One of the little silly things that kinda bugs me about games like the Metroid sequels (and Metroid certainly isn’t the only kind of game that does this it’s just the biggest title off the top of my head that is the most blatant at it) is that there is enough history with the character that when we show up in the new world in the new game that we know that the first thing that is going to happen is that our character will get hit in the head and we will lose all of the great skills we picked up last game.
Maybe this isn’t so bad if it happens once… but by the fourth or fifth time, you’d think that there’d start to be brain damage.
Now, seriously, when you think about it, there is a very good reason to design things like this: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. People loved the game the last time, they played the heck out of it, they beat it and they sighed and they googled when the sequel was coming out. Because you demanded it, here is more of the same!
And, to be sure, more of the same has all kinds of things going for it when you feel like comparing it to those guys who stray too far off the beaten path (see, for example, Shadowrun for the 360… actually, don’t).
(Aside: There was a movie that came out in 2005 called A History of Violence. It was more or less one of those “have your cake/eat it too” films that tried to critique violence at the same time as it had you cheering for the protagonist to get all stabby on bad guys. It’s Cronenberg at his most competent (rather than inspired) so it’s very well made but there was one shining moment that made me and my friends laugh out loud in the theater and had us quoting the movie for years:
John Hurt sets up an assassination of Viggo and, of course, it goes awry. John Hurt then asks the only assassin to survive the assassination attempt “HOW DO YOU (mess) THAT UP???” (Watch the scene here, if you’re inclined… Warning: it’s not only pretty violent it uses swear words so you won’t want to watch it at work.)
Back to the point, when you see a video game sequel stray too far from the established formula that works, you just want to start yelling “HOW DO YOU (mess) THAT UP???”
(X-Com Apocalypse is probably the best example of an “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull” out there. Seriously. You’ve got the first game right there. Just do *THAT*. How do you (mess) that up?)
Which brings us to Batman: Arkham City. Now, Batman actually has managed to keep some of the skills that he had at the end of Batman Arkham Asylum. They do take away a number of his gadgets and the amount of armor he picked up… but they actually lampshade this by having Bruce Wayne start off without so much as a cowl and then have his stuff “delivered” to him… it’s nice to have bat explosives from the first (well, second) mission instead of having to pick up everything one by one by one as the game goes on.
Arkham Asylum was probably the best Superhero game since Superman for the Atari 2600 and a sequel that takes the formula that made that game work and tweak it only a little before giving us Arkham Asylum + Sandbox is reason to dance in the streets rather than think about poor Bruce Wayne being kicked in the head (which, seriously, happens in the first scene).
I’m already looking forward to Arkham America.