Sunday, July 2, 2017

10 Games With Stories That Continue Outside Of The Game

And we're back! We have a lot of catching up to do, but I wanted to start off with something different -- a top 10 list. Now this list was originally published a few days ago on GameFAQs, but it was written with NGR in mind as well. So without further adieu, here we go! (And yes, this is a bit of a continuation of the Halo article from awhile ago.)

10 Games With Stories That Continue Outside Of The Game 

In today's world video games have evolved far past what they originally were. Back in early days you would be given some basic "plot" or understanding of the game, and then away you would go blasting or platforming your way through them without a care in the world. It didn't really matter what you were doing or why you were doing it, it was just something you were playing to have fun! However, as time went on things did start to change.

With the ever growing RPG market, and with games like Metal Gear entering the market, the way people saw and played games began to change. Sure, you still continued to have your "for fun games," and it was completely possible to play many of these new "story driven" games without caring about the plot, but the fact that games were starting to have more of a developed story was something that could not go completely unnoticed. Before we knew it the stories in games became deeper and deeper, and gamers were flocking to them to experience it for themselves.

Of course not everyone agrees with or likes these types of games, but that's not what today's list is about. Instead I'm going to be taking a look at 10 games that take this whole story thing a step further. These are games that either cannot be understood, or are continued outside of their original "game form." Games that fans may THINK they know the story of, but in reality they are missing large chunks, or possibly don't know the real story at all. With that being said, there were some rules I set for myself when writing this, that I'd like to quickly explain before anyone moves on with the list.

First of all, these following games were either originally created as games, or they became mainly a game series. In other words, series like Metro, or The Witcher will not be included on this list as their games are adaptations. Now sure, the Witcher games do continue where the novels left off, but it doesn't change the fact that it is still mainly a novel series with a game continuation (the reverse of this list). As for the second rule, I didn't want to include any games on this list that I personally did not have a great deal of experience with. As such, I left out series such as Splinter Cell, Gears of War, Star Craft, as well as Assassin's Creed. While I have played the games, I didn't want to do the series a disservice by trying to explain their expanded stories without fully experiencing them myself. So, if you're a fan, I'm sorry but they won't be included on this list... As such this list is my own personal opinion, so feel free to take everything I have listed with a grain of salt.

So, with all of that being said (assuming you read it), let's get on with the games!

10: Overwatch (PC)

Now this list isn't really in any order, but I figured I'd start with what I'd consider the "current" (it's June in 2017) smallest game -- Overwatch. Now Overwatch is mainly a player vs player online hero shooter arena game where team work is key, but that doesn't mean it is without a story. While the main game itself only has small touches of events that had happened in it's world, the actual story is almost completely told outside of the game in other forms of media. When the game was first being released, and even after it's release, Blizzard released multiple character videos online for fans to watch, and many of these videos provided an inside look at the game's world and characters. We got to see their personalities for the first time, and we were able to start to piece together what exactly is happening within this game's world. While it really wasn't too much to go on, it was more than enough for a game of this nature, and fans loved it. Of course, things didn't stop there.

To this day, Overwatch's story continues to grow in multiple ways. We still get videos from time to time, but Blizzard also releases comics and even short stories to help expand the game's lore. Characters also tend to be announced in some story related way before they make their way into the actual game, and at times fans will even be involved in these stories (such as the whole hacking thing that lasted for quite a long time). Blizzard has stated that they plan on continuing this trend, and because of that the sky is the limits. How will this story grow next? Will we get full novels? Full comics? Full movies? Who knows! All we can say for sure is that it'll continue to expand as long as it remains popular.

9: Final Fantasy XV (PS4)

Final Fantasy XV... Now this is a game that has caused a lot of mixed reactions, and the story itself is a large part of that. The thing is, in it's current state a lot seems to be missing from this world. Yes there's a "complete" story, but there are also many unanswered questions, and a lot that wasn't even shown in game -- and that's why it is on this list. Putting aside the massive lore book that was released in Japan, the story of Final Fantasy XV actually doesn't even begin in game, but instead in a free anime series that was released online on sites such as YouTube. Although, to call it the beginning isn't quite right...

