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Surprisingly Improved Sequel
(talking about Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2) "Y'know, I want to write and direct the third installment of this franchise, and make it the best thing anyone has ever seen, just so I can force critics to say "My God, you have to see Baby Geniuses 3!"
— Ash, The Shitty Movie Night Podcast
So you've read a book, watched a movie, or played a video game, and you're underwhelmed. Maybe the story was cliched and unoriginal, or it was difficult to follow. The characters were little more than a handful of personality traits. If it was a video game, the gameplay maybe had some good ideas but they were handled poorly and the effort was wasted.
The book, film, or game may even have been pretty good, it's just that after reading it you try out the sequel and you're completely blown away. It's much better. The story is more original, the pacing was fixed, the characters who seemed so flat before are now more fleshed out and interesting in their own right. If it's a video game, the gameplay has been much improved and everything comes together more tightly. You weren't expecting the next product to be this good, but it seems the creator(s) did indeed learn from their mistakes. You're rightly impressed.
There are several reasons for the surprisingly good sequel. Franchises with more regular production cycles can help studios retain talent and acquire financial backing more easily. It can also allow the production team more time to hone the stylistic aspects of their works. In fact many authors and directors claim that some of their first work in a series was a near miss and they didn't really hit stride until the sequel. Franchises which plan things beforehand are particularly able to take advantage of this because they're less likely to get caught in in the sort of death spiral an open ended series can fall into. On the other hand, other sequels are better than the original for the exact opposite reason; the production team on the first work was terrible and a Continuity Reboot was the only way out.
The opposite of Sequelitis in many cases, though sometimes a great sequel can produce a bad third or fourth installment (which would make it the opposite of Sophomore Slump). One rule espoused by some fans of comic-book style movies is that the sequels will have a chance to be better films overall, due to not having to get the origin out of the way.
Growing the Beard is similar, but it deals with a television series that becomes remarkably better once it finds its stride.
Note the name of the trope! This is about the sequels to products that either sucked or weren't that good to begin with, but somehow magically improved a lot in the next installment. This is not about products that were already very good but got better. If the original was excellent to begin with rather than mediocre, then it's an Even Better Sequel. Naturally, examples will be subjective.
See also More Popular Spin-off, Sequel Displacement.
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Yu-Gi-Oh! (Toei series) was based on the manga, which is weird considered the series has suffered Adaptation Displacement from the second series onward. Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters is markedly better both in storyline plotting and production values, and while the voice acting is debatable (the first one had a lot of seiyuu greats), most of the casting choices are better fits.
Vampire Hunter D was basically another cheesy 80's Gorntasic OVA/movie with a terrible dub. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, on the other hand, is far more serious, and the story and aesthetics are much more improved.
Apparently, Stratos 4 falls under this trope, what with Advance having a better, more sensible plot that the original.
MD Geist was a mediocre OVA from The Eighties given popularity in North America due to a widespread advertisement campaign by those who licensed it. This popularity managed to sway the director of the OVA to make a sequel after ten years; those ten years of experience are very evident.
Birdy the Mighty: Decode is widely regarded as a vast improvement over the original four-episode OVA.
Additionally, Pokemon The First Movie and Pokémon 2000 are both regarded as nostalgic but rather juvenile. Pokémon 3, however, is dark, more personal, better animated, and spends a lot of time developing its antagonist, who goes in far more of a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds direction than the previous two-dimensional villains. (While the first movie is considered to be very good in Japanese, it averts this trope since it's, well, the first movie.)
The first entry in Nitroplus's science adventure series, Chaos;Head, was not terribly well-regarded, especially in anime form. Both the Steins;Gate visual novel and anime, on the other hand, are regarded as high tier science fiction.
Transformers Energon is commonly regarded as one of the worst series in the franchise for its lazy plot, flat characters whose development is continuously nullified, amateurish CGI work and a horrendous American version with a nonsensical script and enormous plot holes. Transformers Cybertron is mostly seen as So Okay, It's Average, but it's an improvement in all areas: the characters are more memorable, the CGI's much more polished (if still not stellar), the story has pacing problems but at least doesn't run out of steam halfway through, and the dub had a lot of effort put into it. And it's fun.note Cybertron was originally released as a sequel to Energon only outside of Japan, although it was actually conceptualized as such even there. However, Japanese fiction has later abandoned this idea, and now regards Cybertron as a real sequel to Energon.
The Pink Panther is widely regarded as a slightly above average '60s caper film, elevated by the presence of Capucine, David Niven, and Peter Sellers in the (supporting) role of Chief Inspector Clouseau. Its sequel, A Shot in the Dark, performs a bit of a genre shift (it's a Dolled-Up Installment that shifts the focus to Clouseau), and is widely regarded as one of the best comedies of that particular decade. It also introduced characters and elements that became series staples: manservant Cato and his karate attacks, former Chief Inspector Dreyfus and his being driven to madness by Clouseau, etc. Regrettably, they didn't know when to quit when they were ahead.
Bloody Murder 2: Closing Camp was seen as a vast improvement over the original, not that that's very surprising, since the original was Godawful.
The Boogeyman sequels are generally viewed as a step up from the entirely mediocre original.
The Exorcist is considered a classic horror film, its sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic is considered a classic example of sequelitis. The Exorcist III, while not as good as the first one, is definitely agreed to be much better than its immediate predesessor. This can be seen in the Rotten Tomatoes Score with the first getting a fresh 87%, the second a really low 22% and the third a barely rotten 59%.
The third and especially fourth Final Destination films are considered a Dork Age for the franchise... a Dork Age that many critics deem to have ended with the fifth film, which has been called the best since the original. But not in a financial sense, since the film was enough of a failure to be its Franchise Killer.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation featured better actors, no cheap gimmicks, the costumes of Cobra Commander and Snake Eyes were impressive, the effects were really good, which made it seem like more of an effort to be a GI Joe movie this time around than the previous effort.
The exemplar for the series would have to be The Spy Who Loved Me. The Man with the Golden Gun is considered one of the weakest, if not the weakest entry in the entire series, in terms of box office gross, fan reactions, and critical reception. The Spy Who Loved Me on the other hand, was a great commercial success and a hit with both fans and critics. It's almost guaranteed to land on any "Top 10 Bond Films" list worth its salt, and some Bond fans consider it better than Goldfinger.
It happened again with the badly-received Quantum of Solace, which suffered from the writers strike of the mid-2000s. Quantum was subsequently ignored by Skyfall, which many fans consider to be nearly as good as or even better than Casino Royale. Of course, Casino Royale (considered the best Bond film of the 2000s) was itself a follow-up to the universally reviled Die Another Day, marking the series' reboot after the Brosnan films' Jumping the Shark moment.
