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Soft Reboot

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A franchise reboot that technically takes place in the same continuity as prior installments.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
KeithM on Aug 15th 2015 at 2:30:58 AM
Last Edited By:
JLCarter on Feb 19th 2019 at 6:53:03 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

You have a classic property, one that's made money hand over fist for you for years, perhaps decades, but now, it's getting a little long in the tooth. Maybe it's dated, maybe recent installments have tarnished its name, maybe it's just bogged down in Continuity Lockout. Resetting the thing to bring in new fans sounds like a good idea, but you're afraid the backlash among existing fans to a Continuity Reboot will be epic in its drama. What to do? Well, instead of starting over, dip into the Troper Well and pull out a way of explaining you're not really tossing away the classic stories the fans love. No, this is an Alternate Timeline. Or a sequel set sometime after the events of the old series that mentions the things fans loved but quietly neglects or RetCons the things not so beloved. Or a prequel, or even a separate adventure taking place somewhere else so you have an excuse not to mention the events of the original series.

In short, it's an in-continuity remake. A compromise between making a sequel and a remake/reboot.



  • The rebooted Star Trek films take place in an alternate timeline, with Old!Spock's presence confirming that everything that happened in the original Star Trek universe still happened, and Word of God that said original timeline still exists, albeit one where Old!Spock disappeared into a black hole.
  • Superman Returns acknowledged the events of the Christopher Reeve films Superman and Superman II but ignored the far less liked subsequent sequels.
  • The Highlander universe...oy.
  • Prometheus ended up being a prequel to the Aliens universe and altering some long-held ideas about the setting.
  • An upcoming Predator film is planned to acknowledge the events of the first two films, bringing aspects from Predators regarding clan warfare between rival factions, and ignoring the Alien vs. Predator films.
  • Jurassic World recognizes the events of Jurassic Park but glosses over or outright ignores the events of the sequels.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past recognizes the events of some of the previous films, but only when convenient. For the most part, it acts as if the bulk of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine never happened uness otherwise mentioned.
    • X Men Wolverine was something of a soft reboot for the Wolverine trilogy as well. It acted as if X-Men Origins: Wolverine never happened, even though when that movie came out in 2009 it was intended to be the new direction the franchise was taking.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road was a soft reboot for the Mad Max franchise. Nothing in the previous three movies was explicitly mentioned and nothing important was contradicted, but it seemed to be going out of its way to ignore Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.

Live-Action TV

  • Highlander: The Series was intended as a prequel to the first film Highlander, but eventually was assumed to be a sort of Alternate Continuity, and ignored Highlander II: The Quickening. Highlander The Raven was set in the same continuity.
  • Some will argue that Star Trek: The Next Generation was supposed to be this for the Star Trek franchise. While most fans now consider both Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation to be canon, at the time the first two seasons were being made, Gene Roddenberry was working under the explicit assumption that the original series was no longer canon for the most part.
    • To some extent, The Next Generation's third season was a soft reboot of the show. New uniforms are introduced this season, the lighting is different, and a lot of the stuff that happened previously that could have become long, ongoing arcs for the franchise were never mentioned again. Fans generally agree this is the point where The Next Generation started getting good.

Video Games

  • Mass Effect Andromeda is set in a different galaxy from the Milky Way, over 600 years after the original trilogy, with the characters having gone into stasis at about the same time as the events of the second game and in intergalactic space during the events of the third game, allowing the creators the opportunity to not have the climactic events of the Mass Effect Trilogy (and the different endings and player choices) be referenced. This lampshaded at one point when a news broadcast mentions they've sent a message back to the Milky Way but haven't heard a response yet.

Feedback: 36 replies

Aug 15th 2015 at 3:35:19 AM

If the work happens in an alternate dimension/timeline/whatever, it's not a reboot, since it's not, well, rebooting anything. The word "reboot" is popular at the moment, but not everything the marketing teams call a "reboot" actually constitutes a reboot. A reboot is supposed to be a total reset of the canon continuity.

As for the examples:

I suppose a Soft Reboot could be something like Terminator Genisys or Mortal Kombat 2011, where the timeline is rewritten in-universe. So it acknowledges the original timeline as canon, and then explains in-universe why the timeline is changed. So it reboots the timeline without dismissing the original canon.

