You did it! You’ve fought through the impossible timecastle, heard a sketchy philosophy seminar, fired the professor, and saved the day.
… But is that it? Maybe not.
For decades, there has been an institutionin games – the New Game Plus.
But game to game, the same concept can meana lot of different things.
For some games, the New Game Plus is a wayto play again with the limits broken.
For others, it’s an invitation to repeatthe game in a more challenging way, or to continue building and improving a character.
For some games, it’s a way to explore morestory content and get a fuller picture of what was really going on, or what could havebeen.
And for many games it’s a combination ofsome or all of the above.
And yet, all these different approaches aretied together with the same shorthand – ‘New Game Plus’.
Today we’re going to look at 4 major flavorsof New Game Plus – God Mode, Secondary Challenge, Skill Ramp, and Narrative Device – go throughsome of the pros and cons of each style, and see how a lot of games put their own uniquespin on the same concept.
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Thanks, Skillshare! Oh, and a couple things before we begin.
One, lots of the games that we’ll talk aboutwill dip into more than one category, but we’re mainly highlighting one aspect ofthese games.
Two, we’ve put in practically zero spoilers, which is amazing considering what we’re talking about.
But if you’re very sensitive to spoilers, check the description on this video for a list of timestamps of the games we talk about.
If you boil it down, almost every game’sNew Game Plus mode is just a way to start a new game, but not quite to start it fromscratch.
Something always carries over.
But there are so many things that could getcarried over.
Lots of games bring over the player’s characterprogress from their previous run.
Weapons, abilities, stats, you can take alate-game character and place them at the start.
Or the game could grant new weapons and powersfar beyond what a normal run-through would ever provide.
For developers, it’s an easy mode to make, since the game content doesn’t fundamentally change.
In practice, it works a lot like a ‘GodMode’ cheat code, but given as a reward to the very people who are in a position toappreciate just how far their character has come, instead of just something anyone couldunlock at any time.
Resident Evil 4’s New Game Plus is verymuch that vanilla God Mode.
It carries over your weapons, items and moneyfrom the previous playthrough and makes some overpowered weapons available for purchase.
The infinite rocket launcher and the ChicagoTypewriter throw balance out the window and are meant to blast through foes that wereonce a huge threat.
As you keep beating the game, you'll keepstockpiling the equipment.
Eventually you'll gain access to everythingthe game has.
But there are still some limits.
The 'Professional' difficulty is locked out.
The devs didn't want players to cheese theirway through the hardest difficulty with the best weapons.
The Dead Space series does roughly the samething as RE4.
You get to keep your upgraded weapons andother bonuses to mow through early game enemies.
But, Dead Space 2 DOES let you crank up thedifficulty while keeping your overpowered inventory.
Metal Gear Solid 3 allows you to bring overall of your weapons, items, and special camouflage from your previous playthrough, but it alsounlocks little bonuses here and there based on how you did.
You might get a powerful new weapon or specialcamo for beating the game very quickly, or without taking out many enemies, or nevergetting detected.
It’s a god mode, doled out slowly, basedon how you’ve done in the past, in a game built for doing multiple full playthroughsusing different tactics.
It also dips into some categories we’lltalk about later.
Persona 5 carries over your money, equipmentand the Persona compendium and will let you re-summon registered Personas, which can makeyour main character ridiculously overpowered for most of the game.
While you can pick a higher difficulty, lategame Personas and equipment throw the game's balance out the window.
On top of that, you carry over your socialstats, too.
You can bypass lots of the social checks thatlimit your progress early on, and certain confidants now rank up much faster.
It's convenient, but just like in RE4 andDead Space, it mucks with the game design in the same way a cheat code might.
A big part of Persona is efficient time management, and the pressure of using your time wisely is a core component of the design.
If you can already pass all the social checksfrom day 1, the New Game Plus trivializes a lot of the game.
Sure, it lets you get every confidant if youmissed a few on your last run.
There is a super boss in New Game Plus, whichis nice, but it does trivialize huge chunks of a very long game which is a pretty steep price to pay.
Even though New Game Plus is, by design, a mode for the die-hard crowd, that doesn't mean there aren't ripple effects from the choices you make.
And that’s an issue with the God Mode NewGame Plus.
By design it’s a path that throws game balanceout the window.
That can be very fun, but also very fleeting.
It’s a sledgehammer, prone to trivializinglarge chunks of the game, which can be a pretty big discouragement for players to stick withthe New Game Plus run for a longer period of time.
