Gabe: In the same amount of time it's taken me to get bored of Final Fantasy, I experienced Uncharted 2's entire narrative arc. [...]It is usual for a work to have a beginning sequence that, for whatever reason, is mostly unrelated or just setting the scene for the main plot: a prologue. In visual media, it is not unusual to have a short sequence run before the opening credits. This trope comes into play when said sequence is so long that it makes up a significant percentage of the work, and yet is "only" a prologue. This is also the case when, in a Video Game, after hours upon hours of fighting your way through hordes of enemies, and defeating their leader, the title screen appears, and it is all revealed to have been an Action Prologue. Remember that Tropes Are Tools; this trope defies one of the standard rules of narration ("prologues should be short or non-existent", "get to the plot quickly") that modern audiences have come to expect. As with all rule-breaking and subversion of expectations, depending on the skill of the creators and the perception of their audience, this can come off as either brilliant or perplexing: a wonderful surprise, or a betrayal of trust. Viewers of films may be impatient that you aren't immediately giving them the thrills they paid for, Video Game players may feel cheated that the huge, effort-intensive climax they achieved is not the climax of the story at all; it may feel like you're Moving the Goalposts. While Literature and sequential art readers may feel less worried if they know the length and structure of the work in advance (they can do so merely by glancing at the index), this does not hold true if the work is serialized, and experienced at the rate of its release. In that case, they may feel they have been cheated into emotionally investing themselves in a story whose apparent structure made them expect it to be much shorter than it really is; this is a violation of tacit consent in a fashion not unlike that of The Chris Carter Effect. Related to The Teaser (aka Cold Open) and Slow-Paced Beginning. In music, an Epic Instrumental Opener might feel like this. When it's seemingly intended to be funny, that's an Overly Long Gag. In video games, the prologue's end may coincide with Opening the Sandbox. Compare Close on Title, when you don't see the title until the very end. Contrast Ending Fatigue, which constitutes a similar betrayal, but from the other direction; rather than a belated plot ignition, we get a climax that, instead of exploding, peters out in a disappointing and unrewarding way.
Kiko: Well, how far are you in FF?
Gabe: I don't know. Like, twelve hours?
Kiko: Come on! At least play through the tutorial.
Kiko: Well, how far are you in FF?
Gabe: I don't know. Like, twelve hours?
Kiko: Come on! At least play through the tutorial.
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Anime & Manga
- Berserk begins In Medias Res, takes a few chapters to set the tone of the tale and the current Status Quo, and then takes twelve volumes to explain How We Got Here: the Golden Age arc. Notoriously, the first anime adaptation Berserk (1997) doesn't get out of the flashback, closing with the Darkest Hour and leaving it there.
- Gungrave similarly spends 15 of 26 episodes on a flashback to before the plot of the video game it's based on to establish How We Got Here. It is said to be by far the best part of the series.
- The Kotoura-san anime starts with Downer Beginning that is 10 minutes and 40 seconds long. Discounting the time used in opening and ending sequences, that's half of the first episode.
- Pokémon: The First Movie takes about ten minutes before the opening titles appear, and 20 minutes if the "Mewtwo's Origin" segment is included.
- By the time the anime adaptation of Re:Zero gets to the point where Subaru resolves to start his life in another world from zero, 18 of the 25 episodes (and only about a week in real-time) have passed. Of course, the series' gimmick (Subaru being sent back in time whenever he dies) means that a lot has actually happened during those 18 episodes, with Subaru repeatedly failing to save Emilia and co and suffering multiple Heroic BSoDs.
- Vinland Saga is also impressive. You start off In Medias Res with a fortress getting besieged, then there is a flashback where you learn that Thorfinn (the protagonist)'s entire motive for being with the mercenaries is to kill their leader in a fair duel - because that man killed his father by holding Thorfinn hostage. Thorfinn is seriously that dangerously single-minded; he has a Quest, and one would expect the story to be about this quest, and conclude with him achieving it. This is not so; when everything is said and done and the protagonist's quest comes to a conclusion, and you think the story is going to end, you see the chapter title: "Chapter 54: End of Prologue." Given that it took a few years (both in-universe and out) to reach that point, expectations for the length of this story have been drastically reconsidered, with mixed reactions.
- World Masterpiece Theater is famous for shows with glacial pacing that includes several-episodes-long prologues.
- 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother is about a boy, Marco, who goes to South America to find his mother. The first 15 episodes are spent looking at Marco's daily life and waiting for letters from mother before he finally decides to go find her himself.
- Porphy no Nagai Tabi is about two siblings torn apart by an earthquake and its aftermath. Said earthquake only happens at the end of episode 12. The previous episodes establish the siblings' simple but happy life with their parents.
- Shinji and Warhammer 40k is an excellent example, in that it is both archetypal and well-received by the audience. The prologue alone is many thousands of words just of how Hero Protagonist Shinji's childhood has been changed by his exposure to the tabletop game Warhammer 40,000; the fic is novella-length before Shinji even arrives at NERV, and full of thrills and emotion. Then the work turns out to be a Door Stopper with Serial Escalation.
- This Naruto fanfic goes on 18 chapters before the plot get rolling. It even says so in the author's note!
- A Delicate Balance is a Shipping Fic between Twilight Sparkle and Applejack. It isn't until six chapters and forty thousand words in that Twilight actually manages to tell Applejack how she feels. It isn't until another twenty thousand words after that that they actually start going out. Done intentionally with the intent of building up the relationship.
- This Axis Powers Hetalia crossover with Captain America follows the parental and later brotherly relationship between America and Steve Rogers over the years. The catch is that it the author means it, starting off with Steve's birth in 1920...and as of Chapter 13, the plot is still in The Roaring '20s (although it's heading into The Great Depression territory).
- According to the author, the first nine chapters of Anthropology are considered the prologue to said story. With a prologue ending with a Wham Episode, it's surprising.