UPD: And also, "fan drama" isn't really the main thing they're worried about in such cases. It's more about the money. Reboots are done in an attempt to attract both old fans' and new viewers' money. The real danger here is in alienating the old fans, who might just ignore the reboot and not give them their $$$. So, the problem is not in internet rants and flame wars, but in potentially alienating an important part of the intended customerbase.

Aug 15th 2015 at 10:06:03 AM

Not to be confused with a Soft Reset.

Aug 16th 2015 at 2:17:31 AM

  • Examples section
    • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
    • Namespaced, italicized and Blue Linked work names.
    • Namespaced Creator names.
    • Sorted examples by media and added media section titles.

Aug 17th 2015 at 12:27:15 PM

The idea is solid, especially since it is an existing term, but the definition and examples could use some work as there is a lot of overlap with Broad Strokes. Every Highlander example is a more Broad Strokes than this (the pick and choose which elements of the franchise to work with), and speculation on things that have not been released doesn't help either. And in practice the new Star Trek movies are a reboot, one that simply justifies the reboot via Time Travel.

Truth is a Soft Reboot as a term has less to do with continuity and more to do with a Retool, hence why they call it a Soft Reboot. The idea is that either the earlier installment wasn't received very well or had a rather conclusive ending that undermines future installments. So in order to proceed they retool the story to the point it almost IS a reboot, but still acknowledges what came before. As such examples would look more like this:

  • Transformers Age Of Extinction follows a very conclusive victory in Transformers Dark Of The Moon, but in the interim Human/Autobot relations were severed and a CIA official sponsored a Private Military Corporation to hunt down all Decepticons still on Earth, but secretly targets Autobots as well and they go into hiding. This scenario creates new human protagonists and justifies the massive change in the Autobot cast as well.
  • GI Joe Retaliation was made in response to the lukewarm reaction to GI Joe The Rise Of Cobra, which was considered too high-tech to the point of lacking tension (everyone had a tool or vehicle to solve the problem), too many characters showing up and dropping out of the narrative and relied too much on slick CG for their action scenes. Retaliation grounds the series by having the main team killed off, reducing the cast to a handful of people and they are short on supplies and resources. It still technically follows Rise of Cobra, but the tone of the movie is MUCH different.

Nov 15th 2015 at 11:31:40 AM

Gotta need a "Sliding Scale of Story Rebooting".

Nov 16th 2015 at 10:18:28 AM

Buffy The Vampire Slayer the series takes up where the film leaves off, except that it considers the original screenplay to be canon and not the actual film.

Nov 16th 2015 at 10:19:45 PM

Comic Books

Jun 5th 2017 at 8:44:01 AM

Oct 2nd 2016 at 9:38:08 PM

The official trailer for Ghostbusters 2016 implied that the new film would be a soft reboot of the series ("30 years ago, 4 scientists saved New York") but the film ultimately turned out to be a complete Continuty Reboot and the line was referring to the actual movie, not the story.

Oct 3rd 2016 at 2:53:36 AM

Don't know how it would interact with site policy about upcoming works, but according to Word Of God the forthcoming Star Trek Discovery TV show will definitely be set in the original Trek timeline.

Oct 3rd 2016 at 8:44:52 AM

  • Batman Forever nominally takes place in the same continuity as the Tim Burton Batman films, but it completely changes the design of Gotham, does away with Michael Keaton as Batman, introduces a new cast and goes over Batman's origin after Batman 1989 did the same.

Oct 4th 2016 at 2:43:44 AM

Oct 4th 2016 at 7:43:16 PM

The new Planet Of The Apes series is a prequel to the original films. It focuses almost entirely on its own story, but there are a few subtle continuity nods.

Oct 6th 2016 at 8:19:36 AM

Super Title 64 Advance games did this a lot.

  • Super Metroid continues the continuity of the first two games, but is essentially a remake of Metroid, taking place on the same planet, with roughly the same plot and the same boss enemies, with a few new surprises.

  • Contra 3: The Alien Wars is basically a remake of Contra with updated graphics and new mechanics. The final Boss Rush of the game is even a compilation of several bosses from the first two games.

  • Mega Man X takes place in a Distant Future which acknowledges the events of the first series, but has a very different plot and an all new set of characters.

