Revisiting the Roots

"So we decided to make a Mario that made a fresh start by returning to its core principles. That's why we put 'New' in the title."

A series has diverged from its original premise or formula, perhaps because it grew a beard and outgrew a few old gags. Or perhaps it jumped a shark or two to the detriment of itself. In any case, the series (in style, or tone, or premise, the characters are not necessarily literally going back) returns to an earlier format, maybe for a nostalgic/humorous looked at itself to poke fun at the behavior and actions of the characters early on in the series or maybe perhaps to fix some problems they've gained along the way.

Expect to see long-running franchises do this repeatedly. And with differing ideas on what the 'roots' of a series are. See also Retool, Continuity Drift and Running the Asylum


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball:
    • The Buu saga of Dragon Ball Z tries to go back to the humor from the beginning of the series, after a long time being a fighting series.
    • This was also attempted with the beginning of Dragon Ball GT, but bad reception lead to it being steered back from that direction. As a result of this, the initial US broadcast and home video release skipped the first 16 episodes, condensing the more important things into a recap episode.
  • Axis Powers Hetalia began with a focus on World War II, but gradually moved beyond it as the series went on. When it was serialized in Birz magazine, it returned to the original setting.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V stands out of the Yu-Gi-Oh! spin-offs because it shows the older ways of advanced summoning (Fusion, Ritual, Synchro and XYZ) alongside the newest (Pendulum summoning) and considers them as special. It also brings back old school's monsters and past archetypes, pleasing many fans.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering's 2009 core set, Magic 2010, marked a return to the flavor-driven design sensibility of the original Alpha and Beta releases.

    Comic Books 
  • Every so often, when the main members of the Rogues Gallery just can't come up with particularly good ideas for capers and run-of-the-mill street crime in Gotham City spikes upward, Batman will be called upon to beat down ordinary muggers and two-bit murderers. This never seems to bore Batman, however, but to strengthen his resolve: it reminds him how his lifelong quest began in the first place.
    Batman: (to a mugger as he handcuffs him) Slime like you made me... I owe you.
  • The New52 seems to want to do this to Superman. First they make him relive his Anti-Hero streak from the forties, and then they dial back his powers so that he's merely super-strong (as opposed to infinitely strong)