There is this German teen comedy called Knallharte Jungs (More Ants in the Pants in the English dub) about a boy whose penis can talk. It was actually brilliant and hilariously funny. Now, this movie was actually a sequel to another movie called Harte Jungs (Ants in the Pants in the English release) And my God, was that one lame!
While Men In Black II is widely considered a mediocre rehash of the original, Men In Black III has been surprisingly well-received.
Psycho Cop was an incredibly generic and forgettable slasher film, while the sequel (the uncut version, that is) was amusingly zany and over-the-top, and benefited greatly Robert R. Shafer much improved acting (in the first one, he somehow combined Large Ham with Dull Surprise).
While the first two Puppet Master movies are fairly decent horror flicks, the third one, which actually goes into Andre Toulon's back story, is considered a classic.
Saw VI was regarded by fans and critics alike as a huge improvement over the two previous sequels and generally regarded as a worthy successor to the original trilogy.
Although not as well-regarded as the original trilogy, critics generally gave much better reviews to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith when it was released in comparison to the first two prequels.
Reviews for The Wolverine seem to be placing it as one to X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It can also be considered one to X-Men: The Last Stand, since The Wolverine takes place after Logan was forced to kill Jean Grey.
After Iron Man 2 was Sequelitis for the first Iron Man, Iron Man 3 is considered this by critics featuring a fully scripted screenplay (the previous movies had been loosely scripted and improvised) and a more focused plot with more effective villains and a better personal character arc for Tony.
The FredMade-for-TV Movie trilogy is considered to be not very good, but people think that each succeeding movie is better than the preceding one.
The The Fast and the Furious starts tout in typical Sequelitis fashion, The first one wasn't particularly well received, and the following entries got progressively disdainful critical receptions (53 -> 36 -> 36 -> 27 on Rotten Tomatoes). Then Fast Five was released and was generally considered by critics to be a solid heist movie. Fast And Furious 6 didn't get as much critical acclaim but is still considered a worthy sequel to its predecessor.
An older literary example, is that Anthony Trollope's celebrated novel Barchester Towers is actually the sequel to the lesser-known The Warden.
The first two books of The Dresden Files, Storm Front and Fool Moon, are considered to be okay, if nothing special. Book 3 onwards, when the main plot kicks in, is far better.
Bruce Coville's My Teacher Is an Alien is a decent standalone science fiction story. The three sequels, however, are an epic, philosophical, and surprisingly deep look at the human condition through the eyes of extraterrestrials. When people praise the series, it is almost always the sequels they are talking about, with the original being more like a pilot episode that sets up the characters. The Rod Allbright books follow the same pattern.
R.A. Salvatore's The Crystal Shard reads, especially in its first hundred pages, like it was written by a sixteen-year-old who'd just read The Lord of the Rings. His later novels are a marked improvement in comparison.
The Sword of Shannara has some rough patches and comparisons (justified or not) to The Lord of the Rings abound. The later books found more solid footing. Brooks has stated that The Elfstones of Shannara (the second book) needed a lot of editorial work, but it's his favourite as a result. In fact, if the long awaited film project ever gets off the ground, Elfstones will be the first book filmed as Sword is considered far too similar to LOTR to even attempt.
The first Culture novel, Consider Phlebas, is a passable science fiction novel. The next, The Player of Games, is the first in which the whole impact of what the Culture is like can be felt, and is usually the one recommended to read first. The key problem being that in Consider Phlebas, the Culture are the antagonists, with the hero of the story being an enemy soldier, more or less, who is obviously none too fond of them. The criticisms he raises of this society are a lot easier to understand and ponder on when you actually know more about just what the Culture is.
Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, sequel to The Da Vinci Code - he breaks away from a lot of the cliches that had bogged down his earlier books (the formulaic opening sentence, the first good guy mentioned dying, a Token Romance) - and spins a thriller that ends up not postulating a likely incorrect view of history, but one that hinges on the idea that wisdom lives inside us.
A possible subversion when comparing The original Battlestar Galactica, which was pure 70s sci-fi cheese, though very fun show nonetheless. The Sci Fi Channelremake, however, took the concept, scraped off the cheese, and made it Darker and Edgier with a great deal of over the top melodrama. The resulting show was considered a surprising improvement over the original series by some and has garnered a great deal of critical acclaim.
Morgan Spurlock's documentary series 30 Days can be considered this to Spurlock's earlier documentary Super Size Me. Like Super Size Me, each episode explored a social or political issue via a 30-day experiment with a different lifestyle, but it lacked the former film's Anvilicious nature and questionable scientific methods, since it was about honestly examining people's reactions to dabbling in different ways of life. It helped that most episodes featured a volunteer participant living out the experiment (rather than Spurlock himself), meaning that it came off as much less preachy than many people perceived Super Size Me to be.
Tends to be extremely common with a lot of bands, and quite often the first album most bands actually make are never released by the label that signs them or is cannibalized to make their first official album.
Tori Amos' original band, Y Kant Tori Read?, paled in comparison to her first solo album, Little Earthquakes.
Radiohead got a significantly more sophisticated sound with The Bends, than they had in their debut. Even more so with OK Computer. Their sound has continued to evolve, but that one's generally considered their best.
Van Morrison's first album, Blowin' Your Mind, was a compilation of earlier singles, including the Black Sheep Hit "Brown-Eyed Girl", and was disowned by Morrison. His second album, Astral Weeks, is usually regarded as his Magnum Opus.
Mötley Crüe's debut album, Too Fast for Love, was a decent glam metal album, held back by inexperience on behalf of the band and rather inept management. Their next album was expected to be more solid, but when Shout at the Devil was released it blew said expectations out of the water. This happened again later, twice. After Vince Neil killed someone in a car crash and served a jail term, no one expected much out of the Crue, but Girls Girls Girls ended up being a great album. Unfortunately, the band's well-publicised substance abuse problems made the tour complete crap, and between Tommy Lee and Heather Locklear's marriage, Nikki Sixx's near-fatal heroin overdose, Mick Mars' struggle with alcoholism and ankylosing spondylitis, and Vince Neil effectively leaving the band for a time, they were pretty much dismissed as washed-up former stars. Then, they released Dr. Feelgood. In just over a month they were number one on the charts. Dr. Feelgood is still considered their best album by most fans.
After the release of their first album, Talk Talk was dismissed as a cheap Duran Duran knock-off band. With each successive album, however, their sound matured and they ventured into more experimental territory, eventually dropping the New Wave genre completely and becoming an influential Post-Rock vanguard, culminating with their final album, 1991's critically adored Laughing Stock.
Some people might wonder why Tchaikovsky's three symphonies are numbered 4, 5, and 6. That's because his first three symphonies aren't nearly as good and are usually ignored.
Rachmaninoff's first symphony was a complete critical failure and flopped so hard on its first (and only, during Rachmaninoff's lifetime) performance in 1897 that it almost destroyed Rachmaninoff's career, launching him into a severe depression during which he composed almost no music for over three years. When he finally started composing again in 1900, he started with his Second Piano Concerto, which is now one of the most famous pieces of music in the entire repertoire. He also wrote a second symphony in 1906-1907 which met much greater success than his first.