- After 42 chapters of the World of Ham that is The Omega Chronicles, the author dropped the bombshell that all that has happened has just been the prologue.
- Act One of The Next Frontier is nearly all World Building by stealth, giving the reader a bit of background on how far the Kerbal Space Program has come in the thirty-year Time Skip after the end of the spiritual prequel First Flight and establishing that the core cast aren't as young as they were. The actual plot doesn't really kick in until Act Two, and even then it's not until about the half-way mark that the reader gets to find out what the story is a crossover with.
- In a W.I.T.C.H. fanfic Ripples, Will is rejuvenated and sent in the past Meridian decades before the start of the series and she becomes involved in the events and people leading to the canon series, including Prince Phobos. The story is half over before the actual plot begins by Will meeting young Phobos and becoming his only friend. In addition to that, the entire story serves as one big source material to its sequel Stirred, which will be an Alternate Universe Fic of the canon series.
- Code Geass Colorless Memories The first seventeen chapters of the Fic overall mainly serves to set up and establish the characters, plot and setting of Colorless Memories, all the while the Myth Arc and Subplots are built up or Foreshadowed. Chapter Eighteen is where the main story get's into gear with revelations of Rai's past, more hints of Geass and that C.C was the one who took his memories and force him and the rest of the cast into starting the fic's storyline at Ashford and beyond.
- Similar to the game which inspired it, All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird subscribes to this trope. Not only is there a lengthy prologue explaining the world state, but the Inquisition doesn't even get to Skyhold until chapter 15.
Films — Animation
- A full 10 minutes go by in Lilo & Stitch before the title and opening credits show up, during which we meet the alien characters in space before they come to Earth.
- Batman: The Killing Joke begins with a 30-minute prologue before showing the events of the comic, both to make the film feature-length and to give Batgirl a role beyond getting crippled by the Joker in his attempt to break Commissioner Gordon in order to motivate Batman. It's considered far weaker than the main portion, and many feel that it actually creates more Unfortunate Implications due to Batman and Batgirl's sex scene.
Films — Live-Action
- The Uwe Boll film Alone in the Dark (2005) is notorious for having the longest text scroll in film, clocking in at about 100 seconds, as in nearly two minutes of spoken word and text. The scroll was inserted into the film because test audiences couldn't make heads or tails of the film's plot, so they wrote the scroll to explain some of it. Audiences then complained that it was too boring, so they added a voiceover. It didn't help much.
- The A-Team took about 20 minutes to get to the title drop!
- Mars Attacks! has a very long prologue... which is unfortunate for those who want the aliens to hurry up and invade. Fortunately, the invasion in question proves to be very entertaining.
- James Bond:
- Most pre-title sequences in the series clock in at a few minutes. The one for The World Is Not Enough is nearly fifteen minutes long, and actually has a fairly clear cutoff point between its two scenes that could've been the act break. This is because that was originally going to be the end of the pre-title sequence, but test audiences felt that it was lackluster compared to recent Bond movies, so they stretched it out to include the next scene as well, which involved a lengthy, exciting boat chase.
- From Russia with Love has not one, but two extended prologues. The first 25 minutes is made up entirely of exposition setting up the main story. Bond himself doesn't appear at all until 18 minutes into the film.note The next 25 are spent on Bond waiting until it's time for his mission to recover the LEKTOR device and assisting his friend Karim Bay, by the time the main story finally kicks off the film is 50 minutes in; nearly half the movie's running time.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has what seems like an interminably long prologue set just before World War I, when Indy is a teen boy. This prologue serves multiple purposes: 1) to set up the Cross of Coronado as a Chekhov's Gun that turns up (a quarter of a century later!) in the film's real Action Prologue with an adult Indy; 2) to establish Indy's fleeting relationship with his father, which lends a certain weight to those characters' later scenes together; and 3) to explain how Indy acquired his trademark fedora, his bullwhip, the scar on his chin, and his crippling fear of snakes.
- Raising Arizona begins with an accelerated account of how the main characters met, got married, discovered that they could not have a child, and hatched a scheme to steal a baby. The title screen rolls just as they're driving out for the kidnapping. Essentially the prologue is the first act of the film.
- Monty Python's The Meaning of Life begins with "The Crimson Permanent Assurance," which was originally supposed to be just one of the sketches of the film, but grew into a 15 minute short film that got stuck at the beginning. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing.
- Friday the 13th Part 2 begins with a Cold Open that set an initial record for length. It follows the evening routine of Alice, the first movie's Final Girl, building up the tension with Jump Scares and Scare Chords until Jason finally gets her. The remake hits the title screen so far into the film that the viewer is likely to have forgotten about the credits not being over several minutes prior. It takes 23 minutes for it to show the title screen, which is fully one fourth the running time of the entire film.
- Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later has the title screen about 22 minutes in.
- The opening credits of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind appear 18 minutes into the film, at the end of the first reel.
- The 2009 Star Trek reboot doesn't get to the title until 11 minutes in. Star Trek: The Motion Picture begins with a 10-minute overture – not unique in film, but more often found on 3-hour historical epics than on sci-fi movies.
- Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet has an opening so long it's practically a film within a film.
- The movie 127 Hours doesn't reveal its title until 15 minutes in.
- The credits for The Departed don't appear until nearly 20 minutes after the start of the movie, by which time you've already seen a flashback scene, a Training Montage, and the first plot twist.
- The Deer Hunter has an extremely long first act showing the main characters' lives in small-town, working-class America before they get to the actual war.
- Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is a roughly 88-minute movie. The first 40 or so of those minutes are spent recapping events from the preceding movie. After that, another 25 minutes or so is spent explaining through flashback how the main character got to where he is at the beginning of the movie.
- In the film Helldriver, the opening credits are approximately 48 minutes into the film.
- Hugo has a very long prologue, which is awesome.