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Looks to be the case with the James Bond franchise as of Skyfall: besides the reintroduction of Q by the end of film, MI6 has moved into the Universal Exports offices from the older films, Moneypenny is reintroduced and there's a new (male) M.
  • Godzilla (2014) goes back to the roots of the original, this one is being made Darker and Edgier to feel more like a horror film, with Godzilla being more of a terrifying force of nature and with the grim results of his rampage not being glossed over.
  • Man of Steel's take on the Superman mythos is largely this, taking quite a few cues from Siegel and Shuster's earliest Superman comics from the 1930's. Clark Kent is presented as a working-class hero and a defender of the common man rather than an iron-jawed lawman, he's regarded with fear and suspicion by most authority figures, and he spends most of the movie feeling like an outsider. Even the movie's most controversial moment, when Superman snaps General Zod's neck, is actually very much in line with his Golden Age portrayal; in the early days of the comic, Superman wasn't quite the Technical Pacifist that he later became, and he had quite a few Shoot the Dog moments.note 
  • All pre-release info about The Force Awakens indicates that it's meant to be this for the Star Wars series. J. J. Abrams brought back Lawrence Kasdan to write the screenplay after he hadn't been involved with the franchise since Return of the Jedi, he made a special point of avoiding CGI whenever possible (bringing back the puppetry, models and animatronics that made the original trilogy famous), and decided to film it with traditional 35mm film—making it the first Star Wars movie since Return of the Jedi to be filmed in a non-digital format. The first trailer takes special care to emphasize the movie's Used Future aesthetic, which was a hallmark of the original trilogy.
  • Rocky V was an attempt to return to the grittier and more realistic tone of Rocky and Rocky II after lighter tone of Rocky IV. They even brought back John G. Avildsen, the director of the first movie. It didn't work, and the movie was disowned by everyone, including Sylvester Stallone.
  • After the second and third movies in the Jurassic Park series focused on people navigating Isla Sorna and surviving the wild, uncontained dinosaurs there, Jurassic World returns to the first movie's focus on the logistics and ethics of operating a dinosaur theme park. The movie emphasizes this with specific themes and elements directly paying homage to it, such as the overgrown ruins of the original park, a big entrance gate through which tourists enter the park, and even the return of the original Tyrannosaurus rex from the old park.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The fifth Season Finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ends with a battle against a demonic god for the fate of reality... but starts with Buffy killing a vampire in an alleyway. This is after she'd already blown up a giant demon snake in season three and fought off a man-made demon-cyborg in season four. Buffy even lampshades this by pointing out she hadn't done something so simple in a while.
  • Charmed's Sorting Algorithm of Evil became somewhat more akin to a bell-curve. The first three seasons dealt with them battling warlocks and demons, the fourth had them battling the very Source Of All Evil, the fifth ended with them battling the classic Greek Titans, the sixth had them go against a Well-Intentioned Extremist Angel, and the seventh had them end destroying a past contender of the Source. By the eighth and final season, Word of God says that Billie and Christy, sibling female witches like the protagonists, was a great way to ground the show.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was forced by Christopher Meloni's departure to go back to a more rounded set of characters instead of being The Stabler & Benson Show.
  • Star Trek: Voyager was this for the Star Trek franchise after Star Trek: Deep Space Nine focused more on political intrigue and Darker and Edgier themes: A lone Federation starship exploring the dangerous unknowns and meeting new life and new civilizations.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Third Doctor's tenure Retooled the series as a Spy Fiction show and made numerous changes like making the Doctor all suave and fashionable, giving him a Cool Car, having most of his adventures take place on Earth, and pairing him up with one main female companion with a gaggle of coworkers who could rotate in and out as needed. Season 12, after one transitional piece, took the show right back to the First and Second Doctor eras - the Doctor abandoned his job to travel in space, was back to having a boy/girl companion team (like most of the black-and-white era), gained a clownish and shambolic personality inspired by Patrick Troughton's portrayal while incorporating Hartnell's Blue and Orange Morality and more alien psychology, returned to the shorter serial length seen during most of the William Hartnell years, and rekindled the Hartnell-era practice of linking