Good Game Design – What Makes a Great Sequel? (Paper Mario TTYD)


What makes a great sequel? Most would agree it takes expanding on
the original ideas and establishing new mechanics, but without forgetting what made it so enjoyable
in the first place. What’s funny is that both video games and cinema
follow almost the same structure when it comes to new installments. Often this includes raising the stakes of
the initial conflict; broadening the scope of the story by introducing new characters
or maybe even fleshing out some of the existing ones to switch up the dynamic. Games have been doing this for years, and
there’s plenty of examples of phenomenal sequels that try out new concepts while still retaining
their identity. Donkey Kong Country 2 comes to mind, with
its ability to change the jolly romps through the forest of the original into its fully
realized potential with creative new worlds such as pirate ships, theme parks and beehives
while also adding new mechanics like wind and transforming into animal buddies, as well
as a focus on vertical level design, not just horizontal. The stakes are certainly higher – instead
of simply searching for a banana hoard, this time you’re out to rescue the hero from
the last game, Donkey Kong himself! With the inclusion of Dixie, it makes both
kongs satisfying to play as since they’re both nimble and have unique abilities (Sorry
DK!), including the newly introduced team up toss to reach higher ledges and hidden
secrets. Bosses are bigger and meaner than ever, and
I’ve already talked about this at length but the Lost World bonus stages being a reward
for exploration are *muah* it sets it a cut above. Portal 2 is another great example of taking
the iconic idea of the original and amplifying it in new ways for a much more interesting
experience. New characters like Wheatley and Cave Johnson
are hilarious and full of personality, and turning Glados into a pseudo-ally this time
around was a great addition since she was already so likeable as a villain. Giving some backstory to Aperture Science
and increasing the challenge by introducing gels and new ways to play felt like the perfect
continuation of what was laid out in Portal 1, and a 2 player co-op mode with it’s own
story and set of hurdles to overcome was just a cherry on the lie. But perhaps the best example of a sequel,
one that tends to come up in every debate on the topic, is Paper Mario: The Thousand
Year Door. Which is especially impressive considering
how superb the original on the N64 was. As we outlined in our last video, Thousand
Year Door would have a lot to live up to, but it took those elements that Paper Mario
excelled at and took them even further, especially in the aesthetic and combat. While the first game pioneered the paper theming,
it didn’t utilize it too often other than a visual gag here and there or how the characters
moved. Now in Thousand Year Door, it becomes your
upgrades – transforming into a paper airplane, turning sideways to fit through gaps, rolling
up like a newspaper, and even becoming a cute little origami boat! PAPER Mario means a lot more than just looks
this time around, and the world you explore reflects that. Oh and by the way, these new abilities are
supposed to be seen as horrible curses that an evil spirit casts on you, but they’re
always helpful. You see, the humor and charm of the last game
only continues here in your latest adventure. Thwomps wearing bowties, mafia godfathers
asking for favors and bosses being afraid of cricket noises if you change your sound
effects badge are par for the course here. I love that instead of just leaving Luigi
bored at home, this time he’s out on wild adventures and wants to tell you every detail. Every character is still so unique, and the
atmosphere is just as playful as before, albeit in a bit more cartoony appearance. That being said, the story is certainly more
intense than Bowser taking over Peach’s castle – The X-Nauts want to release an ancient
demon to devour the world whole! And you’ll travel literally to the moon
and back to make sure that doesn’t happen. In fact, it seems like all great sequels have
a moon somewhere. Princess Peach sections make a return, but
they’ve also added Bowser miniquests in between chapters, and while I wouldn’t say
they are better than the 64 versions, it was the next logical step since Bowser isn’t
the big bad this time around. Rogueport, while not quite as memorable as
Toad Town, has just as much to offer in the extra content department, from helping people
in the Trouble Center, to a fully fledged casino, to the Pit of 100 Trials for some
added challenge. And unlike Paper Mario 64, you can head back
to town after defeating the final boss, so the possibilities are endless. Heck, one of the side missions even nets you
an optional party member which is just fantastic. But I think the biggest overhaul was to the
combat. They took that grade school production idea
a step further by adding in a full studio audience to your battles. This means that if you perform well, more
people will show up, but they also can throw things on the stage to damage or distract
you. The stage itself will also start to fall apart
and cause lights to fall from the rafters or backdrop scenery to collapse. On top of the action command system they’ve
also incorporated stylish points when you hit an additional button with the right timing. This, as well as having a full audience will
cause your star power meter to charge faster. Remember last time how I said that I wish
the Star Spirits were better utilized in 64? Well now the Crystal Stars, which are basically
the same thing, not only have more appropriate uses, but they also are more engaging since
you have to do a little minigame in order to use their full power. Of course badges make a return, but you also
