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"Established, popular characters? Check. Reinterpretation of a beloved, classic storyline? Check. Stretched-out presentation of the same? Check. Helmed by a popular creator of original works in his own right? Check. Updated characterizations that sometimes toy with the original creator's personas? Check. A bigger, more contemplative/brooding/generally 'big' tone? Check. Yeah, it's an Ultimate book, at least as we know them now."

A kind of Continuity Reboot designed to consolidate existing stories and themes into a new Alternate Continuity. Most notable regarding a franchise several decades old with multiple concurrent works, as it serves as a chance to wipe the slate clean while introducing new ideas that may not have been well received in the previous continuity. It may or may not replace the previous continuity but is perceived as a newcomer friendly world/story, sometimes as a Jumping-On Point or Gateway Series.

Extremely common in Retooled Crossovers, as this allows for storylines the original couldn't have done without a massive Retcon. The Canon Welding and greater cohesiveness owing to the advantage of foreknowledge that it possesses over the regular serial continuity (which generally more or less introduced new elements and characters as it went along). With greater control over the established timeline and with inspiration from the parent work, writers are able to lean into known stories and add their own twist without the characters within the story able to comment about it feeling familiar. Mythology Gags also tend to be heightened, referencing things from the entire history of the franchise as something modern.

Common hallmarks of an ultimate universe include:

  1. Use of a Meta Origin, Adaptation Origin Connection, Adaptational Early Appearance or Adaptational Late Appearance because of trying to create a stronger, ongoing narrative and shuffling around the order of events.
  2. Important characters may be Killed Off for Real, because Status Quo Is God only at the original universe, whereas there's more room for creativity here.
  3. Costumes and locations get redesigns that would be considered "too drastic" for the main universe, such as Movie Superheroes Wear Black.
  4. Backstories are altered to have more depth or outline their progression to become closer to their original character, to make it feel like a fresh take rather than a simple copy.
  5. Creating an Adaptation Personality Change with Adaptational Heroism or Adaptational Villainy, to shift perceptions of who the character is supposed to be.
  6. Use of a Race Lift, Gender Flip, Age Lift, Adaptational Nationality, or Adaptation Species Change.
  7. New stories may be told using elements of past stories.
  8. A tonal shift, often of a Darker and Edgier variety and a bigger focus on realism.
  9. Characters may be more powerful or weaker than the original version, relative to how their abilities would fair in different circumstances.
  10. Creating an Alternate History of the main universe, a "What If?" ranging from modernizing their origins or how they would react to the latest political climate.
  11. A character is Spared by the Adaptation, possibly as a Meta Twist for people expecting it to go through. Though Death by Origin Story is often set in stone.
  12. Adding new characters (heroes, villains, supporters, etc.) to spice things up. If a character from an official adaptation proves to be popular, they'll end up becoming a Canon Immigrant.
  13. A general drive for individual coherency, taking advantage of the Shared Universe and planning the Crisis Crossover ahead of time. Whereas the original work may have run against a Continuity Snarl, the Ultimate Universe has the benefit of hindsight. Writers can cherry-pick the best ideas from the preceding work and streamline familiar story beats.

Named for the Marvel Comics "Ultimate Marvel" line, which sought to update and streamline decades of continuity with an Alternate Continuity sub-brand without canceling out the original storyline. Most superheroes under the "Ultimate" umbrella brand are given reboots of their own, but on a smaller scale — Spider-Man's 'radioactive spider' origin story was replaced with an updated 'genetically engineered spider' version.