every story onto every other story with Cliffhangers directly in a run-on Arc format. One story in this season ("The Ark in Space") is a reworking of a proposed and unmade script submitted for William Hartnell's Doctor, and starts with a Hartnell-style first episode of the TARDIS crew wandering around solo trying to work out where they are. Another ("Genesis of the Daleks") is an origin story for the Daleks about them being locked in a nuclear war against the Thals, another thing done back in the Hartnell era. Initial plans were to cast an elderly Non-Action Guy in the role similar to William Hartnell, to break from the Third Doctor's Action Hero traits, but Tom Baker so impressed the producers and casting director that they ended up casting him even though he was at the time the youngest actor to take the role. In his first episode, the Doctor even has a significant line of Leaning on the Fourth Wall where he tells Harry that he is the Doctor - "the definite article" - with the implication that the last guy wasn't as much like the Doctor is as he is. A lot of these changes are dropped after Season 12 (like the lead-ons and the male companion) but most are kept.
    • Season 17 was a conscious attempt to move away from the Arc-based storyline and Order Versus Chaos mythology of Season 16, and back to the idea of the Doctor going on loose adventures having fun and solving smaller-scale problems. He even had his direct control of the TARDIS removed in favour of the random travel associated with Hartnell and Pertwee.
    • The Ninth Doctor's tenure, while very different in a lot of ways, stripped away a lot of continuity for a 'back to basics' approach and re-established points about the tone and the Doctor's character that had been part of the show right at the very beginning but were forgotten about later. The Doctor being a refugee from a terrible war who could never return home was part of the initial series premise (that got changed by Terrance Dicks when he actually got to write The Reveal) and agony over changing the past and the Dirty Business involved in world-saving were emblematic tropes of the early years that soon got buried by the Monster of the Week premise the show developed - and RTD dug them both back up again in order to connect new viewers to the Doctor.
    • The Eleventh Doctor's tenure reintroduced a number of elements from the classic series that had been long gone. Series 7, itself a loose prologue to the 50th anniversary specials, saw the gradual reintroduction of the Doctor's face superimposed over the time vortex in the title sequence, the redesigned TARDIS interior based more closely on the First Doctor-era sets (albeit with better production design) and several 1960s and 1970s-era antagonists (the Great Intelligence, the Ice Warriors, the Zygons) were finally reintroduced into the show. Even the Eleventh's costume, bow tie and all, is based closely on the Second Doctor's old threads. The approach to the plots also hearkens back more to the older style of more isolated settings and horror-like stories as opposed to the bombastic, blockbuster-like style of Russell T. Davies — the Series 6 finale even has the Doctor saying that he had gotten "too big, too noisy" as of late.
    • The casting of Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor was seen as a further move in this direction, bringing the Doctor back to the Cool Old Guy visage characteristic of the show's early days. Tellingly, Capaldi ties with William Hartnell for the oldest actor ever to take the role, but he follows Matt Smith — the youngest actor ever to take it. This is all heavily lampshaded in "Deep Breath", where Vastra points out to Clara that the Doctor has been an old asexual alien for far longer than he's been a handsome young Chick Magnet in a bow tie. His stories take even more cues from the Classic series, with heavy use of major Internal Homage ("Robot", "Genesis of the Daleks", "The Invisible Enemy", "The Moonbase", "The Ark in Space" and "Tomb of the Cybermen" all contribute major plotpoints and setpieces to various stories), longer, actor-driven scenes returning to the series' theatrical history and more use of Practical Effects and People in Rubber Suits (although much better looking than the ones in the Classic series). He even has two teachers at Coal Hill School and a disruptive Coal Hill School pupil as his companions, directly referencing the original companion team of Ian, Barbara and Susan.
    • The modern series brought longer episodes than classic Who, but more single-episode stories, meaning fewer cliffhanger episode endings. For series 7 Steven Moffat eliminated cliffhangers altogether, and this mostly held for series 8 as well. The Season Finale, however, was a two-parter with a classic cliffhanger in the middle, and series 9 is known to have at least two multi-part stories.
  • The 2016 revival of The X-Files seems to be doing this. Mulder and Scully are broken up, and back working as FBI agents. On the behind the scenes side, the show will return to filming in Vancouver, and feature episodes written by early season writers such as Darin Morgan.

