Maybe it’s because I view video games each as “experiences” as opposed to just looking at them as “games,” but I’m definitely judgemental of sequels when they’re announced.
Let me try to put this into perspective. If I’m enjoying a game, I dig everything about journeying from its intro all the way to the final save screen after the end credits. Gameplay is definitely an important aspect of what makes me consider a great game *great* but it’s not the only aspect. For me the sense of discovery that a new experience brings is another major reason I love playing video games, and it’s the reason I often don’t care about sequels. I just find it a rarity that a sequel that’s not at least five years away from the original (or on new hardware) has the capability to replicate that same sense of discovery for me.
Then there are times when I’m surprised.
There have been many SEGA sequels over the years that have been able to break through the barriers that usually prevent me from enjoying sequels as much as the originals. I’m looking at my top 5 in this week’s SEGA Sequel Saturdays, Episode 7.
In no order, here they are:
This is actually an iffy one to put up here because in so many ways, this is an example of the type of sequel I hate. Re-slapping together the engine from the first game to throw a gameplay experience together without (much of) anything new…not good. What saves Yakuza 2, though, and makes it such a successful sequel, is the brilliant storyline; a definite evolution over the 1st game’s great, but imperfect, narrative.
From the start Yakuza 2 tells an involving tale that grabbed me and never let go. The atmospheric, intense, and perfectly directed scenes were enhanced by the writers’ embrace of artsy film noir elements that disappointingly didn’t continue for part 3.
Throughout Yakuza 2’s story I knew I was watching something incredible. The stabbing scene on the waterfront, which occurs in the midst of a torrential downpour as a soulful Japanese singer takes hold of the soundtrack, is so shocking and violent and yet at the same time, serene and beautiful, almost dream-like. That was when I knew I was witnessing true art. (Sorry Roger Ebert.)
Toejam and Earl: Panic on Funkatron
Probably this will be a controversial entry, but I actually loved this game. Back in the day my friends and I would play it constantly, not even knowing that it was a sequel. Eventually I did get to try the first game (which the developers and many fans consider to be superior) and I couldn’t get into it.
Panic on Funkatron just had such a great atmosphere; I thought the planet was inviting and funny, all the aliens you came in contact with were likable, and damnit, sidescrollers are a lot of fun to play in co-op. I personally thought all these changes were for the better. People look at this as a sequel that was too different from the original, which is something I’d agree with, though for me, having played the original, this was not a negative.
Sonic Adventure 2
Say what you will about SonicTeam, but they at the very least are willing to switch it up for their blue hedgehog. Sonic Adventure 2 was a different game from the first one in pretty much every category. To this day I can’t say for sure whether I prefer Sonic’s 2nd Adventure or his first, but that’s not really the point. The point is, SonicTeam had an incredibly well-liked and successful Sonic Adventure title, and even with that knowledge, they designed a sequel with a different structure, with a different type of soundtrack, with no hub worlds, and even came up with an idea that was (at the time) pretty daring: Play as the good guys or the bad guys.
Where Sonic Adventure 2 gets the real credit goes to its unlockables, and especially to its improved Chao gardens, which, alone, justified the sequel.
Like the best sequels, people will argue back and forth about whether it or its predecessor was better. Either way, we’re looking at two different games that were great in different ways.
I’ve talked about Shenmue II so much on here, but that’s because it’s a textbook example of a sequel done well. Without breaking from the foundation established by the original, Shenmue II introduced a host of new features such as jobs and gambling, while at the same time fixing up the question-and-answer system to allow you to choose what to ask people. These updates may not look like much on paper but they benefit the game so much that it’s almost hard to go back to Shenmue 1 knowing that it won’t have these fundamental improvements.
Not to mention Shenmue II’s much larger world, edgier action, and (in my opinion) a far superior soundtrack…which is saying a lot. The epic story continued, and hopefully will continue again someday soon.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Good old Sonic 2. Faster levels, fewer acts but more stages (a great idea that was stupidly ignored from the regression known as Sonic 4….more on that sequel next week) the addition of Tails, *sort of* co-op play, better bosses, better music, multiplayer, and a great ending. Yup, sounds like a sequel done perfectly. It created not a rehash of the first game but an entirely new experience that felt fresh all over again.
Of course, this list was based only on sequels that I’ve played, and I’ve missed plenty of them, especially from back in the day. I’m sure all of you have completely different lists, so feel free to post them below.
And thanks for reading. Next week SEGA Sequel Saturdays will take a look at 5 SEGA Sequels that disappointed, so tune back in then. For now drop some comments and let us know what you think!Ad: