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Later Installment Weirdness

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Professor Farnsworth: My god... This is the greatest mystery of all time! We must fly to Rome and exhume the body of St. James!
Hermes: Didn't we use to be a delivery company?

Early Installment Weirdness is a case in which a Long Runner's earlier episodes or seasons differ significantly, mainly due to the series experimenting until it manages to find its voice and tone. After that it usually stabilizes into the series it's known and loved for.


However, this kind of thing can happen to a Long Runner again after a certain amount of time. A number of factors could be at play here: the tone of a series may steer off course, taking a turn towards Cerebus Syndrome, or perhaps Denser and Wackier; it could also stem from a loss of some of the original key creative people, and an addition of new writers and producers; it could also be the result of a series aging, and the writing staff not knowing what to do with the show anymore as just about every possible scenario and situation has already been done. Or it could be simply because the creators want to implement a new concept to adhere it to the established canon.

In cases of Later Installment Weirdness, you may also come to find certain kinds of episodes to become more commonplace, such as bizarro episodes, unusual special episodes, or episodes that break away from the series' typical premise. Recurring characters and other minor supporting characters may also find themselves carrying the show rather than the series' usual major cast, especially if said cast finds itself reduced.


Note that this is not inherently a bad thing. Sometimes the new direction can help breathe fresh life into a series that was growing stale. Other times, however, it can lead to cases of They Changed It, Now It Sucks! if people don't appreciate the shift in style. Compare Jumping the Shark, where a single moment in a series' run is considered the show's turn for the worse. As a suggestion, examples should come from franchises that show some weirdness after having devoted to a Growing the Beard formula.

Compare Genre Shift.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Pokémon: The Series zigzags with this, due to the show being a Long Runner and often having to adapt the conventions of the newer games:
    • With the exception of Ash, Pikachu and Team Rocket, the main cast has altered through almost every region - only Johto kept the original human trio of Ash, Misty and Brock, and that was after Brock sat out the Orange Islands filler arc - and even with those, their personalities alter. Best Wishes in particular sported an odd alteration by way of a Soft Reboot, reconstructing the trope by making Ash even more of a novice than his original Kanto personality and the bumbling Team Rocket trio into genuinely serious, competent villains who appear only semi-recurrently (leading to occasional full Slice of Life episodes with the hero cast). XY afterwards went back to Revisiting the Roots in a lot of places, though even then some formulas were still broken.
    • A drastic case came with Sun and Moon: Ash was heavily redesigned, and instead of a journey plot like the previous six generations, Ash attends a school and only occasionally travels across the region on class field trips. The frequently zany, occasional fourth wall-breaking tone (with occasional darkness) of the original Kanto arc, which previously fell under Early Installment Weirdness, has also been re-instated.
    • Pokémon Journeys continues the more episodic storytelling from Sun and Moon, but also focuses not just on the most recent Pokémon region at the time (Galar) but on every region to have ever been featured in a main Pokémon game. It's also the first season to eschew a female main protagonist: Ash's only traveling companion is the male Goh, though Goh does have a female friend (Chloe) who regularly appears.
    • Since Pokemon Advanced, the leading lady of the previous era would return to buddy up with Ash, but after D/P, who and for how long would change. Where Misty and May's returns were usually one or two-episode events, Dawn's return in Best Wishes was an entire season, bringing along Cynthia for the ride. No one would show up for the X & Y era and instead of Serena, we got a double dose of Misty and Brock in the Sun and Moon era.
  • Hamtaro moved from a slice of life series to a kids' fantasy series in later, Japan-only seasons, prompted by the introduction of Lapis and Lazuli and Sweet Paradise, a world made of candy. The final seasons dialed this back, though it had occasional fantastic episodes.
  • Sailor Moon had a preview for the plot at the start of every episode. The dub, unlike later English adaptations of anime, left it in. However, starting with episode 23 of SuperS, the preview is replaced with a pre-title sequence.
  • Since the end of Go! Princess Pretty Cure, it's been common to do a Distant Finale showing the heroines all grown up. As well, since the end of Maho Girls PreCure, it's been common to do an Early-Bird Cameo of the Pink Heroine of the following series.
  • The Funimation era of Tenchi Muyo! dubs had a few quirks that weren't done during the Pioneer era.
    • The 3rd OVA series was the first series to use the series full title of Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki instead of just Tenchi Muyo!
    • The dub for Ai Tenchi Muyo had a few odd quirks to it in terms of names. Throughout the other dubs, Ayeka and Washu's endearing name for Tenchi had been "Lord Tenchi". Ai, instead, changes it to "Master Tenchi". As well, Sasami tended to refer to Tenchi as "big bro Tenchi", something she hadn't done in the other series.
  • No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! is iconically thought of as a Cringe Comedy with a Minimalist Cast, mostly featuring episodic plots about Tomoko's ill-fated attempts to raise her social status. Around chapter 70, though, it introduces a larger cast of characters and has Tomoko developing significant relationships with them, and the series becomes more focused on her circle of friends as a whole, with arcs carrying on through multiple chapters. Tomoko goes through a fair bit of Character Development, becoming more socially adept and kind, though maintaining some of her original flaws. And while Tomoko has always been Ambiguously Bi at minimum, later storylines tend to border on the Yuri Genre, with multiple characters implicitly or explicitly nursing a crush on her.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • The Millennium World arc, which takes up the final seven volumes of the manga, features a grand total of two proper Duels (both of which are late in the run), instead focusing on Egyptian ka battles for most of its run. Seto Kaiba, the main Breakout Character, is also almost completely absent, though his past incarnation Priest Seto is a major player. The anime version added him back in, and featured an additional Duel between him and Bakura.
    • The first three series all featured a mix of Urban Fantasy steeped in real-world mythology and occultism, and science fiction mostly expressed by fantastical technology. Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL downplayed the former in favor of more soft-science (aliens, other dimensions, exotic energies, etc), only bringing up occult or mythological elements in one mini-arc, and later shows downplayed them even further, with Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS being almost purely science fiction.
    • Duel writing in the first three series (barring duels originating from the manga) tended to be heavily interlinked with what was going on in the actual game, with characters frequently using preexisting cards. From mid-Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's onward, though, the writing became far more focused on cards created specifically for the episode or the situation, to the point of many characters using zero preexisting cards. Additionally, the various shows also introduced alternate duel formats (Riding Duels, Action Duels, Speed Duels, Rush Duels) in which the majority of duels take place, meaning that traditional duels happen very infrequently.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! SEVENS, due to a change in studio and its status as a reboot, is the first series to not use an artstyle based on Kazuki Takahashi's. He hadn't actually had design input on a new series since Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, but the following two shows were still clearly trying to match his aesthetic.
    • While Yu-Gi-Oh! GX and Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's clearly take place in the same universe as the original anime, later shows tend to be increasingly distant from it outside of the occasional Mythology Gag, to the point that it's often questioned by fans if they represent alternate continuities altogether (putting together a cohesive timeline is not easy).

    Asian Animation 

    Comic Books 
  • After Brian K. Vaughan left Runaways, the series struggled to find a consistent theme. First there was a time-travel arc, then an arc involving the Majesdanians trying to capture Karolina for her role in the destruction of their planet, then an arc where a Howard Stern expy tries to initiate a Zombie Apocalypse in Los Angeles, and finally the Darker and Edgier "Homeschooling" arc, which turned into such a mess that Marvel put the series on hiatus for eight years.
  • The last leg of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run steered away from the series' traditional horror roots and straight into sci-fi — albeit often with horror trappings. Moore's successor Rick Veitch took things even further, making Time Travel an integral part of Swamp Thing's abilities.
  • The original Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle run had him discover that his powers came from aliens, whom he finally defeats around issue #25. After that the series didn't really know what to do, throwing out a few filler stories until it was canceled with issue #36. The last two issues managed to bring back some alien politics and provide a Sequel Hook, though.
  • The 1980s saw a LOT of shakeups at Marvel Comics. Characters went through various costume changes (Spider-Man getting a black alien costume, Iron Man's classic red and gold suit being done away with in favor of the Silver Centurion armor, the Fantastic Four trading in their blue uniforms for new black and white ones, Thor growing a beard and switching out his classic costume for an armored suit, and Captain America donning a black suit and changing his name to simply "The Captain"), line-up changes (while some in the oughts thought Spider-Man and Wolverine being made members of the New Avengers was odd, there was a time where Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman left the Fantastic Four to almost immediately become Avengers), locale and status quo changes (like the time the X-Men were thought dead, but were actually hiding out in the Australian Outback, or when the Incredible Hulk turned gray, relocated to Las Vegas and became a leg breaker for The Mafia), the works!
  • Similarly, the late 60s through the late 70s saw a lot of odd shakeups at DC Comics.
    • For Superman, there was the Kryptonite Nevermore storyline. This storyline saw Superman's power levels brought down to manageable levels, Kryptonite on Earth being rendered inert and Clark, Lois and Lana being made reporters for GBS News. Most of these changes wouldn't stick as Superman's powers would return to their mind-numbingly powerful levels and a "meteor" of Kryptonite would reshower the planet with the stuff again. It wouldn't be until after Crisis on Infinite Earths that these sorts of changes would take hold again.
    • For Wonder Woman, there was a very infamous period in Wonder Woman (1942) where Diana, trying to help Steve Trevor, changed up her looks and ended up forsaking her powers as Wonder Woman, only to have it be All for Nothing when he's killed, leading to a period where Diana was now wearing catsuits and training in martial arts (notably resembling/copying Emma Peel) under the assistance of a monk known as I-Ching. This would only last three years.
    • For Batman, Dick Grayson would end up going to Hudson University for college and, in response, Bruce Wayne and Alfred would end up moving from Wayne Manor and the Batcave to a penthouse with a smaller "Batcave" hidden in the building. During this time, Batman would return to his grim and gritty roots, being the terrifying creature of the night once more. Dick would return and they would move back into the Manor, but it wouldn't be for nearly 15 years.
    • For Green Lantern, Hal Jordan would team up with Green Arrow Oliver Queen to be the "Hard-Travelling Heroes", pairing up with a Guardian known as "Old Timer" and sometimes Black Canary to hit the road and deal with social problems across the United States. The biggest ramification of this storyline was the revelation that Speedy had a drug addiction.
  • From 1984 to 1996, the Justice League of America found itself a repository of B-Listers and has-beens. Starting with the Justice League Detroit era, there would only be one or two A-Listers with random others along for the ride. It wouldn’t be until Grant Morrison took over that the Big Seven would make up the team once more.

    Comic Strips 
  • For most of its run under original cartoonist Jeff MacNelly, Shoe was often political and topical in nature, including caricatures of contemporary politicians, and a well-remembered Boot Camp Episode where Skyler enters Camp LeJeune under the assumption that it's a summer camp. But after MacNelly died, the strip got handed over to Gary Brookins, who turned it into a series of one-liners about growing old or failing to understand the opposite sex.
  • The last two decades of Peanuts are not especially well remembered or well regarded by those who do, but one noticeable feature was the uneven, sketchier art style it took on, the result of Charles Schulz having Parkinson's disease. This carried over to The Merch (which by this point was probably seen by more people than the comic strip) due to Schulz insisting on producing the artwork himself, leading an entire generation to grow up with this style. After his death, merchandise (now made either by cut-and-pasting old material or by other artists) almost immediately reverted to the way the strip looked in the '60s and '70s.
  • Dick Tracy in its late period in the 1970s with Chester Gould may have pulled back from its Dork Age with the Moon period, but it still had the bad habit of having the story formula of Tracy stopping a crime, finding out they have to let the crooks go because they were Off on a Technicality and stand around complaining how the cops were handcuffed by new rules, stopping the story dead.
  • B.C. could be said to have gone into this after cartoonist Johnny Hart became a born-again Christian in The '80s, turning his work increasingly from a gag-a-day comic to one where he espoused his fundamentalist Christian beliefs (including very overt references every Easter and Christmas, jokes about the "War on Christmas", and two controversial strips seen as attacks on Judaism and Islam). When Hart died in 2007, his grandson Mason Mastroianni took over the strip and reverted it largely to its roots.

  • Womens fashions in the later parts of the decade would look different than the rest of the decade. And such trends would preview the styles of the succeeding decade.
    • Due to World War I, the second half of 1910s fashions appear more loose and tunic-like than the first half. Skirts got wider and shorter, and more women wear simple narrow brimmed hats, and adopt loose bob hairstyles.
    • Around 1928-1929, women's silhouettes appear more feminized as women's curves have returned and hemlines gradually drop with handkerchief and waterfall skirts masking them.
    • With the inspiration of the Berlin Olympics and the popularity of jitterbug and motion pictures set in the Victorian era, fashions became more whimsical in 1937-1939, with harstyles updone with rolls, alpine hats and fedoras replacing snug pillbox hats, the shoulders became more robust, and skirts rose up at calf level to help ease at dancing.
    • Due to the influence of the New Look in 1947, make-do-and-mend fashions were pushed aside for full glam consisiting of longer skirts, whether full or pencil, and a cinched waist, and a focus on the narrow, often bare shoulders.
    • Late 1950s fashions have women wearing straight cut jackets and pencil skirts that reach to the knees. Hairstyles gradually pick up volume, and winged eye makeup got thicker.
    • Under the counterculture movement of the late 1960s, young people went for fashions that were earthier, hairstyles were let down, and women started to wear pants.
    • Much of the high fashions in the late 1970s opt for simple glam looks with nary a hint of the hippie style, while some designers borrow elements from New Wave such as teased spiky hair, neon makeup, and broad shoulder pads to the catwalk.
    • With the growing influence of Hip-Hop and minimalism, fashions of the late 1980s are taking influence from them.
    • As the new millennium was approaching, fashions of the late 1990s discarded the grunge look in favor of more metallic and digital aesthetics.

    Films — Animation 
  • Tarzan: Within the greater context of the Disney Renaissance. The most obvious departure from the old 90's formula was the fact that almost all the music was sung in the background, as opposed to being sung by the characters (bar a few measures of "You'll Be in My Heart" sung by Kala near the beginning, and "Trashin' the Camp").
  • Most pre-Renaissance Disney Animated Canon films fit under "Alternate Universe Hypothesis" or "Diegetic Hypothesis" when it comes to Musical World Hypotheses. The characters were actually singing most of the songs in-universe, while post-90s films instead mainly use "All in Their Head Hypothesis" or "Adaptation Hypothesis". The films were also usually not "Disney musicals" as people know today. The early princess films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella had memorable but low-key songs and a low amount of large musical numbers, compared to works like Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Downplayed with the fourth installment, The Road Chip, as it has a few oddities such as the Chipmunks having slightly different 3D models and being the only installment where Ian Hawke doesn't appear.
  • Home Alone: Both Home Alone 4 and Home Alone 5 differ significantly from the first three, starting with the fact that both are TV movies that were made without John Hughes' involvement. 4 recasts the original characters with different actors and Retcons a lot of the family's original dynamics (the parents are divorced, Kevin's older siblings are closer to his own age), Harry is replaced with Marv's girlfriend, while Marv looks and acts like Harry. 5 was made well after the series was considered finished, and involves an entirely different cast of characters (much like 3, but Hughes wrote and produced that one).
  • The final Blake Edwards Pink Panther films were just plain weird: Trail (1982) was a mishmash of footage (some of it unused) from the previous films to make up for Peter Sellers' absence. The second half of the movie shows only one journalist interviewing the supporting characters, and the movie ends without conclusion. Curse (1983) had another detective investigating the protagonist's disappearance and Roger Moore making a cameo appearance as Clouseau, who had undergone plastic surgery to change his appearance. And Son featured Roberto Benigni as Clouseau's illegitimate son.
  • Godzilla: Final Wars is the last installment of the series's "Millennium Era" and absolutely nothing like the preceding films. The earlier movies are relatively serious, character-driven sci-fi thrillers that treat the monsters as real threats. Final Wars is a deliberately campy, over-the-top Genre Roulette that tosses any attempt at characterization aside in favor of nonstop action and tends to use the monsters more as a source of comedy. Both of the subsequent reboots of the franchise had elected to go back to the serious, character-driven style.