  • Starflyer 59's album I Am the Portuguese Blues was a deliberate throwback to their first three albums: lots of guitar distortion and no keyboards, in contrast with the Synth Pop-influenced sound they had evolved into since then. (In fact, most of the tracks were unreleased demos from that era, re-recorded for this album.) Its cover art (a solid color, with no text at all) was also a reference to those first three albums.
  • Loreena McKennitt started off singing traditional Celtic songs and slowly expanded to include other cultures, becoming more of a World musician. In 2010, she released an album composed of traditional Celtic songs.
  • The Beatles and Let It Be. It bears pointing out that the Let It Be project was originally called Get Back because this was precisely the idea (and that of course is also the reason the song was called "Get Back"). This was an attempt to return to the sort of spontaneous, energetic rock and roll they'd played at the beginning of their career - as opposed to the sophisticated and intricately produced music they'd moved on to. The recording sessions were a disaster, and they largely abandoned the "back to basics" approach for their last recorded album, Abbey Road.
  • Orbital first rose to prominence making acid techno—then they switched to a style based on eclectic sampling, while straddling the line between ambient and rave music. (Another attempted style change, 2001's darker album The Altogether, was not as well-received.) For their 2004 release, Blue Album—at the time, meant to be their last album ever—they returned to the acid techno sound of their early years. The song "One Perfect Sunrise" was a modern counterpart to their classic "Halcyon + On + On". Even the title, Blue Album, was a reference to Orbital's first two albums, which were officially self-titled but unofficially known as Green Album and Brown Album.
  • They Might Be Giants' 2011 album "Join Us" brought back some of the drum machines and synths from their first few albums.
  • Ratt's 2010 album "Infestation" brought back the band's classic hard rock sound.
  • Elton John did this twice:
    • In 1983, after a bit of a Dork Age of inconsistent albums and slow sales, with some Executive Meddling involved, Elton reunited his core band of Davey Johnstone (guitar), Dee Murray (bass) and Nigel Olsson (drums), the core musicians who backed Elton on his classic 1972-75 material, hiring Bernie Taupin back as full-time lyricist, and delivered a consistent and '70s-nostalgic set of material with subtle synth touches. The album that resulted, Too Low For Zero, and the memorable Music Videos he filmed to promote the albums, lead to Elton's comeback in The '80s.
    • In 2001, after another bit of a Dork Age of inconsistent synth-and production-heavy, AOR-geared albums, Elton, infuenced by listening to Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker album, decided to write a full album of strong material with a "stripped-down" sound, Songs From The West Coast, aimed more at his singer-songwriter roots than the pop charts. It gained moderate sales, but earned him his strongest reviews in years and restored much of his reputation as an artist. It also paved his direction over his career for the next 14 years and counting.
  • Of Montreal has done this twice. 2002's Aldhils Arboretum and 2013's Lousy with Sylvianbriar are both built around straight forward rock songs (well, straightforward by Kevin Barnes standards) that harken back to the band's early indie days. What's more, both albums followed a series of elaborate concept albums.
  • Good As I Been To You (1992) by Bob Dylan marked his return to his roots by being the first solo acoustic studio album he recorded since Another Side Of Bob Dylan (1964).
  • Disintegration (1989) marked The Cure's return to their Goth Rock roots after several years of a more accessible commercial sound. Producers feared it would become a flop, but it actually was a huge critical and commercial bestseller, well regarded nowadays as their Magnum Opus.
  • Metallica had a somewhat rocky experience with this in the 00's. After dabbling with commercial hard rock on "The Black Album" and then bluesy post-grunge on "Load" and "ReLoad" during the 90's, 2003's "St. Anger" was hyped as a return to the band's thrash metal roots. The results were... disappointing, to say the least. Fortunately, five years later, the band released "Death Magnetic," which was indeed their long-promised return to the sound and style of their 80's material (albeit with some appropriately modern touches).

