COLUMN: The anime-video game pipeline just doesn’t work anymore | Culture
The anime-video game pipeline is riddled with low-quality games. Anime games, in this context, are games that use anime characters as their main story focus and, generally speaking, these games are particularly lacking in plot, gameplay, and aesthetics. Sure, there are a few companies that take time to put together a high-quality game, but those are diamonds in the rough.
A vast majority of anime-inspired video games are just reskinned versions of the same type of gameplay. This is a problem because the companies are taking advantage of fans who love these anime and still want to experience the world that has been created. If you can find an anime video game that isn’t just an app on your phone, it follows the same two structures: fighting games and storytelling.
The first type of game that usually develops from an anime is centered around combat, where players can choose from an array of different characters and compete against other players. Video games such as “DRAGON BALL Fighter Z” and “jump strength” – a combination game of the shows “One Piece”, “Naruto” and “Dragon Ball”, among other anime – try to emulate the same success of the Mortal Kombat and Super Smash Bros. franchises. Even if the dedicated fan base anime is willing to spend their money on these fighting games, people who may not have seen the series are less likely to buy it.In my personal experience, I’m more inclined to buy a video game that has decades of development and original characters as they give more creative freedom.Developers don’t have to stick to the characters, settings and rules of an anime and thus promotes an experience of more enjoyable game.
The next repetitive anime game genre is action-adventure. “Pirate Warriors 4– based on “One Piece” – and “attack on titan 2are excellent examples. Because the plot and mechanics of these games focus on an anime or manga while incorporating a quest-centric format, they ultimately limit creativity when it comes to storytelling. These action-adventure games make you feel like you’re playing something you’ve watched a million times before, and that’s probably because you’ve seen the anime. This might be ideal for a big fan of the anime, but for those of us who have watched the series casually and aren’t mega-fans, there’s no urge to buy these games and to relive the shows.
While adding content to already existing anime games wouldn’t change the overall style of gameplay, there are some ways studios could use to create an anime game. The first option would be to create an entirely new storyline or exit the manga in order to maintain fan interest. Another way for developers to do this is to create crossover games where multiple fandoms could come together. A great example of this is “Kingdom Hearts,” where Square Enix grabbed Disney fans and made a refreshingly compelling video game by crafting an all-new story to go along with the already captivating worlds.
Anime-inspired games can also be done well, especially if they aren’t direct extensions of an already established anime. One of my personal favorites is the “Ni no Kuni” franchise. These anime-inspired games were developed by Level-5, Netmarble Neo, and Studio Ghibli, the animation studio that produced movies like “Spirited Away” and “My Neighbor Totoro.” Due to the success of “Ni no Kuni” console games, the franchise is developing an application called “Ni no Kuni: Cross Worldswhich is slated for release in early summer 2022 for the Western market. Because “Ni no Kuni” was commercially successful across the world, it expanded to release an anime film of the same name in 2019.
“Ni no Kuni” shows that first making a game and then releasing an anime could be the way to go for an anime/video game crossover. Due to the fact that these games have established a fanbase before the release of the anime show, they will have a greater opportunity to reach outside audiences. After a successful game, developers often choose to release a sequel and try to create a franchise. With this model, dedicated fans of the video game will be attracted to the series or movie, and new fans of the movie or series will be inclined to purchase and play the games.
As a lifelong fan of anime and video games, it’s sad to see some developers trying to take advantage of dedicated fans. If developers and studios regularly released high-quality games, there would be no problem. But the reskinned and overdone types of anime games are killing casual fan interest and saturating the game market with lackluster releases. The anime-to-game pipeline may not work, but the game-to-anime pipeline is something that can actually be done successfully, and I hope more creators embrace that philosophy.