This actually happens quite a bit with the classical composers. For example, listen to the first piano sonatas of Chopin, Scriabin, and Prokofiev. They don't really have the "je ne sais quoi" you expect from those composers, do they? Now listen to their second piano sonatas and suddenly, all is well with the universe.
Katy Perry was just an unpopular pop wannabe with One of the Boys (with the exceptions of "Thinking of You", "Hot n Cold" and "Waking Up in Vegas"). But then she released "California Gurls". Catchy, radar-dodging, but nothing special. But then the song "Teenage Dream" came. And the whole album came. It changed her music career forever, and with all the CrowningMusicOfAwesome it gained a legion of fans. Prism, the next album, managed to be alright with critics, getting a 61 on Metacritic.
While we're on the topic of pop albums, Ke$ha hasn't really been known for thought-provoking lyrics. However, her second full album, Warrior, was praised by critics for being a bit more edgy and meaningful than her recent efforts, giving the album a 71 on Metacritic.
Nirvana's Nevermind. The band's first album Bleach is a muddy sounding and sporadically brilliant album (compare "Blew", "Negative Creep" and "About a Girl" with the less distinguished songs like "Big Cheese", "Swap Meet" and "Downer"). Few people at the time saw any reason why Nirvana were any more promising than other Seattle bands like Mudhoney, TAD, and Mother Love Bone.
Ditto with The Smashing Pumpkins; their first album Gish was a weird mashup of pre-grunge, post-80s Hard rock. By comparison, Siamese Dream is considered on par with Nevermind when it comes to 90s alternative.
Imagine if, tomorrow, Tiffany released an award-winning, angsty, introspective, multi-platinum-selling album that would become one of the defining albums of the decade it was released in. Got that picture in your head? Good, because that is exactly what happened in 1995, when a CanadianTeen Idol by the name of Alanis Morissetteswitched from cheesy bubblegum pop to chick rock and released Jagged Little Pill. There's a reason why nobody mentions the first two albums in her discography.
Even as far back as the mid-1980s, Faith No More showed an amazingly promising, interesting and unique sound brought down by inconsistent songwriting, lack of direction, and a "singer" by the name of Chuck Mosley who was little more than a Wesley Willis-esque novelty act that could only take the material so far. With The Real Thing the band's sound and vision became much more cohesive and realized, and they jackpotted on a replacement you might have heard a few glowing things about. Oh and there's also the thing where it had a hit song and sold a lot of copies. And then came the next album...
Kelly Clarkson's first album Thankful, made just off of her winning American Idol, was a modest hit. Its success was credited to the popularity of the show more than to her. Her second album Breakaway, featuring such hits as "Behind These Hazel Eyes", "Walk Away", "Since U Been Gone" and the title track, was huge and established her firmly as a pop star.
Simple Minds' first album is... Well, let's just say that "Simple Minds play Three Chords and the Truth" is at best a flawed proposition. Had they not made Reel to Real Cacophony but a year later, it's doubtful that any but the most devoted punk fan would have had the slightest recollection of them.
The Slits. Though their early work was never officially released, an appearance in The Punk Rock Movie, various high profile gigs supporting The Clash and The Sex Pistols, and a Peel Session (which is more than many of their peers ever got around to doing) firmly established them as a shambolic but enthusiastic Punk band, most notable for being one of the very few all women line ups of the time. When they eventually recorded an official first album, 1979's Cut, they'd learned how to play their instruments and veered wildly off into Dub and Funk territories. It was a landmark release in Post-Punk history, but was such a radical shift in style and playing ability it prompted accusations of hiring session musicians and never actually playing on the record.
Similar to the Radiohead and Van Morrison examples, Jethro Tull and Rush have parallel origins: Their first albums, This Was and Rush respectively, were basically just rip-offs of Cream and Led Zeppelin, again, respectively, then their second albums, Stand Up and Fly By Night were considered improvements, their third albums Benefit and Caress of Steel received mixed reviews(though more so in the latter case), and their fourth albums, Aqualung and 2112 are considered their breakouts, establishing them as legends of Progressive Rock.
It's generally accepted that blur's debut Leisure has its moments, but is overall a rather patchy late-"baggy" era album. Without the benefit of hindsight, there's nothing to indicate that three years later they'd be one of Britain's biggest bands of the mid-90s with the iconic Britpop release Parklife. (The change in direction- and improvement- started with Modern Life is Rubbish, but that wasn't a major success on its first release).
Very few people rated Eurythmics' first album In The Garden - it was largely ignored at the time, spawned no hits, and although still in print, nevertheless remains pretty obscure today. Their second album Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), on the other hand...
Shania Twain's first album was mostly-forgettable and mostly-forgotten mainstream country of the early 1990s. Her second and third albums, The Woman in Me and Come On Over, are two of the best-selling country albums of all time by a female artist, and both were loaded with extremely popular singles.
There's nothing particularly bad about the first three albums by Queen - at their worst, they're So Okay, It's Average - but their fourth album, A Night At The Opera is regarded as one of the best albums they ever produced and widely seen as one of the best albums of The Seventies. (Rolling Stone ranked it at #231 in their top 500 albums.)
Similarly, their later album The Works was also a great improvement on its predecessor - although this has more to do with the fact that the predecessor in question, 1982's Hot Space is widely seen as the worst album Queen ever did.
1969's Empty Sky was a fairly competent, psychedelia-infuenced debut album, but it barely hinted at Elton John's talents, save for the ballad "Skyline Pigeon", which Elton would re-record as a B-side in 1973. Elton's 1970 Self-Titled Album with "Your Song", "Take Me To The Pilot" and "Border Song" would be Elton's Breakthrough Hit album.
The Score (1996) by The Fugees was a bestseller which met with more critical acclaim than their poorly received debut album "Blunted On Reality" (1994). Even the band themselves saw this record as a failure, because of all the Executive Meddling.
The first pinball machine themed on The Simpsons, made by Data East and sharing the same name as the show, is widely considered a competent but unremarkable table, with simplistic rules that have nothing to do with the show, a tendency to lose the ball even when playing well, and a sparse sound package with minimalistic quotes or clips taken from the show. 13 years later, Stern released The Simpsons Pinball Party, with a complex set of rules deeply integrated with the show, more things to do on the machine with nothing aimed at the drain, and extensive voice work from the actors recorded just for the machine. The Simpsons Pinball Party is considered by pinball fans to be one of Stern's greatest pinball machines, if not one of the greatest pinball machines ever made.