    Video Games 
  • Guitar Hero Live ditched the bass guitar and drums that were added in Guitar Hero: World Tour, but it kept the vocals and introduced a new guitar controller.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog series:
    • After going 3-D and having elaborate storylines and darker characters, begot Sonic Advance, which played in 2-D and was very reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in stage design, game mechanics, and the simple plot of "Dr. Eggman kidnaps animals; Sonic rescues them."
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I and Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II was another try at going back to basics, though it had different physics from the original games and used the modern character designs. While this was enough to placate casual fans, those involved with the Sonic fanbase's fangame and hacking communities (which have been responsible for classic Sonic fangames with the exact look and physics of the originals as well was the recent mobile ports of Sonic 1, 2, and Sonic CD) took significant issue with the physics and look of the game. Attempts by SEGA of America to placate this part of the fanbase by inviting them to a special event to take their feedback went even further south when it was made evident that SOA was just giving them lip service.
    • This would be remedied, ironically, in a game designed to evolve the series further: Part of the premise of Sonic Generations is that Sonic from the classic games is brought forward in time to the present. Classic Sonic plays very close to the original games, closer than in Sonic 4, and is near indistinguishable in the 3DS version.
  • After 10 years of collecting Stars and Shine Sprites, New Super Mario Bros. 1 and New Super Mario Bros. Wii went back to the original Super Mario premise of having to reach the end of the stage, flagpole at the end and everything. This idea was so successful that Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World wound up having the exact game design style transferred to 3-D.
  • Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10: By that time, Mega Man games had complex storylines and complicated gameplay. These two games kept their plots simple and plays almost exactly like an extension of Mega Man 2, even keeping the NES appearance. In fact, these two games were designed by the same people who made the original Mega Man games.
  • Halo 2 and Halo 3 added all sorts of new aspects. though the Gaiden Game (Halo 3: ODST) and prequel (Halo: Reach) deliberately scaled them back, hewing closer to the original gameplay model presented by Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo 5: Guardians once again features a pair of protagonists, an idea that was tried in Halo 2 but was not expanded upon due to the Arbiter being a Base Breaker at the time.
  • The Final Fantasy series; after VI was a steampunk world that coined the term Magitek, VII and VIII shifted to a modern-esque setting with electricity spaceships and cities. IX then brought things back to a medieval setting of castles, airships and villages. As well, while VII and VIII had a three-character party system where they were as unique in battle (or not) as the character customized them, IX went back to the style of four party members with pre-set skills as earlier games had done.
  • Atelier Rorona is intended to be this for the Atelier series. After the more standard Eastern RPG style of Atelier Iris and Mana Khemia games, Atelier Rorona returns to the simulation, alchemy-based gameplay of the first five games (which are only available in Japan).
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Thief: Deadly Shadows was in many ways a blend of the sensibilities of the first two games, but it recalls the style of the first one a bit more, without being a homage. It has a tighter story focus, more firmly medieval set dressing with less overt steampunk, a slightly more supernatural tone, and a smaller, humbler assortment of gadgets. All this while also keeping the narrative and gameplay focus on The City and on the mundane heist missions, just like the second game.
  • To date, nearly every game based on the Alien series has taken its cues from the later movies (Aliens onward), featuring Badass Space Marines facing waves of Xenomorphs with BFGs. Alien: Isolation revisited the franchise's Survival Horror roots, pitting a lone everyman protagonist against a single alien in a dark spaceship, just as the 1979 original did. As the production staff has stated in interviews, practically everything in the game (from architecture to sound effects) is inspired by the original Alien in some way.
  • After struggling with the difficult-to-program and (initially) overpriced PlayStation 3, many people have observed that Sony's strategy with the PlayStation 4 returns to the principles that made the original PlayStation so successful, such as a developer-friendly system architecture and a competitive price point. This is alluded to by Mark Cerny in a press conference; since the PlayStation 2, Sony's architecture got progressively harder to work with and games took longer to develop for them. With the PlayStation 4's architectual simplicity, they returned to the swiftness of the original PlayStation.
  • Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools Of Destruction is purported to be this by the developers. After a war-like third entry and a darker game-show-arena fourth entry, Tools distilled the series down to the core elements that worked the best from all four previous titles, whilst also adding in a few new ideas of its own and a larger emphasis on the plot. While later games went in different directions again, the tone and basic gameplay never deviated far from what Tools of Destruction established.
    • Full Frontal Assault was coined as being this for the camera angle after All 4 One used an on-rails third-person camera, while Into the Nexus was this for the gameplay overall.
  • DiRT Rally was deliberately developed as a technically up-to-date, no-nonsense Nintendo Hard rally simulation game, in the vein of the Colin McRae Rally series and once-rival titles such as Richard Burns Rally. Codemasters kept the game's existence under wraps until the last minute, in order to give fans of their older rally titles a real surprise. Given the positive reception of the game, it seems to have payed off.

    Web Comics 

    Web Animation 
  • For the Homestar Runner short "Hremail 7" (which retcons the origins of the Strong Bad Emails), the characters reverted back to older models (and for some of them, older voices), and the dialogue features a bunch of catch phrases or running gags that hadn't been used in years.

    Web Original 
  • The Irate Gamer, since the jump to HD, had an ongoing storyline. Towards the end of the storyline, Bores created some non-sequential episodes that were closer to the earlier videos.
  • After its initial gimmick of mashing two or more popular weapons into a single weapon fell flat with the fans, Man At Arms: Reforged went back to the original series' premise of simply forging weapons from various fantasy series'.

    Western Animation