In a recent post over in The Well-Red Mage’s neck of the woods, he brought up a topic I’ve had conversation with some folks about over the course of my gaming career that I realize I haven’t posted at length about:
“What video game series got infected with Sequelitis?”
As a fan of many- many- horror movie series, the concept of sequelitis is not a new one to me. Once a series hits a certain point, they start to shows symptoms:
Maybe a character comes back completely changed, shrugging off everything you knew about them. Maybe your favorite action movie decided to appeal to a new demographic and has a forced romantic subplot. What if the locale changes from a quiet blood-soaked summer camp to a space station?
…okay, that series was a little sick by then anyway, but you get my meaning, I hope.
Why don’t you grab a seat while I diagnose a few gaming series that may have fallen to illness for a time- but bear in mind, you’re always welcome to a second opinion elsewhere!
Patient: Resident Evil
Resident Evil’s first couple of entries set a unique course of a combination of gritty B-horror and action that revolved around resource management. It made strides toward creating the action survival horror genre that helped influence plenty of others on the same path- Silent Hill, Dead Rising, and Left 4 Dead all come to mind- and it seemed to have a promising future.
The first symptoms started around Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. They went unnoticed, as Resident Evil acted almost completely as usual. There were a few questionable presentation issues, but there were no signs that anything serious was going on. Once the fourth entry came about, it felt safe to write off the concerns that arose from the third.
The day that Resident Evil 5 walked in, we knew we had missed something. Something bad. Engorged muscles, incoherence, and erratic behavior were just the beginning. The series had given way to its ‘action’ tendencies, relying much more on guns and vast amounts of testosterone over the atmosphere it had fostered years before. Resident Evil 6 showed no signs of improvement, and the series was in critical condition when it spouted off something about Operation Raccoon City. While things looked bleak, the recent past couple of years seem to have done wonders for the title.
Current Status: Near-Full Rehabilitation
With the more recent efforts involved with Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil Revelations 2, this series seems to be on the right foot to finding the correct balance between intense action and the atmosphere it once dabbled in. If the series continues on the track it has taken to get back to the state it is in, its future will be just as promising as it ever was.
Part of Well-Red Mage’s discussion was to pick games that weren’t necessarily easy targets. Given how little exposure Clock Tower has had compared to other patients (I’ll be working on the Sonic the Hedgehog file for weeks to come), I feel it necessary to dive into this case for others who may interact with this case in the future.
Much like the Resident Evil case, this series started very healthy. Its first entry was a point-and-click frightfest that was heavily influenced by the works of Italian horror. The sequel (which we’ve come to know as the original here in the US, as the original was a Super Famicom release) was along the same vein, and it was a direct follow up that did some justice to its previous entry.
The series took a sharp turn when Clock Tower: The Struggle Within set in. Dealing with a split personality/possession complex and completely abandoning its old identity, Clock Tower seemed to be pushing into a territory that wasn’t helped by a muddled translation and the combination of too-specific objectives and too-random occurrences that could result in premature bad endings. The series did seem to recover just slightly with the release of Clock Tower 3, making a wise move into a more action filled interface than a point-and-click. The game still seemed to suffer from a lack of direction, though, and and memory regarding its past felt forced or just plain off the mark.
Current Status: Seeking Rehabilitation
Clock Tower’s work with its spiritual successor, Haunting Ground, was a step in the right direction, even if it doesn’t own up to knowing the series outright. For a while, it seemed like Clock Tower had abandoned any hope and was going to go quietly into that dark night. Due to a sudden reappearance from the series’ original creator, Hifumi Kono, and his work with another spiritual successor, NightCry, Clock Tower hasn’t quite started on a road to recovery but it is still receiving some kind of attention- which is more than most games in its position receive. Even the homage game, Remothered: Tortured Fathers has helped rejuvenate the memories of what the Clock Tower series had to offer. At this point, it may just be best to remember the series as it was rather than hoping for a full recovery that may never come.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors
I know you shouldn’t play favorites with patients, but sometimes you just can’t help but be frustrated when bad things happen to good games with potential. When Zombies Ate My Neighbors walked in, I knew it was something special. Sure, it was wordy- but it knew how to have fun and seemed to enjoy everything it was doing. The future was bright for this newcomer.
Unfortunately, its popularity became an issue and soon, the an imitator got to it in the form of Ghoul Patrol. See, Ghoul Patrol wasn’t meant to be a sequel to Zombies. It was meant to be its own unaffiliated game but, in an effort to produce sales on the coattails of this promising young patient. The issue here isn’t that a long-running series was cut down due to a lack of ideas or misguided reinvention. The issue is that a game with good intentions and the solid base to create at least a small series was followed up with a cash grab that, while not terrible, lacked the heart and effort that made the original so unique. Unfortunately, the result is that the Zombies franchise has gone into seclusion with only whispers about its health and potential to resurface spoken of in hushed whispers throughout its fanbase.
Current Status: (Presumed) Deceased
Unfortunately, Ghoul Patrol’s influence seems to have pushed this once promising title into obscurity for good. While there were talks about a film deal in the works, those also seem to have tapered off. There was a brief flicker of hope when Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia arrived, looking to offer its spiritual support, but even that was a bit of a glitched mess until it reinvented itself as Monster Madness: Grave Danger.
While it would be a surprise now if Zombies Ate My Neighbors made any kind of comeback, it’s not due to a lack of interest. Sometimes, elements just don’t line up to ensure that a promising series can live its best life. Market demands, desires to break new grounds, and a myriad of other factors can help a series flourish or fall into critical condition. This is probably one of the fastest cases of Sequelitis I can think of in immediate memory, but I’m sure there are a dozen other cases that are documented that I could reference if I dig into my notes.
With those cases discussed, thanks once again to Well-Red Mage for starting this discussion on Twitter to prompt this ‘diagnostic’. Do you have any games you can think of that suffered from Sequelitis? Are they in recovery or have they simply disappeared, unable to be saved? Feel free to let me know, or feel free to respectfully discuss the breakdowns up above if you feel otherwise or similarly!