_hojo:the.sophomore.slumpJanuary 30, 2009
_as i was rolling up roses in We Katamari earlier today, my mind started to wander. i started to think about how many people i’ve heard complain about the game. i started to repeat the various complaints i’d heard about it in my head.
“the soundtrack wasn’t as good.”
“i didn’t like the stage design.”
“it didn’t have the same charm as the first one.”
_even as the most monotonous and boring task in the game clouded my perception of the game itself, i still couldn’t help but think about how much of an improvement WK actually was over the original. the graphics were improved. the wall climbing mechanic had been improved. the item collection menu was made easier to navigate. none of the items were as frustrating to find as some in the original *cough*4th Step. seeing if you had rolled up new items was made easier. the soundtrack was still good, with many songs made to compliment specific stages. you could select what song you wanted to in each stage. there was more variety in the stages, and more stages in general. there’s more emphasis on unique rolling. how could people like the original better?
_the answer can be found in the last quote. “it didn’t have the same charm as the first one.”
_normally, when people use a sentence like that to describe why they like something, it’s for something that came out of nowhere and was fresh and unique. that was the original Katamari Damacy. no other game had gameplay like KD. no other game had the same graphical style. no other game released in the states had such a catchy japanese soundtrack. the people had fallen in love.
_but the problem that arises from following up something unique is that the uniqueness was part of the reason people liked the original so much, and that goes for almost any medium. one of the reasons so many sequels and follow-ups fall victim to the “Sophomore Slump” is because of the fickle nature of the fans themselves. sequels are often described as “the same thing, only bigger and better than the original.” but when you follow up a “breath of fresh air,” you can do “bigger and better,” but you can’t breath the same fresh air that you did before. what once was fresh has now become stale.
_on the other side of the spectrum, sometimes developers and artists try to follow-up something with something radically different. the problem that arises here is often that the demographic targetted by the first [THING] is often not the same demographic the different [THING] targets. then, when demo-#01 experiences the product geared more towards demo-#02, they’ll complain “this isn’t like the first [THING], boohoo i want the original,” and demo-#02, who would probably like the new [THING], ignore it, because they didn’t like the first [THING].
_make something like the old, people will want something new. make something new, people will want something more similar to the old. the sophomore slump is like one big catch-22.
_of course, that’s not to say that some follow-ups really aren’t as good as the original, or that nobody ever likes the sequel to anything. really, this is one big “thoughts wandering” session while i zone out and roll up roses. but if there’s one thing i’m sure of, it’s that people never know what they really want.