While in most Final Fantasy games we get to see the story from start to finish in game (putting aside Final Fantasy XIII which actually starts in the novella, and finishes in a novel taking place after Lightning Returns' ending), FFXV didn't do that. Instead it used both the anime series and a full movie to tell it's beginning, and a lot of it's background. While the anime begins during the game, the episodes are mostly made up of flash backs to the main character's childhood. We get to see how Noctis meets each of his friends (again, something normally shown in game), and we get to learn just who they are before the game starts. Then, when the game actually does start, a second story is happening in the background that truly begins the game's events -- this is what the movie shows.

While the movie technically takes place at the same time as the first few hours of the game, it is still the beginning of the story, and key to understanding what is happening in the world. It follows Luna's story within the city when the empire attacks, and it also shows the fall of the king. The problem is, these events are only really mentioned in the actual game, so without seeing the movie it is easy to become confused... Although the same can be said for the other way around as well, as some of the things that happen in the movie don't seem to be reflected in game. Even so, it's an important part of the story, and together with the anime it actually makes up a large chunk of Final Fantasy XV. (Much larger than most would imagine.)

8: Tales of Vesperia (X360)

Another small game on this list, but it's an interesting one (and a fan favorite for series fans).

In today's world the Tales of series is once again taking off. After the release of Tales of Vesperia on the Xbox 360 many feared the west would never see a Tales of game again, but that all changed when Tales of Graces f finally made it's way here. Even so, the series has always been quite large in Japan, and it isn't too uncommon for these games to have spin off games for their characters (or even anime adaptations). However, in Tales of Vesperia's case things were a bit different. Rather than getting a retelling anime like Tales of the Abyss, Namco decided to expand it's story in a few ways instead. Sadly these expansions weren't as large as other games on this list, but considering the game itself can easily last 80 or so hours for one playthrough, it's understandable.

After Tales of Vesperia originally released on the Xbox 360, a PlayStation 3 version went into the works as well. This version included an expanded story, as well as new main characters, and improved the game in many other ways; however, this extended story wasn't only seen in game. "Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike" was a full anime movie that went back and showed us the early days of Yuri trying to become a knight. This movie not only introduced new characters that would be seen in the PS3 version of the game, but it also filled in other blanks and answered questions that were left out of the game itself. Finally fans got to see exactly what lead Yuri down the path he walks in the game, and it gave fans a different look on the world they already knew and loved. Although this movie wasn't needed as much as other entries on this list, it was still something nice for the fans, and it didn't actually stop there.

On top of the movie, Tales of Vesperia has also received multiple novels and manga to help flesh out the world. Both Judith and Raven received their own mini novel series, and a story focusing on Yuri's childhood was released as well. Just like with the movie these aren't really required to understand the game, but again, it's great for fans.

7: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (PS4)

Deus Ex, the popular PC RPG series that made it's return with Human Revolution, and finally continued in a mainline game with Mankind Divided. Deus Ex has had a bit of a rocky release history, with old fans loving the original but not liking the later releases, and with new fans liking the newer releases but being put off by the older game's "dated" mechanics. Even so, the series has done pretty well over the years, but with the release of Mankind Divided mankind really was divided. The thing about this game is that it doesn't really feel "complete." It starts off strangely, and it's ending doesn't feel like an ending. Well, what if I said that's because it's a part of the Deus Ex Universe project and it really is only just a small part in the story?

The fact is, Mankind Divided isn't the direct sequel to Human Revolution as there is a pretty large gap between the two games -- a gap that was filled by the novels, comics, and technically even the mobile game that came before it. While the novel "Icarus Effect" told the story behind the scenes of Human Revolution, Black Light takes a more direct approach and picks up the moment Human Revolution ended. This story follows Jensen as he returns home to Detroit after the original game's ending, and shows us exactly how he got involved with the events center stage in Mankind Divided. This isn't a simple background story though, as the events of this book are in fact KEY to understanding what is happening in Mankind Divided, with even the opening act of the game being a direct ending to a story arc from the novel.

Now sure, you can play Mankind Divided without reading the novels and comics, but you can expect the opening of the game to feel like the half way point -- considering it technically is.