Oct 6th 2016 at 8:46:11 AM


Oct 6th 2016 at 2:12:50 PM


Oct 7th 2016 at 1:31:47 PM

  • The Powerpuff Girls 2016 serves as a soft reboot of The Powerpuff Girls. The girls are still heroes, the old villains are still around, but Pokey Oaks Kindergarten is torn down early in the show and the girls are sent to Midway High School (apparently it's a K-12 school), the girls often fight newer foes instead of the old ones, their personalities have noticeably changed, and they now can create Hard Light constructs with little to no mention how they could.

Oct 8th 2016 at 5:48:45 AM

Isn't it more technically "starting a new series of a franchise after a long hiatus"?

Jan 3rd 2017 at 1:23:14 PM

  • Fallout 3 technically takes place in the same universe as previous games, but overhauls the visual and aesthetic design of the series to focus more heavily on the Retro Universe aspect of the series and blends aspects of the previous games' stories together in a new setting that is far detached from previous entries. Fallout New Vegas, which was made by some of the developers of the original entries, does some Canon Welding to fit them together better.

Jan 5th 2017 at 2:43:50 AM

Anime and Manga

  • Hanaukyo Maid Tai. The series was first animated in 2001, but production problems caused its premature ending. It was rebooted in 2004 as Hanaukyo Maid Tai: La Verite. The second series takes place in the same continuity, with a number of differences (both small and large) between it and the first show.

Feb 25th 2017 at 11:02:00 AM

Feb 24th 2017 at 9:41:03 PM

Comic Books:

  • Spawn: Following Al Simmons' return, the comic instituted a massive retcon that ignores everything that happened between Al defeating Malebolgia and his suicide.

Mar 9th 2017 at 1:52:09 PM

  • The Powerpuff Girls 2016 is referred to as a reboot, and has qualities of one, but also seems to be a Stealth Sequel. The girls are physically still the same as they were five and still seem to be in kindergartners (complete with Princess and Robyn still looking the same), yet are implied to be older (around ten or eleven according to the Picture Day episode). The series also assumes fans are acquainted with the original.

Mar 9th 2017 at 2:37:16 PM

Is Continuity Reboot really a bad thing that this draft has to be made?

Jun 5th 2017 at 8:43:40 AM

31 hats? That's impressive.

Jun 5th 2017 at 10:31:23 AM

32 to be exact. This is more than ready to be launched, but has to be Up For Grabs to add all the examples in the comments and then launching this

Jun 5th 2017 at 11:07:10 AM

  • Thief 2014 appears to reboot the universe, but several details make an allusion to to the original games' (including a very heavy implication that this game's Garret is the Identical Grandson of the previous titles' protagonist) taking place in the past.

Jun 5th 2017 at 1:50:48 PM

I'm confused. If "rebooting" by definition resets the whole universe, and we also have Alternate Continuity, is this trope a compromise for both?

Jun 5th 2017 at 5:05:38 PM

^i think it's a non-complete reboot IMO. I guess the X Men Series movie Days of Future Past exemplify this trope. And that reminds me I got another example for this trope...

Live-Action TV:

  • The restart of Doctor Who in 2005 (after being cancelled in 1989 and having a Backdoor Pilot in the 1996 TV movie) could count as a reboot of the series, focusing in people who never has seen the series before, but also continues the story of The Doctor, this time being the Last Of His Kind.

Aug 10th 2017 at 5:56:38 AM

I feel like we can just have the term "Soft Reboot" link to Re Tool, since they're the same exact concept: in-universe, in-continuity shifts to the work's premise, tone, etc. done for real world reasons (actors left, ratings dipped, post-script season, etc.).

Oct 11th 2017 at 12:58:59 PM

Would Scrubs season 9 and Once Upon a Time Season 7 count as soft reboots? Both of them are long running existing shows bringing in new casts (with a couple returning vets) and pretty much starting over with new protagonists going through similar situations.

May 3rd 2018 at 8:59:35 AM

Beast Wars is technically a sequel to Transformers Generation 1. However, it retcons the origin of the Transformers species, adds new concepts like sparks and protoforms, and treats the events of the original cartoon as mythical or legendary, similar to King Arthur or Empress Himiko.

Jul 29th 2018 at 8:45:08 AM

it's an in-continuity remake. A compromise between making a sequel and a remake/reboot. U.S NUMBER