- Jumanji, the prologue takes about 1/3 of the movie and is split into 3 parts, the first short prologue show how the game wind up underground. The second long one shows Alan's life and how he got in the game. The third introduces the kids and how they got the game.
- An issue for many Superhero films, which can take a little over an hour establishing the main character's origin story. The Avengers made a deliberate attempt to avoid it by splitting the origin stories across several movies, so that it could begin the action from the start.
- Pacific Rim has seemingly two prologues. The first is a montage narrated by the protagonist covering the history of the war with the Kaiju and Jaegers. The second is the first action scene of Gipsy Danger versus Knifehead. Then we get to the title.
- Peter Jackson's Middle Earth films as a rule usually take between 10 to 20 minutes to go from the The Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit title cards to the actual subtitle of the film in question. In the extended editions it sometimes takes even longer.
- The Japanese black comedy R100 has the title card come up 41 minutes into the 99 minute film.
- The Longest Day begins with the Allied High Command planning the Normandy landing, the Nazi High Command discussing on whether the Allies will attack and where, and only by the 45 minute mark the soldiers are actually starting to raid France.
- The Agony and the Ecstasy begins with a 12-minute mini-documentary showcasing Michelangelo's greatest works.
- Fantastic Four (2015) was criticized for, among other things, having the characters gain their superpowers not until halfway through the film.
- In After the Thin Man, the murder that forms the central mystery doesn't happen until halfway through the movie. Before that the film has an extended comic setpiece with Nick and Nora coming home to find a party, a comic scene with their dog Asta and Mrs. Asta, and another long sequence where Nick is dragged unwillingly to dine with Nora's family on New Year's Eve.
- Wanted almost has one convinced that there won't be a title card... until its title finally shows up 24 minutes into the film as a newspaper headline. By then, we've seen two full action scenes, 10 minutes of character development, an introduction to the film's world and a scene of the protagonist quitting his job.
- Suicide Squad's Troubled Production led to it having serious problems with this. Deadshot and Harley get an Establishing Character Moment of their abuse at the hands of the prison guards. Then what follows is a series of Intro Dump flashbacks, contextualised as Amanda Waller explaining her Task Force X idea over a dinner. Then there is another set of introduction scenes, including of previously introduced characters. The main plot only starts over halfway through the movie, and even that is padded with flashbacks. This is all an artifact of the heavy plot alterations, reshoots and re-edits that plagued the movie, meaning any interesting footage shot for cut plotlines was repurposed as flashback scenes.
- In Hellboy, the first thirteen or so minutes introduce the villains and show how baby Hellboy wound up on Earth, leading to the title card. After that, it takes about ten more minutes before we actually meet adult Hellboy.
- Fargo takes about 30 minutes, or a third of its runtime, depicting a complicated ransom plot that leads to three murders; it's only then that we meet Marge Gunderson, the police chief protagonist, who investigates the case.
- Love Exposure takes this to an almost absurd level. The title sequence doesn't show up until almost an hour into the film - almost a quarter of its entire running time. And it's worth noting that actually IS a prologue - that entire hour is necessary to set up the rest of the plot - and it is immediately followed by the "Chapter 2" title card.
- Les Misérables has an especially lengthy one, setting up the protagonist's action that caused him to go to prison, that time in prison, his attempts to get a job after prison, his fateful meeting with a bishop, his reformation into a new man, his cunning climb to a successful mayor... and that's still just the prologue.
- In Stephen King's It a (relatively) brief teaser chapter leads into the rest of the prologue, an over 100 pages long story about how the main characters start their return to Derry.
- The Wheel of Time series uses these from book 6 onwards to catch up on what the major players in the entire cast were doing. This would usually take upwards of 50 pages.
- Michael Crichton, starting around Prey and getting worse. The prologue of State of Fear is one third of the book. Next can be seen as nothing but prologue.
- Dean Koontz's book Your Heart Belongs To Me was terrible about this. The summary of the plot on the back of the book explains the second half of the book. The entire first half is the prologue.
- Even fans of The Lord of the Rings will admit that Tolkien takes his sweet time getting the hobbits out of the Shire.
- Justified to an extent; it helps the reader appreciate what they're risking and fighting for; without it, the penultimate chapter lacks much of its impact. The actual prologue, on the other hand, is twenty pages of Info Dump (including a recap of some of The Hobbit, an essay on life in the Shire and one on the Hobbits' smoking habits). Interesting stuff, but you can certainly skip it the first time through.
- It's even worse if you consider the penultimate chapter itself to be part of the corresponding Ending Fatigue. All together, depending how you define it, the story has between 80 and 200 pages of exposition, spanning several years (including the Time Skip in which Frodo spends years in the Shire not really doing anything.)
- Another J. R. R. Tolkien example: The Silmarillion, which begins with a long, drawn-out introduction and a geneaology to boot. Though it does improve, many readers don't even get through that first part.
- The Scarlet Letter has what is called "The Customs House," an elaborate prologue detailing how the author discovered the manuscript. It's about a quarter-to-half the length of most printings of the book. Furthermore, the first actual chapter is called "The Prison Door," the entirety of which is spent describing a prison door and a rosebush beside it.
- In The Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath's "Prologue" (mostly a defense of remarriage) is longer than her actual story. The Friar, who is supposed to tell his tale after hers, gets rather fed up with the lengthy backstory.
- The book Spring Moon starts with a prologue about the main character at the age of about eight, and recounting the despair and suicide of her servant and friend. It has no bearing on the plot, except for some symbolic and thematic value - but it is at least an excellent short story all by itself.
- Life of Pi takes around a hundred pages just to get to the point where the blurb begins.