That doesn’t make it a bad option, it’sjust another thing to consider if you’re designing your own New Game Plus.
Luckily, that's not the only way to do a NewGame Plus.
Another way to do it is to turn the concepton its head.
Instead of making the characters more powerful, make the game more difficult.
Instead of focusing on bringing over statsand what the player accomplished in game, the more difficult playthrough relies on playersbringing over their experience, and draws fun from getting their skills tested.
The New Game Plus delivers a familiar game, but the tougher challenge frames it in a new context.
Some games dip into both Secondary Challengeand God Mode at the same time.
Most of the Ratchet and Clank games have achallenge mode where you keep your weapons but enemies also get a boost in power to matchyou.
You gain a new set of upgrades for all ofyour weapons.
The enemies are a little stronger, but it'sstill no match for your ridiculous arsenal.
Let alone when you get the series staple superweapon, the RYNO.
This approach can fix some of the trivializationproblems with a pure God Mode, but it doesn’t deliver all that much of a challenge either.
It’s kind of awkwardly in the middle.
The Souls games lean more towards only theSecondary Challenge style.
On its face, the New Game Plus looks likeit’s part- God Mode.
Players keep their equipment, stats, and items, but instead of it being an easy romp through the kingdoms of Lordran or Drangleic or whatever, the enemies are MUCH stronger and more durable.
Dark Souls II adds even more, with extra Phantomenemies, new items, and different enemy compositions.
They’ll even place new enemies to surpriseya.
Plus, enemies keep changing and scaling upwith you for as many as 7 New Game Plus cycles.
Each cycle pushes the challenge further andfurther to ridiculous levels meant for the most dedicated of hardcore fans.
The Secondary Challenge style is great forraising the ceiling for players that already love your systems and want to aspire towardsa tougher challenge, but there are drawbacks too.
For some players, pitching a New Game Plusmode as ‘just like the last time, but it’s more work to complete’ is not a strong argument.
It’s almost the inverted problem that GodMode has.
The lack of challenge is fun for some players, and for others, not.
In Secondary Challenge, for some the increasedchallenge is fun and for others, not.
There’s no pleasing everyone.
But there’s another problem to watch outfor.
It can be easy to ‘phone in’ this typeof New Game Plus by just tinkering with the enemy health and damage sliders and callingit a day.
Code Vein’s new game plus does just that.
There’s no change in enemy behavior or placements, and nothing else.
It’s serviceable but it’s very barebones.
The best versions of Secondary Challenge dosomething else alongside making enemies tougher.
Batman: Arkham City carries over upgradesand your Riddler trophy progress, but it also changes the enemy AI a bit.
They change their configurations, get tougher, and get a lot more aggressive.
On top of that, the game forces a challengefrom the Hard Mode onto Normal mode players.
It removes the counter indicator that showsup when enemies are attacking, forcing players to carefully observe the enemy’s animationduring fights.
Some games up the challenge by putting inan entire extra unlockable mode as their New Game Plus.
You can see this in a lot of Nintendo games.
The Zelda series has done it a few differentways.
The original NES game included a Second Quest, which is practically a whole new game.
The dungeon layouts and item locations aredifferent and the game is designed to be harder.
Some dungeons even get multiple bosses.
Ocarina of Time's Master Quest is roughlysimilar, unlocking in the 3DS remake after you beat the game, or just as a whole separatedisc in the Gamecube port.
Master Quest dungeons are remixed to be morechallenging with different enemy placements, altered layouts and puzzles, and enemies thathit harder.
This approach gives you MOSTLY the same game, but it’s more interesting than if they had just messed around with the sliders of enemiesor placed more of them.
Super Mario Galaxy’s 100% reward is Super LuigiGalaxy where you can play through the whole game as Birdo.
I mean Luigi.
Luigi can run faster and jump higher but hehas less traction, so he slides around a little.
In a precise platformer that’s a big change.
Plus, they alter a few levels into a greaterchallenge like with Luigi’s Purple Coins.
Like Galaxy, Donkey Kong Country Returns andits sequel feature their own remixed modes as a 100% bonus reward.
In Returns, the mode has mirrored levels, no access to your inventory, no access to Diddy, oh, and you have only one hitpoint.
Tropical Freeze's hard mode is a little different.
Levels aren’t mirrored, inventory itemsare still unavailable, it disables checkpoints, but you can play as any of the 5 Kongs solo, which you couldn’t do before.
Secondary challenges and extra modes are great, but the best version of that can mean spending a lot of time to build a whole new mode.