unlock natural maneuvers as you upgrade your shoes and hammer, so even if you don’t equip
a bunch of special attacks, there’s still multiple ways to stack a ton of damage on
your foes. Which is good, because the bosses definitely
have more health this time around as well. On top of all this there’s more varied button
combos, a slot machine system to potentially refill all of your stats, and even partner
health to worry about as you can switch the order that you attack. Battles are somehow even more enticing in
Thousand Year Door than the nearly perfect system of the original, and that is one of
the best feats the game accomplishes. Now for everything this new adventure does
right, I wouldn’t say it’s entirely flawless. Some of the characters are very similar to
their predecessors in both their personas and their abilities, and even a few of the
chapters resemble each other a little too closely to really be considered new. That being said, where it does innovate it
does so in great ways, like even though Koops still uses a shell toss maneuver, he can hold
it in place which allows for some cool puzzle solving opportunities. And although Keelhaul Key begins with a loudmouth
treasure-hunter taking you to a secluded island, the fact that the boss of the chapter helps
you duke it out with the X-Nauts Pirates of the Caribbean style is insanely memorable. Really for every deja vu moment Thousand Year
Door has, there’s another one that’s totally fresh – like controlling an entire army of
Puni’s, or battling your way to the title fight against Rawk Hawk only to receive a
fake Crystal Star on the championship belt, or getting your body taken over by a ghost
until you’re able to speak his name! The only true criticism I can make about the
game is that there is a lot more backtracking. You’ll often have to run back and forth
across the entire area just to complete your mission, the worst culprit being chapter 7,
which requires you to travel to all the locations you’ve visited just to find General White,
who ends up being right where you started the entire time. Which brings me to an interesting point – what
are common mistakes that we often see in bad sequels? While Banjo Tooie does a lot of things well,
like giving you all the abilities from the previous game right from the get go and then
expanding on them even further, I do think it was a victim of its own massive scope. While the charm and charisma are still there,
the world is a little too big for its own yellow britches. Not just in actual size, but also in objectives. Sometimes you’ll have to carry out tasks
all over the various stages just to get a single jiggy, and without compensating for
a faster way of travel, what you’re left with is a little bit too much spread out over
a little bit too far of a tangled, messy adventure. What’s ironic is that in Nuts and Bolts,
they fixed the speedier traversal, but accidentally lost the core mechanics that made the original
so beloved in the process. Other sequels are often scorned because they
didn’t change things enough. While it may be hard to stray from the winning
formula a game has set, without innovating in interesting ways, players are left wondering
why it wasn’t just included as a new level pack in DLC. I remember hearing complaints about Hotline
Miami 2 saying they changed things too much and that they just wanted more of the original,
but if it was simply more of the same, why would it need to be a standalone title? Without key improvements, people complain
about how a series isn’t going anywhere, or it’s always just the same story over
and over again. Look at the minimal differences of the first
6 Mega Man games, and then compare them to Mega Man X. Yes, they are technically sequels
to the original, but I would argue that the X revitalization is a truly great example
of one. And then sometimes you see a sequel that is
simply too different to have a connection with its precursor. When you take a hard as nails level-based
action arcade game and make it an open world, convoluted collectathon, its gonna raise some
eyebrows. Why have fireballs and epic boss fights on
a collapsing bridge, when you could…pick up turnips? Look, at the end of the day, whether a sequel
is good or bad is going to be subjective, but when in doubt, it’s best to follow what
other media does – refine what was already established to create something new and engaging
while still paying homage to what made it so likeable in the first place. What are some of your favorite video game
sequels? What exactly did it do to expand on what the
original laid out? Can you think of a game that you really wish
had a sequel but doesn’t? Tell me in the comments below and let’s
talk about it. Of course the Paper Mario series doesn’t
end at Thousand Year Door, and it’s hotly debated about how the rest of the franchise
has handled our favorite RPG. There’s plenty to unpack about Super Paper
Mario and Color Splash, but we’ll have to talk about that next time. Until then, thanks for watching another episode
of Good Game Design. I’ll see you guys later, stay frosty my
friends! Hey! Did you know that there’s a Snoman Gaming
Discord server? If you want to hang out with a bunch of other
fans of the channel, check it out in the description below. It’s a great way to stay in touch and receive
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well because I stream relatively often and I want to see some of you Youtube folks over
on the other side. Lately I’ve been playing the stream integrated
Dead Cells, where you can interact with the game through the livechat. Hope to see you at the next one. As always if you enjoyed, you can help support
the channel by chipping in at Patreon.com/snomangaming.

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