of the name Final Fantasy than the “Mess” that was 13. And the same can be said about Th Last Story on Wii.

    But Square is strong enough to reach out of their predicament, and they did to an extend with games that return to the source or origin of Final Fantasy. I talk about game given to new blood, like I Am Setsuna, or Bravely Default. Those were a great asset for square, because it was made by Indie Dev, that grew up with the best FF in franchise. They poured love in their work, and like the phoenix it helped square rise again.

    That’s it! I think I did made my point in a much more extended way than I originally planned to. 😍😎

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hadn’t heard of that before and it has a much better ring to it than Duff McWhalen. LOL! Thanks for sharing! And I have the EXACT same beliefs about Final Fantasy. XV was the culmination of my disgust with its direction.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, hi Kingdom Hearts, how many spin-off do I need to play up to three different versions to manage to understand your plot? If there was one game that really didn’t deserve half th sequels it had, that’s this one!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sports games are really quite guilty of this. Every year there’s simply a roster update and one or two new features. I remember one of the Pro Evolution Soccer games coming out one year and it’s big headline feature was that the referee would now appear on the pitch! In fact, I’m pretty certain that a lot of football games would take features out and then add them back in a few years later, marketing them as “new”.

    Racing games have this too, as there’s not really much more they can do other than make the graphics slightly prettier, although I will say that the Forza Horizon series manages to keep itself fresh with vastly different locations with each release.

    Gears of War is one that has started to slip. Judgement and 4 just felt like more of the same in spite of the developers trying to add in something new here and there. The new features just felt like gimmicks (stage challenges/wind/riding a motorbike) rather than a fresh take on the series.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. When I think “Sequelitis” as you put it, I think Activision over the last 20 years more than anything. For the longest time, the business model seemed to become, “Take one hit, and milk it until people are tired of it, then do the same thing with another hit.”

    The Tony Hawk series started out with admittedly, 7 really good games. They started with the PS1/N64/DC, and rode through the end of the PS2/XB/GCN. Then was briefly resurrected for the Wii/360/PS3 as an awful spinoff, and two games involving a peripheral that didn’t work. Morgan Webb famously showed it off on television not working. Then it went dormant until they brought out a numbered sequel that was by all accounts; horrible.

    Then it was Guitar Hero. Which ran up until a Live edition that didn’t do nearly as well as its predecessors. Not to mention all of the spin-offs, some being themed after specific bands. These weren’t particularly bad games, but they oversaturated their own market until people all but forgot about them.

    The newest, and longest running of these of course is Call Of Duty. Running for 18 years or so, and several generations of consoles. The PC versions right along with them. First it was about the campaigns. But with the advent of the fourth game, the fanbase shifted to multiplayer. Which wouldn’t be bad if these games were better balanced, and not fragmented. Unfortunately between the season passes, DLC Map packs that have to be purchased separately, and now lootboxes, the community gets fractured, and shrinks. Speeding this up is the annual release schedule. Again, these games aren’t contenders for worst games ever made. But many would argue it’s tired, and formulaic at this point. To the point of boredom. At least the newest one includes Atari 2600 games. Life isn’t complete without some Demon Attack.

    But there you have three examples from what used to be a beloved publisher that gave the world River Raid, Pitfall, Countdown To Shutdown, Heretic II, and Vigilante 8.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Can’t say I’ve ever read so thorough of an indictment against Activision and formulaic franchises! I haven’t touched any of these games for years but Call of Duty definitely seems like it’s been chewed up in the corporate machine and come out diseased with Sequelitis. Maybe there’ll be more evidence of that this year come E3…

      Liked by 1 person

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