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Recurring Element
Chocobos. Notice how it started with "II"? When they remade the first game, they discreetly put these birds in, too.note 

For many Series, especially Video Game ones, the various incarnations are only vaguely related to each other. The works may take place on different worlds, feature entirely different characters and have very different stories. In fact, it's only the name of the work that connects it with the previous ones at all...

Only usually it isn't. Most Non Linear Sequels or Thematic Series will have a character, theme, monster, or item that is emblematic of the series and remains constant. Note that this is often not the same character, theme, etc. Sometimes only the name will remain the same. Sometimes there will be a character "inspired by" the original much like a Spiritual Successor. In all cases the recurring element is not tied to a particular world, but simply shows up in each installment of the series.

These elements aren't explicit Expies, but they serve the same purpose in aesthetics, narrative, or function, or gameplay in the case of video games. Some are officially acknowledged, some are so evident they are given Fanon names, and others are just there.

This does not cover gameplay similarities, as those go without saying.

See Recurring Riff for music examples, and Mascot Mook for the enemy monster version of this. Also see Mythology Gag, which is where a single work has a reference to another, but there is no example that covers an entire series.


Examples:

Anime and Manga

Film
  • Pretty much everything about The Crow and its sequels. The basic plot is always the same (Protagonist is killed by bad guys, along with someone else close to him, revenge ensues) and all the protagonists' names reference crow or raven (Draven, Corven, Corvis, Cuervo). Note that the first two are (very) loosely connected, with one recurring character, although played by a different actress.

Literature
  • Douglas Coupland's books recycle small elements in different ways:
    • The name of a minor character may become the name of a major/main character in a later book. Lisa is a recurring name for minor characters.
    • Backpacking across Europe (and making fun of it) has come up in multiple books.
  • The various Discworld novels take place in wildly different parts of the eponymous world, with different casts, in different time periods — but they all have the same Death. (Well, except during Reaper Man.)

Live-Action TV

Video Games
  • Final Fantasy has several:
    • Someone named Cid, often involved with airships or technology;
    • Summon monsters (Ifrit, Shiva, and Bahamut are the only ones who are in every single game);
    • Common monsters like Bombs, Behemoths, and Cactuars, and recurring bosses like Omega and Tiamat;
    • Crystals, often which have some great importance to the world the game takes place in.
      • Not to mention Square Enix are making a whole mini-series where they play an important role: Fabula Nova Crystallis
      • Also important in Bravely Default, which if not for the fact it isn't labeled as Final Fantasy, and having PG instead of Gil as currency, one would never guess it wasn't a Final Fantasy game.
    • Chocobos and moogles.
    • Gilgamesh shows up in many games, and save for a handful of appearances, is implied to be the same person in every one.
    • In an odd case, a character named Gogo, who is a mimic and dresses colorfully, is in both Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI; they're different characters though.
    • The money is always called Gil (at least once the translations got consistent).
    • Starting with Richard from Final Fantasy II you can expect someone to have the surname "Highwind". There's a good chance that said character will be a Dragoon (or at least have abilities evocative of the class). And if not, still expect some kind of nod to the name.
    • Starting with Final Fantasy VI, there's a recurring weapon (usually a Infinity+1 Sword) that goes by the name of Ultima Weapon. Other notable equipment that tends to resurface are the Genji and Onion sets of armor, Excalibur, Gungnir, Longinus, Muramasa, Masamune, Godhand, and Excalipoor/Excalipur, among others.
    • The English-based spell naming convention, as well as the [Element], [Element]ra, [Element]ga, [Element]ja nomenclature system for tiers of elemental and curative magic, like Fire, Fira, Firaga, or Cure, Cura, Curaga, Curaja. (Once again, the translations didn't quite get this at first.) Reinforcing the point, sometimes status-effect magic will use the "-ga" suffix do denote spells that affect all members of a group. Likewise, the ultimate white and black magic spells are often Holy and Flare, with Meteor and Ultima sometimes superseding the latter in rare occasions.
      • This magic naming convention appears in a lot of Square Enix games, actually: Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, and Bravely Default all make use of it.
    • Inventory nomenclature. You will always heal with Potions, always recover MP with Ethers, always revive fallen comrades with Phoenix Down, and always hoard Elixirs, Megalixirs, and X-Potions till the final boss.
  • Square Enix's other series, Kingdom Hearts, SaGa, early World of Mana, etc. have elements from Final Fantasy spilling into them. Usually in the form of items, spells, naming convention, and/or Moogles. The translation doesn't always let them keep them, however. note 
  • The Super Mario Bros. series and some of its spinoff series will have seven generals and one Big Bad to be the bosses of its 8 worlds in the 2d platformers. The Koopalings, The Tikis
  • Wild ARMs:
    • Take place on a world called Filgaia.
    • Generally star a blue-haired hero.
    • The victory music, though different in every game, is always called "Condition Green!".
    • The money is always called "gella".
  • Many games that Yasunori Mitsuda worked on have a track called "Kokoro", which is a soft, simple tune, often played as a music box. The tune itself is different in each game.
  • The two When They Cry have a supporting character, some themes, and being a "Groundhog Day" Loop Murder Mystery in common.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Although the vast majority of the Demon Compendium is always transplanted from game to game wholesale, the only demons that always appear in all games, and always with the exact same appearance, are Atlus' mascot Jack Frost and its close relatives.
  • Breath of Fire has several elements that repeat in subsequent games (though most of these were ignored in the fifth game, Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter):
    • The main character is always a blue-haired hero named Ryu, who has some kind of power involving dragons (usually transforming into them). He's also always a swordsman and has a passion for fishing (save for DQ, but not for lack of interest)
    • There's always a winged humanoid girl named Nina accompanying him. She's also very adept at magic casting as well as the princess of the Wyndia Kingdom.
    • A very helpful and powerful naga sorceress named Deis (Bleu early on), who's the same character in the first three games thanks to Immortality.
    • Always a town named Dragnier (Drogen/Dologany) and a kingom named Wyndia (Winlan/Windia), related to the respective clans of Ryu and Nina.
    • Starting in Breath of Fire II, a member of the Woren/Furen Cat Folk clan always ends up joining the party.
    • Usually the starting enemy is from the "Goo" (Slime/Sludge) type family, often a blue blob (save in II, where it's green). There's also always a gold Palette Swap "Goo King" enemy near the end of the game who's extremelly powerful.
    • Dragon-named equipment for Ryu (Dragon Sword, Helmet, Armor, etc.), which is always high-level but not the best equipment available.
    • All games use Zennies as currency, though it was translated differently in early games.
    • In the Japanese version, pretty much every magic spell use the exact same names in each of the five games (for example, fire spells are Pamu, Padamu and Padoraamu). English started using consistent naming for (most) spells since Breath of Fire III.
  • The MOTHER series