- The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is written as the autobiography of Tristram Shandy. It starts with Tristram developing as a young fetus, rapidly approaching his birth. While his mother is in labor, the book mentions Uncle Toby who is sitting in a chair. The book goes on to talk about Uncle Toby's life and character, and how he was a soldier until he was wounded in the groin by a cannonball, and then how he went insane and constructed a small replica of the battlefield he'd been wounded on, which he then blew to bits with small replica cannons. Tristram Shandy is born on page 92, when Uncle Toby suggests they ask someone to check and see if Tristram's mother is in labor. It's a incredibly funny and/or pointless book.
- The first BIONICLE book, Tale of the Toa dedicates six chapters to describing how each of the Toa discover themselves, their surroundings, meet their people and each other, until they finally all come together and kick off the plot.
- In The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, an unnecessarily large amount of time is spent on the SOS Brigade preparing for a Christmas party that the audience doesn't even get to see. A few important plot points are established, but most of it can be seen as unnecessary padding. Kyon even lampshades it, observing that it was "too long for a prologue." The movie adaptation, despite mostly being very well made, makes it even worse, as very little actually happens until about an hour and a half into the film.
- The Dissociation of Haruhi Suzumiya goes even further, with a prologue that takes up about a third of the book; half of it is spent recapping everything about the SOS Brigade and most of the side characters, while the other half consists of Koizumi walking Kyon through a Flashback and berating him for being Selectively Oblivious to Love.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone doesn't even get to Hogwarts until halfway through the book. Then again, the beginning was absolutely necessary to set up the plot for the entire series. Compare with some of the other books that take even longer (page wise) such as Goblet of Fire which doesn't see Harry arrive until page 171.
- The most egregious is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where Harry and co. don't get to Hogwarts until page 200, and that's in tinier print than the other books. Not surprising considering it's the biggest of the books.
- Most books of Septimus Heap take some time before even showing the main characters.
- The Icelandic Sagas generally tend to take quite a bit of time explaining the backstory and deriving the hero's genealogy before getting on with the main plot. This may explain a few things about both the Tolkien examples and Vinland Saga (see the Anime section), which derived considerable inspiration from them.
- The Myth-O-Mania book Keep a Lid on It, Pandora! begins with the creation of man and the story of Prometheus. Because of this, Pandora doesn't show up until the seventh or eighth chapter. The fifth chapter actually bears the title, "Where is Pandora?", and begins with Hades, the narrator, telling impatient readers when she'll come. He then advises them to "Keep a lid on it!" until her entrance.
- Brave Story takes around a short novel's number of pages before Wataru finds out about Vision and starts on his quest inside Vision. Tropes Are Tools - the prologue has plenty of foreshadowing, and it provides a highly appropriate context as to why exactly Wataru would want to go into Vision to change his fate anyways. It manages to give the reader plenty of time to get to know who Wataru is before he is thrust into another world with a task to accomplish.
- A Song of Ice and Fire is relatively punchy in pacing, despite its Loads and Loads of Characters. Having said that, it takes until, literally, the last word of A Game of Thrones for its main character to be positioned for their role in the Myth Arc (specifically, Daenerys hatching her dragons, which will presumably be instrumental in the war against the Others). With that in mind, one could make the argument that the entire first book is an 806-page prologue, and a similar one about the 10-hour first season of Game of Thrones.
- The Way of Kings (first book of The Stormlight Archive): The book starts out with a prelude, which acts as a prologue for the entire series, and takes place four and a half thousand years before the start of the rest of the book. Then there is the prologue, showing the assassination of King Gavilar from his assassin's point of view. Then the first chapter is Cenn's point of view, joining Kaladin Stormblessed's squad. Then finally the story proper starts on page forty-eight, with Kaladin's first chapter. The next book in the series has a prologue showing Gavilar's assassination from his daughter's point of view, but it dives into the story much faster.
- Alias's prologues would frequently go ten to eleven minutes. The show is more radical in its first two seasons. Frequently episodes would end with the 3rd Act cliffhanger and the 4th Act would be knocked on to the next week where it would serve as an extended prologue pushing that episode's 1st Act into the 2nd Act's slot (roughly minute 11 to minute 22) the 2nd Act would then push the 3rd Act back so that the episode ended on the 3rd Act cliffhanger and so on...
- One Monty Python's Flying Circus episode begins with a behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the movie epic Scott of the Antarctic that goes on for about two thirds of the show before we see John Cleese's BBC announcer and the opening titles.
- According to SF Debris, you can usually tell how much a particular Star Trek episode will suck (especially a Star Trek: Voyager episode) by the length of the teaser; the longer the teaser, the more you're urged to run for the hills.
- Flashpoint's prologues are generally about five to six minutes, though in some cases up to ten.
- The Good Wife will routinely spend about ten minutes leading up to the title card in each episode.
- The Classic Doctor Who story "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" is a six-part story, with the entire first episode being nothing more than a lengthy prologue leading up to a dinosaur appearing at the end.
- Revenge takes about nine minutes to get to the title card.
- Parodied with the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. First there is a dedication, then a prologue, an introduction, a forward, introduction to the preface, the preface, acknowledgments, a special edition introduction, translation notes, and finally notes about the typeface.
- Episodes of Warehouse 13 have opening sequences of anywhere from a couple minutes to over 10. The series premiere took over 20 minuted to get to the title, with Pete, Myka, and Artie's character's clearly established first.
- "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" by George Thorogood doesn't reach the chorus for the first time until three-and-a-half minutes into an eight-and-a-half-minute song. Up until then, the narrator of the song loses his job, gets kicked out of his apartment, espouses on his now ex-landlord, and tries to sleep over at a friend's place, only to get rejected by the friend's wife. Nothing having to do with alcohol until the chorus itself, when the narrator orders the titular drinks from a bartender.
- Played with in Stan Freberg's cover of "Rock Island Line," which begins with a long yarn about an incident that supposedly happened on the line, repeatedly interrupted with Studio Chatter telling the singer to cut to the song.
- Pink Floyd's pechant for an Epic Instrumental Opener sometimes leads to this. "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" has about 8 minutes of music before there are any vocals.