What would be nice is something that can justextend the life of the core of a game, without having to build a substantial new mode andwithout just plastering a new weapon or item on top of a repeat playthrough.
So far, lots of the games we’ve talked abouthave tied the end of the game’s story to the end of the character’s progression.
That doesn’t have to be the case.
Some games build their character developmentsystem to take up more time than you’ll have on one run-through of the game.
It’s not quite a God Mode, you have to workfor it.
It’s not quite a secondary challenge, asyou’re still working through the progression of your character as you left them in thefirst playthrough.
Think ‘very long tech tree’.
And there’s maybe no game that does it betterthan Devil May Cry V.
Devil May Cry V uses a ton of unlockable abilitiesand extra difficulties that are meant to be incorporated into your character as you playthe game over and over again.
The skill trees for each of the 3 playablecharacters have a TON of different moves to use, and the game doesn’t give you accessto everything in one playthrough.
As you replay missions, all upgrades you getare permanent, even on higher difficulties.
Dante alone has 17 different skill sets ofdifferent melee weapons, ranged weapons, styles, and other abilities.
Most characters have a handful of additionalskills to unlock with the red orbs that players find and earn through playing the game andgetting high rankings.
Unless they do a LOT of grinding, playerswon’t have nearly enough to unlock every skill in their first playthrough.
Some abilities can’t even unlock until youreach the final boss, so even on your 2nd or even 3rd playthrough you won’t have yourcharacter’s complete moveset.
The slow development of your moves is a keypart of the game’s progression, and is a frequent hallmark of the character actiongenre.
Over time, the game’s skill ceiling slowlykeeps rising as you unlock more and more tools to style on enemies with.
The way Devil May Cry V rewards deep knowledgeof your combat options and the way the skills are given out combine to make the game’scombat system blossom, exponentially increasing how fluid and fun the game’s combat systemcan be.
DMCV’s unlockable difficulty modes playa part, too.
By withholding large parts of your moveset, DMCV allows players to ease into a higher level of play while also laying out a “candytrail” of unlockable difficulty modes.
It’s almost like an elaborate tutorial wherethe game doesn’t truly begin until you at least beat the final boss and unlock the “Sonof Sparda” difficulty.
In this mode, every stage will use differentenemy compositions using the game’s entire bestiary.
End game enemies can appear from the verystart and thanks to the player’s earned experience and the powered up characters, it shouldn’t be overwhelming.
It adds a fresh and satisfying new challenge.
That slow-burn structure makes room for somefun secrets, too.
The game's prologue features a boss that you’renot meant to beat at the very beginning.
But once you get better and more powerful, it’s very possible.
You can even get a secret ending.
It’s not just Devil May Cry, though.
The Borderlands series gives you True VaultHunter mode where you keep all your weapons and abilities, and keep charging up your skilltree.
Enemies scale up with you, and the procedurallygenerated weapons you come across scale up too, providing a smooth loop of progressionthat lasts throughout multiple playthroughs.
If a game takes the Skill Ramp approach, bewary of making the early moveset too basic.
If a game isn’t fun the first time, playerswon’t bother with the New Game Plus.
Platinum’s take on The Legend of Korra madea mistake here.
The meat of Korra’s moveset is tied to 4different elemental bending styles, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
Once you get them all, switching between themduring combat and performing combos is fun enough, but the game’s story setup createsa big problem.
You’re forced to start without any of thebending styles, and the fun of the combat just isn’t there without them.
You’ll slowly unlock each form throughoutthe game but you won’t get access to all 4 styles until you’re near the end.
If you stick with the game, you’ll be ableto use your full moveset when you replay those early stages, but it’s a slog to even getthat far, even though the game isn’t very long.
Dead Rising is even more explicitly builtaround playing and replaying a main storyline to build up skills over time.
You can choose to restart at any point andcarry over your stat progression to the next run.
Willamette Mall is on a scripted 3 day schedulewith many time sensitive missions to do and survivors to save.
You can’t do everything your first run andit’ll probably be a few playthroughs before you understand enough and your character isstrong enough to complete some of the missions and boss fights on the game’s tightly scriptedschedule.
And speaking of progression tying into a game’snarrative, it’s time to talk about our last category.
There’s one more common way to reward playersfor playing a game over and over again.
New Game Plus in a story-heavy game is a greattime to show more context, or reveal more hidden information in a story, or let playersgo down completely different paths than they did in the first run-through.