Most of Matt Ward's 5th edition codexes are rather divisive among Warhammer40000 fans. The Space Marines codex has some base-breaking fluff. The Blood Angels Codex has several Game Breaker elements, while the Grey Knights codex has both. The reaction to the news that Ward would be writing the 5th Edition Necrons codex was... less than stellar. But when the codex was released, it turned out that Necrons Codex was mechanically well balanced, and while it did introduce several massive retcons to the existing Necrons fluff, most fans agree that those changes were long overdue and rescued Necrons from being a Generic Doomsday Villain.
Whilst the second game's campaign consisted of mostly stand-alone missions, the sequel's has a much stronger, inter-connected storyline that culminated in the reveal of the series villain. Whilst not quite as fast-paced and insane as the previous entry and with a weaker multi-player, the faults of both games balance each other out and they're often considered on par with each other, with which is better depending largely on one's personal preferences (most fans do consider them both great games however).
It certainly happens in Dungeon Siege. In the first game, the characters you could hire for your party were a bunch of one-dimensional mercenaries that came out of nowhere. In Dungeon Siege II, the characters were given their own personalities, conversations amongst each other, and even their own side quests.
Zone of the Enders sold well mostly because it came with a demo for Metal Gear Solid 2. The game itself was decent enough but suffered from repetitive battles, criminal shortness and whiny and cliched characters, leading to a somewhat mixed reaction. As such, many people who liked the original concept were happy to see the sequel tighten up the controls, give you twice as many options in battle and include a long and interesting plot to follow. They were even more surprised to see whiny and annoying characters in the first game return in style, having leveled in Bad Ass in the intervening time between games.
Bloody Roar was an obscure, poorly-balanced mess of a game, with overly simple but awkward controls, poor AI, and a wannabe SNK Boss, thus the only appeal of the game was its relative simplicity and novelty, and possible pandering to furries (or Alice). Bloody Roar 2, however, was an elegant masterpiece, fixing the system into something much less cumbersome and very easy to play, yet empathizing mind games and strategies, and allowing the player (or Cpu) to easily counter fools who would try to button mash, the balance was much better (though still far from perfect..), Story mode was introduced, and the game's story improved tenfold, the AI was dramatically improved, the low levels still being fairly easy and welcoming to new players (you could button mash most of the opponents on setting 1 and 2, though if you tried it on the final boss you would be horribly beaten down) and the hard levels capable of challenging an experienced and intelligent player, and the Final Boss was extremely hard and clever, yet he was still balanced for VS play, and fought fairly (no reading your buttons, or moving at impossible speeds, or moves that take off half your life in one hit, though he could combo you painfully). Sadly the game only managed a small yet strong fanbase, possibly due to the first game, and the lack of a budget. The later games are inferior; 3 and Primal Fury/Extreme are still fun, but 4 managed to kill the entire franchise.
As a note, Dynasty Warriors 1 is not part of the same series, which is why the Japanese series numbers are one less than the NA series numbers.
The crossover series Warriors Orochi had a surprisingly improved third game. While it stays true to the Warriors formula of "kill as many bad guys as possible", it also added a level editor, cooperative and online play, a single overarching story arc in place of the usual faction-based approach, and a ginormous cast of characters from the series' historynote A total of 132 characters from both sides as of Dynasty Warriors 7 and Samurai Warriors 3, along with guest appearances from other famous Tecmo and Koei games such as Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive, and Bladestorm The Hundred Years War.
It's also agreed that Dynasty Warriors 7 was a vast improvement over the previous installment (which was certainly a step back from the other games).
Several Dating Sim series (such as X-Change) start with a Porn Without Plot game with shallow characters that exist almost solely for the main character to have sex with and little interaction with the player (who's assumed to be too busy interacting with themselves) beyond them clicking to the next scene. Then a sequel adds things like actual plot, characters, branching stories, and the sorts of things that separate porn from a story that happens to involve sex. They also often get improved budgets allowing things like better art, more CG pics for scenes, and voice acting. In fact, ever so often a series gets so improved, they'll make a non-hentai version, which have a habit of completely overshadowing the original.
Hitman: Codename 47 featured a good concept but had very twitchy AI, a buggy disguise system, and no ability to save during missions (apparently as a way of artificially lengthening the game). Hitman: Silent Assassin added the ability to save as well making improvements on the shortfalls of the original, as did each installment afterwards. Contracts also added better non-lethal takedown methods and Blood Money added the ability to use the environment to make your kills look like accidents.
Also, Contracts was mostly a remake of Codename 47 with gameplay and level-design improvements, justified through unreliable memories of the player character as his life is flashing before his eyes during a near death experience. Because of this (and because the first game was PC-only while the others had console ports) the "Hitman Trilogy" re-release only features the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th games.
The original Summoner was a fairly dull RPG, albeit one with some good moments. The second was far better, having a significantly better combat system, voice actors who sounded like they cared, and a badass female protagonist who could shapeshift into monsters.
While the earlier Armored Core games had their own fandom, the games had really problematic graphics, confusing storylines, and really, really laggy controls. It wasn't until Master of Arena that the arena system even came in, and until the 3 series that the graphics and controls received good reviews.
Mobile Suit Gundam did not have a pleasant entry to the world of 3D PS2 gaming. Journey to Jaburo was aimed fully at the fanboys with loads of FMV and well-done audio, but horrible in-game graphics and controls combined with lackluster melee combat ruined the game even for many fans of the series, and worried fans were concerned that the series would be abandoned or left as schlock. Federation vs Zeon managed to make a surprisingly good VirtualOn knockoff with a worthwhile campaign mode and decent replay value. Zeonic Front actually made an enjoyable squad-based tactics game with actually memorable original characters and strategy, and Encounters in Space was likewise playable even for those that weren't already into the series.
Speaking of, there's also the Gundam Vs Series, which went through Sequelitis (AEUG vs Titans and Gundam vs Zeta Gundam, which were little more than Fed vs Zeon with new machines) before swinging back around into this trope's territory with the Alliance vs ZAFT games (which refined the game engine by speeding things up, making melee more viable, and adding in new tricks like boost dashing and shield defense) and the Gundam vs Gundam games (which continued the refinements while bringing in mecha from the Gundam franchise's 30-year history rather than focusing on just a single show at a time).
Lufia & The Fortress of Doom was a bog-standard RPG. Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals added puzzles, a more compelling storyline, one of the first randomised bonus dungeons, fun-to-use and not-too-rare random drops that give you special abilities... and created one of the best SNES-era RPGs. Had the developers not run out of budget or time for a couple towers late in the game (the only puzzle-free dungeons), it would be perfection.
The first Pokemon Ranger game was different, and it was neat to play as something other than a trainer, but many gameplay elements were hard (must not slip off edge of disgustingly slimy floor!) to nearly impossible (hold still, Pokémon, so I can draw twenty loops around you without lifting my stylus!). The second game, Shadows of Almia, had a better and longer plot, let you explore your world more, made it so you didn't have to draw twenty loops in one go, and actually had adults that were worth something besides giving you your initial equipment. Much more fun. The third game was even better, taking all that good stuff and expanding it.