Fan Fiction writers frequently do this in Alternate Universe Fics, essentially rebooting the mythos to incorporate their own ideas, Fanon, and other material.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • As mentioned above, Marvel Comics' Ultimate Marvel is the Trope Namer, as it's the Ultimate Universe version of the normal Marvel Universe.
    • The primary changes made to the series is the Setting Update, with the superhero-mutant era being identified as The 2000s. The mutant phenomenon is originally the linchpin for the series, with Magneto being the Greater-Scope Villain for the series (as opposed to Doctor Doom), the X-Men being the first super-team and The Ultimates (the Avengers' new name) being formed as a response to both Magneto and avoiding dependency on the X-Men. SHIELD is the primary Government Agency of Fiction and the overall arc for the entire franchise is Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke with many plots and schemes tied back to the idea of recreating the Super Serum that worked perfectly in Captain America but in the hands of Norman Osborn leads to accidents (Peter Parker being bitten by one of his experimental spiders, which leads to Osborn making himself the Green Goblin and so on) and in the case of the Fantastic Four, leads to experiments in the Negative Zone.
    • Both Heroes Reborn and Spider-Man: Chapter One were failed attempts to do this by Marvel before they tried the Trope Namer and some ideas were even reused (like the idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. forming the universe's version of the Avengers rather than the team forming independently and Falcon having served in the military from Heroes Reborn, and the origins of Spidey and his foes having connections to each other from Chapter One). A possible factor in their failure is their attempt to replace the then-current continuity.
    • Marvel's "Grand Design" comics are based on giving well-known creators the chance to do a same-medium Adaptation Distillation on their favourite characters and turn over fifty years of tangled canon into a coherent narrative. The first was Ed Piskor's X-Men: Grand Design, followed by Tom Scioli's Fantastic Four: Grand Design and Jim Rugg's Hulk: Grand Design.
    • Supreme Power is a mature Ultimate Universe version of Marvel's Justice League Captain Ersatzes, the Squadron Supreme. They even had a crossover with the actual Ultimate Universe once.
    • Warren Ellis' short-lived series newuniversal is The New Universe's Ultimate version.
  • The DC Comics All-Star line, which had the All-Star Superman and All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder miniseries (with future projects based on Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and possibly the Flash), was a form of this. The series aren't supposed to take place in any particular continuity (although All-Star Batman and Robin does supposedly take place in the same continuity as Frank Miller's other Batman stories), and are supposed to be a concentration of what makes those characters special. As well, Justice is basically All-Star Superfriends, even if it couldn't legally be called that.
  • The Earth One series of trade-paperbacks, consisting of Batman: Earth One, Superman: Earth One, Teen Titans: Earth One and Wonder Woman: Earth One with Aquaman: Earth One and The Flash: Earth One announced, follow the Ultimate Marvel formula more closely than the All-Star line, intending to be a modern reboot in a new continuity rather than another mini-series written outside of continuity. The characters are all younger, more violent and asocial than the regular continuity.
  • The New 52 relaunch also has some of this, but confusingly not always. Some series are just continuations of old series with renumbered issues while others are complete reboots or retellings. Can be quite confusing to tell which is which at times. Ironic, as the whole point of the New 52 was to make things less confusing for new readers.
  • The Wild Storm is this for the WildStorm Universe. It's worth nothing that the WSU was semi-rebooted once before, but never in a scale such as this.
  • Devil's Due Publishing attempted a more realistic take on the G.I. Joe franchise with G.I. Joe: Reloaded.
  • IDW Publishing's Transformers Generation 1 material, but this can be said of damn near all modern Transformers material.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW) has taken it upon itself to become this, introducing characters and concepts from different incarnations of the property and blending them together.
  • Paperinik New Adventures, which ran from 1996 to 2001, got this treatment in the form of the less-acclaimed PK, that ended in 2005.
  • The Multiversity:
  • Switch (2015) is this for Witchblade and several other Top Cow properties. The series is set in an alternate universe where the Witchblade is wielded by a teenage girl named Mary, and has a Lighter and Softer (and decidedly less Stripperific) style.
  • After the release of Dredd, Rebellion started publishing comics in that same continuity in Judge Dredd Megazine, making it an Ultimate Universe to Judge Dredd.
  • Rogue Trooper's 1989 reboot was intended to be this, with a reimagining of the main GI and his connection to his comrades and equipment... until Friday met Rogue, retconning the new stories into the original continuity.