  • Mega Man:
  • The Legend of Zelda: The "Link" and "Zelda" characters are, excepting the direct sequels, different people in each game (they just happen to look exactly alike and wear the same clothes and have the same name).
  • Fallout and Harold.
    • Though Harold was obviously absent from Fallout: New Vegas and seeing how his fate has multiple endings in Fallout3 which all of them except for one, end up as And I Must Scream since he turned into an immobile tree coupled with the fact it's doubtful the writers will revisit the Capital Wasteland anytime soon. It's almost inevitable he will be Put on a Bus.
    • No protagonist has ever been without their Pip-boy.
  • The Pokémon RPG series has numerous. Some of them deviated from over the course of the series, some are subverted (Black and White in particular plays on those elements a lot)
    • You start in a small town, where you live with your mom. You meet your rival, a Pokemon Professor (named after a tree) gives you one of three starters - Grass, Fire and Water, and your rival gets the superior type. Then you get five pokeballs, a Pokedex, and a mission to catch 'em all (with a tutorial on how to do so).
    • A rival, usually male and friendly, whom you face multiple times across the region. (Two in V, one boy and one girl, and four in VI, two boys and two girls if male or three boys and one girl if female.)
    • You can get a Potion somewhere early. You get obligatory Running Shoes in III and later (ou have them from the start in VI). You also get a Bicycle later on, which is essential because it gives you access to Cycling Road.
    • Pokemon School.
    • Old, Good and Super Fishing Rods, except in V where only the Super Rod is given.
    • Some company that sells pokemon merchandise.
      • Exp. Share is often given to you by such company.
      • Alternatives to such merchandise (such as items that decrease friendship and heal, soft drinks that increase it and heal, a local speciality...)
    • Some sort of a communication device.
    • A Town Map, a map of the towns.
    • Recurring items list is way too long to be listed here, really.
    • Over the course of the game you defeat eight gym leaders. Each leader specializes in a type. Once defeated, they grant you a TM containing their most powerful Pokemon's best move, as well as a badge granting the ability to control traded 'mon up to a certain level and/or the ability to use an HM move outside of battle. (HM Surf is midgame, HM Fly usually too)
    • Oh, hey, the road here is closed. Get a badge first.
      • You are too weak to pass. Get a badge first.
    • Once you defeated all gym leaders, you deal with the iconic legendary mon of this version, then proceed to beat the Elite Four. There's four trainers with type affinities fought in succession, followed finally by the champion who usually does not have a full type affinity. Then tadaa, Hall of Fame and postgame. Champion time == expect subverted expectations.
      • In V, this is altered significantly. You fight the Elite Four, then the version mascot, then the villain team leaders, and then you have to fight the Elite Four again to reach the champion.
    • You get access to new locations when you hit postgame.
    • There's a villainous team which you stop in their tracks. They usually use poison-types, and their leader is a man (however there's often a woman amongst high command)
    • People will offer you to trade mon over the course of the game.
    • There's often an area similar to the Battle Tower from Crystal.
    • And now for the long, long list of recurring pokemon locations and categories (Insert Black and White Expies where appropriate)
      • Starters as previously mentioned.
      • Bugs, Flying-type birds and Normal-type mammals in the starting areas.
      • Cave full of Zubats. Geodudes, too.
      • A Pikachu expy, if not Pikachu itself; as fans call them, the Pika-clones.
      • Pseudo legendaries - avaliable lategame, Dragon-type, evolve really really late, stat sum of 600 in their final form.
      • Magikarp Power pokemon. Not necessarily Magikarp itself.
      • A legendary trio. Two since III - mascot trio and normal trio. Three in V, one of which is actually a quartet.
      • A legendary duo, usually exclusive to one game edition each, except in V as there are three trios.
      • An "ultimate" legendary, which is usually related to the aforementioned duo, except it's not edition-restricted and has a higher level (usually 70).
      • Legendary Mew expy - 100 in each stat. Possibly more of them, cutesy and small in design.
      • Fossils. You get one of two fossils, you can revive them later. All fossils are part-Rock type.
  • Fire Emblem will always star a sword-wielding hero attached to a noble or royal housenote  who has blue or otherwise unnaturally-coloured hairnote . In the hero's service will be a pair of cavaliers, one red and one green, and they will normally be assisted and advised by a veteran knight of questionable use.
  • The Paper Mario series has Parakarry: he is a partner in the first game, makes a cameo in the second game, is a Catch Card in the third game and leaves a note in the fourth game.

Western Animation


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