The first two Grand Theft Auto games were mild successes that garnered mixed reviews due to somewhat dodgy gameplay and older style graphics. The only real reason why they attracted much attention was because of the controversy that they caused — which had been largely whipped by the developers for exactly this reason. With the jump to 3D in Grand Theft Auto III, the game garnered near universal acclaim, kicked up a firestorm of controversy, and changed the entire industry with its Wide Open Sandbox gameplay.
Metal Gear Ac!d was ambitious, but very unrefined, with potentially broken gameplay. AC!D 2 sharpened the graphics, tidied up the engine, made the story more coherent, and added a lot of depth and spontaneity to the gameplay.
AC!D 2 also played to the fans of the first by bringing back what many would acknowledge as the first game's best moment - as the final boss of that game comes back (and, in a masterful bit of foreshadowing, you run on top of it without noticing unless you really paid attention), only tightened and with a potentially nasty time limit to make it harder.
The King of Fighters 94 was a very good game, but The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard and the controls are tough to get used to, although the music is awesome. 95 has some improvements, but the AI is even worse. The King of Fighters 96 is widely considered the point where everything really took off.
KOF XIII made up for KOF XII's deficiencies in a major way, keeping the high-definition visuals and bringing back some of the fan-favorite characters that were left out of XII, as well as a tutorial mode and a story mode that chronicles the final events of the Tales of Ash Saga.
Neverwinter Nights, was considered decent, but ultimately had a rather tedious and unimaginative storyline. Then came the Shadows of Undrentide expansion, which was markedly better, and finally Hordes of the Underdark, which completely blew the previous two away.
Neverwinter Nights 2 does it one better, with big improvements between the original game and the Mask of the Betrayer expansion. These include a greater emphasis on story, meaningful dialog, more unique and deeper party members (with the possibility to solo) and less focus on the engine's near unplayable combat.
Unfortunately, Neverwinter Nights 2 hasn't been around long enough for the real gems to emerge from the modding community. Dark Waters (incidentally written by the same person who wrote the Shadowlords/Dreamcatcher/Demon arc for the first game) is pretty good, though, and its sea combat system was brilliantly scripted.
Conflict FreeSpace: The Great War was a fun space combat simulation game with a nice game engine and a solid storyline, but it wasn't outstanding in any field. The sequel, FreeSpace 2, was darker, with a far more gripping and surprising storyline, vastly-improved combat, visuals that still impress today and a jaw-dropping and somewhat ambiguous ending that has provoked debate ever since. FreeSpace 2 was such an awesome space-combat game it killed the genre stone dead by making every other game in the genre redundant... a problem that was exacerbated by it being an Acclaimed Flop.
How good is FreeSpace 2? The fan community has released several professional-quality campaigns, long since taken over operating the multiplayer component, made several total conversions (the most well-known turns FreeSpace 2 into Babylon 5: The Videogame,) and to top if off, they've been upgrading the engine non-stop since the source-code was released. On a decent computer, the source-code project makes the game look like it came out two or three years ago, when, in fact, it's over a decade old.
After Angel of Darkness and the last game or two before that (along with the movies) many considered the Tomb Raider franchise beyond saving, but a change to another developer brought the series back again with Legend which went on to be the fastest selling (note, not highest selling) game in the series so far and got high critical acclaim. Depending on your feelings about many of the changes in Legend this can also extend to Anniversary and/or Underworld. The 2013 reboot also won back those who felt Underworld failed to deliver.
A rollercoaster with the Ace Combat core series. The localization of Electrosphere had its entire plot surgically removed. Shattered Skies fared better, and had a better plot to begin with, but its strength was in the delivery. The Unsung War brings everything together with sympathetic characters, a clever plot, and the astounding, epic presentation the series is known for, which it continued with for The Belkan War, except bigger. Fires of Liberation, however, goes a step back with a textbook, straightforward plot and a cast consisting of only supporting characters, none of whom get much individual screen time or, indeed, even matter until the very end.
The original Super Robot Wars game on the Nintendo Game Boy was clunky, with minimal plot and a lot of Guide Dang It moments. Each game's taken steps since then, with its first sequel actually using the pilots and storylines from the series in question, and producing Banpresto's first Original Generation batch, featuring Masaki Ando, Bian Zoldark, and Shu Shirakawa.
Similarly, the first Super Robot Wars Original Generation was fairly clunky compared to the earlier SRW games on the Game Boy Advance, with a pretty basic story and minimal animation and effects. It feels a lot like a side-project Banpresto wasn't ready to commit to (it was, after all, essentially a crossover without the crossing over). Compare to Original Generation 2, which featured more plots and better animation and effects that nearly match the first Alpha game on the PS1.
Saints Row 1 was your stereotypical Wide Open Sandbox, released to faint praise for having a solid, fun game, but still being a shameless GTA clone. Only one thing really changed between its release and its sequel—GTA decided it wanted to be taken seriously, and we got GTA 4. Saints Row 2 went the other way—the main character became an over-the-top Heroic Comedic Sociopath and the game took Refuge in Audacity. Critics loved it, as did players. Then The Third pushed it even further. Although some people bash it for being outright strange, a lot of players enjoyed it for the pure insanity and strangeness they gave you to play around with in an open world, in a more stark contrast to GTA which is serious in nature.
The original Star Control was a 2D space combat sim with hardly any story elements (at least not in the game.). Star Control 2 kept the good parts (the space combat, aka Super Melee) and added a surprisingly complex and fun story mode.
50 Cent Bulletproof was trashed for all the bugs and bad gameplay (the PSP version was by a different developer and fared slightly better). 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand received above average scores due to great control based on established shooter conventions, and a story that's praised as hilariously So Bad, It's Good.
The original Killzone was a heavily hyped PS2 shooter that ended up falling quite short of expectations, though it wasn't bad at all, just mediocre. Killzone 2, on the other hand, has been well received by both critics and gamers, and "lived up to the hype".
The first two Wangan Midnight arcade games were basically just Tokyo Xtreme Racer with Wangan Midnight characters and stage-based gameplay, with few players remembering or thoroughly enjoying them. Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune, on the other hand, gave Initial D Arcade Stage a run for its money.
For that matter, the first Initial D Arcade Stage had a poorly done multiplayer mode which, among other problems, required the second player to insert his/her coin(s) within 9 seconds of the first player, and had no incentive whatsoever to play a head-to-head battle over just playing Time Attack mode. Initial D Arcade Stage Ver.2 significantly improved the multiplayer mode.
The original MOTHER, despite its interesting story and quirky take on the RPG genre, was a total grindfest with some insane spikes in difficulty at times. (Mt. Itoi, anyone?) The second game, EarthBound, fixed many of the problems the original had, such as removing the random encounters, easing difficulty, and taking itself much less seriously. Its characters and story, on the other hand, weren't as interesting as MOTHER 1 or 3 though.
