The Gratuitous Rainbow Spectrum

Secretive Sequels

Secretive Sequels

Kris Randazzo
12 minute read

Video games and sequels go hand in hand. 99 times out of 100, if a game is successful, it will get a sequel. Heck, even if it’s not so successful a follow up may arise. What's fun though, is discovering that a game you love was itself a sequel to a game you’ve never heard of, or that a sequel was made, but you had no idea. Sometimes it’s because of localization, sometimes it’s because it was just released at the wrong time, but sometimes sequels can happen when and where you least expect it. 

Faxanadu and Xanadu

Faxanadu is one of those games I assume a lot of kids (like me) only knew about because of the old “Now You’re Playing with Power” posters. The screen shot made it look like a Zelda game in the same vein as Zelda II, it had really enticing box art, and an ultra cool name. “Faxanadu.” It just sounded like a cool mystical place or something. Funny thing about that cool name though, I’m pretty sure it’s not pronounced like I always thought it was.

Turns out Faxanadu is a sequel to/spinoff from a game called Xanadu for Japanese PCs. It was a sort of a special Famicom version of Xanadu. Put those words together and you get Fa-Xanadu. Doesn’t really roll off the tongue like Fax-anadu does, but it’s a pretty fascinating bit of history!

Xanadu itself is a spinoff from the Japanese series Dragon Slayer, so Faxanadu is a spinoff of a spinoff, which is pretty bananas. Like Faxanadu, Xanadu is a side scroller with RPG elements. Unlike Faxanadu though, there isn’t really any jumping or direct combat. When you battle in Xanadu, the game brings you to a different screen, sort of like the battle sequences in early Final Fantasy games, except the combat isn’t menu based. You sort of run into the enemies until they die, sort of like the Ys games. It’s pretty different from Faxanadu, but you can definitely see the lineage.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Conker’s Pocket Tales

This one’s a little more well known than Xanadu, but it still gets me every time I think about it. Rare had this whole Conker franchise planned out, so much so that it even released a game in that style, then pulled a complete 180 to make Conker’s Bad Fur Day. As the story goes, Rare invented a super cute and cuddly squirrel character named Conker, who they wanted to make a big 3D adventure for on the Nintendo 64, like Banjo-Kazooie or Donkey Kong 64. They put in a ton of work on the game, which was first called Conker’s Quest and later renamed to Twelve Tales: Conker 64, and put the character in Diddy Kong Racing, effectively solidifying the plans. But the Nintendo 64 game had some development issues, and at some point the folks at Rare lost their freaking minds, and turned the whole thing into a ridiculous, raunchy, and hilarious M rated game. Thing is, Conker 64 was to be the second game in the series, and the first had already come out on Game Boy Color.

Conker’s Pocket Tales is a piece of trash. Conker is having a birthday party with his girlfriend Berri (who looks nothing like her Conker’s Bad Fur Day appearance) when his cake explodes and, no lie, the Evil Acorn kidnaps her and runs away. Conker cries, and the adventure begins.

The game plays out from a top down perspective, and it’s ugly, boring, and insipid. Having spent some time with this game, it’s a really good thing Conker 64 never materialized because it’s the kind of saccharine that’s just too much to take. It’s all the cuteness of Banjo without any of the charm. There are a bunch of acorns with faces like the Evil Acorn, too, and they’re all an absolute abomination to behold. Still, it’s pretty wild to see it in action, and be thankful that the Conker series moved in the direction it did.

Snake Rattle n’ Roll and Sneaky Snakes

Snake Rattle n’ roll for NES isn’t exactly a hugely popular game in its own right, but I was a big fan of it when I was a kid. So much so that I even wrote a letter to Nintendo Power asking why they never made a sequel to it. They never wrote me back, but if they had, they probably would have told me that a snakey sequel already existed. It was for the Game Boy, and the reason I never heard of it before was that the packaging and promotional artwork looked nothing like the first game. Even the name was changed.

Sneaky Snakes completely slipped (or slithered) by me until I was working at FuncoLand in the late 90s. It was a slow work day and on days like that I used to grab Game Boy games I’d never played before and see what they were all about. The moment I booted up Sneaky Snakes, I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. It was an honest to goodness sequel to Rattle n’ Roll! The music, the graphics, it was all in the exact same style as the NES original. The gameplay, however, is a little different. Instead of the isometric perspective the NES game is known for, Sneaky Snakes opts for a side scrolling approach, which was probably for the best on the old dot matrix Game Boy screen. Other than the perspective though, the gameplay is largely the same. Eat pibbles to grow your tail, jump on evil mushrooms, travel in sewer grates, everything that made the original great was still around. It’s not nearly as good a game in the end, as the side scrolling perspective and slower gameplay kinda dragged the whole thing down a few pegs, but if you’re a fan of the NES original, you’ve got to try Sneaky Snakes.

BattleClash and Metal Combat: Falcon’s Revenge

Here’s another case of a sequel having a name that’s not even close to the original. Metal Combat: Falcon’s Revenge is a direct followup to the Super Scope game BattleClash. Once you know, it’s impossible to unsee. The title font is the same, there’s a big ol robot on the front, but without the word BattleClash on the front, it’s not immediately apparent that it’s related, which is a strange marketing choice.

