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The Sequel Guide Part 1
Written By:
AJ Middleton

Sequels.  All good games need Ďem, all bad games donít.  But no matter the quality of the game, a sequel or sequel to a sequel can make or break a series.  Now, back in the day of 2-D, the sequel didnít have any specific rules.  But today, we all look for, and donít look for, certain aspects in the 2nd part of the adventure.  What makes a part 2 (or 3 or 4 and so on) good or bad?  Need some tips for future game designing?  Well then, read the Sequel Guide!

Let the Sun Set (The Golden Sun flaw)

Part 1 needs to end.  And I mean completely.  Nothingís wrong with dropping hints of a potential future adventure BUT DONíT MAKE A SEQUEL NECESSARY!  No one wants to get in the middle the game, reach the climax, and right when the sacred ruby falls towards the ground and the villain kidnaps the heroine, causing the hero to start charging at him, the screen fades to black and the credits start.  Thatís not cool.  Sequels shouldnít be a money-making scheme right away.

Hint-Dropping: A Double-edged Sword

Some games feel the need to leave hints of a future adventure.  This is good, because the game can be completed in full and a sequel can fit in.  BUT!  Hint-dropping is something that must be committed to.  If the designer leaves information and promises, oh letís say certain Mystery Items (*coughBANJOKAZOOIEcough*) for all to see, and then does not live up to that promise in the sequel, theyíll make many people pretty irate.  Leaving little bouncing game-packs wonít make up for going back to the first game either.  So if you donít leave hints, you lose an easy and effective way to have the sequel anticipated.  But if you do, you have to live up to it, or elseÖ

Just Make the Sequel!

ÖOr you could just not drop hints and make a sequel that takes place x years later.  This way, you donít have to worry about fulfilling promises.  But stillÖ

Keep the Plot Whole and not Hole!

Sequels are good for filling in plot holes that were left uncovered in the first installment.  In fact, a game designer should listen to the players complain about things that they didnít understand, so they can be sure to answer and clarify those in the sequel.  But!  Filling in holes is good, but making more is bad bad bad!  Chrono Cross was good for answering some questions we had after Trigger, but many gamers were left even more confused after playing it.  Not a good idea.

Toto, I donít think weíre in Kansas anyÖactually, nevermind

Itís a sequel, right?  So wouldnít it be a good idea to include part, if not all, of the world from the first game?  Banjo-Tooie and Pokemon Gold/Silver get an A+ in this category.  B-T started the adventure in the same place as B-K.  Pokemon G/S gave us the WHOLE world from the original game, and you really canít get any better than that.  There is a feeling of nostalgia that you get from returning to the old areas in a sequel, and it seriously enhances the game experience.  This isnít a must, but the ideal sequel would follow this rule.

Hey, on the last adventureÖ (The Referral Rule)      

If a sequel cannot bring in the physical areas of the first or earlier installment, it at least needs to mention the last game.  Sequels that mention or are based on the past adventure are great, and they really have the tied in feel.  The reference can be something big like The Wind Wakerís, or small, subtle, but distinctive like in Chrono Cross.  In this day and age, if you donít mention old game at all, it isnít a true sequel. 

COROLLARY: The subtle referral

- If you wish to make a sequel new player friendly, make sure you include elements of the past game that will be understood by the veteran players, but wonít leave any newbies in the dark.  Again, look at Chrono Cross.

If it ainít broke, donít fix it

A simple rule.  If a game has something thatís good, donít change it in the sequel.  Just donít. Instead, get rid of the elements that no one likes (Tingle anyone?)

The Law of the Second Meeting

A sequel should contain the same characters as the first.  Even if they arenít playable, they should be there or mentioned.  The sequel feel just isnít as strong if the second adventure is full of complete strangers.  The game that breaks this law needs to be very strong in references to the past game and plot links.  Yet, even those wonít win some gamers over.

Hey!  But youíre dead!  (The King K. Rool Trick)

After taking hours beating and banishing the final boss of a game, no one wants to see that theyíre up to their old tricks again in the sequel.  If they are, there better be a really good reason.  I donít think anyone wants to hear ďHaha!  That was my clone that you beat!Ē  No, thatís corny and a cheap way for the designers to get an antagonist.  Guys like King K. Rool and Ganondorf have excuses, because they are never really truly defeated.  But when Andross starts to come back after heís been killed, things start to get a little, uhh, weird feeling.

Control Conformity

If itís a true sequel, keep the controls the same.  If itís a true sequel on a different console, try to keep them similar.  Part of the sequel feel is that itís only a second chapter, so the player should be able to jump right in without having to learn anything new.  Only an evil programmer would feel the need to switch stuff around.

Character Control Conformity

In an ideal sequel, the characters will already know their old abilities and have their old items.  I mean, come on, do you really forget how to jump?  I donít understand how Link looses all of his items and magic power, but he somehow does.  I KNOW itís a plot thing, but still.  It just doesnít make sense.  Banjo-Tooie, again, serves as an ideal example.  Banjo and Kazooie start the game with all moves learned in Banjo-Kazooie.

The Tertiary Step

Making a trilogy is an iffy thing.  First off, the first sequel has to have done well.  Now thereís a trap.  Do you live off of the success of the past two games or do you not press your luck?  A trilogy can have both wonderful and disastrous results.  If the third adventure is good, then you have a set of games that will go down in history.  If itís bad, then parts one and two will look bad as well, regardless of how good they were.  A trilogy can either make or break a series.  A simple rule is to follow this guide- in excess.  Donít take chances and try out new things that might fail.  Stick to what works.  Also, wrap it up.  Donít leave any lose ends at the finale of the trilogy.  I mean, do you really want to make another ďLand Before TimeĒ?  Threeís a good number to stop at before things get crazy.

So, in my opinion, what elements would an ideal sequel have?  Letís see:

-          Is a believable second/third/etc. chapter

-          Resolves plot conflicts without making holes

-          Contains the same characters

-          Contains some of the same music

-          Has bad elements changed

-          Has part of the old world accessible

-          Mentions the old game

-          Has the same controls

-          Has a believable enemy

Following those guidelines, I would have to say the game thatís come the closest to meet them isÖ

Pokemon Gold and Silver!

Well, thatís it for Sequel Guide 1.  Stay tuned for part 2!

Posted: 7-8-03
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