    Game Shows 
  • Family Feud:
    • The final season of the original Richard Dawson run expanded the target goal to win the game at $400; the goal was reverted to $300 when the Ray Combs era began.
    • The introduction of the Bullseye round can count as Later Installment Weirdness for the last two seasons of Combs' tenure in particular, and Dawson's 1994-95 comeback season is this for the entire 1988-95 era. The Bullseye round also served as an example when it was re-introduced in John O'Hurley's last season, which also brought in family introduction videos and a car bonus in Fast Money. Only the latter aspect carried over to the Steve Harvey era.
  • The Hollywood Squares:
    • The year 1979 brought the new theme — "The Hollywood Bowl" — and new contestant/host's podium. The iconic 3-by-3 structure remained the same.
    • The final season in Las Vegas, which ran five days a week and was conducted as a year-long tournament. The use of new to- and from-commercial wipes was one thing; the intro, an "And Starring" billing for Paul Lynde (the legendary center square) and no Secret Square was quite another.
  • Match Game: The 1978 set and, just a few weeks earlier, the introduction of the Star Wheel. But then there was also the matter of no more canned laughter as Johnny Olson proclaimed, "Get ready to match the stars!" — it was applause as each celeb was introduced; this was started sometime in November 1978 (with the CBS daytime episodes). Richard Dawson being gone was another.
  • What's My Line?: A few turns:
    • Some consider the entire 1968-1975 syndicated run to be an example, given the fact that it was a daily show (and not simply a Sunday night institution), that Bennett Cerf — and all the men, for that matter — simply wore sport coats and suits rather than tuxedos, and that someone other than John Daly — Wally Bruner and even later, Larry Blyden — was the host.
    • The addition of a "Who's Who" segment — although certainly in keeping with the "guess the occupation" theme — was enough of a difference for some.
    • Finally, the "new" set — light purple and adorned with question marks — set off the final season from the earlier syndicated shows.
  • Wheel of Fortune:
    • With the NBC daytime show, a few might include: The introduction of the "Jackpot" space during the fall of 1986; the departure (and untimely death) of longtime announcer Jack Clark and replacements (M.G. Kelly and later, Charlie O'Donnell) and — most notably — the departure of Pat Sajak by his successor, Rolf Benirschke. The CBS/Bob Goen era is another and in fact has several "later installment" moments of its own, including the move back to NBC, upgrades in bonus round prizes (smaller scale nighttime show-style showcases, but still more elaborate and expensive than early CBS episodes) and the reliance of several home viewer contests to entice a declining audience share.
    • For the syndicated run any point since Season 14 (1996-97), when large parts of the show were overhauled: most notably, the show got an electronic puzzle board in February 1997, thus requiring hostess Vanna White to touch letters instead of turning them. Also, the Wheel was pared down to only one template with only the highest amount changing between rounds, instead of each round having a unique set of dollar figures. Subsequent seasons began a series of add-ons that further differ from the long-established formula, such as gift tags placed over dollar amounts, Free Play replacing Free Spin (which had been an element of the show since the pilot in 1973), the Wild Card, Mystery wedges, a "bonus wheel" in the Bonus Round replacing the long-standing W-H-E-E-L prize envelopes, and a $1,000,000 top prize. Toss-Up puzzles were also added in the early 2000s. The puzzle writing also became more contrived over the years, with many puzzles containing far more words than necessary to increase letter-calling, and many Schmuck Bait/Nintendo Hard Bonus Round setups.

