MegaMaster Musings

To Sequel or Not To Sequel
March 5, 2003

You could probably say the Mega Man series is the most sequeled series on the planet. Some look on this fact with derision. Others consider it a badge of honor. But for better or for worse, it’s hard to argue the issue given the fact that there are nearly 50 games with “Mega Man” somewhere in the title. And this doesn’t even count ports.

Considering this, is there a point to it all? Many people denounce sequels, saying they are “just like the previous game” and thereby not worth buying. To a degree, they have a point: after all, if you already own a game, why pay for another copy of the same game? (Then again, there are people who will buy ports of games they already own on the original system. I personally would consider this much more foolhardy. And yes, I’m equally as guilty.)

I think, though, that people who view sequels in this light are missing the point of a sequel. When people really enjoy a game, what will inevitably be their complaint? “It’s not long enough.” After all, if you’re having fun, and the game ends, the first impulse is a desire to have more fun. Running back and forth through the same stages until you’ve committed them to memory is only enjoyable for so long. Fact of life is, a game, no matter how good it is, is most entertaining when it is fresh, with new things to explore and find. Once you’ve played the game through a few dozen times, the novelty of it all wears off, and it’s no longer quite as fun.

Enter sequels, which, when done correctly, are really there to subdue the “it’s not long enough” problem. A good sequel should be a continuation of a good game, with new plot and levels, new places to explore, items to find, things to see. Optimally it should be one which patches any irritations from the previous game while adding new and interesting features. Therefore, a sequel by definition should be “like the previous game” because that’s what it’s there for. If it doesn’t resemble its predecessor, it’s not really a sequel.

Having said that, there is, of course, a such thing as a bad sequel. A lot of sequels actually manage to be worse than their predecessors, either because of aggravating new “features” that do nothing but ruin the experience, or just a general lowering of overall quality in the play control, graphics, and so forth. But in this case, it can’t really be said that “this game is just like the previous one”...after all, if the previous game manages to be better than the sequel, the sequel’s not very identical to its predecessor, now is it?

So, in the end, if the only complaint about a sequel is that it’s “just like” its predecessor, this isn’t really a complaint at all. The true focus should be: Was the predecessor worth extending? And did the sequel do a good job at expanding the fun, or did it simply botch things up? If you have a good game, and a good sequel, that’s something to praise, not disparage.

- The MegaMaster