For those that don’t know the story behind Raiden: There is a popular video game series called Metal Gear Solid. My friend is big into this series, so he knows more than me. I do know that the main character of the first Metal Gear Solid was Solid Snake (codename, of course) and they changed things in Metal Gear Solid 2. The change was that you played as Snake for a bit in the beginning and then you play the main game as Raiden. People didn’t really expect this and Raiden got destroyed because he was the effeminate male hero instead of the grizzled macho hero like Snake. Basically, he was to step in as the new hero and failed because people didn’t want him. I believe something similar happened when they tried to make Gohan the main hero of Dragonball Z instead of his father, Goku.
For long series, this seems to happen because the main hero has ended his story. There is typically a transition period where the new hero works with the old one and you have a passing of the torch. If I learned anything from playing MGS2, it’s that you don’t just hurl a new hero into a series without easing people into him. The character has to earn the role of being the new hero. So, it’s entirely possible to successfully do something like this if you plan ahead and prepare your audience.
There are some shows that I’ve seen where the first hero is killed off and a new one is brought in. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking of Primeval and I was iffy on such a change. You have character loyalty, so you’ll lose some people using this method. It can help to upgrade a secondary character to the main hero status, but you need to lay the groundwork for this. Although, there is the possibility of making the new guy struggle with trying to live up to the former hero’s reputation.
Aside from the above suggestions, I think the following can help:
- Don’t make the new hero severely weaker than the former hero. People might think they’re getting cheated.
- Don’t make the new hero extremely stronger than the former hero. People might not understand why the former hero has to retire if he’s not the stronger one.
- Give yourself time to get the opinion of the audience and adjust if necessary.
- If you fail in your second hero, DO NOT PANIC! Try to calmly find a way to fix it and don’t destroy the series in desperation to keep going. This includes returning the first hero without a good reason.
So, what do people think of a book, movie, video game, or television series that changes the main hero?