A spiritual successor, sometimes called a spiritual sequel or a companion piece, is a successor to a work of fiction which does not directly build upon the storyline established by a previous work as do most traditional prequels or sequels, but nevertheless features many of the same elements, themes, and styles as its source material.
Reasons for creating a spiritual successor
Due to the current nature of the publisher/developer system inherent in almost all computer games, as well as the continual purchase and takeovers (which sell the entire developer including its copyrights and trademarks) by conglomerate corporations, creative teams often fail to retain the copyright and trademark rights of their creations. This often makes attempts to create sequels for a product impossible for various reasons, such as the "core" of the studio being fired or replaced after completing a project while the parent company retains control of the copyrights and trademarks. A good example of this strategy is Electronic Arts, which has closed many studios while keeping their copyrights and trademarks, such as Bullfrog Productions, Origin Systems, and Westwood Studios.
To get around this, creative teams will make a product that resembles the original game in some way, without copying or mentioning the original directly, notably omitting the title, story, and character names. For instance, the video games TimeSplitters and, more often, Perfect Dark are often considered to be the spiritual successors to the hit video game GoldenEye 007.
Other times, a spiritual successor is created when the original products were either poor commercial sellers and/or forgotten by the people that would purchase the product. By abandoning the original content's name (and perhaps its baggage as a forgotten product), the spiritual sequel can be appreciated by fresh eyes. An example of this would be BioShock, which has been referred to by its developers as the spiritual successor to System Shock 2. Despite positive critical acclaim, System Shock and System Shock 2 both failed to achieve the expected commercial success unlike BioShock which was both a critical and commercial success.
The concept of a "spiritual successor" extends beyond fictional works. The Honda CR-Z is regarded as the spiritual successor to the second generation Honda CR-X in both name and exterior design, despite a nearly two decade time difference in production. In sports, the rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens is considered the spiritual successor to the older Browns–Steelers rivalry due to the Cleveland Browns relocation controversy as well as the "reactivated" Cleveland Browns having a 4-20 record against the Steelers since returning to the league in 1999.
Further examples of spiritual successors
- Starhawk is the spiritual successor to Warhawk according to the developers at LightBox Interactive which is composed of former key team members of Incognito Entertainment who made 2007's Warhawk.
- Ikaruga is the spiritual successor to Treasure's Radiant Silvergun.
- Fallout was originally designed as a sequel to Wasteland, but it became a stand-alone game after the developers failed to acquire the Wasteland copyright and trademarks from Electronic Arts. Fallout itself nearly received a spiritual successor in the form an untitled game by Troika, dubbed "Mystary!" by fans.
- Supreme Commander is considered the spiritual successor to Total Annihilation.
- Shadow of the Colossus was mentioned by Executive Producer Fumito Ueda as a spiritual successor to his company's sleeper hit Ico  and later explained also as a prequel, taking place in the same world at an unspecified time before Ico.
- Hellgate: London has been referred to by its developer Flagship Studios as the spiritual successor to Diablo II. Key Flagship employees had previously worked on Diablo II as part of Blizzard North.
- Bioware's Dragon Age: Origins is referred to as the spiritual successor of the Baldur's Gate series
- Valve's Portal was developed by the creators of the DigiPen project Narbacular Drop and has been officially stated as its spiritual successor.
- The Monolith videogame series Xenosaga is the spiritual successor to the Square game Xenogears; each is the product of the same creative minds. Xenogears is the fifth episode of a six part series, but this ended prematurely when Monolith Soft was established. The Xenosaga series were also originally meant to be a six part series as well, but plans for this were effectively cut short when the series ended prematurely with its third episode. Although they are within the same universe, there is no direct relation between Xenogears and the Xenosaga series.
- Red Dead Redemption is a spiritual successor to Red Dead Revolver according to Rockstar Games, who developed and produced both.
- Bayonetta is a spiritual successor to the Devil May Cry franchise.
- Demon's Souls has been described as a spiritual successor to From Software's King's Field series.
- Dark Souls has, in turn, been referred to as a spiritual successor to Demon's Souls.
- Odin Sphere is considered to be a spiritual successor to Princess Crown.
- Paper Mario is a spiritual successor to Super Mario RPG: Legend Of The Seven Stars. In fact, Paper Mario was originally going to be called Super Mario RPG 2.
- The film MirrorMask (2005) was conceived by the Jim Henson Company and director Dave McKean as a spiritual successor to the company's previous fantasy films The Dark Crystal (1982) and Labyrinth (1986).
- Fierce Creatures (1997) is a follow up to the comedy film A Fish Called Wanda (1988) featuring the same cast and creative team, but entirely different characters.
- The film Pan's Labyrinth (2006) is considered by director Guillermo del Toro a spiritual sequel to The Devil's Backbone (2001), an idea he voiced in the DVD commentary for the film using the terms "sister story" and "companion piece" (del Toro never uses the term "spiritual sequel" in the commentary, instead opting for more commonly used synonyms).
- The Vengeance Trilogy consists of three films, directed by Park Chan-wook, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Oldboy (2003), Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005), which had the same theme "revenge, violence and salvation".
- The Wicker Tree (2011) is a "spiritual sequel" to The Wicker Man (1973), and was identified as such in a Fantasia 2011 press release. Both are horror films directed by British filmmaker Robin Hardy, and both centre on the conflict between Christianity and paganism in a modern Scottish setting. Hardy has described The Wicker Tree as "a sort of spiritual brother" to The Wicker Man.
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