If the story is the main attraction to a game, and the New Game Plus provides a unique enough story experience, that’s often plenty tokeep players interested, with or without any additional changes to the game’s mechanics.
First and foremost is Chrono Trigger, thegame that was the very origin of the name “New Game Plus”.
Chrono Trigger allows you to start a new gamewith your end game characters, which is pretty standard.
The groundbreaking part comes in with thegame’s elaborate branching story structure that unlocks after you beat the game the firsttime.
There are over a dozen different paths tothe final boss, and they’re all tied to what’s going on right at that moment inthe story, when you decide to make your final stand against Lavos.
Gag endings, tragic endings, they run a verywide range of alternate storylines from your first run.
The DS version adds even more new contentthat can only be seen in the New Game Plus.
Chrono Cross keeps up the tradition with multipleendings based on the game’s extensive branching choice system.
The same allies can be recruited in differentways.
Different paths can have different peopleparticipating, and you can choose to play through different events than on your firstplaythrough.
The story adapts just as much as it does inChrono Trigger, and rewards players that have kept up with the game’s pretty convolutedstoryline.
The Zapping system in the original versionof Resident Evil 2 is another unique take on the story-driven New Game Plus.
RE2 has you choose between two different characterswho each have their own version of the story.
Each character has an “a” and “b”scenario that play out differently depending on the order they’re chosen.
Choices that the player makes in the “A”scenario for character 1 can also influence the “B” scenario for character 2, liketaking certain items in Leon’s run can result in them being missing for Claire’s.
The 2018 Remake waters down this system, reducingthe variance between who you picked first in order to have a more complete single story.
But we can’t talk about story-based NewGame Plus design without the most elaborate and dramatic version of them all: Nier andNier Automata.
The original Nier uses the idea of New GamePlus as a story framing device.
The 2nd playthrough or “Route B” addsadditional context and information that flips your understanding of the whole story.
That concept is dialed up to 11 in the sequel, Nier: Automata.
The game effectively has 5 “major” endings.
The first two playthroughs, route A and B, have you playing most of the game as different characters with different playstyles.
The second playthrough overlaps a lot withthe first, but it gives a different perspective on the game’s events, and builds to somethingmore towards the end.
Once you finish route B, routes C and D willbegin.
They’re not at all the same game.
Nier Automata uses the idea of a New GamePlus as another unorthodox framing device, where each run-through is closer to a chapterthan it is a re-run of a familiar experience.
The game briefly plays into the expectationsof a traditional New Game Plus mode in route B, then shatters them and makes what othergames often throw in as a little bonus into an absolute must-play to see where the storygoes next.
And it goes so much deeper.
Undertale’s New Game Plus system is different, but just as elaborate.
There’s no traditional New Game Plus withcarried over gear and skills.
Instead, Undertale likes to use its repeatplaythroughs for some meta-storytelling, and to comment on the very concept of replayingthe same story over and over.
Certain characters will imply that they’reaware of your actions in previous playthroughs and that the timeline within the game hasrepeated.
You can even be locked out of certain endingsbased on choices you made in completely different runs.
Nier Automata and Undertale are a fantasticpair of games to get you thinking about what you can do if you come at the New Game Plusconcept from a totally different angle.
The two Zelda Oracle games have a story-drivenNew Game Plus, but the mechanics are pretty strange.
When you complete one of the two games, youget a password to enter into the other game, which will link the two of them together.
The linked version of each game unlocks extrastory content that connects the two games into a single complete story.
It’s like the “A” and “B” scenariosfrom RE2 but on a grander scale.
You’ll start out with 4 hearts instead of3.
Characters from the previous game will appear.
Your chosen companion is carried over andyou will be able to unlock some of the most powerful items and equipment.
The order you complete the games matters too, and starting with one or the other will change the story around a bit.
And of course, using a New Game Plus modeas a narrative device relies on having a narrative worth telling and revisiting.
Look at The Quiet Man.
It mutes dialogue in your first playthrough, so you can be surprised on the second at what was really going on.
Except the story wasn’t written to makesense without dialogue.
If a game’s narrative is barely worth tellingonce, it probably won’t be better on the second run, no matter what you do.
There are so many more games with little nuancesand tweaks to the New Game Plus concept that we haven’t covered.
Let us know in the comments about some ofyour favorite games that use New Game Plus well, or more angles that games take to maketheir New Game Plus special.
We might mention it in a future video.
New Game Plus is a deceptively simple concept, overflowing with potential.
*chill vibes outro from Nier*.