- Clan of Xymox's Matters of Mind, Body, and Soul has a 7-minute symphonic intro track, which serves as an Epic Instrumental Opener to the first proper song.
- Porcupine Tree's 35 minute epic "The Sky Moves Sideways" takes 5 whole minutes for the singing to start.
- The first track of Death Cab for Cutie's Narrow Stairs, "I Will Possess Your Heart", has a 5-minute instrumental buildup.
- Into the Woods begins with a musical sequence introducing the characters (and setting up the plot) that lasts for 12 minutes on the original cast recording. Seeing as that takes out several lines of dialogue, it could be even longer.
- Love Never Dies originally had one set several years after the main action. It's 8+ minutes long and establishes that the beautiful Coney Island Amusement Park Phantasma was a wonderland ruined by the treachery of Madame Giry. Unfortunately, the main action starts by reestablishing how wonderful Phantasma is, so it's another six-plus minutes before any of the leads turn up. The Australian production of the show threw most of this out in favor of using the Phantom's "Till I Hear You Sing" as the prologue, followed by the original opening's "Coney Island Waltz" to establish the new setting. As it is, it's still full quarter hour into the show before Christine's arrival is mentioned and the main thrust of the plot begins.
- The 1919 musical Apple Blossoms had a first act sometimes listed as a prologue. The male lead did not appear until the middle of the next act.
- Wagner conceived of Das Rheingold as a "prelude" to the Ring Cycle proper. Although it's shorter than the other three operas of the Ring Cycle, it's still a full-length opera with a running time of over two and a half hours.
- LOTRO has this, and has it bad. Immediately after character creation, you are placed in an introduction instance. Then you're placed in either Archet or Thorin's Gate — another introductory instance. Then the game proper begins...and your epic quests are introduced in the form of a prologue. Only when you finally finish said prologue at ~Level 15 (which will likely take several hours' worth of gameplay, at least) are you FINALLY put into Epic Volume 1, Book 1. (It's actually possible to skip the prologue and go straight to Bree to begin Epic Book 1, but you miss valuable experience points by doing so.)
- Assassin's Creed III: The first three sequences have you play as Haytham Kenway, Connor's father; once control switches over, you still have a while before Connor becomes an Assassin proper. Overall it's several hours in that Connor finally puts on his Assassin's Robes. Less hated than most examples though since Haytham is likeable in his own right and it allows for more justified tutorials while still jumping into the action.
- Square Enix, developing mostly story-heavy role-playing games, has a knack for this:
- The term "Longest Prologue Ever" is popularly used to describe the first part of Kingdom Hearts II, and was even a former Trope Namer. The game's prologue takes between three to five hours (less if you skip the cutscenes, but it does remain long as hell) and does little except setting things up for the actual plot and main character. At least the boss fight at the very end is fun.
- The first game isn't quite as bad, but there's still plenty of stuff you can do on the Destiny Islands that can take quite a bit of time. Most of it is optional, though.
- Kingdom Hearts χ. After 400 stages (about 3 months if you started at opening day), you get the opening title and the plot starts.
- Final Fantasy I has the first mission which can take a decent amount of grinding to accomplish (most FAQs recommend getting to level 5) and is implied to be the primary goal, but then you get the real start and a new opening scroll.
- The 3D remake of Final Fantasy III has a significantly longer prologue than the original game. In the Famicom version, the prologue concluded at the end of the first cave, when the four orphans defeated the Land Turtle and discovered the Wind Crystal. In the remake, only one of them is present for this section of the game. The prologue is extended to introduce the newly fleshed out heroes one at a time, and they don't get the Crystal's powers until they're all together and defeat the second boss, Djinn.
- Final Fantasy VII doesn't start properly until you're out of Midgar, which can take anywhere between four to five hours, during which time the city is introduced, characters are met, vital exposition is dumped, and villains are introduced and killed off. Most players don't seem to mind, though, because even though the Midgar sequences are very linear, it's chock-full of action and intrigue relating to Shinra and AVALANCHE, to the point where some players feel that the opening is practically the high point of the entire game.
- Final Fantasy XIII is basically the same as VII, but so, so much more. Instead of growing your characters during the absurdly slow paced opening city level, as you do in VII, you are restricted to only physical attacks and area effect stuff for the first few hours. It all plays like an extended cutscene until you finally get to the crystal lake, where you finally unlock the roles and the Paradigm Shift (and even then, some of your characters have to unlock their 3rd role through story progression). Most of the early hours maintain the use of In Medias Res. However, out of 13 chapters, it's not until the beginning of chapter 11 that you will be able to choose your leader, customize your party as you see fit (the remaining roles being finally unlocked for everyone during this chapter), and finally be able to explore areas which aren't just long corridors. Because of this, a lot of people considers the first eleven chapters as part of an extended prologue. First time players interested in understanding what the characters were just talking about can check a reference guide on the main menu and find quick summaries of not only the plot (scene by scene), but relevant background information on locales, individuals, and organizations.
- Final Fantasy XIV's technical tutorial lasts from level 1 to around level 15, when you finish off the first plot arc and gain the ability to travel between city states, but things still don't really get started until around level 22 when you kill Ifrit and join the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, kicking off the main plot you'll be following for the rest of the game. On a first playthrough, this could take several hours depending on which class you pick starting off.
- Radiata Stories has Player Character Jack Russell spend the beginning of the game in a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits amongst the Radiata Knights. This takes up about 3-4 hours of the overall game, during which most of the plot gets set up. Until the prologue is over, you cannot change armor, take on side missions, or issue orders to any of your computer-controlled party members.
- The Dragon Age games love this trope:
- Dragon Age: Origins has a unique prologue for each character, generally about 45 minutes to an hour to play and then a second prologue that all characters share. Now, some if not most of the prologues are widely considered by many to have better plots than the whole rest of the game; the follow-up prologue at Ostagar as a Grey Warden recruit? Its considered to be below par with the rest of the game, with being forced to replay it once per playthrough hardly helping.