  • The Berenstain Bears began to enter this territory with the later books. While the stories didn't get overly preachy, political and even religious content began to creep into a degree that had not been present before. While the earlier books had never denied that a grown-up world apart from Brother's and Sister's childhood experiences existed in Bear Country, the mature issues had always been only fleetingly and non-specifically mentioned, and Brother and Sister themselves were never involved in them (such as when Mama and Papa have to get them a babysitter because they're going to a political meeting for the day). But a later book had Sister use the word "sexist" (which should not even be part of her vocabulary yet) and later books are explicitly Christian.
  • The final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is the only one that doesn't mainly take place in Hogwarts, instead having the protagonists travel around Britain for most of the plot, and is the only one to have a "hero's quest" structure instead of the previously standard school year structure. It's also the only book without any Quidditch. Fittingly the films are an example too — as the seventh is the only book to be split into two films (plus the same points that were present in the book).
  • Madeline's Christmas, the last book of the Madeline series written by original author Ludwig Bemelmans, is a classic example of this trope. While the first book is a Slice of Life and most of the others, while adding more adventure, still avoid fantasy, the Christmas book introduces a magician who sends the little girls home for the holidays on flying carpets! Unsurprisingly, the animated adaptation tones down the weirdness, replacing the magician with a kindly old woman who helps the girls in a Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane fashion.
  • The last book of Sherlock Holmes stories (which were previously always written in first person from Watson's POV) feature two stories narrated by Sherlock Holmes himself (though still presented as his memoirs), one that was basically a play, and one in third-person narration.
  • The last book in the Venus Prime series is very thematically and stylistically different from the previous five. Most of its events are narrated in the first person by Prof. Forster, Sparta and Blake are seen entirely through other characters' eyes, and at one point, they and Forster go back in time to Ancient Mycenae. At another point, the book awkwardly diverts for three chapters to a first-person account by Klaus Muller, a Swiss deep-sea engineer who stumbles across the world ship.
  • The Bruce Elliott-penned stories featuring The Shadow were much different from the stories penned by the other authors who had taken up the "house name" of "Maxwell Grant"note . Many of them were straight up mysteries as opposed to pulp thrillers, and near the end of Elliott's run, The Shadow himself didn't appear in a number of stories in his own magazine, instead leaving the action to Lamont Cranston note  and Commissioner Weston. This was part of a postwar Dork Age imposed by the current editor who apparently hated pulps and wanted to turn the magazine into a more "respectable" mystery magazine, and also coincided with a wartime format change from novella to digest format meant to save paper. This failed miserably. Walter Gibson, The Shadow's creator, was brought back along with a previous and well-liked editor and the rescinding of the format change. Unfortunately it came too little too late and four issues after the snapback, the magazine was cancelled.
  • Madeleine L'Engle's books have some Later Installment Weirdness to go with their usual weirdness.
    • Many Waters is pretty different from the other Time Quartet books. For one, it stars Sandy and Dennys, the "normal" members of the Murray family; more to the point, though, its plot (about the two accidentally transporting themselves to just before the Biblical flood) is more explicitly religious (and, one could argue, more normal) than the other entries in the series, which mix a vague and largely ecumenical theism into their cosmic Science Fantasy adventures. It's also the only one of the four set entirely on Earth.
    • An Acceptable Time is an odd example of this. It's often counted as the fifth book in the seriesnote , which is hence renamed the Time Quintet, but it's set long after the other books and stars Polly O'Keefe, meaning that it's also considered an entry in the O'Keefe-centric Sequel Series. If one does consider it a Quartet/Quintet book, her mere inclusion fits this trope.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Books after Hard Luck tend to have almost no recurring supporting characters, Manny and Rodrick are Demoted to Extra, the tone is Denser and Wackier, and Vacation Episodes become much more common (taking up three and a half books).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel's fifth and final season involved the protagonists running the Big Bad organization Wolfram & Hart. Due to budget cuts, a much greater portion of the episodes took place during the daytime, and Cordelia was largely absent. Additionally, Spike was transplanted to the show for this season following the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (taking Cordelia's spot in the opening credits).
  • Arrow:
    • The fifth season introduced several new main characters while all but two original ones (The Hero and the Creator's Pet) were made Out of Focus; a new title sequence was eventually ushered in with logos for all the new heroes, not just Green Arrow. Save for one, the newbies were received exactly like you were expecting. Most of them do get better however.
    • The first four seasons of Arrow, unlike the following shows in the universe it spawned, were relatively grounded, as the de facto Batman of its canon, with the farthest reality-leaving touches involving the League of Assassins' Lazarus Pit being able to resurrect dead characters. However, as the other series (and crossover events) brought in elements such as the multiverse, time travel, and alternate timelines into canonical play, all of the above began to affect Arrow as well: characters from Earth-2 and metahumans, interaction with cosmic beings, and eventually, alternate timelines away from the show's prime history. The characters even lampshade regularly in later seasons how their world is much different from the days of fighting druglords from a bunker.
  • The first three seasons of MTV's Awkward. were run by series creator Lauren Iungerich, who had a natural, realistic vision for the show. After her departure, the show received new showrunners who made the show a more dramatic, stereotypical high school soap opera. Most notably there was a plot about new girl Eva turning out to be a psychopathic Stalker with a Crush for Matty with a fake identity and Fake Pregnancy to pull The Baby Trap on him. This plot might have worked on a regular teen show where drama happens all the time, like Beverly Hills, 90210, but it was ludicrous on Awkward.
  • Baywatch Nights: The series started as a Spin-Off of the original Baywatch with a Genre Shift towards detective stories, with Mitch and other characters opening a detective agency and solving mysteries. Soon afterwards it did a Retool following the then-leader that was The X-Files and had the characters (veteran lifeguards and police officers before becoming P.Is.) battling supernatural Monsters of the Week. It was cancelled shortly after.
  • Bonanza: Has several, but for many years viewers didn't see the last three seasons (and a number of the 1966-1970) episodes because they were not syndicated, which — when they did see these "rare" episodes, there were often stark differences from the show they knew and loved:
    • Season 7 (1965-1966): The departure of Pernell Roberts was the first tipping point.
    • Season 9 (1967-1968): The arrival of Candy Cannaday, the drifter turned trusted ranch hand and confidant of the Cartwright family. While some fans were starting to drift away, the show was still the No. 1 western on television, and the fourth-rated show overall.
    • Season 10 (1968-1969): In use during these two seasons was the rescored theme, a bright marching-type arrangement of the original David Rose-orchestrated Jay Livingston-Ray Evans theme. Still a top-three rated show.
    • Season 12 (1970-1971): Here's where things begin to fit more squarely in the "Late Installment Weirdness" trope — the new kid, Jamie Hunter (added top round out the cast and give someone that actually could use Ben's advice), a totally new theme ("The Big Bonanza," composed by David Rose), actual title shots introducing each actor, and the move of the set from the Paramount Studio to the Warner Bros. studios. Amazingly, the show still ranked in the top 10 for this and the following year, but the end was drawing nigh ... .
    • Season 14 (1972-1973): New opening shots and a new arrangement of the original Livingston-Evans theme (once again orchestrated by Rose), but it was one notable missing actor — Dan Blocker, as Hoss Cartwright — that made this season truly fit the trope. Blocker died of a blood clot following an operation, and nobody could ever succeed him in the role. The ratings went south, and it wasn't long before Bonanza was relegated to the history books ... and an endless run in syndicated reruns.
  • Boston Public started off featuring things that regularly happen in inner city high schools. Later seasons had really weird things happen, like a student getting electrocuted and thinking he's Jesus.
  • The final season of Bramwell is vastly different from the others — only two 2-hour episodes, which focus on her caring for new army recruits rather than her typical hospital work, her father and new stepmother vanish without explanation, while her behavior becomes foolish and irresponsible, culminating in her being fired from the Thrift, the hospital she started.
  • Charmed Season 8 is the only season not to feature Daryl Morris, and Leo is absent for about ten episodes — both of which were due to budget cuts requiring them to be written out. The season also features a new protagonist, Billie, who gets a story arc of her own.
  • Community:
    • Season 4 is very different as a result of Dan Harmon the showrunner being fired and absent from that season. He returned for 5 & 6.
    • In the last two seasons, the former study group members returned to Greendale Community College to form the "Save Greendale Committee" an extremely loose Excuse Plot to keep the show going. Jeff Winger became a teacher, so the show had much less focus on classes and studying. Multiple main cast members left, including Donald Glover, thus breaking up the popular Troy and Abed duo, new regular cast members were introduced, Chang became a regular part of the group, and the overall tone of the show got even darker and weirder than before. Furthermore, since the final season was not made for broadcast TV, the episodes were longer and often slower-paced, Annie & Abed are involved in a lot more plots together once Troy leaves the show.
  • By its final couple of seasons, the original run of Dallas had lost most of its classic era cast with the exception of JR Ewing himself, Bobby, Cliff and a few minor supporting characters, greatly eroding the Big, Screwed-Up Family nature of the show. The combination of a mostly new and younger cast, different locations, soapier storylines in general and in the finale an outright shift into the supernatural with an It's a Wonderful Plot ending made late Dallas a very different animal to the beast it had been in its prime.
  • The sixth and final season of A Different World put the heavy focus on incoming students at Hillman (including one recurring character from then-recently ended The Cosby Show), after the main characters graduated, and Dwayne and Whitley married, in the previous season; Jalessa vanished from the series; the theme song was redone (again), and now sung by Boyz II Men, replacing Aretha Franklin.
  • The Drew Carey Show saw a number of major differences in its last two seasons, especially the final season. Many of the show's major characters were written off for various different reasons; Drew, Mimi, and Mr. Wick are now working for an entirely different company (Mr. Wick in particular is now a janitor and tries working his way back up to the top of the corporate ladder); the show goes through three different new theme songs; the show switched from a multi-camera Studio Audience format to a single-camera Laugh Track format, which also resulted in Chaos Architecture with the sets; and plots became a tad absurd, such as Mimi's house being burned down to force her into moving in with Drew.
  • ER began as a fairly realistic portrayal of a hospital emergency room, but later seasons included kidnappings, explosions, arms being chopped off, helicopter crashes, shoot-outs and many other things. Also the entire cast was different.
  • Fantasy Island: In early seasons it was just about people fulfilling their fantasies, albeit with some Fridge Logic about how Mr. Rourke managed to pull some of it off. By the final season the show was dropping some pretty heavy hints that Rourke was an actual angel of the Lord.
  • The Facts of Life:
    • Season 5 (1983-1984): Blair and Jo had graduated from Eastland, after which the series' primary setting was moved from Eastland Hall to Mrs. Garrett's new business, Edna's Edibles. A tipping point but still the main premise of the show — the two other girls (Tootie and Natalie) still connected to Eastland — was there.
    • Season 7 (1985-1986): Wholesale changes, including a new main setting (a novelty store called Over Our Heads, which replaced Edna's Edibles, that had been destroyed in a fire), the addition of George Clooney to the cast and a re-recorded theme (from pop rock to a synth-heavy new wave. By this time, too, all four of the girls were wearing new wave fashions and were blatant examples of having '80s Hair. Also, Charlotte Rae reduced her role significantly, not appearing at all in some episodes.
    • Season 8 (1986-1987): Cloris Leachman replacing Charlotte Rae as the "housemother," Beverly Ann Stickle, and confidant to Blair, Jo, Natalie and Tootie. Also, Leachman adopting Andy Moffett, a street orphan who had started working at Over Our Heads as an errand boy.
    • Season 9 (1987-1988): Several new characters, most notably Sherrie Krenn (Austin, the future country singer) as Australian foreign exchange student Pippa McKenna. The series was still (amazingly) going strong, and it was finally several of the key cast members — most notably Mindy Cohn and Nancy McKeon — deciding to leave after the end of the season that put the kabosh on the most radical changes of them all for a planned Season 10: An Aftershow — based on the two-part Season 9 finale, wherein Blair learns that Eastland is in severe financial trouble and uses her wealth to purchase the assets of Eastland, then becomes the school's headmistress — with a bunch of all-new students (played by then-child stars Mayim Bialik, Seth Green and Juliette Lewis) that would have made the show essentially reminiscent of the first two seasons.
  • Family Matters lampshades this in the eighth season when Steve Urkel shows Carl his time machine. In response, Carl lists off all of Steve's other major inventions and is unfazed at what he's been told. Considering that Urkel wasn't even present in the first season, the presence of out-and-out science fiction elements are a jarring contrast to the rather conventional Dom Com the show started as.
  • The sixth season of Gimme a Break! saw the show go under a minor Retool, with the setting being changed from Glenlawn to New York City, the Kanisky daughters being written out, and the introduction of Joey's brother Matt.
  • Glee: The show began relying less and less on having musical numbers only take place in the choir room or in someone's imagination, and had characters bursting into song whenever they feel like it. Not to mention all the crazy subplots involving Sue, such as hypnotizing Sam. Also, the tribute episodes became more frequent, as they would often let the songs write the stories, rather than vice versa.
  • Happy Days:
    • Season 8: Ron Howard and Don Most, having played original lead character Richie Cunningham and close friend Ralph Malph respectively, leave the series. Since the show was all about Fonzie already, that wasn't so much a late-installment weirdness, but especially with Season 9, the focus was now shifted over to Joanie (Richie's sister) and Chachi.
    • Season 11: The rescored theme and change from the vintage-1950s style jukeboxes to the more modern late-1960s models.
  • Haven in its later seasons became much more serialized than before. The earlier seasons tended to be more The X-Files-esque Monster of the Week with elements of a greater Myth Arc hinted at (mostly about Audrey's origins, as well as the origins of the Troubles). The later seasons moved the Myth Arc front and center and became more Lovecraft Lite. The second half of season 5 (the final season) bordered on full-on Cosmic Horror Story.
  • Hee Haw: Began with the 1986-1987 season, the first in which co-host Roy Clark went solo, as Buck Owens had departed to go into self-imposed retirement. The show, however, carried on well as Clark's natural charisma and chemistry with his co-hosts continued to make the show a bonafide hit. It was in the late fall of 1991, however, when the show went into a different direction: A completely new set (a shopping mall and nightclub), new cast members — some of them left, others had passed away through the years — and an emphasis on pop-country singers alienated longtime viewers to a point where the show was now a disaster. The show redeemed itself somewhat in the final season when it began airing as Hee Haw Silver and focused on clips from the first 20 or so years (with most of those segments coming from the early to mid-1970s).
  • House began two of the last three seasons with Two-Part Episodes dedicated to the title character escaping a mental institution and prison, respectively. He also ended up in a romantic relationship with Dr. Cuddy, who was completely absent for the final season.
  • How I Met Your Mother: The final season, barring the last two episodes, takes place over the course of three days while all previous seasons took place over a year (usually from September to May). As the main cast stay at the the Farhampton Inn for the wedding of Barney and Robin, the familiar MacLaren's Pub only appears in a few flashbacks.
  • The final season of Judge Judy replaced longtime narrator Jerry Bishop with Steve Kamer, as Bishop died in 2020. Additionally, the season was produced during the COVID-19 Pandemic, meaning the audience is missing. As a consequence, the usual crane shot of the audience as the narrator says, "And now, the next case..." between the post-case litigant interviews and Bailiff Hawkins-Byrd calling for the next case's litigants had to be dropped.
  • Law & Order was almost adamant about not focusing on the personal lives of it's characters, feeding us information only through the various tidbits one might drop to a co-worker, but rarely, if ever showing it. Which is why the Season 6 episode "Aftershock" was such a shocking departure from the norm as it featured no case and for once actually did focus heavily on the main cast. For the next 2-3 seasons, there was a greater emphasis on the characters' personal lives (Lenny's daughter's legal troubles, Jamie's ex-husband suing her for custody, etc.).
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent suffered from the same fate about halfway into its run. After original showrunner Rene Balcer left the series, his replacement Warren Leight began to retool the series into more of a Crime Time Soap akin to the Sex Crimes Division and begin to focus more of Goren's dysfunctional family and apparent diminishing sanity, Eames learning that her slain cop husband's killer was wrongfully convicted, Wheeler's fiancee was a dirty FBI agent and a completely out of nowhere attraction between the former two detectives that wasn't even hinted at in the earlier years.
  • La Femme Nikita (not to be confused with the CW drama simply named Nikita) got a short Post-Script Season after being Un-Canceled. Apparently a lot of the actors had gone their separate ways, because some major characters either vanished or died, and even with replacements the cast was smaller. Even one actor who remained played a different character (Birkoff's twin brother from a prior episode replaces him after his death.) Also, Michael's role is quite different than in seasons past. Even in scenes when most of the faces onscreen are ones you know, the world after the events of the intended Series Finale is not the one you know.
  • MacGyver: A mild example is the last seasons: while it remained a show about a Science Hero (and the Trope Namer for MacGyvering), situations where he had to use his skills included defusing a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax regarding Bigfoot, a Time Travel Or Was It a Dream? episode where he went back to the Middle Ages and had to adventure alongside Merlin, an adventure that took place in the afterlife.
  • M*A*S*H. Although the subject of Seasonal Rot has always been up for debate, it's often agreed that the show's ultimate turn for the worse began with Season Eight: by that time, Alan Alda and Burt Metcalfe had completely overhauled the production staff and replaced almost all of the writers, shifting the tone of the show from a sitcom with dramatic undertones to a drama with comedic undertones; with Cerebus Syndrome set in, as well the loss of Radar and an end to Klinger's Section 8 schemes - including running around in dresses (even Harry Morgan once remarked, "When we lost Radar, we essentially lost Klinger as well"), the last four seasons are much regarded as an almost entirely different show altogether.
  • Miami Vice's final seasons also included an escalation in odd episodes, such as one of the characters being abducted by aliens (the leader of which was played by James Brown), a group of drug dealers doing a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax regarding ghosts to try to keep people away from their operation (and the ghost being probably Real After All), Sonny going through Easy Amnesia (and temporarily becoming a bad guy) in one episode, a couple of "comedy" episodes where the Vice detectives had to deal with borderline-murderous Gambit Pileups regarding the purchase of unusual items (a prize bull's semen in one, the Human Popsicle remains of a famous singer in another) from the same Butt-Monkey Con Man snitch...
  • The Mindy Project's seasons after its Channel Hop to Hulu feature more experimental/wacky episodes, such as an It's a Wonderful Plot episode where Mindy never dated Danny (instead she's married to a TV producer played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a "Groundhog Day" Loop episode after Ben breaks up with her, and another episode where Mindy wakes up in the body of a white man.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000, following its Channel Hop to the Sci-Fi Channel, had a lot of changes thanks to a wondrous amount of Executive Meddling. The biggest change was that it gained a plot - Season 8 had Mike and the Bots chased by Pearl Forrester and her two henchmen, Season 9 had everyone return to Earth and Pearl setting up shop in Castle Forrester and Season 10 had Pearl try to get her Mad Scientist's credentials (though 9 and 10 didn't have the same strict continuity of season 8 and the episodes were again self-contained). The movies in this era were heavily either science fiction or fantasy-based movies (as per Sci-Fi's wishes that the films be within the network's name genre) with Season 10 loosening up due to it being the final season (of the original run).
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • The first half of Season 6 introduced characters from 'The Land of Untold Stories'. As opposed to fairy tales, these featured characters like Dr Jekyll, Captain Nemo, Edmund Dantes - without a notable arc villain like the others. The second half of the season however went back to familiar roots, with the Black Fairy taking over as the villain.
    • The seventh season saw the departure of Emma, Snow, Charming, Belle and Henry as series regulars - and was instead centered around an adult Henry who believes his childhood adventures were just stories he made up. It also featured new versions of characters the show had already used - for example Henry's lover is Cinderella, but not the same one who had appeared in the previous seasons.
  • The last couple of seasons of Oz were increasingly experimental and included a Musical Episode, Cyril O'Reilly developing Multiple Personality Disorder on top of brain damage, a drug that causes artificial aging, and an ever-increasing body count.
  • The later episodes of Parks and Recreation are easily recognizable:
    • The frequent Friendship Moments between Leslie and Ann are completely absent, following the latter's departure.
    • On a lesser scale, Garry Gergich, who had been referred to as "Jerry" throughout the series' run, was renamed to "Larry Gengurch" by April, then to "Terry", and ultimately to "Garry", his actual name.
    • Most obviously, in the final season, there is a Time Skip to 3 years later. The show's setting has changed beyond belief, as basically the entire cast except Craig no longer works in the Parks Department. This meant that the iconic office goes unused for most of the season, only reappearing for any significant length once or twice.
    • The format itself changed in the final season, as episodes no longer had tags.
  • Power Rangers:
  • The Practice became an entirely different show in its final season, a good deal of the cast, main lead Bobby Donaldson included, replaced. It was basically a season-long Poorly Disguised Pilot for Boston Legal.
  • The concept of the show Promised Land (a Spin-Off of Touched by an Angel) had the Greene family traveling around the country to help people, but in the show's third and final season, they settled permanently into a community by the final season.
  • The Prisoner (1967) spent the first twelve of its seventeen episodes (in production order) confined almost exclusively to The Village, where the lead character Number 6 was imprisoned. But the next four episodes to be produced all spent the majority of their runtimes (apparently) outside the Village, with increasingly bizarre in-universe reasons for doing so without having Number Six actually escape the Village:
    • The 13th produced episode, "Many Happy Returns", simply has Number 6 escape from the Village after finding it deserted, only to be brought back at the end of the episode.
    • The 14th produced episode, "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling", cranks up the weirdness by having Number 6's mind be transplanted into the body of another person; he spends the majority of the episode outside the Village in his new body, before being brought back at the end and returned to his original body.
    • The 15th produced episode, "Living in Harmony", makes things weirder still by having Number Six be apparently become a sheriff in an American Western. Only in the final few minutes is it revealed that Number Six is still in the Village, under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs.
    • The 16th and penultimate produced episode, "The Girl Who Was Death", has Number Six apparently back in his old life as a superspy, pursuing a female assassin across England. Only at the very end is it revealed that he is simply reading a bedtime story about himself to the Village children.
    • The 17th and final episode, "Fall Out", returned to being set mainly in the Village, but was enough of a Bizarro Episode to count as "Later Installment Weirdness" in its own right.
  • Quantum Leap's fifth season, in an effort to boost sagging ratings (with a dose of Executive Meddling), did away with some of the series' rules, particularly the one that stated that Sam couldn't Leap outside his own lifespan (he was born in 1953) and wouldn't Leap into anybody famous or interact with anyone famous other than possibly a brief cameo (a very young Michael Jacksonnote  and Buddy Holly, among others, appeared in earlier seasons). In the season opener, he Leaped into Lee Harvey Oswald, and later that season into Elvis Presley, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Marilyn Monroe's limo driver, and a captain during the Civil War. There were also a lot more "stunt" episodes (such as a trilogy with "evil Leapers," more views of the future, a host who may or may not have been a vampire, etc.), to the point that very few episodes were the simple, standalone, Set Right What Once Went Wrong, quiet, personal episodes of seasons past, and the theme song was rewritten to be more bombastic. The series finale (which had been written long before), despite being a Mind Screw in its own right, fortunately returns to the tone of previous seasons.
  • Quantico went in a different direction for its third and final season, completely removing the dual timelines and rather than a single plot, whose important figures were slowly given the spotlight to show how they were part of it, it features standalone episodes with little to no connection between them, until the second half of the season who gave the team a recurring antagonist in Conor Devlin and more connected missions.
  • Raising Hope in the fourth (and final) season. The focus of the show shifts away from Jimmy and Sabrina and more towards Jimmy's parents, Burt and Virginia. Notably the titular child, Hope, despite being four years old at the time of the fourth season has next to no dialogue. This wasn't as big of a deal in previous seasons as she was a baby in the first two seasons and a toddler in the third, but this becomes especially jarring considering she gets maybe ten lines of dialogue by the time she's pre-school age.
  • Roseanne was a show about a blue collar family trying to make ends meet. Having been told that the eighth season would be their last, the creators had the Conners win the lottery. Even aside from that Retool, there were a lot of odd episodes, set in a character's imagination or depicting Roseanne fighting terrorists. The Grand Finale also reveals that the events of the entire series were all a book that Roseanne was writing, making the last season fall under Mental Story as well. The 2017 renewal removed all these changes, except for the birth of Darlene and David's daughter, Harrisnote . The eighth season also changed the theme song, which had been entirely instrumental before.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch got this way with its seventh season due to the departure of long-standing regulars Hilda and Zelda Spellman, that it didn't take place with Sabrina still in school, and that the house set Sabrina lived in had changed noticeably despite being implied to be the same location.
  • Sanford and Son's last couple of seasons are often regarded by many fans as being weaker and sillier compared to its earlier seasons, mainly due to the departure of the show's original black writers and producers, and replacing them with Jewish writers and producers, causing the show to lose its original authentic urban edge and ethnic vibe that made it such a stand-out and groundbreaking series (for its day) and instead relying on standard sitcom fluff and hijinks.
  • The ninth season of Scrubs was a full-fledged retool that had a new cast of characters take priority while the previous cast was seen more sparingly or in leadership roles. In fact, series creator Bill Lawrence wanted to have the 9th season to have a new name (Scrubs: Med School) to separate it from the previous ones (as the difference was just that stark), but was prevented from doing so by ABC.
  • The last two seasons of Seinfeld have often been panned by viewers and critics alike; with the departure of series co-creator and showrunner Larry David, many complained that the storylines became increasingly absurd, far-fetched, and unbelievable.
  • Smallville had many actors' contracts expire, so the last two seasons show him growing into a more Superman-like role, leaving behind old characters, old settings, and increasingly, the town in the title. The last two seasons are a Superman series in all but name. The changes happen gradually enough that it feel organic—just as in real life, the "cast" of your childhood life is demoted to Recurring Character as new regulars appear.
  • Stargate SG-1, where the primary enemies the Goa'uld were diminished in threat by the end of the eighth season, and the ninth season opened establishing a new Big Bad in the Ori. In addition there were several cast changes as Richard Dean Anderson left the show and only came back in sporadic guest appearances. The show's last few seasons happened to follow the endings of several other beloved sci-fi shows, and the show imported actors from those shows, most notably Ben Browder and Claudia Black from Farscape.
  • Star Trek:
    • The series began as a science fiction series with at least a pretense of hardness about a human-run elite paramilitary organization that sent out their best Starship to explore outer space. Many plots revolved around how the humans handled encountering the strangeness of the universe, while occasionally segueing into Space Opera. Since then, newer writers have incorporated many elements of contemporary and post-contemporary science-fiction, with the following installments sometimes resembling Star Wars outings.
    • The final season of the original series. Many critics and fans felt that the show was growing far cheesier and more far-fetched, and the show’s logo changed from yellow to blue and the theme tune was slightly remixed.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • The logo was changed during the fifth season, to give it a swoosh similar to Superman: The Movie. It was removed the following season.
    • In the season 6 episode "Chain of Command", Captain Jellico, as one of his initial orders as new captain of the Enterprise, has Deanna Troi get out of the goofy purple outfit she wore and into an actual uniform. She stays in uniform for the rest of the series and into the movie era, much to actress Marina Sirtis' relief and the joy of Troi's fans.
    • In season 7, writers were apparently unable to resolve the Belligerent Sexual Tension between either Riker and Troi or Picard and Dr. Crusher, thus the writers decided the best thing to do was pair Troi with Worf! While actor Michael Dorn wished things continued, it didn't get anywhere and it would a end few years later when Riker and Troi were ultimately married in Star Trek: Nemesis.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Jadzia Dax was killed off at the end season six and was replaced with a new host, Ezri Dax, for season seven. We then had several episodes focusing on Ezri getting to grips with being a host and managing several lifetimes of new memories, exploring her background, and meeting her family. We didn't have this much focus on Jadzia in six years; we never saw her sister (mentioned once) and her original pre-joining surname was never established. There was also focus on the fallout from Ezri and Worf, Jadzia's widower, being stationed together (which seems to have defied a Trill law earlier in the show about Trills not associating with the husbands/wives of past hosts).
  • 'Til Death got downright surreal in its final season when nobody was watching, including Doug realizing he's a character in a sitcom and his girlfriend keeps getting recast, Mayim Bialik as a therapist who is really Mayim Bialik in a reality show, and other bizarre adventures.
  • As 21 Jump Street reached the end of its run and lost more original cast members, the series still focused mainly on campus cases, but mixed in episodes strictly dealing with adult perps, such as "Shirts and Skins," which was about the murder of a neo-Nazi leader amid the conflict between his group's two factions, with a side plot featuring the anti-racism vigilantes (led by a middle-aged man, no less) who turned out to be not so different from the neo-Nazis.
  • Not that Twin Peaks wasn't weird to begin with but its third season completely abandons all the wacky soap-opera elements and turns into a full-on Cosmic Horror Story full of Body Horror, Nightmare Fuel and a lot of swearing. Airing on adult-only Showtime instead of the original ABC helps.
  • Two and a Half Men was almost intentional. After Charlie Harper is killed off off-camera (due to Charlie Sheen's meltdown resulting in his termination with the show), Alan and Jake end up befriending and living with the weirdly named Walden Schmidt, and Jake also lampshades the changes in his character and attributes his "awkward years" to puberty as he becomes more and more of a sociopathic horndog who suddenly joins the Army at one point, leaving Alan and Walden in an Odd Couple-esque setting.
  • The final season of The Virginian was subtitled Men From Shiloh. The previous season's cast was overhauled (with only the Virginian and Trampas remaining), the series adopted a decidedly more Spaghetti Western atmosphere, and the episodes focused more on the individual characters on a rotating basis instead of on the cast as an ensemble.
  • The teleroman Virginie had a weird case of Long-Runner Cast Turnover in 2007 when the Character Title passed the torch to a younger Virginie teaching at the same school. The show was running since September 1996 and already broke the longevity record for Quebec fictionalized television with its 1221'st episode in 2006 when the actress decided to quit.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger: By its final seasons, it was still an action-adventure series based on Texas, but many odd episodes occurred, including several Very Special Episodes with faith-based special guests, rampaging evil spirits, an All Just a Dream episode occurring on the Old West, people stealing super-weapons to use to take on Walker, an episode where Walker and friends must find a missing kid that is being helped by a stereotypical Robot Buddy, and the final episode featuring as a foe a genetically-engineered Implacable Man Super Soldier who's creation was funded by a Right-Wing Militia Fanatic group.
  • The final season of Wind At My Back is usually regarded as an unusual point in the series' run, mostly due in part to addition of a new head writer who, apparently, wasn't even really familiar enough with the show, or its characters, to continue their stories in a direction that reflected the previous four seasons.

