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Make it Stop! – Game Series That Went on too Long
One of the great storytelling tragedies is often the dreaded sequel. When a superb story—whether a game, novel, or film—meets with financial success, the producer’s automatic response hits like flipping a light switch: we have to make another!
I don’t abhor sequels. In fact, I do think some sequels are better than their predecessors. However, whether because of storytelling elements, repetitive, stagnant gameplay, or any other reason, some video game series should have just ended while they were ahead. Here are a few that come to my mind. (Spoilers ahead. You have been warned!)
Final Fantasy X
We’ll start this list with one of my personal favorites. Final Fantasy X was brilliant, from its conditional turn-based combat to its sweeping romance baked into a poignant tale of penance, corruption, and social progression. None of that compared to the ending, though. It could not have ended better.
Then came Final Fantasy X-2. Not only did this horrific sequel butcher the tone and themes of the original, it completely nullified the heart-wrenching, beautiful ending of the first game. It would be akin to a sequel of 1984 where Winston turns against Big Brother again, but this time succeeds in his personal rebellion.
Metal Gear Solid
Many will hate me for this, but yeah, I’m not a big fan of the Metal Gear franchise anymore. I love the stealth, Hideo Kojima’s quirky and unique storytelling—blending grim realism with eldrich fantasy—and the political undertones. The fact remains: you can only hear Kojima declare, “This is my last one” before you start wishing it were true. Metal Gear Solid 4 provided the series its much-needed closure, and dragging out Big Boss’s story (and Raiden’s) only serves to add unnecessary convolution to the franchise’s plot, a problem the series cannot afford at this juncture.
God of War
God of War has worn its welcome for just about every reason imaginable. First and foremost, the games have absolutely zero evolution in terms of gameplay, and after three console titles and two handhelds, Kratos felt completely stale. An unnecessary prequel (yep, another one) should have been the final nail in the coffin, but no. Sony Santa Monica has stated the franchise is still alive. With the well of prequels pretty much dry, and given the way the third game ended, it’s a huge mystery how they’ll even keep the series going.
The definition of a series with too many spinoffs, Kingdom Hearts wins all sorts of awards for ridiculous ideas coming to fruition. Don’t get me wrong; I love the games and am anxiously awaiting the true third installment. Still, it cannot be denied they got far too carried away with spinoffs, especially with Coded, which added almost nothing substantial to the series but somehow managed its own game (and remake, for that matter). I know how much Square Enix loves to ride the money train, but III seriously needs to bookend this derailed franchise.
And speaking of riding the money train…
Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of this franchise anyway, but that has little to do with my sentiment. Assassin’s Creed fails for many of the same reasons God of War does, namely in that it can’t seem to innovate between titles. I was blown away by how vastly improved the sequel was from the original, but when Ubisoft decided to inundate the market with new Assassin’s Creed titles annually, they lost much of their creativity. This is the epitome of a series that peaked years ago and should have been laid to rest fifteen sequels past.
Though many are clamoring for a third installment, Chrono Cross is the textbook definition of an inferior sequel. While Trigger was brilliant in its mechanics and simple but thought-provoking usage of time travel, not to mention its ridiculously lovable, motley cast, Cross got bogged down with far too many characters and complexity. In a word, it was too big. Ultimately, its too-brief connection to the original left many, myself included, disappointed. Unlike all the others on this list, I won’t go so far as to say the sequel shouldn’t have been made, but I do feel it is missing the charm and appeal of its antecedent.
What franchises do you feel drug on too long? Share your thoughts, readers!