6: Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)

I really, REALLY, didn't want to include a second Final Fantasy game on this list, but this is one that's hard to overlook. With so many fans considering this to be their favorite game in the series, it's no wonder that Square wanted to keep the ball rolling by expanding it as much as possible... After the release of the successful original game, Final Fantasy VII actually continued on. While most Final Fantasy games remained as single games, there was no stopping Square when it came to VII (and there still isn't).

Taking place after the events of VII, "Advent Children" was a full CGI movie that finally showed fans what happened next. It showed our heroes living their life after the events of the game's ending, and it also introduced us to a new threat that was sweeping the planet. There's really not much else to say about this one other than it being a sequel to the game, but it was something Square would revisit years down the road.

Besides the movie, multiple anime OVAs were released for VII as well. One such story showed the events that lead up to the start of the game (as well as flash backs to a key moment shown in the game as well), while the other helped fill in gaps that lead up to the start of Advent Children. To further add to this, multiple novels for FFVII were released as well, including a "retelling" of the story from the character Aerith's point of view, and they too became key to fully understanding the events of the game as well as the movie. Of course you didn't actually have to watch or read any of this, but the expansion of the game's story still didn't stop there.

On top of all of the novels, OVAs, and the movie, multiple side games were released. One was a third person shooter that continued past Advent Children (while showing flashbacks from a key character's point of view), another was an action RPG following Zack's story leading up to the events of FFVII (although it skips over the moment shown in the earlier OVA), and the final being a mobile RPG titled "Before Crisis" taking place around the same time. These three games greatly expanded the overall story once again, and before long it lead to Square revising Advent Children.

Advent Children Complete was exactly what it's name suggested. It was a "complete" edition of the movie that added tons of new content, and filled in plot holes the original story had. It also took the changes made by the previously released side games, and included those story elements to make things more... Well... "Complete." Although it was still the exact same movie story wise, the new content really did make the whole thing a lot better, and helped tie up lose ends. Of course, things still didn't end there.

Currently the latest part of Final Fantasy VII has been left off in a cliffhanger, and the Final Fantasy VII Remaster project has basically overtaken any hope we had at seeing what comes next. Although, a lot of people may consider that a good thing.

5: Fate/Stay Night (Nasuverse)

Now, this is one I was debating adding or not. This is a "series" that's not so easily explained, but I figured I'd try to do my best without turning this into a massive 10 page paper.

The Fate/Stay Night series is one that has been popular in Japan for quite some time, and it is now slowly picking up in the west with games like Fate/Extra, Extella, Melty Blood, and Grand Order seeing western releases. The thing is though, this Visual Novel is much more than just a game series, and in reality it's not even the first game within this "series," nor did it even start as such. In fact the "Nasuverse" (as fans call it) all began many years ago as a series of stories called "The Garden of Sinners." This series of stories would serve as the foundation for Kinoko Nasu's later works, and it is also the story that introduced us to the dimension hopping Aozaki sisters that appear throughout many of the titles (including Tsukihime, Melty Blood, Fate/Extra, and so on).

As for Fate itself, it too is not fully told within it's original visual novels. Putting the connection to the Garden of Sinner novels aside (which have also been turned into multiple movies rather than an anime due to their graphic and explicit nature), it too has multiple stories that were created as other forms of media. Fate/Zero is one such series of novels that was written by Gen Urobuchi (the writer behind anime series such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and Psycho-Pass), and tells the background events that lead up to the start of Stay Night. With it's popularity in Japan, it too eventually was adapted into an anime series, and was brought over to the west. There is also Fate/Apocrypha (which is currently being adapted into an anime) as well.

In short, the entire Nasuverse is massive, and it spans more than just multiple games and series. It's taken it's form in a wide verity of media, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Which is a good thing for fans!

4: Drakengard & NieR (Series)

Like the Nasuverse, the world Yoko Taro has created for his games is massive, and not something that can be easily explained. So, once again I'll only cover the basics.
With the release of Nier Automata, the series has really gained quite a reputation for itself. Although the series has always had it's core fanbase, now that group has greatly expanded and many people are now in the dark. What some many think is just a game that's a sequel to a game, is really a small part in a greatly expanded on series that could take a very long time to get caught up on. So, here's the quick run down.