    Fan Works 

  • The Star Trek films headed by J. J. Abrams and his team are established as taking place in an entirely new timeline from the rest of the franchise, created inadvertently by Nero and old-Spock. As such, viewers can sit back and watch some familiar dynamics (the Kirk-Spock-McCoy friendship); some new ones (such as the Spock/Uhura relationship); and entirely new fates for Captain Pike, Carol Marcus, and Khan, etc.—without taking offense at any violations of canon. Fans have taken to calling this "The JJ-verse" or "AOS" (Alternate Original Series). Paramount has since confirmed that the name of the alternate continuity is "Kelvin Universe", a reference to the titular spaceship in the opening scene of the 2009 film.
  • The franchise Planet of the Apes was rebooted two times. The first 1968 film was loosely based on the novel Planet of the Apes, and then the sequels built a film franchise, unrelated to it. There was a remake of the film franchise in 2001, but it was poorly received and then aborted, without any sequels (except for the comics). There was a new reboot in 2011, that provided three films so far.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy is this for the Batman mythos, distilling many aspects of the original comics, while taking a more realistic approach and, in some cases drastically changing some characters to fit the medium and story. All three films borrow elements from iconic Batman stories, making the trilogy something of a Pragmatic Adaptation. Like a lot of ultimate universes, the films essentially ask the question "what would this character be like in the real world?"
  • When Disney took over Star Wars, Lucasfilm declared the mostly canon Expanded Universe was now part of the Legends continuity and would be ignored by future movies. The new continuity still uses and/or references old material such as planets, organizations, events and sometimes characters such as Grand Admiral Thrawn from the original Legends books but in a different way or context.

  • The book sequels to 2001: A Space Odyssey are all set in the universe established in the film version (the mission terminates at Saturn in the novel, at Jupiter in the film), but each one is set in a somewhat divergent universe that does not necessarily take all events of the previous novel(s) into account. Thus 2061 diverges from and ignores the epilogue of 2010, and 3001 glosses over several major implications described in the three previous novels. Clarke stated in the introductions to all three sequels that this was deliberate.

  • The book series, comprising Michael Moorcock's The Final Programme, A Cure for Cancer and The English Assassin establish Jerry Cornelius as a globe-trotting, time-hopping, jet-setting secret agent. He is surrounded by immortal characters for whom death lasts precisely until they are needed in a sequel. This is the incarnation used by other writers associated with Moorcock's contribution to the New Wave. Then The Condition of Muzak reveals Jerry to be a down-at-heel would-be pop star with an imagination that makes Walter Mitty look like the average Vulcan. The only real death he encounters is that of his mother, which event ends the series.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Boys is this to the comic book it's based on, which is ironic since it is already a Deconstruction of the Superhero genre. Regardless, the show distills many parts of the original story, and takes a much more different route than the comic to be a new take instead of a literal adaptation. It also goes for a more grounded and brooding tone, instead of being cartoonishly edgy like the comic, though there's still a good amount of Black Comedy. Some characters have also had their race, sex and personality changed. The show also features political satire of The New '10s, so instead of mocking and calling out the comic book industry, the show is more of a Parody and critique of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe, showing just how elitist, corporate and cynical Disney's Avengers and Zack Snyder's Justice League would be if they operated in the real world.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Several campaigns by RPGA managed to receive the Ultimate treatment following their original publisher's demise. To wit, "Living City" became "Living Planar," "Living Greyhawk" evolved into "Blackmoor," and "Living Death" turned into "Fellowship of the White Star."
  • White Wolf's Chronicles of Darkness is an Ultimate Spiritual Successor of the Old World of Darkness, created to tighten focus, tweak rules mechanics, standardize rules between different gamelines, and replace a metaplot continuity that in just a little over a decade had become as convoluted and incomprehensible as any comic book universe with a more ambiguous, optional, and largely more internally consistent one.
    • Another White Wolf product, Exalted, is given this treatment in the third edition, with the map redrawn and multiple new types of Exalt appearing.
  • The fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons can be considered this to 3.5 edition due to its streamlined, MMO-inspired gameplay, drastic overhaul of many established D&D conventions, and incorporating races, deities, and ideas from different editions and campaign settings.
    • Fifth Edition even moreso. After the poor reception of 4E, Fifth Edition is an attempt to Win Back the Crowd by effectively making a stripped-down Third Edition, which makes it feel very familiar to anyone who played 1st or 2nd Edition AD&D; it ends up serving as something of the new-generation Basic D&D, to Pathfinder's status as this generation's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
  • The "Paragons of Freedom" setting in the Mutants & Masterminds book Worlds of Freedom places the Freedom City characters in the Paragons setting. Between the more "realistic supers" tone of Paragons compared to Freedom's four-colour approach, and the fact superheroes are a fairly recent phenomenon, it feels a lot like an "Ultimised" version of the Freedom City setting.
  • After the OblivAeon event in Sentinels of the Multiverse, the game and the fictional comics focus on two major timelines - the Miststorm, or Tactics timeline, and the RPG, or main timeline. The Miststorm-verse is treated as an Ultimate Universe: it's darker and edgier, characters have different names and redesigns and beloved characters die for real. As a nod to the Marvel Ultimate Universe, the Miststorm timeline is eventually destroyed.