  • MAD went through two examples:
    • In the mid-1990s, they shifted toward a more vulgar and visceral style of humor, with increased appearances of PG-13 language, sexual innuendo, and grossout humor than was present in most of the magazine's history. Some of this was due to the addition of younger talent (and the departure of older talent, whether to age or dissatisfaction with the tonal shift) and change in editors over the years, particularly following the death of founder William M. Gaines.
    • About a decade later, the magazine switched from newsprint to glossy, allowing for articles to be published in color for the first time since the early comic-book days. They also began taking ads at this time.
  • Rival Cracked went through this at the Turn of the Millennium in an attempt to play catch-up when Dick Kulpa, formerly of Weekly World News fame, took over as editor. The covers were much more crowded with text; the art slicker and more colorful, while the writing pushed for a Totally Radical feel. He also changed the payment plans for artists, which ended up driving away flagship artist John Severin and a few others. After financial difficulties and an anthrax attack ground this version of the mag to a halt, other editors attempted a Retool into a "lad mag" akin to Maxim. This also failed, and the "Cracked" name was given to the otherwise unrelated humor site of the same name.
  • Macintosh computer magazine MacAddict was known for most of its run as a wacky, lighthearted magazine. Many of the articles had a humorous tone laden with Running Gags and cartoons, while the review section used a cartoon mascot called Max. But in the later years, the magazine got a sterile, white-and-blue makeover and a more serious tone (including a standard five-point scale rating system), culminating in a rename to Mac|Life.
  • Disney Adventures seemed to shift away from the "Disney" half of its name in the 21st century, likely due to the animated films going through a Dork Age and the Disney Channel shifting its focus toward kidcoms. The articles became much shorter, celeb cameos rarer, and the comics became much of an afterthought consisting solely of a few original properties with little or no Disney flavor (compared to the magazine's prime, when they included comic adaptations of Disney properties, along with reprints of licensed The Simpsons comicsnote  and even excerpts from Bone). It even got to the point where issues would center on a non-Disney property, such as SpongeBob SquarePants.

  • Country Music singer Aaron Tippin was largely known for most of his career for two things: his extremely nasal twangy singing voice, and his constant use of patriotic and blue-collar imagery, as codified by his debut single "You've Got to Stand for Something" (along with the occasional detour into novelty territory, most iconically with "There Ain't Nothing Wrong with the Radio"). But by 1995's "That's as Close as I'll Get to Loving You", he began recording impassioned ballads more frequently, and his voice became deeper and less nasal. Pretty much his only significant return to blue-collar patriot territory was his post-9/11 release "Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly", although it still had him singing in the deeper range. Even a momentary return to novelty territory with 2000's "Kiss This" is noticeably more subdued than "Radio" was.
  • The last two Bloodrock albums (three if you count the unfinished archival release Unspoken Words) move away from their pioneering hard rock style into a more folkish progressive-rock sound with lots of flute. The main reason for this may be the replacement of original lead singer Jim Rutledge with singing flute player Warren Ham, who went on to compose most of the songs on these albums.
  • Carcass was initially a Grindcore/Death Metal act for their first three of their five studio releases. 1994's Heartwork took a shift towards a more conventional style that became one of the biggest influences on Melodic Death Metal and other subgenres (such as Metalcore and Progressive Metal), and Swansong was a complete departure, being comprised of Blues-influenced Heavy Metal with discrete Death Metal aesthetics.
  • Diamond Rio was mainly known for harmony-driven mainstream Country Music with unusually heavy rhythm sections and a strong focus on Telecaster, keyboard/organ, and mandolin solos, exemplified by "Meet in the Middle", "Mirror, Mirror", "Love a Little Stronger", "How Your Love Makes Me Feel", et cetera. Around the release of their fifth album, Unbelievable, in 1999, they shifted to a more pop ballad-driven sound with more emphasis on piano and string sections, as exemplified in "One More Day" and "I Believe", while their up-tempo material became slicker and more pop influenced, such as "Beautiful Mess". Notably, the band underwent the change in sound without a single membership change or a change in record producers, and with absolutely no other session musicians besides the occasional string section.
  • Joe Diffie to an extent. His biggest hits in the mid-90s were novelties such as "Pickup Man", "Third Rock from the Sun", and "John Deere Green", but by the time of his Greatest Hits Album in 1998, he began singing more serious ballads and midtempos. Many critics praised his 1999 album A Night to Remember for not containing any novelty songs at all. The same largely held true for his next few albums. In addition to the move to ballads, these albums also displayed a more pop influence compared to the twangier sound of his biggest hits.
  • Although they had started to drift toward Hair Metal as early as their fifth studio album, Rock and Roll Over, in 1976 ("Makin' Love" is a candidate for the Ur-Example of pop-metal), in the 1980s KISS fully embraced it, and their albums from the "non-makeup" years (1983-1992) sound drastically different from the "classic" Kiss sound, with fast (occasionally very fast) Van Halen-like solos; this reached its culmination with 1987's Crazy Nights, whose fourth track, "No No No", borders on speed metal. In part this was due to new guitarists - Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John, Bruce Kulick - who sounded nothing like Ace Frehley. But it was also due to the band having to adopt a grittier and more "controversial" image in order to keep pace with the bands they'd inspired. Thus, along with the usual goofy anthems about sex, there are a number of Darker and Edgier tunes with more of a "punk" attitude and even some Precision F Strikes very much at odds with their former (relatively) kid-friendly image. The makeover was only partially successful, with Kiss having fallen into semi-obscurity by the late '80s and enjoying only scattered success until they put their makeup back on in 1996.
  • As their career began to wind down in the latter half of the 1980s, Quiet Riot moved away from the Heavy Metal that had put them on the map and shifted first to synthpop ballads ("Twilight Hotel") and then to jive-talking, bluesy Hard Rock anthems very reminiscent of Aerosmith ("Calling the Shots").
  • Ø, Underoath's final album until 2018's Erase Me. was made without founding member Aaron Gillespe, leaving the band with no more original members. Vocalist Spencer Chamberlain took over Aaron's clean singing along with the Harsh Vocals he had been dedicated to for the previous three albums. Musically, the album borrows heavily from sludge metal and mathcore, resulting in a very dark and intense sound. Erase Me, their first album after their reunion, is musically much lighter but much darker lyric-wise.
  • Big & Rich is mainly remembered for their hard rock-influenced novelty country songs, such as "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)". So some may be surprised to find that their 2014 album Gravity is almost entirely composed of ballads such as "Look at You". Zig-zagged in that even as early as their first album, they had minor success with similar ballads such as "Holy Water" or "8th of November".
  • The later output of The Statler Brothers from 1983 until their 2002 disbanding, at which point Jimmy Fortune had replaced Lew DeWitt on tenor/occasional lead vocals and songwriting duties. Fortune had a much younger sounding delivery, and the production was generally more subdued. Bizarrely, three of the band's four #1 hits came during Fortune's tenure.
  • Doug Stone had this to a degree with More Love and Faith in Me, Faith in You having more electric guitar-driven uptempos that had a considerably heavier approach than his previous more downbeat material (even the more upbeat "A Jukebox with a Country Song" is notably more relaxed than the likes of "Addicted to a Dollar" or "Born in the Dark"). Both of these changes were due to James Stroud replacing Doug Johnson as his producer. After a three-year hiatus resulting from a stroke, Stone came back in 1999 with the much slicker and poppier "Make Up in Love" before more or less returning to his ballad style.
  • Da Yoopers from about 1995 onward. Jim Bellmore took over for Joe Potila as lead guitarist, co-writer, and co-producer of the band, bringing a more eclectic rock influence compared to the more folksy sounds the band had already established. The title track of We're Still Rockin' (the first album on which he appeared) is six minutes of Epic Rocking, and many of their later songs overall feature Genre Roulette in full force — although the lyrical content remained largely unchanged due to drummer Jim "Hoolie" DeCaire continuing to co-write and co-produce as he had under Potila's tenure. 21st Century Yoopers in Space (2007) also stands out as a two-disc mega-album with several guest vocalists and a large number of songs by outside writers.
  • David Sylvian (after leaving Japan) went from lushly produced jazz-ambient tunes to taking an about face into avant-garde improv experiments with few instruments in Blemish, and getting weirder as he went on. His voice changed too - his earlier solo work features a rich, note-perfect croon, and his later work he can be croaky and at times off-key. He is an interesting case as Japan had had Early Installment Weirdness as a glam-punk band before finding their own jazz-influenced sound that Sylvian perfected in his solo career. This means he has a very specific Broken Base - many fans who only like his work from 1979's Quiet Life (when he introduced the croon) to 1999's Dead Bees On A Cake (his last conventional sounding album).
  • The Spice Girls released a third album called Forever, which came after Geri's departure. It was also a New Sound Album, giving the girls a sound inspired more by American R&B like Destiny's Child or TLC - as opposed to their pop and 90s dance style for the previous two albums. This album also showed Victoria getting more solo lines and verses than she had in the past.
  • S Club 7:
    • The fourth album Seeing Double was recorded after Paul Cattermole left the group - the only album to feature six members rather than seven (and the group was renamed 'S Club'). It also completely moved away from the bubblegum pop of their first three albums (although 7 and Sunshine had moved away too, they still retained some bubblegum pop) - featuring a lot of dance and R&B, even elements of garage. Rachel was also given more prominence as the Face of the Band - as Jo was suffering from back problems.
    • And the fourth season of the TV series Viva S Club - was the only season not to take place in America. The group relocated to Barcelona instead, and it depicted Paul's departure in the fourth episode.
    • The final S Club project - the movie Seeing Double - is set in an alternate continuity from the TV series. There the group had been portrayed as struggling artists trying to make it in America, whereas the film portrays the group as they actually were (though seemingly pretending Paul had never been in the group). The TV show had also been more of a sitcom, while the movie veered into fantasy - with a plot about a mad scientist cloning pop stars.
  • On his later albums, country parodist Cledus T. Judd overhauled his musical image considerably: while still a parodist, he began performing his songs more straightforwardly with a far lesser Stylistic Suck approach, in addition to shedding a ton of weight and donning glasses. Those who grew up in The '90s and saw an obese redneck squawking out "If Shania Was Mine" in an off-key drawl on CMT might have difficulty recognizing him as early as Just Another Day in Parodies in 2000, and especially on Parodyziac!! in 2012.
  • Starting with 2015's I'm Comin' Over, Chris Young shifted from a twangy "neotraditional" country sound to more electronic and sometimes R&B-influenced country. The change was due to longtime producer James Stroud retiring and being replaced by Corey Crowder.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Early Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling was a mild parody of the Universal Wrestling Federation that featured professional wrestlers taking on martial artists of various styles. The Stuff Blowing Up hardcore Garbage Wrestling that it is best known for came later, but Masashi Aoyagi and Willie Williams were the only "martial artists" who stuck around. There's also the much reviled "World Entertainment Wrestling" era under Kodo Fuyuki's booking, where the product became much Lighter and Softer, but at the same time borderline(and in one case actually with Mr. Gannosuke impersonating Hayabusa) pornographic at points.
  • Early ECW was a fairly run of the mill National Wrestling Alliance territory without the benefit of a territorial system to support it. The No-Holds-Barred Contest Garbage Wrestling it became most famous for didn't come until later, and even then the hardcore stuff was mainly smoke and mirrors for technically and athletically challenged wrestlers like The Sandman. Over-the-top violence did not become center stage until Lance Storm, Chris Benoit, Psicosis, Rey Mysterio Jr., Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, Eddie Guerrero, Raven and the like started getting poached in mass by WCW.
  • Yoshimoto Women's Pro Wrestling Jd' was a somewhat hardcore but mostly regular wrestling promotion mainly centered around Jaguar Yokota, be it continaution of rivalries with legends like Lioness Asuka, upstarts like The Bloody or invasions of FMW rejects. During the last four years of its existence with Yokota gone for greener pastures, "glamour" became a Plot Tumor and the main focus of business.
  • Early Chikara was a much more straightforward wrestling show with much more straightforward gimmicks than the comedy promotion it became best known as. Just compare early and later Hallowicked. Mike Quackenbush saw everyone else getting more violent and/or serious and decided he couldn't compete that way. Even then, "fun" Chikara attempted to at least have a proper women's division before he gave up and the show became the free for all where Sara Del Rey, Heidi Lovelace and Kimber Lee successfully won its most prestigious prizes.
  • The 'professional wrestling treated as real sport' presentation of All Japan Pro Wrestling just keeps getting further away. The first bout of weirdness came with the New Millennium when Mitsuharu Misawa left due to a dispute with Motoko Baba and most of the locker room followed him to form Pro Wrestling NOAH. This had the side affect of temporarily turning All Japan into Wrestling Association R as Genichiro Tenryu brought most of the roster over to save the company. The second bout of weirdness was the heavily Merchandise-Driven "Puroresu Love" era of The Great Muta, which saw dabbles into mixed martial arts, Takuya Sugi as a Dark Is Not Evil demon alien thing called AHII, a robot Taka Michinoku, Minoru Suzuki kidnap Nosawa Rongai, the "wall" between All Japan and chief rival New Japan Pro-Wrestling "broken down" and an invasion of Pro Wrestling ZERO1. The third bout of weirdness, when Muta was shamed out of the company following the TARU-Super Hate incident and most of the locker room followed him to form Wrestle-1, was a Mob War style feud between multiple power stables of independent circuit wrestlers that looked suspiciously like something one would see on a Dragon Gate card.
  • Pro Wrestling ZERO1 was always weird, but basically became directionless after the death of Shinya Hashimoto, who at least gave it some consistency as it consistently built him up following his rather embarrassing and brutal loss to Naoya Ogawa. But directionless Zero 1 is the better known part of the promotion's history specifically because people at least think "Zero 1" rather than "Hashimoto".
  • Sinclair Broadcast Group Ring of Honor gradually got weirder as it went on. Bullet Club turning heel, except not really, and headbutting with match maker Nigel McGuinness was a noticeable change in tone to say the least. B.J. Whimter had an uncomfortably unprecedented personal feud with Steve Corino that was almost entirely promoted by the wrestlers themselves. But then The Club turned face, sort of, when Adam Cole betrayed them, Whitmer faded more into the background as Christopher Daniels returned to a major antagonistic force, Dalton Castle and Jay Lethal successfully got face pops challenging the Club, and things seemed on track to normalcy. The biggest departure in talent since the Feinstein scandal, the overbooked debut of Enzo and Cass taking time away from Hiroshi Tanahashi of all people, a so-called Kingdom conspiracy leading to World Champion Matt Taven, spotlights increasingly centered on Bully Ray and Angel Williams becoming Angelina Love to corrupt recap hostess Mandy Leon had fans asking when ROH suddenly became TNA.


