Over the last few weeks I have been playing a handful of RPG sequels. RPGs are one of my favorite genres because of their heavy emphasis on character and world development. Since they focus a much larger percentage of time on story elements, and also because they are some of the longest video games to finish (let alone to 100% complete), I often find myself more attached to the characters, lore and worlds of RPGs than other video games. 

What I find fascinating about RPG sequels is how they can use the groundwork established by the original game to truly evolve and expand each of the different components of the story. There really aren't too many RPGs that are direct sequels since most of the time in RPG franchises each installment entirely throws out the characters, stories, and worlds to start over from scratch. As a result, RPG sequels tend to blaze unique trails in how they connect to the previous game (or games) because there really isn't a single blueprint on how to make RPG sequels.

In general, I think there are three main areas that RPG sequels can target to expand their established stories: the world, the characters and the lore/overarching narrative. Exactly how they choose to expand these story elements is interesting because they can target all three areas at once or they can focus primarily on one of those elements. Oftentimes in RPG sequels, the structure of the game itself completely changes between the first and second game which helps to emphasize the contrast between the two games narratives.

Of the three games I've played recently, perhaps the most comfortable RPG sequel I've played was Tales of Xillia 2. I was a big fan of the first game largely because of the six characters at the heart of the tale rather than the actual story of the game which still was pretty good. Interestingly then, Tales of Xillia 2 seemingly discards the main cast of the first game in favor of following the story of three new characters and how the world was affected by the actions of the original cast. In general I liked Tales of Xillia 2 a bit less than the first game since it heavily focused on a new silent protagonist and also because it recycles virtually all of the environments from the first game.

That said, I do think Tales of Xillia 2 is a fantastic sequel to the first game. As the silent protagonist you essentially re-recruit the cast of the first game and even interact with pretty much every side character and villain from the first game (two of which in a major way that I won't spoil here). Surprisingly as the silent protagonist you are more directly involved with the story of the game because very frequently you are asked to make decisions on how to respond to the people and the world around you.

In the original game all of the characters would decide for themselves how to shape their world, but this time as the protagonist you yourself direct each event. I had a lot of fun trying to become true friends with the original cast and also as I solved moral dilemmas and guided the development of two nations. I came to appreciate the world and characters of Tales of Xillia much more in the sequel because not only could I see how they evolved during the year long gap between the games, but also because I could directly impact their future.

I really enjoy Tales of Xillia 2's approach to being an RPG sequel because not only does it tell a tale that is standalone, but it also allows you as a player to appreciate what you have accomplished in the original game as the sequel explores how the world and characters evolved over time. Tales of Xillia 2 essentially uses the same approach that Final Fantasy X-2 did over ten years ago. In X-2 you could see how the world responded to you violently dismantling the predominant religion from the first game which was incredibly fascinating.

Final Fantasy X-2's and Tales of Xillia 2's approach to RPG sequels is not the only valid method to becoming a successful RPG sequel since the sequel doesn't necessarily have to be an RPG to expand the original game's story.

One of my favorite games of the year is Persona 4 Arena Ultimax which is a fighting game created by Arc System Works that pits Persona 4 and Persona 3 characters against one another. Even though they are fighting games, the two Persona 4 Arena games serve as canonical sequels to both Persona 4 and Persona 3. I think what's really exciting about these games from a story perspective is how they directly connect Persona 3 and Persona 4 together in their visual novel story mode. While the two RPG games were conceivably in the same universe, Persona 4 Arena and Persona 4 Arena Ultimax actually meaningfully link them together. 

The first Persona 4 Arena brought a conflict related to the Persona 3 characters into the hometown of the Persona 4 cast. Naturally the two groups meet up together and solve the problem, but at the end of the day they still were very much separated from one another. That changed in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax as the real threat was inextricably linked to both the Persona 3 and Persona 4 casts which really forced them to work together to overcome it. Seeing the two groups integrating together over the course of the two games is especially awesome because all of the characters become even stronger when they work together. Since Persona 4 Arena is also a fighting game, you can directly control every character from both Persona 3 and Persona 4 which is impossible in their original games. I deeply appreciated these characters even more as I experienced them in new contexts.

The final game I want to briefly talk about is the visual novel Danganronpa 2 which feels very RPGish in the way you move around the world and spend time with characters. Danganronpa really blurs the line between genres, but regardless of what genre it is exactly, Danganronpa 2 offers another approach to RPG sequels as it seeks to expand the lore of the series. As you begin the game, there are enough familiar aspects with its story and structure that you know it has to relate to the first game even though it largely has a completely different cast of characters and settings. Essentially the mysteries at the heart of the game are essential to its appeal. I lost out on a ton of sleep playing this game because I just had to see how everything fit together. Had it just been a standalone game, the impact of solving the mysteries wouldn't be as memorable and that's why it is an especially valuable approach to a sequel.

I think it's important to consider the successes of RPG sequels because not only do they prove uniquely satisfying in their own right, but they also can inform how other video games sequels in different genres can improve their storytelling. A game like Batman Arkham City (which cares about the relationships Batman has with his rogue gallery and the overarching lore of the asylum) is a good example of how respectfully and earnestly expanding a story can elevate the whole experience. I want to see more RPG sequels and games like Batman that seek to reward the time and energy we spend playing and interacting with the stories of games.


Thank you for reading my latest blog! I hope you enjoyed it. I'm curious to know what RPG sequels have you enjoyed and why? What do you most hope to get out of RPG sequels? Are there other non-RPG video game sequels that you feel do a great job at expanding the story of their series? I always enjoy reading and responding to your comments, so feel free to share your thoughts below.