- Dragon Age II, in the meantime, opens with Church Militant Cassandra interrogating smooth-talker Varric about the whereabouts of his friend Hawke. The game starts with A Taste of Power (quickly rescinded by Narrative Backpedaling), a Tutorial Level, and a second "prologue" in the Kirkwall refugee camp—all interspersed by cutscenes—before Hawke finally meets Varric one in-story year after the tutorial, and the main story kicks off. For that matter, the entire game serves as a Prolonged Prologue to Dragon Age: Inquisition. The reason Cassandra is interrogating Verric in the first place is to find out how the Mage-Templar War got started and to see if Hawke can lead a new Inquisition to restore order. The game's ending leads right into the beginning of Inquisition.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition itself has a rather obvious "Disc One" of the game where you attempt to close the Breach, reform the ancient Inquisition, resolve the Mage-Templar War, close the Breach for real... and only then, about 15 hours in, you encounter the real villain for the first time, and the game proper begins after you establish yourself at Skyhold.
- The Wild ARMs games have a tradition of giving each character an individual prologue before joining the core party.
- The Tanker part of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Reportedly, Kojima intended the ship to be the setting for the whole game before concluding it was too small. There's even an option, after completing the game, to play just the Tanker section, and it has its own set of post-game titles.
- The Virtuous Mission prologue of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has you visit multiple regions of the game, and introduces most of the cast, before the actual Snake Eater mission.
- Star Ocean: Till the End of Time takes five to six hours before you are dumped on an actual planet most of the remaining game takes place on and start real fights.
- Persona 3 has a little over an hour of cutscenes (and one battle sequence) between the start of the game and your first opportunity to save.
- Persona 4. It takes between two to four hours before the game takes off the rails and lets you choose what to do with your day (the real meat of the game). In terms of the Dungeon Crawling gameplay, the first battle is a brief Hopeless Boss Fight, the next two (including the first boss) are entirely tutorials, an hour or so later and you get to the first real dungeon... which throws you into a boss fight and boots you out after the first floor. After all that, you're finally allowed to explore dungeons freely.
- Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth. They game doesn't become a Crossover between the above two games until after completing the first dungeon. (If this doesn't sound like much, this is an Etrian Odyssey inspired game, so the dungeons are huge.)
- Guild Wars:
- In Nightfall, what is more or less the prologue of the story takes you most of, if not all the way, to the max level. In fact, you figure that when you catch up to the Big Bad, you're going to stop her from releasing the Sealed Evil in a Can, or maybe just fight it as the really Final Boss. No, you fail to prevent her from causing the Nightfall, which you spend the rest of the game dealing with.
- In other campaigns. Prophecies begins in an idyllic map of decent size with several zones, hours of gameplay (if you do everything), and enemies up to level 10 (of 20). Many were entirely surprised when this turned out to be set 2 years before the ACTUAL game, which begins after that idyllic land is destroyed by magical crystal meteors, and maybe the size of 10% of the real game's map. Factions was similar to Nightfall in that it brought characters to near-maximum level before the prologue ended, though story-wise it was clear that you had only begun to uncover the real threat.
- Knights of the Old Republic has the very long section on Taris, exploring three levels of the city, dealing with Sith oppressors, swoop gangs, outcasts and slavers, before the planet is destroyed and the plot starts. What makes it worse is that you still have a non-Jedi class before you get to Dantooine, and you'll probably want to hold off leveling until then, to get more Jedi levels.
- Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords gives you Peragus. Big, almost depopulated mining station. REALLY big. And REALLY depopulated. If it wasn't bad enough already, half the time you're running in your underwear, with a mining laser. Alone. (Except you count voices in your head and com links as your party.) To make things worse, it's immediately followed by Telos, where you lose your ship and (temporarily) all your equipment, and have to jump through a lot of hoops to get off the boring looking space station and onto the actual planet. Just so you can recover your ship and actually explore the rest of the galaxy. Yay.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic finishing Prologue gets you though the 15 levels (out of vanilla 50) and two full planets of the game. The class stories about evenly divided between the planets being separate prologues (with the first having a self-contained plot arc) or stages of the same one.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- You spend the first few hours of Twilight Princess learning your controls as Link and Wolf-Link. You don't have any idea of what's going on until the end of the segment, and you're not free to explore the overworld until after the first major dungeon.
- You can't explore the overworld in Ocarina of Time until the tutorial (obtain sword/shield) and first dungeon (Deku Tree) are finished.
- The Wind Waker railroads you until you get a boat (and sail) several hours into the game.
- Majora's Mask. The opening sequence requires you to play through 3 in-game days (roughly 2 hours) in which you are essentially item-less and aren't allowed to leave the central hub town, and until you do so, YOU CAN'T EVEN SAVEnote . By the way, if you fail to do all of the required tasks within the 3 in-game days, you have to start over from the first day, when you arrive at the town. At least you still can talk to a scarecrow to fast-forward the remaining time until the last hours after you've done everything it takes to reach the conclusion of this prologue.
- Skyward Sword was apparently intent on averting this, though there was difficulty concerning a scene where Zelda saves Link, as this was important to show their relationship. So they cut out many scenes.
- The story mode of Star Wars: Battlefront 2, Rise of the Empire, involves various missions centred around a group of clone troopers liberating various planets from the droids and eventually taking part in Order 66. A cutscene after that event shows Vader's armour and an ominous image of the Death Star while the central character explains what the squadron did after the battle, which could be a perfectly valid ending to a game that's already full enough to be a game itself. Then the second opening crawl starts, finally introducing the actual Rise of the Empire storyline.
- Narcissu Side 2nd spends the first four chapters (out of 19) introducing the main characters, before the opening movie plays.
