It is common that some work is heavily "inspired" by a previous work—they may have different authors and settings, but there are strong similarities of plot, situations and characters. It is also common that the second work is much inferior to the original, because the original is great or the derivative is awful or both. The Better By A Different name snark expresses this idea. The usual phrasing is "[This work] was better when it was called [other, earlier work]."
For Better By A Different Name to be effective, the original work needs to be well-known and admired. The trope is also rare when a work is a blatant Follow the Leader of another. For one thing, the joke is kind of ruined if the predecessor is obvious. For another, not all clone-work is execrable. Causality is also a confounding variable for Better By A Different Name. It may be that both the original and the supposedly "derivative" work were actually inspired by some even earlier common source.
Often overlaps with If I Wanted X, I Would Y.
A Sub-Trope of They Copied It, So It Sucks, in that this trope is a common way to express that belief.
Compare Take That, Recycled In SPACE (which often is a cause of this), Serial Numbers Filed Off (another cause of this unless it's by the same creator), Spiritual Licensee.
Saw the movie Star Wars this weekend. It's about people flying through space being chased by Darth Vader and storm troopers. I really liked this movie the first time I saw it when it was called "Star Wars"! ... Oh, wait.
I was stranded on the Voyager And pounding on the door When suddenly it dawned on me— I'd seen this show before! Perhaps I'm in a warp bubble And slightly out of phase Coz it was way back in the sixties When they called it Lost in Space!
"He has a woman's name and wears makeup. How original."
A diversion in an onlineSFX article, giving the cases for and against Armageddon.
Case for the defence: The science in Armageddon is no more wacky than it is in something like Fantastic Voyage and – let’s face it – considerably more sensible than the science presented in Source Code. Case for the prosecution: Hey, I liked Source Code! Case for the defence: I liked it better 20 years ago when it was called Quantum Leap. Case for the prosecution: Touché.
"So all in all you could swap out the disc for God of War 2 while the player pops out for a piss and there's a good chance they won't notice. That is, until they realize that the game has suddenly become good."
Kaiba: Was that a Dragon Ball Z cameo? Geez, knowing my luck, my father's going to turn out to be Ghost Nappa. That's pretty much how these things usually go. Mokuba: Aaaahh, but you gotta admit, Seto, Nappa sure is funny! Kaiba: Yeah, I liked him better when he was called "Tristan".
Another writer's article claims Home Alone and Die Hard are the same movie, although they don't seem to mean this as a value judgment on either film. note For those not keeping track, Cracked has multiple writers and no guarantee they'll agree with each other. That, and it runs on Rule of Funny, not Rule Of Accuracy.
I was in fact entertained by the first part of Sphere the first time I saw it (when it was called either The Abyss or Alien), and I was quite highly entertained by the second half the first time I saw that (when it was called Forbidden Planet and starred Walter Pigeon). I have to take it as a given that I would have enjoyed the last five minutes of Sphere along with everyone else who saw it the first time, when it was called Prince Of Tides, but I missed that one.
When Sage tells him that there are plans for a life-action adaptation of Star Chaser, the Critic screams they already made it, it was called Star Wars.
As an intro to his Man of Steel review, Superman (as played by Rob Scallon) sings about the events of that movie, while Batman (Doug himself) keeps pointing out that all of it applies to The Dark Knight Saga too.