    Video Games 
  • Action Taimanin: Action is set in an entirely new timeline from the other entries of the franchise. As a new continuity, it further combines elements of all prior entries of the series, like Yamamoto from ZERO, Asagi being Gosha Academy's headmistress from the third game, the Fuuma clan and story from Battle Arena/RPGX, and Oboro and NOMAD working be as depicted in the second game, just for a few examples.
  • Super Robot Wars: Original Generation is effectively the video game equivalent of Ultimate Marvel: streamline the original plots from their licensed Super Robot Wars installments into one cohesive setting, featuring only their in-house created characters - a particularly interesting example, as Super Robot Wars is already a Massive Multiplayer Crossover Adaptation Distillation of many diverse Humongous Mecha properties. Things really hit a stride post-Continuity Reboot, as subsequent Original Generation Sequels began adding in obscure Banpresto-developed titles like The Great Battle series and Hero Senki: Project Olympus as tie-ins to overall Continuity. These days, it's expected an Original Generation installment will incorporate something from Banpresto's library into its narrative, especially when current developer B.B. Studio is treating Original Generation as this trope.
  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow features a number of familiar elements and character names, but significantly reworked to find a way to fit them into the same era, with the plot of the first entry being something of a retake on Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, namely as an origin story for Dracula and the second on Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow duology, namely on the idea of events that take place in a more contemporary era, albeit under a more clear Alternate History. It also trades the Metroidvania exploration for a more "God of War" style beat em' up and the "vampire hunter/horror" theme for "Judeo-Christian and Paganism" to make it more relevant.
  • Zig-Zagged with Doom (2016) and Doom Eternal; the games take place in a unique universe with elements from several prior works in the franchise (the general premise, certain monster designs), but tweaked to make the world more developed, and features quite a bit of new lore introduced to the franchise, but the protagonist is established to be the original Doomguy, who made his way to this new universe after the events of Doom 64.
  • DmC: Devil May Cry streamlines many elements from the classic Devil May Cry series' convoluted story while adding original wrinkles, such as making Dante's mother a literal Angel, having Sparda tortured after betraying demonkind, and turning Dante's Rebellion into a shape-shifting weapon. It also has its own version of the fan favorite Vergil, who was killed in the original series' Anachronic Order via the first game. Overall, this continuity reuses some characters such as Sparda, Eva, Dante, Vergil, and Mundus, but redesigns their appearances and rewrites their personalities differently than their original counterparts. The story and dialogue are Darker and Edgier, while the setting also leans a lot on modern city Urban Fantasy than the previous games which leaned more on old Gothic-style architecture.
  • Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons is described by the developers as an "alternate timeline prequel" to the Double Dragon games. It takes many elements of the mainline games and other media in the franchise and its own unique takes and blend them together in a more grounded form.
  • Kingdom Hearts is a Retooled Crossover of Disney and Final Fantasy, that sets both in the same continuity alongside characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas, Movies by Pixar, and The World Ends with You. When the worlds the player travels to are not a Compressed Adaptation of the movies they're based on, they and the Square Enix Characters usually have some thematic relevance with the story of the Original Generation Characters and the overall series. Tetsuya Nomura has also given drastic redesigns to some of the Disney and Final Fantasy Characters, putting them in clothes that are his preferred aesthetic.
  • In a way, The King of Fighters is this by being a Retooled Crossover that puts many SNK Games into a single shared continuity, while also featuring many Original Generation characters. From Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting (with later games featuring characters from their Distant Sequels), to Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier. More recent titles have also added Kizuna Encounter, Samurai Shodown and Metal Slug into the mix. Some of the characters like Robert, Athena and Terry have also gotten redesigns as the series went on. And then there's King of Dinosaurs, who is actually Tizoc going under a new heel persona, kind of like The Maker but much more comedic.
  • The Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam crossover confirms that the Paper Mario games are separate from the rest of Super Mario Bros. series, being contained inside a magic book kept in Peach's castle.
  • The cancelled "Maverick Hunter" game by Armature Studio would have been this to the Mega Man X franchise, featuring a new realistic design for X, a supposedly darker storyline, and a Bruce-Willisesq human partner.
  • Mega Man Battle Network is a Spin-Off/reimagining of the Mega Man franchise, set in an Alternate Universe that focuses on a grand development of the internet instead of robotics. It mostly features characters from the Classic series, who are all redesigned to fit with the Battle Network aesthetic. (although Glyde from the Legends series, as well as Zero, the Colonel and Iris from the X series also show up) The series would later recieve a Distant Sequel called Mega Man Star Force, which deals with aliens and Wi-Fi radio.