  • The 90s figures of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero had noticeably more wacky and neon-coloured figures as it went on. The final year of the toyline reimagined the Joes as a group of almost literal space marines fighting a race of transforming aliens called the Lunartix Empire.
  • Transformers:
    • Near its end, the Transformers: Generation 1 toy line largely gave up on having toys that "just" transformed, the line being dominated by increasingly gimmicky sublines such as the Headmasters/Targetmasters/Powermasters (Transformers that came with a small partner that drove them in vehicle mode and became their head/blaster/engine in robot mode), the Pretenders (small, simple Transformers hidden in a large unarticulated plastic figure), the Micromasters (tiny Micro Machines-esque figures), and most infamously, the Action Masters (slightly better-articulated Transformers... that don't transform).
    • Transformers: Robots in Disguise was an odd mishmash of recolors from many other lines (and in some cases, straight rereleases) and new figures that either had weird proportions or transformed by opening their vehicle mode and unfolding the robot inside. As a result, there were a lot of toys that looked odd standing beside each other - the tiny headed robots that made up Ruination with their pile of connector parts looked oddly archaic next to the fully integrated, human proportioned Build Team.
    • For the franchise overall, the Unicron Trilogy except Energon toylines all included gimmicks unlocked by the MacGuffin du jour. Armada in particular was seen as a strange misstep, since toys occasionally had less articulation than early Generation 1 toys to accommodate a flip-out blaster or soundbox.
    • Transformers: Generations as a combination of this for the franchise and Early Installment Weirdness for itself. Many figures had intricate, multilayer transformations to have both modes look as close to the character models as possible despite scale issues. As a result, lots of mock parts were used and a few figures suffered from having parts that didn't move around each other very well, leading to broken figures. Later figures in the line simplified things greatly while still having both modes as aesthetically pleasing as possible.
  • My Little Pony:
    • The ponies were generally shaped like ponies — or on occasion, full-sized horses — during the first three generations, barring some of the more unusual types of ponies (such as the seaponies, which were part pony and part seahorse). Starting with the tail end of the third generation however, the ponies have become more and more heavily stylized, with bigger, rounder heads and smaller bodies. Many collectors refuse to collect the newer ponies, because they no longer look like ponies. G4 ponies are often accused of resembling deer, or on occasion, cats.
    • The earlier generations also tended to include a short story about the pony, or a blurb describing it, on the back of its packaging. This was largely dropped sometime during generation 4. This leaves toy-exclusive characters much more mysterious than before. Princess Gold Lily and Princess Sterling raised a particularly large number of questions among fans, due to the fact that the canon indicates that they probably shouldn't exist (since every princess we've seen in the show has generally been a God-Emperor of some sort, so you'd think we'd have heard about these two by now if they were around).
    • The tail end of G1 featured several experimental gimmick lines such as the horse-proportioned Dream Beauties.
  • Gunpla tends to invoke this trope through its Early Installment Weirdness. It's not uncommon for a new Gunpla to be released that uses an older model frame, especially through its Gundam Build Fighters/Fighters Try/Divers line. When its done with its main High Grade Universal Century line, it comes off as incredibly lazy, like the Gundam Tristan of Mobile Suit Gundam Twilight AXIS.
  • When Hasbro took over the Power Rangers license, their figurines took a massive change from when Bandai America did them. Starting with the Power Rangers: Beast Morphers line, gone were the muscular male Rangers, low articulation joints and plain gray (or black) accessories as well as low end morpher designs. The Lightning Collection series continues this trend, even offering sculpted heads that resemble the actor who played the Ranger.

    Video Games 
  • DanceDanceRevolution:
    • The 2013 DDR game no longer causes Goods to break combos or decrease "battery" life meters, which can come off as a shock to longtime fans of the series.
    • Games up to DanceDanceRevolution SuperNOVA use tracks from the Dancemania album series for licensed songs, due to the series at the time being a partnership with Toshiba EMI (now EMI Music Japan) which produced Dancemania; the idea being that DDR is a means through which the Dancemania albums are publicized. Additionally, because EMI handled the soundtracks for these games, licensed tracks could be included on DDR soundtracks. As such, it can come off as a shock to play newer DDR games, as 1. those games use largely different sources for licensed songs, and 2. these games do not have licensed songs on their soundtracks.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's 4 from the Five Nights at Freddy's series manages to completely reverse much of the series formula. In this game, the Player Character is not a security guard on night shift, but a little boy in his own bedroom. As such, there's no camera system to keep an eye on the animatronics, nor any finicky electronic tools to ward them off; the boy has to move from his starting position to check his bed, closet, and hallways to keep the animatronics from attacking. Whereas previous games in the series challenged the player's reflexes, this game challenges the player's patience.
  • Game & Watch: Of the twelve titles released after 1985, eight of them have only one game mode: the last two Multi-Screen games Gold Cliff and Zelda and both Crystal and New Wide Screen versions of Super Mario Bros., Climber and Balloon Fight. Gold Cliff and Zelda, two of the last games in the series, are the only ones with a Continue option.
  • Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, the final game in the Dark Matter Trilogy (a series of Kirby games directed by Shinichi Shimomura that feature Kirby repeatedly battling a mysterious entity known as "Dark Matter"), notably replaces the Animal Friends, who had defined the gameplay style of the previous two games in the trilogy, with the ability to combine Copy Abilities. The game also uses a 2.5D visual presentation rather than a 2D one, features a far more in-depth story than previous titles (using cutscenes between each world to show different parts of the adventure), and is set on multiple planets rather than being limited to Pop Star. As for the cast, the protagonists are much more varied and elaborate, with the use of narrative cutscenes allowing for the main and supporting cast to be better expanded upon; previous entries limited the protagonists to Kirby and the Animal Friends (and Gooey), who were noticeably flatter due to the more minimalist storytelling of Dream Land 2 and Dream Land 3. Overall, it's a very different game than previous Shimomura titles.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has a few oddities in relation to previous games in the series. Link starts with six hearts instead of three, his dash motion is regulated by a stamina meter, and the dungeons have all their own entrance cutscenes, lack compasses (the maps retain their properties) and boss keys (replaced instead with special objects that have to be assembled correctly into the boss gates). It's also the only Zelda game since the NES and SNES games where certain bosses are fought more than once, and one of the only ones along with The Adventure of Link and Majora's Mask where the Boomerang doesn't exist as an item (the Beetle serves its function instead). The exploration of the overworld's areas are more puzzle-based, as in the dungeons, and the saving process is relied on Bird Statues instead of a pause menu feature. Lastly, it's the second game (after Phantom Hourglass) to have a Real-Time Weapon Change, and the first to display an Inventory Management Puzzle for secondary items like bottles, shields and ammunition bags. Since the game still plays functionally like the others in the series, it's still far from an Oddball in the Series.
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds gives Link access to nearly all items from Ravio's shop with the exception of the Sand Rod (which at first is being used by another character), not from the dungeons. Instead of getting them at certain points in the story for free, like you normally would, you have to rent the equipment (cheaper, but you lose it if you die) or buy it (each item is 800 to 1200 rupees). While all dungeons past the first four do have treasure items, they're of the Quest Status category (Blue Mail, Master Ore pieces, etc.); and since each dungeon's layout is already present for view on the 3DS's touch screen, only the Compass is in need of being collected to locate the treasure chests (as opposed to Skyward Sword having only the map). Lastly, A Link Between Worlds is the first game since A Link to the Past to have more than nine dungeons, and the saving process is based on using Bird Statues.
    • Tri Force Heroes not only uses the mission-based levels of the Four Swords games, it also has a setting very much at odds with the rest of the series. There is no world-ending threat, just a princess in a fashionably questionable body sock which she seems to change her mind about in the end who got cursed by a witch out of petty jealousy or maybe not - there's some hints she may have genuinely wanted to help but had poor fashion sense. Many of the traditional elements like Heart Containers and permanent upgrades that even Four Swords had have been left out as well.
    • Breath of the Wild is odd in numerous ways.
      • Much of its weirdness comes from revisiting Early Installment Weirdness, where the overworld is basically open to explore but different areas have their own Beef Gate. Dungeons can be completed in whatever order (baring rare instances of needing a specific item or ability to get in) and lots more secrets and hidden areas are said to be present.
      • Unlike nearly ever other Zelda game, which require collecting specific items to win the day, players can finish the tutorial, then quite literally immediately glide over to the final boss, potentially ending the game in an hour or two. Granted, this is an incredibly difficult task if you aren't already familiar with the game's combat and mechanics, but it is possible to defeat Calamity Ganon from the very beginning of the adventure.
      • Most puzzles in the Zelda series have only one solution. Breath of the Wild changes the formula—while certain key story beats must be done in a particular way, nearly every single puzzle or challenge has multiple solutions that allow the player to experiment until they find a method that works for them. For example, when faced with brambles that must be burned, Link might cut a rope holding a lantern to set them on fire, carry a lit torch to the spot, use fire-based weapons to light the flame, or lure an enemy with fire-conjuring abilities to do the work for him. The game encourages this kind of outside-the-box thinking, and it's clear that no two players will complete the adventure in the same way.
      • Besides that, it also eschews a lot of items in favor of upgrades to the Sheikah Slate; and even then, the player has most of their important abilities by the time they've completed the tutorial. Weapons are acquired off the field as opposed to a standard sword that is always carried with Link (in other Zelda titles sometimes Link can pick up weapons from enemies but only as a temporary supplement to his primary weapon and he won't be able to use it anywhere but in the local area) and have limited durability (in the past only shields had durability ratings).
      • The game also requires players to pay close attention to the environment, which will kill you if you are not prepared. The temperature, time of day, geography, and weather must all be considered when setting out for a new area (exploring a desert means surviving scorching heat that will drain your health, for example). Players must either use item crafting (in the form of elixirs and foods that prevent adverse effects) or equip armor sets that offer protection against various dangers—and even then, the base-level equipment isn't enough to help. Instead, Link must restore Great Fairies hidden across the land and use their own brand of magic (another type of item crafting) to upgrade his armor to offer permanent shielding against cold, heat, and fire.
      • Finally, dungeons (long the primary focus of the series) are downplayed in favor of a larger, deeper overworld. There are only five main story dungeons (plus a huge number of much smaller, more focused shrines), and they have noticeably less focus, scale, and variety compared to previous installments, with the vast majority of gameplay focused on exploring and traveling across the overworld instead. All dungeons except Hyrule Castle also end up becoming permanently inaccessable when cleared, something that rarely happened in past titles.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario 3D World, being the thirteenth console platform game in the Super Mario series, is the first core game since Super Mario Bros. 2, itself an Oddball in the Series, where Princess Peach is not a Damsel in Distress but rather a playable character. The Sprixie Princesses take her usual place as the ones to be rescued. The same game also promotes Rosalina and Captain Toad to playable characters, who were non-playable in previous games and still in need of Mario's help despite not being kidnapped. In terms of gameplay, it also follows the style of Super Mario 3D Land, with both games follows the format of the 2D Mario games rather than the more sandbox-design of other 3D entries: that is, making the main objective of each stage not about collecting stars, but simply reaching the flagpole at the end. That said, collecting star coins/stars is still required to progress
    • Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Wii U does quite a few things different from previous console installments. These changes include replacing the Dream Events set in Mario and Sonic locations with Duel Events set around different locations around Rio, the Main Menu is replaced with a Hub Plaza and you can also unlock Guest Characters who become playable when you beat them.
    • Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam has a few differences from the previous four games. Save points are not present in the game at all since saving can be done at any time from the menu, the characters do not receive a bonus when they level up, and the Spin Jump is not present, instead replaced by the Trio Grab.
    • Super Mario Odyssey:
      • Lives and Game Overs are completely done away with for the first time in the core games. Dying merely causes you to lose 10 coins. Since it's not uncommon for you to be carrying around several hundred or even several thousand coins at one time, this amount is so insignificant that it's frankly baffling that the developers went to all the trouble of programming in this "penalty" at all. You can even go back to the spot where you died and pick those 10 coins back up if you want.

