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Top Tuesday: 3 sequels that changed the game


Sequels? I'll take two, please! As gamers we love ourselves a sequel. If a game is good, we damn sure would love more of the same. It's no accident that there's been nine official Call of Duty games and a further nine spin-off games. We won't even get into how many Mega Man and Final Fantasy games there are.

Point is, regardless of what the vocal minority says, we gamers love a sequel. And like all things in life there are rules as to how you put together a properly good video game sequel. It went unspoken for years, until Gears of War front man Clifford Michael Bleszinski put voice to it: Bigger, Better, more Bad Ass.

Whether they knew it or not, that was the approach that most game devs were taking when they designed their games, and truth be told, it's not an entirely bad way to go. Though it does run the risk of leading to stagnation.

Fortunately, there are some game designers that take a Captain Barbossa of the Pirates of the Caribbean approach to rules, which is to say they're more 'guidelines' than rules. And sometimes that approach makes for some excellent games. For instance:

Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 is more in the vein of a Resident Evil game than an actual Resident Evil game, if you think about how the original trilogy played. The forth one, from a gameplay perspective may as well be a different game completely. Where the original used fixed camera angles and connected screens, this one locked the camera behind the player's back and tracked their movement in a sort of proto-Gears of War style. The original's level design used pre-rendered graphics, where this new one didn't. And it wasn't just the gameplay that changed. They rejigged the story in the most significant of ways: No Zombies! Yep, they made a Resident Evil game without zombies. It seems crazy,  but those big changes actually rejuvenated the franchise and ultimately gave gamers a better Resident Evil. Pity about the sequels that came after though.

World of Warcraft
If you're looking at it from the perspective of story canon, then yes, World of Warcraft is a sequel to Warcraft III. I think the change here is a pretty obvious one. We started with a Real Time Strategy game and some how ended up with a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. That's a fundamental change right there if ever there was one. And boy did it ever work. Released on the 23rd November 2004, the game was a roaring success from day one and nine years later it remains the worlds pre-eminent subscriber-based MMO, having smashed every challenger to its throne. And with the recent release of the Mists of Pandaria expansion, it doesn't look like the game is going anywhere.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
The original Castlevania games were solid, but straight-forward, 8bit/16bit action platformers. You moved your main character from left to right, jumped on platforms and whipped the bejeezus out of werewolves, ghouls, vampires and other minions of the night. So when the series made the jump to the PSOne, no one was really expecting a revolution in the formula. Certainly from the screens showed off at the time it looked like the usual, reliable gameplay we'd come to expect from the franchise. Barring the fact that we'd be playing as Dracula's son, Alucard, and not one of usual Belmonts, the game seemed like it was in its usual wheelhouse. What we got thought couldn't have been more different. Symphony of the Night took Castlevania and married it to Metroid to give us a game that is still consistently named as one of the greatest games ever made. The game threw out the level based structure that came before, in favour of a non-linear structure. Dracula's Castle was instead one massive level and it was the responsibility of the player to acquire the necessary skills to open the locked portions of the Castle. There were so many skills, and the Castle was so large, that many people that finished the game, never got to see everything. But for those that persevered and pushed to get that 150% completion rating, they got to do it all over again with an alternate character in the form of Richter Belmont.

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