When you buy a new video game in a series, you’re generally going to be excited to see what the game is all about and how much different it is than previous entries in the series. But that’s where things can get a bit hairy in a way. Some people when they get a new game in a series love it when the game is basically completely different than anything they’ve experienced before. They want a change of pace that takes place in the same universe as the last game, so it’s familiar and brand new all at once. On the other hand, some people don’t like it when a major series has huge changes between one entry and the next. They want not only for the story to feel familiar but they’d want the gameplay to feel the same as well. So where do you stand when you pursue a new game? Do you want it completely different? Or would you rather a game remain similar to past entries in a series?
The reason I’m curious about this topic is because I’ve seen both play out on multiple occasions. I’ll give an example using the Sonic the Hedgehog series. There is a large fan base that would rather the Sonic games all remain 2D platformers, similar to the Genesis games that started it all. Then there are others who like the major changes so that the franchise will feel fresh even after all these years. But the success of the games seem to be sort of iffy. Sonic Unleashed, for example, introduced Sonic the Werehog and fighting mechanics into the Sonic Universe. Compared to the speed levels in the game this part was very slow and different from the rest of the series. A lot of people loved the fighting segments and thought the game was great. A lot of others hated it and stayed away from these and other installments that had major changes. The game didn’t get great reviews, and its sales weren’t incredible. On the other hand of the Sonic series is Sonic 1 and 2 on the iOS and Android market. They were very successful because they were literally the good old games with new enhancements, such as new levels. They were generally reviewed well and seemed to put up good download numbers in spite of them being older games.
So which is the way to go? Should game companies, from Sega to Nintendo, stick to what has basically always worked and leave innovation in the back seat? Or should they try something new and just keep it up until something sticks? Not all new major changes play out like for the Sonic series. Sometimes new changes are met with universal appraise and the series takes off to new heights. But a lot of the time it’s a mixed bag. Even the greatly reviewed Sonic 1 and 2 didn’t earn Sega as much money as Unleashed did, simply because of the cash difference between the products. Unleashed was far worse reviewed but earned more in spite of it having lower ratings across the board. So it would seem that innovation does work even if the fan base is mostly against it, since it does seem to earn money. Is that good enough to you? Or should a company mostly look in the past when making new games? I think the answer is somewhere in the middle.
Though I do love seeing new innovations in a game series I don’t like seeing difference for difference’s sake. Don’t change something that really works well just because you can. It’s not up to me, but that’s not a good idea. I think what game companies should do is something like what Sega is doing with Sonic Boom Shattered Crystal for the 3DS. Unlike the Wii U version, which is completely changing how a Sonic game works, Shattered Crystal is mostly similar looking to the older Sonic games. But they add different characters and ways to get through the game that you’ve not done before in a Sonic game. It has a great balance of old and new, showing what the older formula can do with new mechanics and abilities. I think that’s what companies should do. Change it enough that it has differences, but leave it similar enough that it reminds you of the older games immediately. How do you feel about it?