A spiritual successor, sometimes called a spiritual sequel, is a successor to a work of fiction which does not build upon the storyline established by a previous work as do most traditional prequels or sequels, yet features many of the same elements, themes, and styles as its source material, thereby resulting in it being related or similar "in spirit" to its predecessor.
Reasons for creation
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.
To get around this, creative teams will make a product that resembles the original game in some way, without copying or mentioning copyrighted material from the original, such as 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, forgotten by customers, or on a different platform with little overlap. By abandoning the original content's name and implied requirement to be familiar with the previous games, the spiritual sequel can be appreciated by fresh eyes. An example of this would be the commercially successful BioShock, which has been referred to by its developers as the spiritual successor to the acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful System Shock 2.
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. The Canon Cat computer was Jef Raskin's spiritual successor to the Apple Macintosh. In sports, the Ravens–Steelers rivalry 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.
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