The first Age of Empires game was released to lukewarm reviews. All the following games and spinoffs received critical acclaim.
There's also Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 2. While still not considered to be an amazing game, the general consensus is that it was miles above Episode 1.
The first Fable game had an infamous amount of hype during development. When it was finally released in 2004, it received mostly positive reviews, but it ultimately failed to live up to it's hype, as others were disappointed by the lack of many promised features, a somewhat small, restrictive game world and other flaws. Along comes Fable II in 2008, with more refined gameplay, a larger, more detailed world with more quests, and deeper sandbox gameplay that implemented many promised features from Fable. It received better reviews from all.
The Elder Scrolls: Arena wasn't bad for its time, featuring things like day/night cycles, seasons (with changing weather), holidays, and an advanced lighting engine, but despite having a rather large world, there wasn't anything particularly interesting to see or do, with a fairly generic setting and a clichéd plot (evil chancellor usurps emperor, have to collect 8 magic staff pieces to beat him). Then along came Daggerfall, which expanded the world (both in size and in richness) by several orders of magnitude, and added tons of things to do (dozens of factions to join! Vampirism! Lycanthropy! Real estate!), one of the most detailed character creators seen in a CRPG, and a well-written plot with twists and political intrigue galore (as well as bugs and glitches galore).
Backyard Basketball on the PS2 improved on everything Backyard Basketball on the PC, released two years earlier, had. There were no glitches, the game never freezes, there are NBA teams, and there are 9 more playable characters (while removing 1). There are even unlockable powerups!
Contra 4 came after four consecutive installments that sat poorly with fans of the series (two lame PS1 releases and two so-so PS2 releases) and whipped the series back into what it should be.
Mega Man Star Force's second game was hard to take even for the people who liked the first one, but the third game made up for it in incredibly unexpected ways, to a degree that some consider it the best in the entirety of the Battle Network/Star Force continuity.
The original is regarded as good, but noticeably flawed, and had relatively low sales for a Mega Man game. Then came Mega Man 2 and the series was quickly established as one of Capcom's mainstays.
Mega Man 8 is considered to be a fairly lackluster game in the Mega Man (Classic) series, with incredibly bad (though hilarious) voice acting and annoying gameplay elements like the snowboarding sections and Rush's function in the game being changed entirely, causing the Classic series to sputter to a halt with only a single Gaiden Game coming after. Then, over a decade later, Capcom decided to go back to Mega Man's 8-bit roots with the much better received Mega Man 9.
Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku for the Game Boy Advance was, for lack of a more inventive word, terrible. The combat controls are stiff, the plot is impenetrable to all but the most seasoned DBZ fans, and the game is way too short (beatable in about 6-8 hours, ending after Goku's battle with Frieza). Its sequel, Legacy of Goku II, corrected almost all of these flaws, as well as giving the player the ability to control characters other than Goku.
And then, the relatively few flaws and lack of depth found in Legacy of Goku II were completely gone in Buu's Fury, which added an expanded range of special moves, such RPG basics as equipment and shops, and the ability to block.
Astonishia Story was an RPG originally made for PCs in the mid-1990s and remained exclusively a Korean property until 2006, when the game was remade for the PSP and distributed worldwide. The port hadn't aged well at all, and the lackluster localization effort by Ubisoft didn't help. Three years later, Astonishia Story 2 (titled Crimson Gem Saga in non-Asian countries) was released to a much warmer reception, with tighter character development, a retooled battle and skill system that emphasizes combination attacks, much less Forced Level Grinding, and a better translation by the team at Atlus.
Luminous Arc for the DS was an Cliché Storm of an SRPG with a particularly Narmish voice acting in every. Single. Chapter. The next game, Luminous Arc 2 moves the story to another world with a better plot, vastly improved voice acting and a more streamlined user interface. The fact that they added a fast forward button, as well as bringing in Multiple Endings (which are further expanded in Luminous Arc 3) helps a lot.
Thunder Force III was a huge improvement over its rather average predecessor Thunder Force II, they got rid of the annoying overhead scrolling stages (which were all that the obscure first Thunder Force game had to offer), improved the graphics and music, and made the gameplay a lot better. Thunder Force IV and Thunder Force V continued on the tradition of awesomeness and were pretty much the peak of the franchise. Unfortunately, Sequelitis took effect after that.
Assassin's Creed I had really good Le Parkour gameplay and the beginnings of an interesting Ancient Conspiracy story, but was burdened with boring characters and levels, padding, and repetitive side quests and assassinations. Assassins Creed II had a likable main character, levels that were memorable, and missions that were actually fun.
Compare Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem to the original Dark Dragon. While the latter was a good game that helped establish an entire genre it was plagued with a terrible inventory system, staves didn't give EXP, and the graphics and story were rather bland. Then the former comes and fixes most of the gameplay flaws as well as much needed character and story development and wraps it up with a more streamlined version of Dark Dragon.
Red Steel was an ambitious shooter / swordplay launch title for the Wii marred by bad swordplay controls and an overall rushed presentation. With the implementation of the Wii MotionPlus allowing for more precise controls, Red Steel 2 is being hailed as what its predecessor should have been and even being regarded as one of the best-looking Wii games.
Dune II. The original was a boring adventure game. The "sequel" (which had really nothing to do with the original) was one of the most important games of all time and the progenitor of the Real-Time Strategy game.
Just Cause was a Wide Open Sandbox game with a few nice ideas (like giving you a parachute you can use at almost any time) some beautiful vistas, and a gargantuan open world to explore, but had clumsy controls, kind of boring characters, the world was fairly bland and repetitive, and it was definitely not something you'd want to pay full price for. Just Cause 2, however, vastly improves your ability to use the grappling hook in conjunction with the parachute, all but allowing you to fly around the landscape, and has tons of things for you to blow up whenever you want, literally thousands of collectibles, and a much more interesting and varied world, making it a solid A-list title. It's worth noting that the first Just Cause was Avalanche Studios' first ever release, and they obviously spent a lot of time learning from their mistakes for the sequel.
Later in the series, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops was a competently made game that showed great potential with its army building mechanics. However, the controls suffered on the PSP, the story (despite a great villain) felt more like a side-story, and the army building mechanic showed potential, but didn't quite live up to it with a lack of variety and frustrating issues. Then came Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Under Kojima's direction (unlike Portable Ops), Peace Walker's controls were more refined, its story felt more connected to the overall picture (particularly with Big Boss' Character Development) and the potential that Portable Ops showed with its army building mechanics were thoroughly lived up to, with an entire, constantly-growing, base of operations, a variety of options that expanded over the course of the entire game, and with the frustrating features simplified or removed. All that along with being the biggest Metal Gear game ever made at the time, meant it blew Portable Ops away.