      • Though Starmen no longer appear, temporary invincibility is still possible through scanning any Mario Amiibonote .
      • While the game does use the exploration-based gameplay of 64 and Sunshine, the game does not boot players out of the level after collecting a Power Moon, making it more similar to collectathons like Donkey Kong 64. Also in that vein, there are no selectable story missions for each moon — instead, the area's plot advances permanently upon collecting certain primary objective moons.
  • Metroid:
    • Metroid: Other M is far more focused on story and has loads of cutscenes and dialogues. The game is more linear than its predecessors and has less exploration than other games, including Fusion. The gameplay includes unusual melee combat and quick time events. Also you no longer need to shoot on doors to open them. The power ups are gotten by authorization instead of finding them in some places, and enemies no longer drop collectibles (meaning that Samus has to use Concentration to refill).
    • Metroid Prime: Federation Force is a linear, team-based, mission-based multiplayer FPS with very few puzzle elements, no permanent upgrades (aside from optional MODs), very little possibility of exploration, and focuses on the Galactic Federation Marine Corp rather than Samus Aran.
  • Mother 3:
    • While the game still retains the series trademark wackiness, it is also has a lot of much darker content compared to the previous games in the series. For starters, Hinawa, Lucas' mother, is brutally Killed Offscreen in the very first chapter of the game, animal cruelty is played very seriously, the threat the Big Bad presents is much more present than Giygas' was in EarthBound Beginnings and EarthBound, and at the end Lucas' brother, Claus, commits suicide in-battle.
    • The story is structured by chapters, something that was not seen in previous games, and the first 3 chapters take place in a far more rural environment than the modern America-inspired continent in the previous two games. There are many areas in the game in which you are never allowed to return past a certain point as well.
    • The four main characters are not four kids, but a kid, his dog, a teenage princess, and an adult thief. Unlike Ness, Paula, and Jeff, who are expies of Ninten, Ana, and Lloyd respectively, Lucas, Kumatora, and Duster do not resemble the characters from the past game nor share their personality or traits. In regards to Boney, he is the only pet dog in the series that is a permanent party member (King does join Ness briefly during his adventure if the player desires so, but still). You also don't get to play as Lucas until chapter 4.
    • The objective of the game (introduced in chapter 7!) is not to collect 8 different melodies, but to pull the majority of the seven needles that are sealing away the Dark Dragon beneath the Nowhere Islands before the bad guys do so. That said, each needle is guarded by one of the seven Magypsies, whose names are a reference to the seven musical modes in order to keep up with the theme, with these being Aeolia, Doria, Lydia, Frygia, Mixolydia, Ionia, and Locria.
    • The main antagonists are not aliens from outer space, but humans dressed up as pig soldiers, meaning that the iconic Starman enemy is not present in this game, and neither is the series' original Big Bad, Giygas. ( The latter being understandable given that he was defeated for good at the end of EarthBound).
  • Rhythm Heaven Megamix has a completely different structure than previous games in the series, having different worlds instead of just sets of mini games, with each one having a different theme and the game having an actual story. There's also no rhythm toys, and medals aren't used for unlocking extras, rather you earn coins from playing the mini games and spend them on extras. The scoring system is also different, showing you an actual score from 1 to 100 instead of just showing the feedback and your rank.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
  • Persona:
    • Persona 3 was a massive retooling of the franchise. Along with the shift to 3D, it introduced many staples of the series going forward, such as life sim elements, Social Links, All-Out Attacks, randomized dungeons, and the Wild Card and Velvet Room only being accessible to the protagonist instead of everyone in your party. Philemon and Nyarlethotep also disappeared from the story, and the residents of the Velvet Room would all adopt a cohesive style going forward (white hair and yellow eyes, and blue and black clothing) and all be siblings of each other. All the Persona games after the 2 duology are so radically different from their origins they might as well be a different series. Indeed, the series after 3 rarely acknowledges the early games outside of a few subtle nods such as a recurring news segment in 3 and Philemon's butterflies serving as save points in 4.
    • While Shadows were a recurring element in the series ever since 2, defeating and accepting your own Shadow to access your Persona was only a thing in Persona 4.
    • While 3 introduced visible enemy encounters, and allowed you to sneak up on enemies and get a surprise attack in before the fight proper starts, Persona 5 turned it into an entire stealth mechanic, allowing the player to hide behind cover to get the drop on enemies who made patrols like they were in a proper stealth game.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • The reclassing system got its start in Shadow Dragon (the eleventh game in the series, a remake of the very first installment) and has been in every game since. Its introduction of replacement characters note , however, only carried over to the next title, New Mystery of the Emblem.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses is far more RPG-esque than any other game in the series, with a much greater focus on micromanaging a character's individual statline, a hubworld traversible in real-time on foot, in-game events happening in between chapters (requiring elements Persona-esque time management), and many abilities besides the standard stats and weapon ranks being trainable individually. This is aside from the many mechanics that are entirely its own: characters being able to fight in battalions, a promotion system that requires characters to pass benchmarks aside from level, the Gauntlet weapon type, undeployed characters working as adjucants, and magic having set uses per battle. From a story perspective, the game is also relatively light on the franchise's usual player-unit archetypes.
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is the only game in its franchise to not contain any fantastical elements, instead being focused on a lost pirate colony. It also has a lot of new gameplay additions (like updated stealth, a grappling hook, and a vertical attack) because it's the only one to have come out on the PS4.
  • Pokémon:
    • While Pokémon Black and White don't change up too much compared to Sun and Moon, they do have some weirdness in them as being the only games besides the Kanto games to only have Pokémon introduced in its generation. They're also the only games where you don't battle the regional champion (Alder) as the final boss. Instead, Ghetsis of Team Plasma serves as the final opponent in the main story. You do get to battle Alder after completing the story, though.
    • Pokémon Sun and Moon, in addition to replacing the HM system with Ride Pokémon, ditches the "gym" system of previous games in favor of "Island Trials." Instead of facing eight bosses before facing an Elite Four and Champion trainer, you now do a series of eleven trials where instead of fighting a small number of trainers before facing a boss, you instead partake in a number of various tasks before hand. And instead of a trainer, you fight a Totem Pokémon: a powerful, intelligent Pokémon that will call for an ally during battle, placing you into a 2 v. 1 fight. Also unlike gyms, trials cannot be left once you start them. After completing all the trials on a particular island (except for the last one), you fight the Island Kahuna in a traditional battle before proceeding to the next island. The Pokémon League is done a little differently as well: while battling the Elite Four is the same, the Final Boss is a randomly-chosen trainer from a pool of trainers (after the first two runs), since you are the Champion and are now defending your title. The National Pokédex is gone as well, leaving over half the Pokémon without their numbers in their summaries and removing any incentive for catching a lot of post-game only Pokémon. On the subject of the Pokédex, you don't actually get a diploma for completing the Regional Pokédex and the four Island Pokédexes — you get stamps for your Trainer Card indicating their completion instead.
    • Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are the first games to introduce entirely new Pokémon in the middle of a generation, that can't be obtained in the original Sun and Moon.
    • Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! has this all over the place, especially considering the game is made in the style of Pokémon GO:
      • Random Encounters are out and replaced with Preexisting Encounters instead. Wild Pokémon battles are also largely taken out (the only ones you get to battle are the two Snorlax, the four Electrode at the Power Plant masquerading as items, and the Legendary Pokémon) and the game instead uses the catching minigame from Pokémon GO as the main method to capture new Pokémon.
      • Local Co-Op Multiplayer is introduced for the first time, allowing a second player to drop in with a second Joy-Con and play the main campaign alongside the primary player and participate in Double Battles.
      • You now carry a Box to store Pokémon with you via your Bag in addition to the six Pokémon you carry on-hand. In other games, Boxes were restricted exclusively to the PC.
    • Pokémon Sword and Shield expanded on a few of the changes introduced in Generation VII, combining the traditional Random Encounters with Let's Go's Preexisting Encounters. But in addition to removing the National Pokédex, Pokémon outside of the Galar Pokédex aren't available at all in the game, and many of them can't even be transferred. This means that for the first time in a main series game, players can't catch 'em all, legitimately or otherwise.
    • In the first two generations, Team Rocket is a criminal organization, while the teams of Generations III through VI have more lofty goals of radically changing the world or even the universe. Generations VII and VIII instead take a back-to-basics approach with their antagonist teams; Team Skull in Gen VII is a group of Laughably Evil street thugs who aren't taken seriously in-universe and have no intention of ruling the world, and Team Yell in Gen VIII is just a group of rowdy fans with traits of punks and Football Hooligans.
  • Resident Evil up until Code: Veronica was a slow-paced Survival Horror game with emphasis on solving puzzles, managing limited health, ammo, and inventory space, with a goal of staying alive long enough to escape whatever virus-contaminated hellhole you've found yourself thrust into. As of Resident Evil 4 the series became much more action-oriented and went on to focus on saving the world from megalomaniacs and ancient conspirators. The seventh game shifted again back to slow-paced horror, but in a far different vein from the original series.
  • Monster Hunter: World, in spite of all the changes it makes to traditional series fare — seamless sub-maps, a return to consoles, Drop-In-Drop-Out Multiplayer, more "Westernized" elements, and the like — Capcom has stated that no, it's not a spinoff of Monster Hunter, but the fifth main game in the series. Its differences from previous games include:
    • You can now go on open-ended and self-determined Expeditions that have no time limit, perfect for exploring an unfamiliar area or gathering materials and/or Research Points at your leisure.
    • Sub-areas are now seamless rather than transitioning between loading screens.
    • There's actual voiced English and Japanese dialogue now, where as previous games had human characters Speaking Simlish backed by subtitles. Fans of the original Monster Hunter Language need not despair, you can swap it back through the options menu.
    • Instead of continually tracking down the monster and hitting it with paintballs to mark its location, the player uses "scoutflies" to automatically track the monster by finding footprints, scales, dead carrion and other traces of the monster's presence.
    • Blademasters and Gunners now use the same armour, rather than distinct versions. Equipping a close combat weapon increases physical defence and equipping a bowgun or bow increases elemental defence.
    • Base-camp has been upgraded substantially; you can now restock supplies, change your weapons and armour, and eat at the canteen.
    • You now see colour-coded damage numbers for attacks, providing clues to monster weak spots and letting you see how your weapon's damage compares with another's.
    • Armour skills work differently now. Rather than gear having relevant Skill Points that only activated the skill when you built up enough, simply equipping the armour piece gives you the skill outright. In addition, equipping multiple items with the same skill enhances the skill's effects.
  • The first few Medal of Honor games were about members of La Résistance in Europe and/or OSS members fighting the Germans behind enemy lines, usually in the form of a Stealth-Based Mission. Starting with Medal of Honor: Allied Assault however, it became more actionized, complete with fighting on the frontline alongside American Paratroopers and Army Rangers. Then the final few installments, namely Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault, Medal of Honor: Vanguard and Medal of Honor: Airborne, removed the OSS and Resistance aspect entirely, and instead focused on elite soldiers and Marines fighting in Europe and The Pacific, with nary a Stealth mission seen... and then the series performed a Time Skip (even having characters that were descendants of those who appeared on the first games) and managed two games set during The War on Terror (Medal of Honor (2010) and Medal Of Honor: Warfighter, which was also more arcade-style in game lay) before seemingly giving up the ghost.
  • The Call of Duty series started out in a World War II setting until Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the game in which the series mostly abandoned its WWII roots in favor of contemporary, near-future or even downright sci-fi settings, to the point that when the series finally returned to its original setting 9 years after the last outing, it had to specifically mention it in the title.
  • jubeat's online matching used to put you in multiplayer score attack rounds with other players playing the same song, which is to be expected...but then jubeat clan changes matching so that the people you match with may not be playing the same song.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man 8 removed a lot of staple features in the Classic series, including Rush Coil and Jet (the only time Rush Jet appears is in an Unexpected Shmup Level, while Rush Coil is replaced by Tornado Hold and a secret secondary function for the Mega Ball) with Rush gaining brand new modes instead, and doing away with E Tanks. It was also the first and only time (discounting the infamous DOS games) that Mega Man was able to swim underwater instead of sinking like a rock. All of these changes were reverted in Mega Man 9 and 10, but at the expense of two other mainstay mechanics: sliding and the Charge Shot.
    • Mega Man 11 has a heavier focus on story and character development than most other Classic-series games, but is also the first 2½D game in the Classic series, displays Mega Man's Power Copying using a different model instead of a Palette Swap, and features Robot Master bosses that turn red (literally and figuratively) and switch up their patterns and attacks midway through the fight, instead of using the same one all the way, something only seen previously in Mega Man X8 and Mega Man Powered Up.
    • While the previous Game Boy games recycled Robot Masters from the NES games, Mega Man V featured an all new cast of bosses in the form of the Stardroids (who also broke the Something Person naming convention previous bosses had in favor of being named after planets), introduced Tango the cat as a new robot animal companion, and replaced Mega Man's Charge Shot with the Mega Arm.
    • As for the music of the Classic series, of all 12 mainline games (including Mega Man & Bass), 11 is the only entry that reuses the same BGM theme for all post-Robot Master stages. Prior to that, 7, 8, 9, and 10 went the extra mile and had different themes composed for each of their corresponding post-RM stages. This is in comparison to the first 6 entries and MM&B, which would have 2 or more stages accompanied by one theme and the other stages would have another.
    • Mega Man X5, meant to be the Grand Finale of the X series, made numerous changes to the X formula. Changes include X's Fourth Armor from the previous game being available from the get-go (albeit with a few Nerfs); multiple armor sets for X that can be swapped out, but also function differently from past games in that all of the parts need to be collected before the armor can be used, instead of being able to wear part of an armor set and get the benefit from that specific piece; the ability to change between X and Zero in a single playthrough, only used previously in X3, in a limited capacity where Zero could only be used once per mission and would be made unavailable if he took too much damage; most of the game being a Timed Mission; the nixing of Heart Tanks in favor of choosing between an upgrade to your max health or max weapon energy after beating a boss, alongside gaining certain equippable parts; the ability to crouch and ride on electric wires and the inability to shoot through walls; the introduction of Alia as Mission Control, who delivers information about the current stage you're on; variable boss HP levels, where bosses will get more health as you get closer to the time limit, but will also drop better parts; and, in the Western localization, once again breaking boss naming conventions in favor of naming bosses after members of Guns N' Roses (though the X Legacy Collection opted to give the X5 bosses names closer to the original Japanese).
    • Mega Man X7 was not only the first 3D entry in the series, but the title character wasn't even playable for most of it (new character Axl took his place instead). Unfortunately, the game (among other glaring issues) is considered to have hit the Polygon Ceiling hard, and Mega Man X8 both brought back X as playable from the start (Axl was given some gameplay changes to differentiate him from X) and settled for 2½D gameplay instead.
    • After prior games in the Mega Man Zero series gave the player a multitude of collectible single-use Cyber-Elves that can provide a multitude of boosts when used (though some of them penalize your end-of-level ranking), Mega Man Zero 4 only gave the player a single permanent Cyber-Elf at the start of the game with adjustable persistent boosts, and penalties are only incurred if you make it too powerful. In fact, a lot of Zero 4 is kind of different from the previous three games in general, from the music style, to Zero having newly recorded grunts replacing his old ones, the removal of the Shield Boomerang and Rod weapons in favor of the Z-Knuckle (which can strip foes of their weapons while automatically allowing Zero to grab on to certain ledges and ropes), etc.
  • Etrian Odyssey:
    • Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth, despite harkening back to the traditional floor-to-floor gameplay progression from the first three games after the fourth installment (Legends of the Titan) overhauled it by distributing the dungeons across an added overworld and the Untold remakes took a story-centric approach with pre-defined characters, has some major anomalies that make it stand out from both the traditional entries and the non-standard ones:
      • It is the only installment in the series to lack the three signature Elemental Dragons that served as Bonus Bosses in previous games. They're replaced by all-new opponents. This also means the classic Bonus Boss music theme of the series ("Scatter About") is absent — this game's superbosses use instead a remixed version of the sea battle theme of The Drowned City (also heard in Legends of the Titan during mini-boss battles).
      • The sub-classing system from previous games (which allowed party characters to add a secondary class to complement their primary class and earn extra abilities) is eschewed in favor of the Legendary Title system: Each class can now be extended into one of two branches, each having its set of skills and features, after the second boss of the game is defeated. It is not possible to have both branches at a time, and the only way to switch from one branch to the other is by giving the character a rest (which is penalized by lowering their current level by two).
      • The weapon forging system works differently. In previous games, by collecting special hammers in the strata or mazes, it was possible to imbue attributes (like the ability to inflict a specific ailment, elemental input, or higher critical hit rate to enemies and bosses, or raising slightly a particular stat to the wielder) to existing weapons as long as they had available slots. Here, in absence of the hammers, it's no longer possible to imbue anything external to weapons; forging now increases the attack stats (physical and elemental) of the weapon, raising its level by one. It can be raised to up to Level 5, and it's no longer strictly necessary to apply the materials that were used to craft the weapon in the first place: If you run out of the required material(s) and don't feel like grinding, you can use metal-based ingots instead (be warned that those are rare, so it's best to only use them for weapons crafted with very rare materials). This change is retained in Nexus.
      • On a cosmetic level, the gameplay interface eschews the style used in all past games in favor of one that would not look out of place in a science fiction or Solar Punk game (especially considering the futuristic theme of the fifth and sixth strata), with heavy use of rounded edges and sans-serif fonts. This interface style is kept (sans a few changes) in Nexus.
      • Character customization has been greatly expanded on. Not only can you choose eye, hair, and skin color, but you can choose the former two color categories with RGB sliders, unlike in past games where each character design has only one alternate palette. You can also assign voices to characters; while the Untold games also have voices, they are only for Story Mode characters and not your made-from-scratch Classic Mode characters.
      • The TEC stat, which determines magic attack and magic defense, was split into two new stats, INT for magic attack and WIS for magic defense.
    • Most of Etrian Odyssey Nexus's oddities can be chalked up to being a Megamix Game, but one that particularly stands out are how geomagnetic poles work in this game. In past games, they serve as save points and warps back to town. In Nexus, however, the poles are used to travel to new locations and only appear in Shrines, rather than in every major dungeon.
  • Later Story of Seasons titles feature a shift from an idealistic, relatively down-to-earth rural story to a more fantasy-centric one. The series always contained Magic Realism, but over time it's increased and become more focal. The general character design has also changed to go along with the shift. The colour palette is brighter and the characters are less realistically "small town" looking. Around the DS-Wii era is where the series' now-signature Cast Full of Pretty Boys started. The shift mostly correlates with the change in a producer of the series. The original creator, Wada, moved on during the DS era and the current director, Hashimoto, started with Grand Bazaar. Grand Bazaar has more of a children's storybook aesthetic than previous games. The games have gotten Lighter and Softer since Wada left, with none of the Dysfunction Junction of games like 64 and AWL.
  • Professor Layton:
    • Though Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy retains the gameplay, feel and themes of previous Professor Layton games, while still serving as the last released game starring the eponymous character, it sets itself apart from all of them by featuring multiple playable locations instead of only one or two (this is justified by the story — they have to travel all over the world in order to collect the egg-shaped pieces of an ancient key that gives access to the ultimate Azran technology, of which bits and pieces were discovered in Last Specter and Miracle Mask, as well as the anime movie Eternal Diva). And each location related to the Azran egg hunt has its own mystery or case which has to be solved so the characters can succeed in their overarching quest (this system would later inspire the case-by-case progression in Layton's Mystery Journey). It also has the fewest story episodes, with only six instead of seven and beyond (though the fourth episode is so extremely long that the game is estimated to have an equivalent total amount of ten episodes, thus staying only behind The Unwound Future as the longest game in the series). Lastly, thanks to its open-ended nature, the game introduces sidequests in the form of World Times news, and interestingly not all of them are completed by solving puzzles.
    • Many of the changes seen in Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy are to be expected given the different protagonist (Katrielle Layton, instead of her father), who employs a less rigorous (but still effective) methodology to solve cases (as that's what she does instead of investigating one huge, overarching case), and interacts with a different cast of supporting characters. But there's one major novelty that calls for attention: Whereas the previous games progressed as the player completed the chapters one by one, in this game multiple chapters will be unlocked at once at one point, and they can be completed in any order — this was likely inherited from the open-ended concept of the fourth chapter of Azran Legacy.
  • Raiden V deviates quite a bit from past Raiden games:
    • It is console- and PC-exclusive, skipping the arcades.
    • Instead of being a One-Hit Point Wonder with multiple Video-Game Lives, your ship now has only one life per credit and a Life Meter.
    • There are multiple ships available, each with their own weapons, somewhat like in Raiden Fighters but not like in past main-series games where the most customization you get are ships with different movement patterns (Raiden DX), whether checkpoints are in or not (the PS1 port of Raiden), or what purple-icon weapon you get.
    • There's an actual plot and a lot of voiced dialogue with faces to go with those voices, unlike past games which just have an Excuse Plot and no characters to speak of.
    • This game has social elements: When performing certain actions (such as reaching a target score, clearing a stage, or beating your personal best score), you may receive "cheers" from other players, and likewise you may "cheer" on other players doing the same. When the Cheer meter is full, you can perform a special attack.
    • There are various widgets on the sides that show things like the text log, your weapon levels, and a histogram of your score.
    • There is no vertical-orientation mode; past Raiden games in arcades are vertical by default, with console games having it as an option (in addition to horizontal pillarboxed mode, the only screen orientation V offers).
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • The games from Sonic Adventure and on took the series in very different directions both in tone and gameplay, especially in the mid-2000s. Having human characters appear on a regular basis, the tone generally becoming more serious, the Chaos Emeralds being significantly played up in importance, and having new superpowered villains taking the center stage away from Eggman are just some of the many ways the later games contrast the Classic era of the series.
    • Despite Sonic Mania being a throwback to the 2D era of Sonic games in every other way, it bucks the trend of the old games of having Eggman be the boss fought at the end of every Zone with rare exceptions. Instead, Eggman shares the boss spotlight with the Hard Boiled Heavies and Metal Sonic.
  • Super Robot Wars:
  • Final Fantasy XIV was heavily beloved with its Shadowbringers expansion pack, but there was one thing that shocked and disappointed fans — the new Gunbreaker and Dancer jobs did not have any awesome-looking gear for anything below Level 60 and even there, the only Level 60 gear you get is the stuff they start with (which are simply recolors of existing gear) and the Shire gear from the very end of Heavensward, so fans couldn't get Gunblades who chirp "Kupo!" upon unsheathing or chakrams infused with the power of Nidhogg.
    • Likewise, Shadowbringers eschews the Deep Dungeon and Hildibrand side content (a staple since Heavensward and A Realm Reborn respectively) in exchange for different content like the Ishgard Restoration Project (one of the first pieces of content to focus heavily on crafting classes since the Ixal beast tribe quests before Heavensward) and group fishing on a boat.
    • Shadowbringers also came with some major changes to the combat system, chief among them a rebalance to MP - now every class has a flat cap of 10,000 and every spell that uses it uses a fixed amount, rather than both fluctuating and increasing as you gain levels and put on better gear - as well as the removal or simplification of several skills and mechanics, even if the class once heavily relied on them (Machinist no longer having its ammo-management mechanic or any penalty for letting their weapon overheat too much, Astrologian's card-drawing buffs were simplified into simple damage boosts for either ranged or melee-focused classes) or the skill is a Final Fantasy staple (healers can no longer use Protect - something the devs were planning on removing in an earlier expansion, but didn't do so because it's such an iconic spell).
  • Fatal Fury:
    • Garou: Mark of the Wolves did away with the plane-shifting mechanic (where characters could sidestep into the background or foreground to dodge and counter attacks) present throughout the rest of the series, making it play more like a King of Fighters game than a Fatal Fury game. Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 eased into this somewhat, however, as some stages had no extra planes.
    • Real Bout Fatal Fury introduced Ring Outs, where a player could smash their opponent against the edge of the stage until they break through a barrier and fall out of the ring. This mechanic was immediately dropped in Real Bout Fatal Fury 2.
    • Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 is incredibly stripped down in terms of presentation. No pre-battle or victory quotes, no intro animations, a victory animation only at the end of the fight, and a very quick and generic stage transition and vs. screen. The game feels like it's trying to rush you through fights as quickly as possible.
  • Streets of Rage was a very slow game and it focused more on being strategic on when you should attack. The second game more or less kept the core gameplay the same while changing very little. The third game changes a whole lot of stuff: unlike the previous games, the third game has a detailed story and cutscenes, gameplay is very fast paced with emphasis placed on quick combos, players can perform dodge rolls to avoid enemy attacks, and the game has Multiple Endings.
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake doesn't feature any character named Cid nor is the name Cid ever mentioned. The original Final Fantasy VII had a Cid, but he was introduced halfway through the game, and the remake only adapts the Midgar arc. Since the game is going to get two sequels which will recount arcs after Midgar, Cid is most certainly going to appear in at least one of them, but still, the change from a multiple-disc game to a full-on trilogy released separately made the remake the first game released after Final Fantasy II that doesn't feature any Cid whatsoever.
  • The Tom Clancy-brand video game franchise is a Shared Universe that, as crazy as it gets, is Like Reality Unless Noted and all of the technology that has appeared so far is based on gear actually experimented on by DARPA and the enemies are realistic (Terrorists, foreign military, narcotics dealers, ultranationalists). And then two limited-time events in Ghost Recon Wildlands and Ghost Recon Breakpoint had the heroes facing off against a Predator and The Terminator.
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon: Despite what the English title may suggest, this game is not a spinoff. The series concluded the story of its protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu, and shifted gears to a new protagonist, and with that, the game went from a Beat 'em Up with mild RPG elements to a full-blown turn-based RPG. Another thing to note is this is the first mainline Yakuza game to be dubbed in English since the first one.
  • Pac-Man 99: In the Championship Edition games, sleeping ghosts are triggered by passing next to them, causing them to wake up and join the ghost train. In 99, you instead pass through sleeping ghosts to activate them, and ghost trains aren't inherently hostile save for the lead ghost.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • ID Get dissects and explores this in an arc that parodies Monk. In the arc, the in-universe parody Monk goes through a number of odd changes, such as bizarre and absurd plots, cast changes, and other oddities. As it turns out, this was all intentional on the part of the producer — his motive was that he wanted to preserve the series' quality by ending it after its first or second season, but the network president refused this because they series was a commercial success for them, so the producer began sabotaging the show to get back at the network for milking the series for all its worth.
  • Wapsi Square started out as just a girl in her hometown and her hijinks with her friends, but after a couple years, it became mystical with a little bit of the mundane stuff happening still. Like Monica learned to teleport and didn't think anything of it.
  • In its final years Ctrl+Alt+Del rather awkwardly changed from a fairly tame "Two Gamers On A Couch" gag comic that never really had a deep plot, to an extremely dark and character-driven dramedy involving time travel and a quest to prevent the apocalypse. The shift is... rather jarring to say the least.