  • The Mortal Kombat games by NetherRealm Studios are an odd example of this, much like the New 52 they start off a New Timeline by hitting the Reset Button in their First Game. After that, they condense the plot of The Arcade Trilogy in a cinematic Story Mode that involves characters introduced later into the series, With big changes to the events of the timeline being a result of Time Travel shenanigans. Mortal Kombat X adapts the plot of Mortal Kombat 4 and re-introduces some elements and characters from The 3D Era, while also killing of many others in the Prequel Comic or off-screen. It also introduces New Characters and Legacy Characters into the lore. Then Mortal Kombat 11 features another big cinematic Story Mode with Time Travel that has, controversially, changed the personality/backstory of certain characters more so than previous installments. Such as, for example, Sindel.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic Generations had Sonic team up with his past self, Classic Sonic. Sonic Forces and Sonic Mania retcon Classic Sonic and the 2D games to place in Another Dimension.
    • The Sonic Boom video games, as well as its follow-up cartoon, tried to serve as this for the Sonic franchise to give SEGA room to experiment in a new continuity while still being close to the original.
  • The world of Yu-Gi-Oh! BAM combines characters, story, and settings from the first three Yu-Gi-Oh anime.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction features both manga-exclusive and anime-exclusive characters, referencing events from both continuities as well as its prequel game.
  • Batman: Arkham Origins. While other games in the Batman: Arkham Series try to focus on incorporating the best elements from across every Bat-adaptation, or showing how dangerous even the cheesiest Batman villain can be, Origins seems determined to modernize Gotham: Riddler becomes a hacker and cyberterrorist, Anarky resembles a modern "Guy Fawkes" street protestor, and a lot of focus is given to the corrupt prison and police system, both major talking points among the public when the game came out.
  • Blaster Master Zero manages to incorporate nearly every part of the Blaster Master series into its canon. It is canonically a continuation of the Japanese Metafight universe, with the English canon added onto it. The series even sets up the events of Blasting Again for Jason and Eve's children.
  • Ratchet & Clank (2016) (and the movie it's based on) retells the original story with a great amount of this trope in effect. Elements such as the Galactic Rangers, hints to Ratchet's origins, Qwark's rivalry with Nefarious and Ratchet's desire to be a hero are all injected into the story. In addition to that are a great amount of world-building such as a diverse array of races, the Megacorp and GrummelNet companies, President Phyronix, Unicop, the presence of other galaxies, and even an easter egg for what kick-starts the adventure after this one. By comparison the PS2 and PS3 titles took the course of a decade to introduce all of these.
    • Zig-Zagged with Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction: the game discarded several modern gameplay elements and re-emphasized old ones and introduced brand news aspects, such as a higher focus on the story and lore, making it a giant gumbo of the series' best elements.note  What makes this trope a Zig-Zagged one is that at the time, with all the discarded elements and characters picked up over the years, there was fan confusion as to whether the game was a Continuity Reboot or a Retool. As such, the games that came after included many throwbacks and references to the pre-Tools titles, ranging from name-dropping beloved characters like Courtney Gears and Ace Hardlight all the way to including a museum that is loaded with Continuity Porn as if it were a Milestone Celebration.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) has this in spades:
    • This time around, while the plot takes cues from the original Call of Duty 4 and Modern Warfare 2 (via a combination of Russian and Middle Eastern terrorists conducting terrorist attacks in their own countries, and against innocent civilians abroad), the action takes place in the current day rather than Next Sunday A.D., and Captain John Price is expressly Younger and Hipper (34-35 in this game, versus the 50 year-old incarnation in the original trilogy).
    • Price still undertook an operation to assassinate Imran Zakhaev in Pripyat; in this timeline, it's all but confirmed that it was an outright success, whereas the first incarnation of that mission ended with Zakhaev losing his arm but otherwise surviving. Furthermore, Victor Zakhaev is said to be leading the Russian Ultranationalists that were referenced earlier in the game.
    • In this universe, Price is more open with his emotions, swearing more, letting his frustrations show on the surface more often when a situation is going south (like during the defense of the Embassy in Urzikstan) and openly discusses Kyle's emotional concerns with him.
    • Whereas Task Force 141 was set up in the interim between the first and second game (by Soap, largely in response to what happened with Zakhaev), this time around, Price is the one who sets it up, expressly to deal with Victor Zakhaev. Furthermore, Price recruits John MacTavish (aka "Soap"), Player Character Kyle Garrick (aka "Gaz") and Simon Riley (aka "Ghost"), along with a number of unspecified operatives.
    • At the end of the game it's revealed that Khaled Al-Asad is now the commander of Al-Qatala and is leading an offensive against the Russia city of Verdansk.
    • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II continues this in spades, with Task Force 141 working under General Shepherd and together with the PMC Shadow Company, much of the story revolving around the possibility of America being implicated in an attack they didn't take part in (by way of American missiles ending up in Al-Qatala's hands), and a mid-game betrayal of Task Force 141 by Shepherd and Shadow Company. And, once they're dealt with, the last-minute revelation that there's still one more bad guy out there: Makarov.

