Anime Games Have Suffered From Monotony - But That Could Be About To Change
If there's any one thing we can agree on, is that there should probably be more video games based on anime.
Regardless of how you feel for the medium (though if you're immediately apprehensive, I've got some recommendations for you), there's no denying the phenomenon it has become in the West over the last couple of decades. As Pokemon and Dragon Ball served as water-testers for western audiences and the internet bloomed as a haven for the likes of Attack on Titan and Death Note, it got a whole new lease of life. And now, as the enduring fandoms tune in for new episodes of Demon Slayer and binge the hell out of Haikyuu!!, it's clear that hype hasn't worn off. And the series' tie-in video games have kept coming.
Though many remain restricted to Japan and its surrounding regions (I'm still salty that the official Neon Genesis Evangelion game never made it to our shores), the games are still rife regardless, bringing these animated worlds to the interactive medium in a form that many fans are simply used to.
But, they suffer a lack of innovation for the most part. And thankfully, change may be on the horizon.
Anime Games Have Fallen Into A Rut
Games based on anime series and movies typically fall into one category over any other - fighting titles. We're used to it by now, mostly thanks to the wealth of games to come from the Dragon Ball series. From Budokai to Tenkaichi to FighterZ, the franchise has practically defined the tie-in video games for the medium, and there's been a colloquial reluctance to escape that framework.
The likes of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Demon Slayer and the crossover title Jump Force all fall into categories that reduce their source material to moments of quiet between flashes of hyperviolence - but at the very least, there's some kind of variation in its seclusion. One Piece has worked with the typical Warriors format that Nintendo popularised, and Sword Art Online even abandoned its MMORPG stylings in favour of an action-adventure RPG that despite its flaws, at least had some scope. But, even so, the games are reduced to slashing and bashing simulators that don't actually have any kind of sticking power.
When you think of anime games, you're probably likely to think first of Genshin Impact or the Persona series - games that aren't based on anime at all, and instead just adopt their style. There's not much in the way of an answer for why these games can't stick around in the cultural conversation for much longer than a month after launch, beyond the developing monotony of anime games' reluctance to innovate, and their lack of confidence to go full tilt when they choose to step out of their comfort zones. So what's next?
Is Gundam The Way Out Of Anime Games' Repetitiveness?
Though it hasn't quite received the fanfare it could have hoped for, there's one game that could yet change the attitude towards anime games forever.
Gundam Evolution was revealed at a recent State of Play conference for PlayStation, and as one that was pretty underwhelming overall, it got brushed under the carpet along with the should-be-Dino-Crisis.
The game, based on the classic mech series, seems to wear its influences on its sleeve, playing almost like a super-geeky crossover between Overwatch and Titanfall. The game might borrow from games we've already seen before - but they're games that we haven't yet seen imitated by anime tie-ins, and it's the cocktail of a recognisable format and differentiation for anime to really make an impact.
The game plays like a first-person shooter with a very heavy focus on objectives and hero abilities, and best of all, it's set to be free-to-play. Maybe this is exactly what anime games have needed to be for a long time, with its ability to welcome in players who aren't familiar with the source material who are entranced by the familiar gameplay with a new lick of paint. It seems to be the attitude of Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodhunt too, which has just as much potential to be the next big thing.
The game might not be all new, sure - but it represents that some wider change could be on the way. Anime fighting games work, as evidenced by the arrival of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle's remake, and Demon Slayer - Kimetsu no Yaiba - The Hinokami Chronicles' successes, but they could be much more. And the attempts to stretch anime's legs in video games could finally pay off with a game that has the potential to be the next big shooter.
Anime Games Are Great - But They Could Be Greater
I love anime games for what they are, but the biggest problem that comes with them is that when I say the words "anime game," you know exactly the type of experience I'm talking about. There could be so much more variety that makes the most of animated worlds beyond your favourite characters beating the snot out of each other.
A full adventure RPG based on Neon Genesis Evangelion still has its audience, and sports games could follow suit with games based on Yuri!!! on Ice and Haikyuu!! carrying so much potential, it's deeply shocking that we haven't seen them on home consoles yet.
There are so many worlds to explore outside of the realms of simple fighters, and while serving Vegeta a freshly made knuckle sandwich has its own joys, there's more to see. And bizarrely, it might be a bunch of mechs that show us exactly how it's done.