    Web Original 
  • Jeepers Media. Specifically, Mike Mozart's videos. Starting around 2011, Mike had pretty much stopped doing toy reviews, and instead made increasingly more rant videos, usually against bigger media corporations like Viacom, but he also got very political as well. This continued for about a year, then he began doing new toy review videos, which contained a lot more adult jokes and wordplay than older reviews, in addition to other Jeepers Media folk joining in on the reviews as well. It's also clear that by this point, Mike's mindset went from Doing It for the Art to Money, Dear Boy.
  • The later episodes of The Nostalgia Critic's first run definitely qualify as this, starting with the Moulin Rouge! review in November 2011, which was also when creator Doug Walker realized that he was ready to move on from the Critic. While still comedic, reviews now attempted to be more analytical, and began to cover works that garnered positive critical and audience response (such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Most of the videos also became either crossovers with other Channel Awesome reviewers or filled with cameos up until the end of the show's run in June 2012 (and the official end of the character in August). The episodes following the the series' revival in February 2013 continued this approach, with the addition of a larger cast and the Critic abandoning his cutoff date to review more recent films as well. The episodes made after the return also use much less footage of the film being reviewed, sometimes abandoning it entirely in favor of sketches done in the style of the movie (usually when covering a movie still in theaters).
  • The Cinema Snob has gradually moved from primarily doing No Budget horror, exploitation movies, and porn parodies from the '70s through '90s, to an increasing number of more contemporary films (primarily low budget comedies and Christian movies). This has also led to a significant amount of topical overlap with Brad Jones' other main series, Midnight Screenings.
  • For most of its history, Snopes was focused on Urban Legends, folklore, old wives' tales, and chain letter stories circulated via e-mail (or later on, social media), and most of the articles were written by Barbara and David Mikkelson. But, particularly within the sociopolitical climate of the 2016 election, the site took on more writers and began focusing more heavily on political topics.
  • Starting with Season 11, Caddicarus abandoned his long-standing gimmick of slaughtering or salvaging games that he dislikes or likes, respectively. There is also an increased focus on contemporary games over Turn of the Millennium-era games for which he was nostalgic, with some episodes focusing on multiple thematically similar games instead of just one. He also stopped using goofy puns for the episode titles.
  • Prior to 2017, Not Always Right and its sister sites (e.g. Not Always Working) were all hosted on their own domains. The sites were all merged under the Not Always Right site in 2017, while the comment system shifted from embedding the sites' Facebook pages to being hosted on Disqus. While this made it easier to crosspost stories, it also broke a ton of links to stories, especially older ones, and wiped out the few non-story posts (memes, videos, etc.).
  • JonTron originally exclusively reviewed video games (and the occasional movie or TV show), but as time has gone on, he's greatly (if gradually) expanded his scope of review subjects. He still reviews video games, but now reviews movies and TV shows with equal regularity, as well as tackling more unusual subjects like infomercial products, cooking, and history.
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd hasn't changed too much since his early days, but since season eight, he expanded the type of games he reviews; whereas before he exclusively reviewed games from the 80s and early 90s, he now also tackles games from the mid to late 90s and early 2000s. He still sticks to retro stuff (aside from very occasional nods to modern games), he's just become much less strict about the specific time periods games are from, treating basically anything from before The Seventh Generation of Console Video Games as fair game.
  • Atop the Fourth Wall has had a few changes in the past few years. The character 90's Kid changed his name to 90's Dude as a bit of growing up (out of universe, Lewis Lovhaug just couldn't justify using the "Kid" moniker when he was in his 30s now). Next was a change in scenery, due to Lewis and Viga Gadson moving to a new house (in-universe, Linkara blew up his old house on accident and Viga is not happy since she had to pay for everything and didn't expect Linkara's friends showing up). In 2021, the series' legendary theme song had its lyrics altered as Lewis considered his old habit of attacking creators personally an old shame and the old theme song did just that.
  • The Simpsons review blog Me Blog Write Good underwent a few formula changes throughout its run. For the first 20 seasons, each review featured both a block for Mike's general thoughts on the episode itself and a "Tidbits and Quotes" section for notable details. Due to Mike's increasing apathy for the newer seasons, the format was overhauled from season 21's "Treehouse of Horror XX" onwards to feature more distinct segments of "The Premise", "The Reaction", "Three items of note" and "One good line/moment".
  • Dumb Lawyer Quotes IRL but in Ace Attorney: Unlike the other videos, which use the Ace Attorney beeps and boops, the final installment is fully voiced.