- While it's not technically a prologue, the beginning of Heavy Rain has you going about your ordinary life for several hours before the actual plot starts.
- Proving that it wasn't just the first half of the Square Enix merger:
- Dragon Quest II started the trend, with the game detailing the fall of Moonbrooke Castle and its Sole Survivor walking slowly to Midenhall, followed with an Exposition Dump, before you could make the Prince of Midenhall do anything. Back in the days where other games let the player control their character almost immediately after starting the game, Dragon Quest II made the player wait nearly 10 minutes before the player could do anything.
- Dragon Quest IV, If you're going to take the Hero's arc as the real start of the game, the whole 4 chapters before that will be just the prologues or background stories to you.
- Dragon Quest VII has an entire story arc and dungeon before your first battle. Its not that long proportionally (yes, 2 to 4 hours long, but generally a 100+ hour game), though, given that the game itself is one of the longest around.
- Examples from the Fire Emblem series:
- The seventh game has Lyn's Tale, a prologue + 10 chapters that deals with a plot completely unrelated to the main story (save some Early-Bird Cameo and Foreshadowing), which takes place one year later and stars a different character. (Either Eliwood or Hector) Like many examples, you can skip it on a second or subsequent playthrough... but doing that is a very bad idea, as characters from Lyn's Tale retain their level-ups when they rejoin in the main game. By skipping it you're effectively robbing around a third of the cast of up to 10 chapters worth of Exp gain. At least playing it on Hard Mode cuts out all the tutorials.
- Shadow Dragon has a prologue that lasts 4 chapters that, to the shock of many players, actually requires you to sacrifice one of your party members to progress. The entire prologue is skipped on any of the Hard Modes, in which case Frey will be assumed to have been the sacrifice. (The next game went with this as canon)
- New Mystery of the Emblem has a prologue lasting 8 chapters, unskippable this time though most of them are very short. It serves to introduce your player-created character to the world of the game.
- Endless Frontier EXCEED is split on chapters. The first three are named "Prologue 1", "Prologue 2" and "Prologue" 3 and take an hour minimum each (Note it's a long game, especially for a portable system), during which you take control of several characters, defeat several bosses, get plot and exposition going off just fine and gameplay elements are introduced and explained.
- Microcosm had an Opening Scroll that explained the star system the game was set in, the Megacorps that ran them, the struggles between them and the current covert shenanigans, and a short movie panning over the cyberpunk city, showing aircraft landing and setting up the plot at length. All told, ten or twenty minutes of prologue for a Rail Shooter that would hardly pass muster as a free web game.
- The exposition for Suikoden V takes about eight-to-twelve hours.
- Harvest Moon:
- The opening to Harvest Moon: Save The Homeland drags on for quite a while, which doesn't help the game's status as one of the least popular in the series (that and removing the marriage and family aspects). Add to that the fact that the game has Multiple Endings, and you can't skip the cutscenes on your New Game+, and that intro really gets old.
- Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility has a very long one as well, taking up multiple in game days before the set up is done being explained and they let you play on your own.
- The unskippable intro to Valkyrie Profile last for thirty minutes if you don't bother reading any of the text. If you want the complete intro, you have option of watching it on the main title with that being twenty minutes.
- MOTHER 3 is divided up into eight chapters. The first three happen over the course of three days, and cover the perspective of three different characters. Story-wise, they're important, but the gameplay suffers somewhat. It improves after the Time Skip.
- In Breath Of Fire 3, the first few missions take place in a very small portion of the map with very limited access to shops, fishing spots or masters, and after raiding McNeil Mansion, your two allies pull a Wutai Theft and aren't seen again until the second half, and any Level Grinding you did with them is wasted. After that, you're sent on a very linear mission that only allows you access to one part of the map at a time while you assemble your team, and it isn't until you defeat Stallion that you have full access to the majority of the continent and can start properly building your team.
- Advent Rising lets you witness the destruction of Gideon's Doomed Homeplanet through his eyes. It takes pretty long.
- Lufia, the prologue was so amazing, it became a prequel!
- The first chapter of Tales of Graces concerns several of the main characters as children. Chapter 2 takes place after a Time Skip and mostly revolves around setting the scene and getting the group back together now that everyone's grown up. Nothing that could possibly be construed as the main plot kicks off until roughly the end of the second chapter and start of the third. Thankfully, you can skip the first chapter in a New Game+. It costs 10 GRADE to do so, but a full playthrough can easily rack up over 1000 GRADE, so the cost is barely a factor.
- Eien no Aselia is billed as a visual novel / RPG. For the first three to five hours of the game you are reading straight dialog with no branching and no battles.
- Vampires Dawn II: Ancient Blood is right up there with Kingdom Hearts II in terms of prologue length. Watching Valnar and Alaine starting a new life, Jaina's and Nyria's backstory, Asgar's reappearance, the World Sundering spell, the heroes reclaiming the castle and getting acquainted with the new situation takes a while. It's even worse if you follow the traditional RPG routine of talking to everyone and searching everything, which a completionist will inevitably have to do given that all the prologue locations are inaccessible upon moving on.
- Occurs in all three parts of the Mass Effect trilogy.
- Mass Effect begins with a fairly long introduction on the Normandy, then the Eden Prime mission, then you have to go to the Citadel attending a Council meeting and having discussions with Anderson and Udina, running around doing a bunch of required missions (and a fair number of optional side missions). It's only after you meet Tali and attend the second Council meeting that Shepard becomes a Spectre, is given command of the Normandy, and is finally free to go out into the galaxy and do things.
- In Mass Effect 2, there's the extended prologue where the Normandy is destroyed and Shepard killed, then fighting to escape the Project Lazarus station, then meeting the Illusive Man and agreeing to work with Cerberus, then the Freedom's Progress mission. It's only after Freedom's Progress that Shepard is given the SR-2 version of the Normandy and finally, like the first game, has freedom to go out into the galaxy.