Drakengard is the original series, and it's where the game's timeline splits. While the game's main endings lead nowhere, the final "joke" ending is what lead into the original Nier and it's "new world." Along with all of this though, the original Drakengard series is FILLED with multiple manga and novels that take place in different universes and timelines that are all key to understanding the overall plot. This story grew even larger with the release of Drakengard 3 (the game released after Nier and before Automata), and became even more complex. With even more endings of it's own that go nowhere, the version of Drakengard 3 that actually leads into 1 was told in a novel and not in game, and short stories for each character was released to expand on who and what everyone was. On top of all of that, Drakgenard 2 takes place within it's own universe loosely based off of ending A in Drakengard 1, and it too has it's own story related content shown outside of the game. But this is only scratching the surface.

With Nier (which, again, has ties to Drakengard's world) that story greatly expanded yet again. This world has it's own history that is key to understanding the games, and it too was told outside of the two games. Many stories have been written for Nier, and without reading each and every one you are missing a large chunk of what is really going on in this story. It gets even worse when you realize the version of Nier that leads into Automata was never released outside of Japan (again, this is 2017 as I'm writing this, so who knows), and the stories themselves mostly use the Japanese exclusive version (Replicant) as a base. But even so, just playing the original Nier (any version) and Automata isn't enough to get the full story, and those who do so will never know what is actually happening.

3: BlazBlue

BlazBlue is a fighting game series that was sort of seen as a "reboot" of Guilty Gear at the time. Arc System Works decided to start a new series rather than continuing with their existing one, and this was the result. Originally being a simple arcade fighter that eventually came to home consoles with an included visual novel style story mode, it was a lesser known game that only had a core fanbase. Then, it exploded.

While the series isn't as big as other fighters out there, there's no denying that BlazBlue is popular, or that the series has become something much larger than many of us would've dreamed. While each game includes a pretty large scale visual novel story (which can be often very complex), these stories are actually only a small part of what makes BlazBlue BlazBlue. In fact, even the visual novel series "XBlaze" is only a small part of it, as a lot of the game's story is actually told across multiple manga and novel series.

Although BlazBlue does follow it's main plot and gives some inside looks to events that happened in the past (example, BlazBlue: Chronophantasma contains a part of the "Phase 0" novel's story), the games are still made in a way that just about expects you to know the full story -- especially the later games. Novels like the Phase Shift series (and Phase 0) are key to understanding the events that lead up to the start of the first BlazBlue game, and then you have series such as Bloodedge Experience that focus on characters like Naoto who seemingly just "appear" in Central Fiction. Without knowing about these characters before hand, their stories will not make sense, and the events referenced throughout the game will be lost to the player. The Remix Heart manga series (yes, two of them) is another example of BlazBlue's expanded story, and it's sure to cause some confusion for those who have never read or at least heard of it. This is something that is sure to only get "worse" for fans who don't fully follow the series (or cannot follow the series) as this universe will most likely continue on for years to come -- even if BBCF is the "ending" to the current arc.

(On another note, Guilty Gear is the same way to an extent, but I settled on BlazBlue for this entry... Sorry GG fans!)

2: .hack//

With the announcement of the new .hack//GU collection, I'm sure many people will be asking "what's .hack!?" Well, hopefully this answers your question.
.hack is a very unique video game project. Starting in the early 2000s, the game series was conceived as a completely new project unlike anything before it. While the game itself would be a game about a MMORPG, the way this story would be told wasn't going to be limited to JUST the game (as in, both the game versions and the MMORPG the game is about). Instead .hack was to be an extremely large project that would span many different forms of media, and it would tell a long interconnected story. Rather than just focusing on the MMORPG "The World," it put a large focus on the game's players and the way they would change over time. The entire story actually begins with a novel called AI Buster, which would then lead into an anime titled "SIGN" (although SIGN actually released before AI Buster), and that would finally lead into the first set of four .hack games. Other novels such as AI Buster 2 and Another Birth would also be released, and even manga series such as Legend of the Twilight would soon come out. All of these stories provided insight on what was happening both in game and in the real world, and would become key to unraveling the mystery plaguing this world. But of course it didn't stop there.

With the original .hack projects ending, a second series for Project GU would begin as well. Taking place years after the original set of games, novels, manga, anime, etc, the GU world allowed us to see just how everything changed since the original events, as well as experience a completely new story. Once again .hack would see a wide verity of anime, manga, novels, and even movies to go along with it's new series of three games (which will be included in the new collection), and it was used to pave the way to yet another future. A future that is yet to fully be seen.