    Western Animation 
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Since the DiC episodes (including The Chipmunks Go to the Movies) were not seen in reruns for a long period of time, and have had limited episodes released on DVD, it can be a rather disorienting experience for those who are most accustomed to the Ruby-Spears, and the Murakumi-Wolf-Swenson episodes. Also considering the storylines by the DiC era were becoming far more over-the-top cartoony and less believable ("Dear Diary" is a good example). The Chipmunks Go to the Movies especially are just Plain Weird Installment Weirdness.
  • The final season of Babar was an unusual case, as it aired nine years after the previous season ended. It dropped the previous setting and instead focused on the cast travelling around the world in a balloon. It's a wonder that it was officially considered part of the same series rather than its own installment like the later Babar and the Adventures of Badou.
  • Blaze and the Monster Machines did this after its mid-Season 3 Art Evolution. Blaze's start-of-episode viewer greetings became less frequent unlike the first three seasons, and AJ doesn't use his Visor View or skywriting that much. The Monster Dome also isn't seen quite often, and rarely is there a race that takes place there.
  • The final season of Captain Planet and the Planeteers, which not only gives the Planeteers new outfits and designs, but also replaces its Opening Narration with a Theme Tune Rap.
  • In the later seasons of Caillou, the titular character is less of a Spoiled Brat and more of a polite, friendly, imagination-obsessed child. Also, the animation switched from digital ink-and-paint to Flash (something sister show Arthur would wait until the mid-2010s to do).
  • Dexter's Laboratory:
  • Dora the Explorer:
    • Season 3 introduced the estrellas, which involved the main characters catching stars that would randomly show up in the middle of an adventure, with Dora counting how many they caught in the end of the episode; sometimes, one of which would have some kind of power relating to what was happening in the episode. However, this was dropped by the end of Season 4.
    • Season 7 saw a lot of changes for the show, most notably a new theme song, updated animation (with some CGI elements added in, most noticeable with Map and Backpack), and emulating a mobile game on a touchscreen device, like a tablet, rather than a '90s PC game like the first six seasons.
  • Disney already took a lot of liberties with Doug after its Channel Hop to ABC, but the last season in particular devoted a lot of airtime to Quailman, with some episodes just being straight-up Quailman from start to finish without so much as a wraparound giving it relevance to Doug's life.
  • The Dreamstone reconstructs this. The closing points of the series play closer to the Early Installment Weirdness of the pilot episode, downplaying the slapstick Villain Protagonist formula in favour of developing mythos and new worlds and giving the heroes more focus. Some characters, particularly Rufus and Amberley, also gained back shades of their initial personalities and the more madcap humour began to seep onto the non-Urpney characters more, the Comically Lopsided Rivalry downplayed.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: After the series was Un-Canceled, the show's format suddenly shifted from being perpetual summer vacation to having the cul-de-sac kids in school. This was especially jarring because not only did we never see teachers or faculty, there were no other children. There were also a few one-off appearances of adults, but only arms or legs were visible.
  • Season 5 of The Garfield Show begins with seven consecutive five-part episodes aired back to back (covering 12 and a half out of the 26 episodes of the seasonnote ), and also almost every episode during these 5-parters features a song (something that already happened only in multiparter episodes, but since they were fewer in earlier seasons it wasn't so noticeable)
  • The final season of Gargoyles was made by a different staff of writers, and its tone is noticeably different. Each episodes starts an opening narration by Goliath, the episodes are more self contained and less focused on an overarching story, and the characters personalities are slightly different than they use to be, most notably with David Xanatos. Original creator Greg Weisman declared it non-canon, and when he got the chance to do a comic continuation, he re-adapted the first episode (which he had worked on) and then went off in a different direction.
  • "Gerald McBoing! Boing! on Planet Moo", the last cartoon in the Gerald McBoing-Boing series, is also the only one that doesn't rhyme.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • While the late '50s/early '60s cartoons were noticeably more dialogue-based and featured less detailed visuals compared to the 1940s-era shorts, things became very different when the cartoon studio closed in 1964 and production was handed over to DePatie-Freleng Productions: The bulk of the studio's output became the infamous "Daffy and Speedy" cartoons, which were replaced when the studio reopened in 1967 with new characters such as Cool Cat, who became the studio's star until the last shorts in 1969.
    • Revival productions tend to fall under this, attempting to bring back the style that made them famous or taking them on a different direction altogether.
    • The last two Private Snafu shorts, coming right at the tail end of the war (and presumably with all the important training subjects having already been addressed), became more or less military-themed Looney Tunes installments: one with Snafu and a Japanese officer fighting over a small island, and the other one placing Snafu on an uncharacteristic commando mission into the heart of Tokyo.
  • The Loud House: The show initially started out as the adventures of a boy with ten sisters. After Season 2, the sisters have gotten much more focus, and even the parents have focus as well, making them an Ensemble Cast. Lincoln's fourth wall breaks have become much rarer, and Clyde has phased out of his crush with Lori, instead focusing on girls his own age. Season 5 breaks the Comic-Book Time and ages the cast a year. As a result, Lincoln and his friends attend middle school, Lori lives in college and therefore isn't seen as frequently as in past seasons, and Lily wears clothes, goes to preschool, is potty-trained (meaning she doesn't say "poo-poo" anymore), and can speak full sentences.
  • The later Droopy cartoons made after Tex Avery left MGM can be a bit jarring, as they are done in Limited Animation with neither the Wolf nor Butch/Spike as antagonists, the madcap slapstick humor is severely scaled back, and worst of all, Droopy's face is no longer "droopy".
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
    • Those who left the series behind behind after its initial hay day will be surprised by how much has changed from season six onward. Who is this Starlight Glimmer? When did Rainbow Dash become a Wonderbolt? When did the Mane Six open a school? Where did those hippogriffs come from? When did the Cutie Mark Crusaders stop being Not Allowed to Grow Up? And when did they decide to stop pointing out some kind of aesop at the end of each episode? Granted, the change has been gradual, and this is to some extent just a natural result of it being a show where characters actually grow and change over time.
    • A big one was the series attitude toward other species. Earlier on the show had a much more "good species, evil species" sort of approach to things where it was made clear many of the species were by default evil or bad and exceptions were explicitly stated as being uncommon or unique: it was explained that dragons by nature were greedy and Spike was the exception having been raised by ponies, "good" creatures like Thorax and Gabby were explicitly stated to have been "born different", and it was generally okay for ponies to treat other creatures as evil by default (or declare them all to be ugly, like Rarity's attitude of mules in one early episode). Come season 8 the attitude shifted greatly, with other creatures being treated akin to other races and that fearing or disliking non-ponies was Fantastic Racism and, as shown with Chancellor Neighsay, objectively wrong. It can actually be a touch jarring to roll back a mere three seasons to find a dream sequence of Rainbow Dash beating up what is now established as another race to be entirely Played for Laughs as a happy dream of hers.
    • Non-plot-related changes also exist. For example, there's been a slight Anthropomorphic Shift: Lauren Faust tried to make it a point to avoid "human poses" and make sure that, despite their culture and civilization, the characters weren't just four-legged humans. Later seasons made without her diverge from this Depending on the Writer, with more "human poses" and more "characters inexplicably holding things despite having hooves", and have the characters exhibit actual horse behavior slightly less often.
  • After The Powerpuff Girls Movie, Craig McCracken left The Powerpuff Girls to create Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Chris Savino took over, and the show became more or less a gag comedy instead of a lighthearted action show. The characters also received noticeable redesigns to fit the movie's art-style. In "The Powerpuff Girls Rule", the 10th anniversary special, they used Flash instead of traditional animation.
  • The Real Ghostbusters: When the show was changed to Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters, the show became more childish, as Slimer became more integrated into the spotlight, and the show became Denser and Wackier.
  • Reboot: Season 3 changes up season 1 and 2's episodic nature into a full season-long arc. All the character models improved and were redesigned due to better technology being available to the crew. The show also becomes much darker in tone, dealing with the effects of a villain victory and replacing Bob with Enzo Matrix as the main character. However, this appears to be more of a subversion, as the writers explained this was the kind of show they wanted to write, but couldn't due to excessive Executive Meddling that ceased once the show changed networks, making this a perfect example of the show Growing the Beard. Season 4 kept the changes.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show:
    • After the second season, John Kricfalusi was fired for not meeting episode deadlines and (according to Kricfalusi himself) going overboard with the show's violent content via the infamous oar-beating scene in "Man's Best Friend". Nickelodeon created its own animation studio (Games Animation), and Bob Camp took over as showrunner. The art style and designs were altered slightly and some voices changed (largely due to Billy West replacing Kricfalusi for certain characters), i.e. Ren sounding more breathy and less hammy. Ren went from a Jerk with a Heart of Gold to a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk, and Stimpy went from merely The Ditz to Too Dumb to Live. The Games staff even made an episode parodying the creation of the show and the change in staff ("Reverend Jack"). The tones of the episodes also changed; this was both at the request of Nick (who told Bob Camp, "no more psycho-dramas") and Camp himself, who didn't feel it was healthy to endlessly ask, "What would John K. do?" and instead just wanted to make funny cartoons.
    • And then there's Adult Party Cartoon which, in a reversal of before, returned John K to creative control but lacked Camp and several other members of the original show's staff. While it undid some of the alterations from Camp's tenure, it has an even more deranged animation style, far more blatant adult humour and the duo's relationship is openly homoerotic.
  • Samurai Jack was finally Un-Canceled for ten episodes, allowing Tartakovsky to wrap up the story. It's set fifty years after the rest of the series (revealing that Jack no longer ages), is even darker than the previous seasons, has more continuity and now features a Deuteragonist named Ashi, who goes from villain to Love Interest as the story progresses.
  • As this essay analyzes, The Simpsons focused on pure comedy in its prime, to the point of absurdism.
  • The final season of The Smurfs received a complete overhaul, dumping much of the cast and the Smurfs' village and seeing the remaining characters traveling through alternate timelines.
  • While South Park has changed considerably over its run, this trope has most often been invoked during the 18th - 21st seasons. Beginning with the eighteenth season, Call Backs to episodes earlier in the season became frequent (continuity to older episodes was unchanged) culminating in a two-part finale that drew on numerous episodes from that season; season 19 imitated this structure, and season 20 went all-out with a single season-long arc. The latter wound up being a bit TOO ambitious, so Seasons 21 and 22 dialed it back somewhat, though callbacks between episodes from the same season remain more frequent than they had been. Though fan reaction has varied from positive to negative, one specific example of this may be an increased focus on humor based on romantic relationships, which while always a part of the show never received the amount of story focus they have until the last few seasons.
  • Space Ghost Coast to Coast changed greatly when it moved to Adult Swim. The show's humor became a lot more random, there was a lot more swearing, Vomit Indiscretion Shots started to appear, and one episode (Idlewild South) even had Zorak and Moltar smoking weed on camera. The show had already started to go in this direction with episodes like Warren and King Dead, but the transition to Adult Swim was when they committed to it.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In the early seasons, SpongeBob would wear nothing but just his underwear and shoes to bed; starting around Season 5, there are instances where he starts going to bed barefoot, while on other occasions, beginning with "Night Light", he wears proper sleepwear.
    • The Post-Sequel era (Season 9b-12). The series had a Denser and Wackier turn, with Deranged Animation that intentionally goes Off-Model for comic effect, crazier facial expressions, and episodes a lot more zanier and surreal. The series also began making a lot of Call-Backs, Easter Eggs and references to previous episodes (especially the ones from the first three seasons) and the first movie, something that SpongeBob rarely did in previous seasons.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
    • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) where the last few seasons came to be noted as the "Red Sky" seasons, assumed a different opening theme and sequence, and switched the Big Bad from Shredder and Krang to Lord Dregg.
    • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003): Had a very strong sense of continuity and had several episodes and arcs that were faithful adaptions of the original Mirage Comics up until season 4. Season 5 (The Lost Episodes) continued where season 4 left off but could be considered a Jumping the Shark point with an original mystical storyline and retcons to prior seasons. Season 6 (Fast Forward) was a Retool with the main cast getting flung 100 years into the future with a major tone shift from dramatic action to comedic action, and Season 7 (Back to the Sewer) was a retool bring them back to the present but losing a lot of the original charm and congruence with the comics that the first 4 seasons had, being more similar to Fast Forward's tone.
  • Fans of The Railway Series may be taken aback by later episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine, which not only cease adapting stories from the books, but have a much Denser and Wackier narrative, transitioned from model puppetry to CGI animation (with all the cast fully voiced and animated) and have altered several characters in role and personality (or disposed of them altogether in favor of numerous more gimmicky new ones).
  • Tom and Jerry:
    • The series is most famous for the original shorts done by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera in the '40s and '50s. After they left MGM, the series was sent overseas to cartoonist Gene Deitch, whose often bizarre shorts bordered on Deranged Animation. Later on Chuck Jones took over the series, giving the characters a redesign, and plot-wise making them more like his Road Runner cartoons at Warner Bros. Every adaptation since then likely falls under this trope as well.
    • Even within Hanna Barbera's own run, their later shorts in the mid to late 50s are rather different beasts from their earlier ones. The animation style is more simplistic and flat, looking closer to their television work in later years. The use of supporting characters is more prevalent, with several shorts Tom and Jerry's chase is almost a secondary plot, most of said characters are also more talkative than them, meaning a greater amount of dialogue. Tom's original owner Mammy Two Shoes was also retired by this point, replaced with one shot owners or a more conservative fifties couple. In general, their fifties affairs, while still very slapstick in nature, are also prone to be relatively less violent and mean spirited, with Tom and Jerry's Friendly Rivalry being demonstrated more often.
  • The later Van Beuren Studios shorts directed by Burt Gillett from 1934 to 1936 take a total 180 approach to the studio's previous cartoons, completely overhauling the art direction, animation, and content. Specifically, these new shorts were more sugary and Disneyesque; the earlier shorts felt more like Fleischer Studios cartoons.

Alternative Title(s): Later Instalment Weirdness


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