    Web Comics 
  • Dumbing of Age is basically a reboot of Roomies!, minus the Mundane Fantastic that eventually took over the strip and plus the hundreds of characters created since then.
  • Inverted Fate, while it is a Role Swap Au, it is also a reimagination of the original Undertale. Frisk has a freshed-out personality instead of being a silent protagonist, a backstory and more interactions with the cast, and Papyrus is a secondary protagonist and party member. The setting is more evolved due to the swaps affecting the story. The lore is also expanded through flashbacks, Dummied Out content being restored and Chara having a major role and impact.
  • The Japanese Beetle went through this in 2003, retelling stories from its 1998 origin in more modern style. Word of God later admitted that this was exactly what he was going for.
  • Tails Gets Trolled Polished was an attempt at this. With lazerbot adding shading to his crude drawings and correcting his infamous spelling mistakes. Events that in the original Webcomic lasted only two pages were stretched to four, characters introduced later into the story appear much earlier, and new characters and scenes were added, some of which try to add depth to minor characters. All of this with a much more dense tone akin to the latter chapters rather than the much more fast paced beginning of the original. The goal of this remaster was to make a definitive version of the Webcomic, with lazerbot himself even calling the original a draft. His fans weren't pleased, especially since the new project started after the original was left on a cliffhanger.

    Western Animation