All About AgentSoup
I have always been a big supporter of video game sequels. Unlike movie sequels, which I believe are usually created because a film company wants to make more money without having to put as much effort into a script, video game sequels are an opportunity for a company to improve on what has already been established and make an even better and more entertaining product, rather than simply finding a new bad guy to beat. This factor allows for video game sequels to theoretically get better and better as the game's core design evolves.
Take the Dark Cloud series for example. The first Dark Cloud game offered a few key ideas that Level 5 attempted to execute, and reasonably succeeded with. A changing dungeon environment and upgradeable weapons were key aspects of the game. However, this game was completely blown away by Dark Cloud 2, in which both aspects were kept while the customization became more versatile and the dungeon environment more exciting. With the main key elements out of the way, the game company was able to focus on the smaller details. The Zelda series is another example. The original Zelda game set the standard of an overhead, free form playing style. With the few key game aspects carved in stone, Nintendo was able to devote their time to plot development and world detail in A Link to the Past.
However, there is a dark side to video game sequels that has been rearing its ugly head recently. While I try to make a contrast between video game sequels and movie sequels, I do not mean to say that video game sequels get better and better while movie sequels get worse and worse. I believe, rather, that video game sequels are able to last longer before overstaying their welcome.
I don't believe any video game is completely self-sufficient, that is to say there is no game that will never get boring. It is therefore necessary to make sequels to keep that target audience interested. However, even the foundations of a game get repetitive after a time. Unless a video game series is completely overhauled, fans will grow tired of it. Take, for example, the Grand Theft Auto series. Since GTA 3, there have been 3 games made for main consoles. With the newest installment out, I was amazed at the attention to detail that was paid to the game: I mean, the radio crackles before someone calls you on your cell phone! That's insane! However, it is still the same basic engine that was present years ago. It's still you running around pressing Y or the triangle button to steal a car and driving like mad around the city. I'm not saying it's any less fun, in fact, it's better than ever. But it's the same damn thing I've been doing for the past few years. Or take Devil May Cry 4: I'm about done with button mashing to earn combo points and achieve SSS ranking. Even though combat is more balanced and fluid than ever, the game itself remains virtually unchanged. And the list goes on. It seems these games have nowhere else to go; they've hit a glass ceiling of creativity that no amount of micromanaging and balancing can resolve.
Instead of focusing so hard on making the combat more balanced, enemies smarter, or physics more realistic, maybe it would be best to accept what has been done as what it is and move on to something new; to take past successes in stride while still moving in an entirely new direction. Of course, when the future of a company hinges on the success of a few key games, it's usually the tried and true formula that developers stick with. But I believe soon these game developers will find themselves up the creek with the same old paddle they've been using for the past six years. I'm not sure how much farther they will be able to go, but it's only a matter of time before that paddle snaps in two.