Söldner-X: Himmelssturmer was a serviceable side-scrolling shoot-em-up with excellent visuals, but was mainly held back by its sluggishness and brevity. Its sequel, Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype improves on both of these aspects while adding more playable ships and weapons, a revamped power-up and combo system (no more power-down items), and assorted challenges and an expansion pack to keep the game fresh even after completion.
Touhou: In-between the standard danmaku games, which have been slowly improving, ZUN has done a bit of experimenting. The concepts he reuses tend to be much better the second time around:
Phantasmagoria of Dim. Dream is, bluntly, terrible, suffering from cheating AI, little plot, ugly graphics, and boring battles. Phantasmagoria of Flower View still isn't great, but is at least reasonably passable. The AI cheats less blatantly, a fairly interesting story, it's fairly pretty, and you're actually dodging your opponent's patterns instead of stage enemies.
Shoot The Bullet was mostly made for the sake of having a game to go with the fanbook's release, and it shows. The game is fairly short, has a lot of very similar patterns (Spinning! Streaming! Spinning while streaming!), mostly fairly ugly patterns, an unpolished UI, and is really hard, even by Touhou standards. Double Spoiler is longer, has more variety, fixed most of STB's annoying issues, and is reasonably clearable by the average Touhou player.
Then there is the fangame Koumajou Densetsu - where the second game has recived massive improvements over the first as well as added really well done voice acting.
The original Shining Force, while still a fun Strategy RPG, was riddled with exploitablebugs and poor class balance, while having too gradual a difficulty curve. Later entries have not only fixed these problems, but also introduced new concepts, such as summoning and weapon skill levels, to add to the variety of the gameplay.
LEGO Island 2 is mostly a Contested Sequel, but the most common opinion on it is that it was killed by long load times, dull and lifeless voice acting, poor animation, glitchy physics, low replay value, and poorly explained minigames. Lego Island Xtreme Stunts on the other hand fixes nearly all of these problems, mostly by adding far more replay value, shortening the load times, explaining the minigames better, and having far less glitches.
Castlevania had this too in its Game Boy trilogy. The Adventure had unresponsive controls, Fake Difficulty in losing whip power after only one hit and extremely slow gameplay. Sub-weapons and such were absent, and hearts, normally used for subweapon power, restored energy. Belmont's Revenge rectified this in many ways, with only losing whip power if you die or get hit by the snake tower's fireballs. Christopher Belmont still moves slowly, but nowhere near as slow as his first adventure. The much more responsive controls, a non-linear level select format, like in Mega Man, even better music and a password system were welcome additions. The sub-weapon system reappeared, albeit it's only limited to the Cross (or Axe in the non-Japanese versions) and the Holy Water.
Deus Ex fans, following the lukewarm reception to Deus Ex: Invisible War, were rightfully skeptical that Human Revolution could live up to the original, with the long time frame and the closure of Ion Storm with a new development team taking over. It's an almost unanimous opinion that the original game will never be matched, but many agree that Human Revolution is the worthy followup that Invisible War wasn't.
Outpost was a turn-based colony management game that was well hyped before its release, but it turned out to just be Simcity IN SPACE! Not only that, it had several bugs, and was basically unfinished. Outpost 2 on the other hand, took some of the key plot elements from the first, and made it into an enjoyably complex real time strategy game with a heavy focus on colony management. The story (which ignored the first in almost every conceivable fashion) was very detailed and interesting, becoming a tale told from the point of view of two factions, both trying to survive and avoid extinction. The inclusion of the story in the form of a novella, along with all the well-researched science (the game leans heavily towards hard science fiction), makes the game more enjoyable than one would expect from its predecessor.
The first Arc The Lad is a fairly average SRPG: the battle system is fast-paced but flawed, while its characters are likeable but severely underdeveloped; and to top it off, the game is criminally short. The sequel, on the other hand, has a much more detailed (and darker) plot, more characters with more interplay amongst themselves, a relatively revised battle system and a longer campaign. To this day, Arc The Lad II is considered to be the apex of the series, and all games that came after are generally agreed to have failed to live up to it. As for the first, fans usually recommend it on the grounds of "well, it's the first in the series... also, the second one is a direct sequel."
The original Warcraft was an unimaginative Real-Time Strategy with two cosmetically-different sides and little backstory. Then came Warcraft II, still with very similar sides (except for mage spells and archer enhancements) but a fairly well-developed backstory. Along with Dune II, Warcraft II is considered to be one of the progenitors of the Real-Time Strategy genre. Warcraft III has 4 very different sides and an even richer backstory, the success of which prompted Blizzard to make the most successful MMORPG in history.
Sly Cooper franchise falls under this. The first game was good, but was pretty linear. The level designs were more basic and it was easier to die. When the sequel came out, it showed vast improvements. Sly now relied on a health bar instead of horse shoes, which were collected for extra hits in the first game. The areas were much bigger, so you could actually explore and find more than you could originally. The animation wasn't as stiff as before, which allowed for more fluid motion. Not to mention that it added a big collection of purchasable gadgets for you to use throughout gameplay. Because of the new setup's success, the two following sequels followed suit.
Mario Party 9 is this among many people. The series had a total of 10 parties before the 9th installment (8 of them going from the N64, to Gamecube, and the Wii while the other two were on the GBA and DS) and the most common complaint where how the games were more about luck than skill and how each game was just a rehash from the last game. The 9th installment changes up a ton of things to make the games a bit more fair by greatly reducing the amount of luck based events, scrapping the coins, stars, and items system for a mini-star system that allows players to collect them very frequently or lose them just as fast so games are more close, and the mechanic of all players moving on the board at once creates new strategies in turn order and what types of dice blocks you should use. Of course, people who grew up with the series may not like the new direction of the 9th party.
The original Hyperdimension Neptunia had an interesting concept - the whole series is a metaphor for the Console Wars - but was critically panned for, among other things, its awkward pace and resulting Schizophrenic Difficulty, and frustrating game mechanics, including the inability to sell old equipment or even use items during battle as in most RPGs. Idea Factory and Compile Heart took these criticisms to heart with Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, reworking the game almost from the ground up with a new battle system, Item Crafting, and better implementations of some of the systems used in the first game (such as quests and the "Shares" system). While still not a critical hit, some reviewers who hated the first game were pleased with the improvements in mk2, saying that mk2 actually came close to being a "good" or even "great" game.
Record Of Agarest War, the other Idea Factory/Compile Heart flagship series, experienced this with Agarest War 2. The clunky strategy game-type battle system from the original game and its prequel was replaced by a new system that while somewhat quirky, is also easy to control and makes the game's difficulty curve look less like the Swiss Alps. This is probably also one of the only game series that was improved with the addition of Random Encounters, as opposed to having to fight three to eight long strategy battles of random difficulty before reaching a safe spot.
