There Needs To Be More Over-World Continuity In Video Games
Games need to continue to build on an over-world that has already been created rather than scrapping them just to build a new one.
There have been a variety of video game franchises that have stretched the series across multiple games and consoles, continuing to flesh out the story and world-building as the games go on. Whether that be The Legend of Zelda, Metal Gear Solid, or Resident Evil, these games have built a continuous structure and legacy that will continue to be expanded upon to this day (maybe not so much for Metal Gear). Sequels will mention past events or environments from previous games; but, are those environments really the same in the new entry? Probably not, and I feel like the lack of over-world continuity can really take a toll on how immersive a franchise or game could possibly be.
The Hero of Time is always referred to in Zelda titles, along with Hyrule Castle. But that Castle is not the same castle that was explored in previous games. At least in design. Yes, narratively it is the same castle we have saved Zelda from countless times. But they never feel familiar from game to game. The same goes for Mario. Most times within Peach’s castle, it isn’t very reminiscent of Super Mario 64. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to have those familiar areas fleshed out more?
The remake of Resident Evil 3 was pretty divisive depending on who you are speaking with, but there is one spot that I thought might have been the coolest part of the game (I never played the original by the way). I will try to keep the spoilers light since the game just released, and many readers have still probably not gotten around to playing it.
At one point during the campaign, Carlos must explore the Raccoon City Police Department. Yes, the exact same one from the Resident Evil 2 remake; the same room, locked doors, puzzles, they were still there. Some were not interactive, but I could still see them. I also got to discover how a certain character from RE2 ended up the way he did in that game. It was fascinating and fully immersed me in the Resident Evil universe. This just wasn’t a set piece developed for this one game; this was an interconnected world. It took what was already created and built on it to create an even more immersive universe. Why can’t we see more of this?
The simplest example of how an interconnected over-world can change the overall continuity of the franchise I can think of is Banjo-Tooie. The first game is widely considered one of the greatest 3D platformers of all time. It lived during the golden age of the genre and continues to age better than the great Tim Duncan himself. I believe one of the biggest reasons for this is how memorable the hub world of Banjo-Kazooie is. If you have played the game, you know Spiral Mountain and Gruntilda’s Lair like the back of your hand. In Tooie, rather than moving to an entirely new location or world, Rare built on what was already there. Well, technically “broke” would be a better word to use since a gigantic hole broke through the rocks in Spiral Mountain, showcasing an entirely new area that technically would have still been there in the original game.
If someone wanted to map out the entire over-world of the Banjo-Kazooie games (the good ones), they could technically do it on one map (minus the levels of course). The two games are connected because they literally are. Starting out with Banjo’s darker adventure in Tooie, you can look up at Grunty’s face plastered on the side of the mountain and remember all of the adventures that were had inside. You can even climb inside. However, the path leading further into the lair is blocked by some fallen rocks.
This simple design further builds upon how immersive a franchise can be. Isle O’ Hags in Tooie was always in the first game, and Grunty’s Lair is always there in the second game. The world is built upon, not scrapped for a new one. You might be asking yourself: “Well Grant, how immersive can a game about a gullible bear and blabbering bird be?” To that I will say, how dare you refer to our lord and savior Banjo like that. But really, I would refer to a great analogy I heard from a YouTuber named KingK.
KingK makes long-form retrospective reviews that are just fascinating to watch, and I would definitely recommend the channel to those who are into those videos. In his retrospective of Super Mario Sunshine, he discussed how immersive the beach-y world of Isle Delfino is because of its interconnected levels. Nintendo wanted you to feel like you were immersed in this believable island vibe. No matter where Mario stood, whether that be on Isle Delfino itself or one of the levels, you were able to see other worlds in the game Mario had either been to or hadn’t been to yet. Usually, they are pretty far off in the distance, but you can still spot them out because of some noticeable landmarks.
It might seem like a small “Oh, that’s cool” moment, but that was an “Oh, shit that’s cool!” moment to me. The interconnectedness of Sunshine enhances that island vacation vibe and probably creates the most immersive world in the Mario franchise because of it. Also, I say vacation vibe, but Mario was sent to prison immediately at the start of the game. I don’t know about you, but prison isn’t my type of relaxation, but I don’t judge.
Whether franchises continue to build on a map that has already been created or keeping the game’s over-world entirely connected, I think games should try to pursue more interconnected worlds of this style. There is a reason that Dark Souls nerds absolutely love the world of that game. Everything you see is an area that you will inevitably die at.
Wouldn’t it be neat in a Zelda game to return to some of the areas from Ocarina of Time? I feel like there have been countless amounts of different versions of Hyrule Field, Hyrule Castle, Kakariko Village, etc. The sense of continuity might be there narratively, but when the important areas look vastly different to their previous entries, it does take a little sense of continuity out of the world. Breath of the Wild played around with this a bit with Lon Lon Ranch, which looked very reminiscent of the version from Ocarina of Time. Lurelin Island also looked very similar to Outset Island from Wind Waker. However, the game never went all out with its past renditions of Zelda locations, other than with naming conventions.
This is why I am so dang excited for the upcoming sequel to Breath of the Wild. The series’ producer Eiji Aonuma has already stated that they would like to continue to build on the world they created in the original, which I think is a fantastic idea. That game was so freaking huge that there are so many different nooks and crannies that were never explored by most players. The trailer even displays Link and Zelda surveying what looks like some caverns that could possibly underneath the original over-world. Wouldn’t that be sweet? We would get to see even more of what might have been the greatest open-world map ever designed, and Nintendo would continue to expand that Zelda continuity they love oh so much. Rather than trashing this version of Hyrule for another, we might get to see what else is going on in this version through the Breath of the Wild universe.
Personally, it would be great to see more games building upon over-worlds that have already been created, rather than starting from scratch each time. Though, I could see why many developers do not want to. Maybe they would receive some flak from the community for rehashing old ideas, or maybe they just want to flex their creative muscles and create something entirely new. Still, I think a continuous map from game to game would be something incredible. Continuous over-worlds could maximize how immersive a franchise can be while also building an even more memorable universe of their own.