Thoughts on New Game Plus

We all know what it is, these days.  Sometimes written fully out as New Game Plus, sometimes seen as New Game+, and a few other variants.  Whatever the game, you have the option to start over again, with all of the personal progress you’d made before (stats, weapons, abilities, magic spells, whatever else).  Sometimes there’s a limit on what, exactly, you can take with you, but at the end of the day it’s something the player’s earned to make playing through the game again interesting and worthwhile.

We all know what New Game Plus is, but how many gamers today know where it came from?  While the name came from Chrono Trigger—that epic time-traveling paragon that was the direct result of the team-up of two of the genre’s biggest names: Hironobu Sakaguchi and Yuji Horii, the “faces” behind the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest franchises, respectively—the concept dates a bit further back than that, to the original Legend of Zelda.  Both games started or made popular concepts still found in R.P.G.s to this day, but few are as well-known and widespread as New Game Plus.

Certainly, it appears in a large number of games; it’s hard to find an exhaustive list of every game where the concept appears, but suffice it to say that many games of any genre and on any platform offer it.

It’s not hard to see why, really; even games with a nerfed version of it offer a reason for the player to play through the game again.  After all, if you enjoyed a game and spent the time building up your stats, collecting all of the plot coupons, and so on, you’d doubtless enjoy having all that from the start.  Plus, there’s just all kinds of violent fun to be had when you have that Infinity Plus One Sword of Awesome that you would normally get only two scenes before the battle with the boss at the end of the game—right at the start.  It’s ridiculously fun to use an insanely over-powered attack on a starter enemy.

Sometimes, the New Game Plus option allows you to play the game a little differently; perhaps you unlock a B-side plot, or perhaps you can now access areas that you couldn’t before, because you couldn’t get near them by the time you had the relevant abilities or items.  That just ups the fun even more—along with the aforementioned fun of making the game a little easier from the get-go, you have new things to do, new places to see.

There’s an interesting inverse to this—”New Game Minus”.  It’s what it should seem like—the antithesis of the “New Game Plus” concept, where you are hindered far more than you should be at the start of the new game rather than helped.  An updated re-release of Final Fantasy X-2 had just that; New Game Minus meant that the characters wouldn’t gain experience.  Interesting, eh?  This was also in an updated re-release of Final Fantasy XII, but like X-2, the “international version” is only available in Japan, interestingly enough.

There is a lot to offer in those three little words, “New Game Plus”.  Most importantly, in whatever fashion the developers implemented it, it’s not only a reward to the player for patiently working through the game to the end (and some games, irrespective of genre, require patience on the player’s part), but it’s a way to offer the player just some more ways to have fun.

There’s an interesting related concept that I think is closely related enough to discuss in this article—the Old Save Bonus.  Basically, you have some save data from game X, and game Y rewards you in some way for it.  Sometimes they let you have a few items, sometimes they start you out in all the gear et al. that you’d earned before; there are as many variations of this as there are of New Game Plus specifically.

The game series that I think takes the Old Save Bonus idea in ways most closely related to New Game Plus are earlier titles in the Armored Core series.  By the time you got to the end of a game, you had a powerful mech, of course.  You’d spent the time and money to get the best parts, so on and so forth—so when you started up the next game in the series, you had the option of importing that mech saved from an earlier title, which of course led to the same things as a strict New Game Plus would.  One difference, though, and it’s one that is still sometimes debated amongst fans of whatever game series that does it in such a fashion—you are over-powered from the start without having had to play through that exact game before.  Whether that’s “good” or “bad” is, of course, up to individuals tastes.

At the end of the day, as said before—New Game Plus (and it’s spiritual siblings) offer more ways to enjoy a video game.  There is one and only one thing a game “should” be—and that’s fun.  It doesn’t matter if the player enjoys interactive fiction, whether they’re strict first-person-shooter fanatics, or anything else.  The only—I stress only—thing that really matters is that the player enjoys the games they play.  When developers offer us more ways to enjoy our games, that is nothing less than a true benefit for everyone.  It will make us return to the games (and keep the developers/publishers in mind for future purchases) again and again.


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