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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Editorial: Five Things Unfairly Robbed of Sequels.

Editorial: Five Things Unfairly Robbed of Sequels.

Well, isn't this the universal story of anybody who watches television or films, or plays video games. Something should have had a sequel – it had space for a sequel, it deserved a sequel, it needed a sequel – and yet it never got one. Or any kind of continuation, let's not be technical.

It's grating, partly because of all those things, but partly because things that don't really need sequels seem to constantly get them. UFC Undisputed doesn't really need yearly installments in which nothing is changed except the sweat glistening the men's muscled, naked backs is rendered in even more hyper-realistic detail. Puella Magi Madoka Magica was perfectly formed as it was, and did not in a million years require a film to continue the story. Final Fantasy XIII didn't require one sequel, let alone two, a spin-off, and a spin-off that would take so long to develop that it would eventually enter a chrysalis and emerge as an entirely new installment in the series.

So let's celebrate a tiny, miniscule selection of those things that deserved sequels but didn't get them, because there is a limited amount of sequel energy in the world, and it's apparently all going into the Call of Duty franchise and the continuing adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.

Prince of Persia (2008).

Alarmingly, a lot of Prince of Persia fans hated this game. Some of them actually liked The Warrior Within, so we can write those guys off as having something terribly wrong with them, but even some people with taste didn't like this game. I know, I didn't believe it either, except in the sense that fandom has widened my credulity to the point where I'll accept anything.

I really liked it. It was a well-balanced platformer with gorgeous environments and a great storyline – I thought the romance between the Prince and Elika was one of the best romance storylines I'd seen in video games, especially as it was built up not just in cutscenes (which were frequent, and often just there to provide character development) but also in subtle changes during gameplay, like having them joke around with each other as they clambered about the ancient, ruined city.

It was not to be, though, as the game's sales were – not the best, shall we see. The next Prince of Persia game was a blatant cash-grab meant to capitalise on the film (and – pretty terrible, I say, having played it), and not a peep has been heard out of the franchise since.

The film was pretty terrible too – and it had Jake Gyllenhaal as the prince, as if the casting directors had a printer error when receiving the documentation for the film, and only got 'Prince of' as the title.

Young Justice.

Oh, Young Justice. We knew you. I mean, before you were abruptly dragged off television mid-storyline, at the end of just your second series, after what might be one of the most committed efforts to kill a program I've seen. The sheer amount of hiatuses Young Justice had to go on were truly amazing, with there sometimes being periods of three or four months in which only a single episode would air.

When Young Justice left off, Earth's villains had gained access to a planet-destroying battle station and were using it to menace the rest of the galaxy into leaving the Earth alone, while Darkseid was planning an invasion and the Team had fractured, with Wally West's death sending Artemis spiralling off into antihero territory.

Everything was set up for a great third series – but that third series never came. Not because of a lack of popularity, either: According to Paul Dini, one of the writers and producers, the reason behind its cancellation wasn't because the series wasn't popular, but because it was popular with teenage girls instead of teenage boys. Warner Bros and Cartoon Network even said outright that they wouldn't commission another series even in the event that a crowdfunding campaign covered all the costs, leaving them with just profits.

(And people say that money is the bottom line. Pfft.)

Do check out the Young Justice comics, though, which contain the highest concentration of 'Dick Grayson wishes to have sex with everyone nearby' jokes of any comic series.

Tron: Uprising.

Here's one which is a lot more of an open and shut case than the others. Tron: Uprising, a tie-in cartoon series focusing on Beck, an engineering program who is mentored by Tron to essentially become him, was well-written, well-animated, had great voice acting and had interesting, engaging storylines. Like Young Justice, it was plagued with hiatuses, but not as many and generally not as long. It won three awards – including an Emmy – and was nominated for two more.

What it didn't have was people actually watching, for one reason or another. Maybe after a mediocre film and a mediocre video game, people just weren't feeling up to a cartoon series. Maybe it was aimed at the wrong age demographic. Maybe it wasn't advertised well enough. Either way, for all that it was rightly a critical darling, it lacked people actually sitting down and watching it for twenty minutes a week, and that was its downfall.

Which is a shame, really, not just because the series ended with nothing really resolved, but also because this seems to happen to every high quality cartoon: They rise, they are beloved by reviewers and sometimes fans, and then they fall, either because of networks meddling for ideological reasons (usually misogyny, it seems) or because people just aren't watching.


'Robbed' may be hyperbole in this case. There's no evidence that Dishonored won't be getting a sequel. Then again, there's no evidence that it will be – the closest thing was rumours that it would be being announced at Gamescom 2014, an event that has already come and gone. It's been two years since Dishonored was released, and in terms of AAA games, that's practically an eternity in which to hear nothing.

It undoubtedly deserves one. Dishonored captured the imaginations of gamers from its very first trailer, and the actual game itself did not disappoint, being small but perfectly formed, weaving an intriguing, often disquieting dark fantasy storyline in a colourful, often grimy, often decadent world, with your political assassination antics framed by a much larger, much more sinister cosmic horror plot that is only ever hinted at.

Add to that some of the smoothest stealth gameplay I've ever seen, interesting powers, and some nice use of selective procedural generation for things like target location and, in one interesting mission, who your target is and what they're wearing, and you ended up with one of my favourite games, and one which people are crying out for a sequel to.

A sequel which has yet to materialise at all. How very upsetting for all of us.

Final Fantasy XII.

Wait, what?

Right, let me clarify just to start: I'm referring to a direct sequel set in the same world here. Like XIII-2 or X-2. It seems baffling to me that we saw a sequel to XIII, a game that was almost aggressively boring, which really only muddied the already horribly confused, convoluted and nonsensical story even more, but XII (which was well-plotted, nearly unique amongst Final Fantasy games, and well-loved) got none.

I am not counting Revenant Wings. That is a spin-off. It's different.

The thing is, there was a lot of potential for a sequel already there. By the end of XII, Ivalice has entered a new age, in which the sapient beings of that world are wholly self-determining, their godlike manipulators having withdrawn from the world following the repudiation of their divine remit. What are the consequences here? Since they seemed to be a or maybe the source of that worlds magic, are we going to see that magic fade? Worse, are they going to try to directly intervene and start a war?

Add to that an interesting political element, with a fragile peace forming between the two massive empires, and with Dalmasca once again an independent country, and you'd have the basis for a truly stunning plot.

But no, obviously Lightning's sister hopping back and forth in time was more important, carry on, Square-Enix, carry on.

(And by 'carry on', I mean 'release the game you've been developing for half a decade'.)  

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