BattleClash is a pretty obscure title. Well, maybe obscure isn’t the right word. This cart is sitting in dollar bins in used game stores all over the country. I think tragically underplayed is a better term. The Super Scope never really took off the way the NES Zapper did, but the few games that were made for the thing were pretty fun, especially BattleClash. If you’ve never had the pleasure, BattleClash is basically like Punch-Out!! except with giant robots and guns instead of racial stereotypes and boxing. But if you were to walk into a store at the time and see Metal Combat on the shelf, you’d never know it had anything to do with BattleClash. I know I didn’t. I first heard about the game on the Super Scope TV commercial that featured it and Yoshi’s Safari. They clearly showed Yoshi’s Safari footage, but they never really gave you a good look at Falcon’s Revenge. But being a Super Scope fan, I went to my local Electronics Boutique to take a look at the game and see what it was all about. The intention was to get Yoshi’s Safari, but once I turned the box over and saw what it was, my choice was clear. It was a sequel to BattleClash! I will never understand making a sequel that doesn’t market itself as one.

The game itself is really cool, albeit not quite as good as the original in my humble opinion. But the fact that it got a sequel at all is kinda crazy, so I’m certainly not one to complain. It’s got a ton of new robots to blow up, a larger charge meter for more powerful shots, and even a little voice acting at the beginning of the game. More people should play with the Super Scope and these games. They’re super fun.

The Guardian Legend and Guardic

The first time I heard about The Guardian Legend, it was in a ridiculously strange TV commercial I saw while watching Saturday Morning Cartoons. It started out apparently speaking directly to me by mentioning Zelda and Zelda II, then following it up with something to the effect of “first it was these two, now it’s The Guardian Legend!” Which, okay, that’s pretty misleading since it has literally nothing to do with the Zelda games, but they got my attention. But then this other voice took over the commercial and started talking about Battle of Olympus, which looks more like a Zelda game than Guardian Legend, but it was pretty weird that they interrupted their own commercial to promote another game. Anyway, they ended the commercial by asking me to decide which game was cooler. I never did get around to playing Battle of Olympus, but I played the heck out of Guardian Legend!

The game, for those who don’t know, is part vertical scrolling shooter, part top down action/adventure game. It looks and sounds absolutely brilliant, and has held up remarkably well. I was never able to get very far in the game since I only had the chance to rent it a handful of times, but I loved every minute of my time with it.

Years later, and I do mean years, like 20 years at least, I was cataloging my games, and while gathering information on Guardian Legend, I learned that it wasn’t alone, it was a sequel! Why had I never heard of this before? Because it’s a sequel to the game Guardic for MSX, a computer that wasn’t exactly popular here in the US.

To be fair, Guardic is a cool game, but it’s got absolutely nothing on Guardian Legend. For starters, it’s a single screen top down shooter, and that’s about it. No adventure elements besides some branching paths between stages, no transforming ship (that I know of), no mysterious story, nothing. It seems like a perfectly fine game, don’t get me wrong, but it’s nothing special like The Guardian Legend was. Still, if you’re a fan of the NES game, this is well worth seeking out.

The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang and Makai Prince Dorabotchan

This game has been skyrocketing in value for the past couple years, and I really couldn’t tell you why. Not that it doesn’t deserve it, because it absolutely does. This game rules. But I didn’t even know anyone else knew what it was until I saw it for sale for over $100 at my local game store. I used to rent this game all the time, and I loved it. It’s a Zelda-style adventure about a vampire who eats tomatoes instead of drinking blood, and fights garlic monsters. There’s a whole mythology included that made me feel like I was playing some sort of cartoon adaptation. The game looks, sounds, and plays amazingly. The only real gripe I have with it is that it’s too short.

From there, it’s the same situation as Guardian Legend. I was cataloging my games, looked up Spike McFang, and saw that it was actually part of a series. Well, series isn’t necessarily the right word. It’s the second of two games to take place in this world, the first being Makai Prince Dorabotchan for the PC Engine.

Unlike Spike McFang, the PC Engine game is a side scrolling platformer, and from the looks of it, a pretty cool one at that. It’s certainly all manner of weird, but you toss tomatoes, ring bells, and jump around in very colorful worlds full of expressive characters. I doubt it’s as good a game as Spike McFang was (I’ve never actually played it before), but it’s got some pretty strong Mr. Gimmick or Bonk’s Adventure vibes going on. That’s definitely not a bad thing.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru

This isn’t actually a sequel, but it’s a thing that totally blew my mind when I discovered it. Link’s Awakening for the Game Boy is chock full of cameos from other Nintendo games, including Dr. Wright from Sim city, Wart from Super Mario Bros. 2, and even the Anti-Kirby. But the character Richard who lives in a cabin full of frogs, I just assumed was an original creation for the game. Nope!.

Prince Richard hails from the Game Boy game Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru (For Frog the Bell Tolls), which explains the unique music you hear in his villa and all the frogs jumping around in his house. Again, not a sequel, but the same kind of feeling once I discovered it.

Well, what other secret sequels did I miss? Are there any other ones out there just waiting to blow my mind yet again? Let us know in the comments! 

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