- Mass Effect 3 starts with a really long, unskippable cutscene of Shepard and Anderson attending an Alliance military meeting, then escaping the Reapers invading Earth. Then you're given control of your character, and you play a short tutorial level, with lots of autodialogue, lengthy cutscenes and minimal dialogue choices. Things get better on Mars, but the game will render the Normandy as a cutscene only location. After this you're taken to the Citadel, but much like the Normandy there are large parts of it that are locked off in order to railroad you along the story. It isn't until after you leave the Citadel, a good hour and a half into the gamenote that the game truly opens up and you can do what you want.
- Riviera: The Promised Land's tutorial is somewhere between an hour or two in length, depending on how fast you go through it. This includes when you replay the game, despite already knowing what to do. Fortunately, you're given a very powered Crutch Character that allows you to get through battles easily.
- GoldenEye (1997)'s prologue is greatly extended from the film's, with several original stories in the nine-year gap between the Dam operation and the film's present day, such as visiting the incomplete Severnaya bunker, and an Early-Bird Cameo by Ouromov in a nuclear silo.
- Fallout 3's lengthy Justified Tutorial follows the protagonist through their formative years in Vault 101. However, the game autosaves and allows you to reconfigure your character just before leaving the Vault, so the tutorial can be skipped on subsequent playthroughs.
- Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon begins with an on-rails shooter sequence, followed by the title screen and a lengthy Forced Tutorial mission, and you can't even save the game until after completing said mission.
- Golden Sun starts with a sequence where you play as a child escaping a crisis that leads up to a Hopeless Boss Fight. After a Time Skip, you have to sit through a good deal of Expospeak before heading on to the tutorial dungeon. While this segment does feature the event that kicks off the plot; it still takes until you've finished the dungeon, returned back to the village, and sat through even more dialogue before you actually set out on your quest. The whole prologue can easily take over an hour of playtime to get through.
- Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy take their sweet time in setting up their plots. In both cases, it can easily take upwards of 15 minutes to complete the tutorial level, including cutscenes. Notable in that most main-series Super Mario Bros. games have little more than an Excuse Plot at best.
- You do have some room to wander and explore Densel Town during Chapters 0 and 2 of Rakenzarn Tales, but it takes until Chapter 3 to get into the meat of the game and be able to do things like recruit party members, freely explore and take side quests. If you speed read and known what to do, the prologue and Chapter 1 aren't too bad, but the near Forced Level-Grinding in Chapter 2 can hamper your speed.
- Unlike most other SRW titles, where the player faction forms early on in the story, Earth Fleet Tenku doesn't form officially until Scenario 40 in Super Robot Wars V (the entire game is 52 scenarios long), so the "prologue" arguably takes up nearly eighty percent of the entire story.
- One of the most common complaints leveled against Pokémon Sun and Moon is just how much the game holds your hand in the beginning. It doesn't really start to back off until you've reached the second island of four. It also takes you much longer to get your starter in this game than in previous titles, which means you spend a fair amount of time running around without any Pokémon whatsoever. This was a particular pain for people who wanted starters of certain genders or natures, as the average time to getting your Pokemon was half an hour and you would have to restart entirely to get a different loadout. The remakes Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon toned this down by having you rescued by the starters and choosing your much earlier—while you still have the rest of the prologue, you did already have a Pokemon with you.
- The second demo of Starswirl Academy covers the prologue in its entirety. It takes about two hours to get through the entire thing, during which there's very few story branches. It's mostly a massive Info Dump on the school, what you can expect to see, and a brief introduction to every character.
- Fate/stay night can easily take three hours to reach the title screen, during which you "play" a different character from the game proper (with a notably different writing style), and focus mostly on characters who are unimportant or completely different from their depictions in the rest of the game. That's in scare quotes because you don't make any decisions in this part of the game.
- Umineko: When They Cry. The airport. Unlike previous (or later) installments of the "When They Cry" series, which introduce us to the characters within the context of the overall story, thus keeping the plot moving, Umineko's first episode has Battler, the main character, meet two thirds of the ENTIRE CAST in an airport, where you get huge infodumps about them, and NOTHING ELSE HAPPENS.
- You could argue the entire first Episode is this Trope. The main story in latter episodes revolve around the Meta World that is just introduced in the first Episode's epilogue. Actually, the plot description on the trope page used to spoil the entire Episode 1, Tea Party included, just to introduce the main part of the story.
- The prologue of each Dangan Ronpa game is used to introduce the setting, premise, and each character individually, which takes a considerable amount of time considering the number of characters each game has. Throw in some odd events which foreshadow late game reveals, and you have a long prologue to get through before the killing game begins. Super Dangan Ronpa 2 goes so far as to have a fake title sequence in the middle of the prologue, and New Dangan Ronpa V3 outright lampshades the prologue length.
- The Gungan Council typically has roleplays to introduce new characters. They are are supposed to be simple in order to get a new character instantly acquainted to two or more established characters. Roughly 200 words is enough per post. Some have start with 1,000, and keep this amount up through over 15 posts and essentially almost writing enough to create a novella off the bat.
- The Cold Opening to episode 1 of Battle for Dream Island Again constitutes the majority of the episode. No seriously, a whooping two to three minutes pass between the opening sequence and the end of the episode.
- Discussed by The Nostalgia Chick in her first episode, where she comments on how it takes seven minutes for Pocahontas to introduce the title character (which she notes is about 10% of the average Disney film's run time).
- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!: The Avengers don't officially form until the end of the seventh episode. Furthermore, Captain America doesn't join until the ninth episode, Black Panther doesn't join until the eleventh, and Hawkeye doesn't join until two episodes after that, meaning that the core team of eight Avengers that make up the first (26 episode) season doesn't assemble until the end of the thirteenth episode. However, the first seven episodes feature plenty of action by the heroes working solo and do set up the season nicely, so this is a case where Tropes Are Not Bad.