Feature: Classic Sequels - Tricks or Treats?
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Better than monkey nuts
The night is finally here: Halloween is upon us. At the time of writing the world isn’t being taken over by zombies, werewolves or ghosts. Instead, the main horrors are the legions of children in cheap masks ringing the doorbell and demanding treats. Many can look forward to bags full of toffee apples, loose sweets and a pile of monkey nuts from less generous victims.
We’ve already covered a lot of scary series and games, and by now our nerves and capacity for scares are at breaking point. To calm ourselves down in the face of invading costume-wearing children, we’ve decided to think about the question posed repeatedly at Halloween: trick or treat? As luck would have it, it's the main issue we address when reviewing games: is this game a treat to play, or a trick that steals valuable hours with its wretched gameplay?
We tackle this question head on with some well-known, classic video game sequels. Major franchises often get a reboot or re-imagining that takes the series in a new direction, but in doing this developers risk the wrath of dedicated fans. Let’s look at some major sequels and whether their evolution was sugary sweet, a mixed bag or a bit of a horror.
This sequel to The Legend of Zelda was a major departure, spurning the original’s top-down perspective in favour of side-scrolling gameplay. By introducing a levelling-up system, this title encouraged the player to seek out enemy encounters and boost their ranking, not to mention the various side-quests on offer. The gameplay itself was competent, but it's the difficulty of this title that enraged a generation of gamers: not to mention the fact that if you die, you go all the way back to the beginning. It’s a cruel game, but challenge is relative, depending on how well you’ve developed your ninja-gaming skills.
Verdict – Treat
Super Mario 64 is rightly praised as a genre-defining masterpiece, bringing the concept of a 3D platforming adventure to modern gaming. Gamers had to wait years to enjoy the next 3D Mario title, and Super Mario Sunshine came as a surprise. First impressions were poor, with a bizarre opening cut-scene and appalling voice acting: it seemed pertinent to ask what exactly Nintendo was thinking. It’s gameplay that defines the experience, however, and this title delivered enjoyable platforming, a new mechanic with the FLUDD system and a welcome return for Yoshi. It may not be the greatest Mario title, but it's still a fun experience.
Verdict – Treat
Nintendo also bucked the trend with a fully cinematic storyline, with some lengthy cut-scenes telling a story that could be termed a ‘space-opera'.
The Metroid series has legions of loyal fans, all with their own perspectives on Samus as a character, and generally with a preference for the classic 2D NES and SNES titles or the 3D first-person adventures of the Metroid Prime Trilogy. Metroid: Other M, meanwhile, attempted to incorporate gameplay mechanics from both styles. Nintendo also bucked the trend with a fully cinematic storyline and some lengthy cut-scenes telling a story that could be termed a ‘space-opera’. It would be an understatement to say that this title polarised opinion, with some defending it while others vehemently criticise its style and execution.
Verdict – Trick and Treat
The next in the Star Fox series after Star Fox 64, this was certainly a departure in style: while the Nintendo 64 title was an arcade on-rails shooter, this was a 3D adventure. This title was originally under development as Dinosaur Planet, but was re-purposed by developer Rare at the behest of Nintendo. Most of the game was on foot, with occasional flying sections, so it felt like a strange sequel. When assessed on its own merits this is an excellent title, though as a follow-up in the Star Fox series it seems terribly out of place.
Verdict – Trick and Treat
Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures
Pac-Man is classic gaming, an iconic arcade title that lives on as a pillar of gaming history. Unfortunately, we then have Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures on the Super Nintendo. Gone is the simple gameplay, replaced by an interactive story-adventure. The player has no direct control over Pac-Man, but drags a cross hair around the screen to direct the hero’s attention to objects, or in some cases fire a slingshot. It’s a memory game, where the player must learn what event to trigger and when, all while watching the animations unfold. To some it's humorous and entertaining, but we think it’s better left ignored and isn’t worthy of the Pac-Man name.
Verdict – Trick
So there you have it — five sequels that represented fairly major departures in their respective series. Two were worthy successors, two have caused debate and one was an horrific mistake. We’d love to hear your opinions on these titles, or any other famous games that took a series in a bold new direction.
From everyone at Nintendo Life, happy Halloween!