While the PSP game .hack//LINK was released, as well as a few more manga and anime series (and a full CGI movie), this is currently where .hack ends. Needless to say if the GU rerelease does well it wouldn't be too shocking to see it continue in the same way that it always has, but for the time being this is currently the end. Even so that doesn't change the fact that .hack is a series where most of it's story is actually seen outside of the games, and if you don't follow it fully you won't fully understand what is going on.

1: Halo

Now here's the big one. List wasn't in any real order, but I wanted to do this last... So, what would you say if I told you that many Halo fans have no idea what Halo's story even is? Or if I told you that even you non fans who may HATE Halo might actually like it's story? That sounds crazy right? But it's actually true. Sure, this doesn't apply to those of you who are full on fans who follow everything about the game (or used to follow), but those who simply play the games and take it for what it is will never actually know the game's story.

The thing about Halo is, it's seriously a novel series with a few games in it. While the games have you run around as "super soldier Master Chief" shooting everything in your way, the reality of the story isn't something that glamours. Instead it's a story of a young boy named John, who was kidnapped as a child, had his body replaced with a clone that would die young (to trick his parents), and was forced into the Spartan-II project with many other children around his age. Halo is a story of his struggles as he deals with the extremely harsh experiments done to his body, the extreme tests him and his friends are put through, and the feeling of loss as he's forced to see people he loves get taken from him time and time again. It's a story of the rise of the Spartan-IIs, and the eventual first contact with aliens. All of that is only a small part of the Halo story however, as this is a series rich with lore, with many stories to tell. A lot happens all within the first novel alone, and that story is continued further into the second novel -- this second novel being the retelling of Halo 1, or rather, the FULL story of Halo 1.

While the first Halo game only showed the basics of the story, the second novel shows everything. It follows the point of view of multiple characters, and it fully explains what happens to important characters such as Captain Keyes and the rest of the crew from the original novel. This novel continues to do so from start to finish, up until the moment Halo 1's ending plays, and fans were left wondering what was next for our hero. That is when the confusion set in for many.

Halo 2 begins with characters who should be dead returning alive, and we see the Chief heading back to Earth as the aliens attack. Many players just accepted things as is, but the reality of it all is that there is a massive skip between Halo 1 and 2 that was only told in the third novel. This novel is once again key to understanding the events of Halo 2, and answers any questions you most likely had about the game or it's story. It's such a large part of the original Halo trilogy's storyline that skipping it may be even worse than skipping an entire game. And it doesn't stop there.

Although Halo is a game series, as I said before, it is technically a novel series more than it is a video game. At the time of me writing this there are around 20 full novels that cover nearly every inch of this world, with more to come. While the story of the other Halo games were never told in novel form, they are only a small part of the story. This is a series it is completely possible to be a fan of without ever even touching a Halo game in your life. Although the first few novels do follow the story of Master Chief, the other novels soon break off and begin telling of events happening elsewhere. We learn about the Spartan-IIIs, we follow Johnson's story, and we even get to dive into the distant past of the universe. It's a huge science fiction story that not only Halo fans but sci-fi fans should really look into, and it is only going to get bigger as time goes on.

(And if that wasn't enough, there are also comics, movies, and an upcoming TV show as well.)
Although it is pretty rare to see a video game continue on into other forms of media, the ones that do tend to be pretty enjoyable. They are typically either well told stories that are worth seeing through to the end, or nice fan service for those who simply can't get enough of their favorite games. Now sure, maybe not everyone will like the way a story goes after the initial game's release (Final Fantasy VII can be pretty controversial among it's fans), but you never know if you'll like it unless you try it out. Of course this sort of thing is also a lot more common in Japan so not everyone can experience it (which is why the above list is made mostly out of Japanese games), but there are quite a few western series that do it as well -- with Halo easily being the biggest.

With that being said, if you're a fan of any of the above series and have never checked out it's expanded history, then why not change that? There's a lot out there for you to see and read, and it might just give you the answer to those questions that have always bothered you.

So, what about you? What are your favorite games with an expanded story or history?

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