While the fourth and fifth Generation of Chaos gamesnote the first two to be released outside of Japan were met with general indifference, the sixth game in the series, Pandora's Reflection (a joint effort between Idea Factory and Sting Entertainment), opted for a much simpler and more streamlined approach than its predecessors. Generation 6 scored better review scores in the U.S. than either of the previous two games.
The first Sengoku game on the Neo-Geo is a sub-par brawler with some cheap enemies, stiff controls, and power-ups that are likely to transform you into a worthless character. The sequel is an improvement, but not by much and still bears several of the major problems the original game had. Sengoku 3 is better than the first two combined (to the point of being one of the most beloved beat 'em ups in general) and features much better gameplay and amazing visuals.
Elemental: Fallen Enchantressnote sometimes referred to simply as "Fallen Enchantress" was a deliberate attempt by Stardock to fix the numerous problems that plagued its predecessor, Elemental - War of Magic - namely the busted AI opponents (who, despite existing in a 4X universe, only know one strategy: Attack! Attack! Attack!) and the mountains of other bugs. It still lacks an online multiplayer component, but the overall reception to Fallen Enchantress has been much better than War of Magic. It was done again with Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes which improves over Fallen Enchantress.
Two Worlds II fixed pretty much everything in the first game while retaining the What Could Have Been elements, including an innovative spell system. The first game suffered from numerous glitches, missing animations, and extremely cheesy dialogue and its Xbox 360 port was a disaster, which turned a buggy but playable game into a trainwreck. The second game is mostly remembered for its HUGE amount of content and a variety of multiplayer modes.
Robot Arena 2, while not a well known game was a massive improvement over the original game. The sequel had much more customization options in regard to the chassis and weapons you could use, better AI, and an actual physics engine.
Spec Ops was a middle-of-the-road shooter franchise from the Playstation 1 days, perhaps only notable as being one of the first franchises set in the modern day while World War 2 was the standard setting for a military FPS. Flash forward about a decade, and the series is revived with Spec Ops: The Line, considered one of the best examples of storytelling in gaming ever.
Borderlands was relatively well received and had fun gameplay, but the storyline was non-existent note Unless you read the box on the left side of the screen where you accepted missions, but this wasn't voiced and you weren't told that it's anything but filler, the characters weren't all that developed, and it tended towards Real Is Brown. Borderlands 2 addressed basically all the weaknesses; the storyline was much more complex, the characters (both the PC and NPCs) were much more developed, and the settings were far more varied. In general, the production values were ratcheted up in just about every way.
After the pinnacle of the Metal Slug series with Metal Slug 3, the series suffered from SNK's bankruptcy and transformation into SNK Playmore. While the gameplay didn't suffer too badly, 4 ended up with recycled backgrounds and Marco and Eri getting replaced with two new characters, and 5 was rushed out the door before it was finished, resulting in a game devoid of a story and most of the series' personality (especially Egregious with the Final Boss, who's a giant winged, silhouetted demon who comes right out of nowhere with no foreshadowing or explanation) and a lot more linear than previous games. Not only was Metal Slug 6 released in full and with no recycled backgrounds, but it gave every character unique perks (like Fio starting every life with a heavy machine gun and getting more ammo from pickups, and Tarma having several vehicle-related perks) and includes Ralf and Clark from Ikari Warriors as playable characters. 6 is considered by many to be the proper revival of the series.
While Tecmo Cup Soccer introduced a fair hybrid between soccer and RPG, the game is still a looseadaptation of Captain Tsubasa with rather chunky menu systems and controls. Then comes Manga/Captain Tsubasa Vol.II: Super Striker, the sequel that makes huge improvements. It fixed all problems with the menus, has better interfaces, has faster pace, has its own interpretation of the series' plot, and is satisfiedly challenging. It easily becomes into a Cult Classic.
Crazy Cars, one of Titus Software's earliest games, had hideously ugly graphics and boring course design. Crazy Cars II had much cleaner graphics, but the roads remained strangely empty. Crazy Cars III made its predecessor look like an Obvious Beta.
NES Remix is a decent Minigame Game that had a somewhat undercooked selection of classic NES games—genuine classics like Super Mario Bros and Donkey Kong feature prominently, while Nintendo's early sports titles (Baseball, Tennis, Golf, etc.) are included almost as an afterthought. However, the game was successful enough to spawn a sequel in NES Remix 2, which features a higher quality selection of games (including Kirby's Adventure, Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario Bros. 3), more creative remix stages, and the ability to view replays of other players' best times.
Crusader Kings: The original game, while it had its fans, was definitely a flawed game, with a Troubled Production and quite a lot of bugs. Crusader Kings II, on the other hand, has received by far the smoothest launch of any Paradox Interactive game to date, and received almost universal acclaim from the fans. Expansions like Sword of Islam, Legacy of Rome and The Old Gods have only served to make it even better.
The 'sillies' that run alongside Ctrl+Alt+Del have fewer panels (so the punchline comes at the end), stylised art (a complete lack of B^U) and a steadily rotating roster of secondary characters including the Grim Reaper. On the other hand, they don't have a set schedule.
Platypus Comix's "2008 Character Strike" series brought some comics that relied heavily on old material, as well as a simplistic Family Guy parody. These provided a few giggles, but not enough to hide the fact these ranked among the cheapest stories at the website. Then, the Head Executive decided to hire Spider-Man to replace the usual characters, resulting in True Believers. Released a few weeks after Marvel's polarizing One More Day, True Believers sent Spidey and Mary Jane Watson on a suspenseful, emotionally-driven adventure to prevent JoeQuesadilla from forcefully ending their contented and iconic marriage. Peter Paltridge went on to declare this one of the best comics he ever wrote.
The early proto-Bugs Bunny short "Elmer's Candid Camera" was a total disaster, suffering from poor characterization, mediocre gags and positively abysmal timing and pacing, and as such received such bashing fromChuck Jones, the director of the short, in his autobiography. Tex Avery learned from Chuck's mistakes, and promptly remade the cartoon as the first real Bugs Bunny cartoon "A Wild Hare".
The Season 8-9 of Sponge Bob Squarepants is often considered this by fans, even by those who said "post movie SpongeBob sucks" have to admit the show is getting better. This is compared to season 6-7, which is considered by the fans to be the show's lowest point.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Thanks to Lauren Faust's genius, this show has managed to spread like wildfire on the Internet for having reasonably well developed characters and stories in a series often dismissed as being a shallow 30-minute commercial for girl toys.
The Bronies are generally sympathetic towards the first generation, though, especially the pilot movie that had some surprisingly serious elements in it. It helps that Gen. 4 was influenced by Gen. 1.
Ghouls Rule, the first Monster High DVD movie isn't terrible, but it suffered from a lot of writing and plot problems. Its sequel 13 Wishes was a vast improvement in every way and is considered by many fans to be one of the franchise's highpoints.