What Makes a Game a Sequel?

I recently played and beat Chrono Cross, and let me tell you, it was quite a struggle.  Due to a leveling up system where you really only level up when you beat a boss or when you fight the first few enemies after a boss, I had lots of frustration trying to defeat enemies that were just too tough for me, which was helped when I got the Mastermune, but still.  I nearly quit the game several times due to this, and while I can now say that I did enjoy it, I still have mixed feelings about it.  I loved the battle system, even though I didn’t like that most battles were pointless due to your stats never going up.  I thought the story was interesting, while at the same time, I just couldn’t get attached to any of the characters.

But, what bugged me most, until I learned to accept it, was the fact that this really didn’t seem like a sequel to Chrono Trigger, and it got me thinking: What does a game have to include in order to be called a sequel?

Because, in theory, Chrono Cross is a sequel to Chrono Trigger.  That’s what I hear, at least.  And yet, none of the characters are the same (they are referred to, however, while some are seen later on, in more of a ghostly form), and while some locations, events, creatures, etc. from the previous game are mentioned, this plot largely doesn’t relate at all to the plot of the first game.  And there’s no time travel.  The biggest thing people talk about when they’re discussing Chrono Trigger was the interesting time travel, which is absent from this game.  Being able to travel between two alternate dimensions hardly counts as time travel, if you ask me.

And yet, seeing as this game does reference a few things from Chrono Trigger, I suppose, in the most lenient sense of the word, it is a sequel.  I just don’t think it’s a very proper sequel.  Not all games have to expand on the previous game’s plot.  Plenty of series don’t.  The plots of the Legend of Zelda games don’t follow one after the other, but they are clearly from the same series due to recurring characters, even if they may be reincarnations rather than the same exact people, and they involve a very similar style of gameplay and lots of the same items, enemies, and the like.  Imagine if a Zelda game was made that included no dungeons whatsoever.  Would it still be a true Zelda game?  I am aware that Hyrule Warriors has no dungeons, but there can be anomalies within a series.  Just not within a group of games that includes a grand total of two.

Final Fantasy games also have a similar feel, plus the same spells and items, not to mention chocobos, airships, and other recurring ideas, among other things.  They don’t typically feature the same characters, and most of them are not intended to relate to other entries in the series.  This is fine, and this is something that has been established over the course of over a dozen games.  Final Fantasy has a clear pattern it follows, and the games can differ as long as they stick close enough to that pattern.  But, Chrono Cross, being the second of two games, really feels like it should relate more to its predecessor.  It should at least feel like its predecessor.  And it doesn’t.  It feels nothing like Chrono Trigger, and I just wish it bore more similarities.  At the very least, I really wish your characters got to travel through time in this game.  I think that’s the biggest thing that’s missing.  And since this game is missing such an essential ingredient from the delicious cake that was Chrono Trigger, that’s why it’s not a true sequel.

So what do you think?  What makes a game a proper sequel, and do you think Chrono Cross is one?  Do you wish Chrono Cross was more like its prequel, or are you happy with how it turned out?

Is a Goose a Proper Sequel to a Duck?


13 thoughts on “What Makes a Game a Sequel?

  1. I haven’t played Chrono Cross, so I can’t speak to that specific instance, but even elsewhere, what makes a sequel is incredibly difficult to define. For a ‘proper’ sequel, particularly in video games, you want to have significant gameplay and world-building elements carry over to the next model. Basically, they can change up gameplay some and still call it a sequel, but there does need to be some consistent factors behind the design philosophy, and the world, though it doesn’t have to be the same one, should be built with a familiar tone and themes in mind. It helps if characters or settings carry over directly, but as the Final Fantasy series shows, that’s not entirely necessary.

    So I guess I’m saying that to be a sequel, a game needs to have enough unique gameplay elements brought over from the previous incarnation, as well as a setting, characters, or other world elements that are built consistently with what’s already seen in the series to justify having the title+number. Of course, there are some instances, like Persona 4 Arena having the same character, setting, tone, themes, etc. as the original but completely different gameplay, that muddy things up a bit, but that’s kind of a working definition for me.


    1. Yeah, that’s pretty much how I see it, and based on this definition, Chrono Cross really misses the point of being a sequel. I think a game can change the gameplay and still be a sequel if the characters remain. Jak 2 changes the gameplay and even the time period drastically from that of Jak 1, but the characters from the first game appear in the second, thus, it is a proper sequel. Final Fantasy doesn’t have the same locations and characters, but it has similar gameplay and many of the same concepts.

      Chrono Cross, on the other hand, changes gameplay, characters, setting, etc. And the story only vaguely relates to the first. So in that respect, it’s only a sequel in title. It’s a shame because Chrono Trigger was awesome, so it would’ve been nice to have a true sequel for it. They should’ve made Chrono Cross its own thing, I think.


  2. I feel like the game goes along the lines of more a new game in the same universe rather than a sequel. It doesn’t have much correlation with Chrono Trigger and to a degree you could play it without having played Trigger to know what is going on.


    1. That’s definitely true, and I suppose people say it’s the “spiritual successor” to Chrono Trigger rather than a true sequel, which is certainly more accurate. I just wish it was more of a sequel, as I loved the time traveling of Chrono Trigger. As its own game, it was pretty good, at least.


      1. Frankly a game made in the same universe has better potential as it has no requirements or limitations set up by previous games, so it really SHOULD be a fantastic game.


      2. That is true. Sometimes a series has nowhere to go once the story has run its course, but that doesn’t happen if a game takes place in the same world, but with a different story.


      1. Yep, still a gamer, always a gamer. I might be very old and still gaming one day. But, I bet I’ll be really good at it by then. So good, I’ll be better than all the whippersnappers.


  3. I think Aether’s comment hit the nail on the head concerning game sequels — a sequel need to be similar enough to its predecessor so that it’s recognized as a sequel but different enough that people actually want to play it. Portal and Portal 2 is a good example of an original game and “true” sequel. Portal 2 builds on all the elements and story of the first game, and still includes tons of original content. The Dragon Age games (fresh in mind since I’m playing Inquisition) follow this same formula as well, so I’d consider Dragon Age II and Inquisition to be sequels to the original Dragon Age: Origins.

    The question of sequels not really being sequels seems to often apply to JRPGs, as you brought up concerning Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross. Like, most of the Final Fantasy titles aren’t really sequels as much as games made in the same spirit as each other that fall under an umbrella name.


    1. Chrono Cross just doesn’t fit my (or anyone’s, it seems) definition of the word “sequel”. But, you’re right about Final Fantasy. I think they have a similar feel, and they do share some elements, but maybe I’m just more lax with the series because I’m more used to it, and this series consists of many, many games, while Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross are just two. If they made more games, even if they weren’t super alike, I might be more willing to consider them part of the same series.


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