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Following the Leader is ubiquitous in all media. The reasons for this vary, ranging from a desire to attain some of the success of the original work to a desire to pay homage to a work that the creator of the derivative work adores.

This technique can be quite a double-edged sword, however. Some fans stay away from such derivative works, either because they know that most imitations are bound to be bad or because the work is so similar that they feel no need to invest any time into experiencing more of the same, regardless of quality.

So creators of derivative works find ways to make later installments less derivative, either in response to fan reaction or because their storytelling skills have improved to the point that they themselves no longer have to use derivation as a crutch. The work may still have some trappings that hint at its formerly derivative nature, but it's less likely that newcomers will easily be able to discern this.

Examples of Derivative Differentiation include:

Anime & Manga

Comic Books

  • Deadpool used to be Deathstroke in red until they made him insane and gave him his own fighting style.


Live-Action Television

  • The Russian version of Married...With Children recycled all the scripts from all 11 American seasons and then had a contest for suggestions to write more.
  • The Russian version of The Nanny was so popular that the producers actually hired the original American writers to write 25 more episodes.

Tabletop Games

Video Games

  • Banjo-Kazooie never tried to hide its similarities to Super Mario 64, but fans didn't mind too much because the game was pretty good anyway. As gamers started to get tired of the formula set up by Super Mario 64, however, Rare decided to go in a different direction with Banjo Tooie. The sequel contained more interconnected areas to make it resemble a Metroidvania more than anything. Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts abandoned the Platform Game trappings altogether, introducing customizable vehicles as the central gameplay concept instead.
  • SNK's Art of Fighting was perceived by gamers to be a cheap cash-in of rival company Capcom's Street Fighter. Despite this, Art Of Fighting set itself apart by introducing several new gameplay mechanics such as taunting, the addition of a spirit guage to regulate use of speacials, along with supers and desperation attacks. The game's scaling feature also became a series trademark.
    • Capcom later incorporated these same features, beginning with Super Street Fighter II: Turbo, the first game in the series to feature supers and a secondary meter for regulating them. Super Street Fighter IV adds revenge moves, which can only be used after the character has sustained enough damage; making them the SF equivalent of desperation attacks.
  • The Metal Gear series was initially just a tongue-in-cheek take-off of American spy and action films, but Metal Gear Solid was where the series started to establish its own identity (as the Sequel Displacement can attest to).
  • Saints Row started out as a pretty straightforward Grand Theft Auto clone, with the only caveat being Saint's Row's focus on gang violence. Each game has dialed up the Denser and Wackier aspects, with Grand Theft Auto IV dialing down the same. Putting Grand Theft Auto IV side by side with Saints Row the Third shows that the two bear very little resemblance to one another at this point, aside from gameplay involving stealing cars.


Web Original