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Anime and Video Games Combine

Posted November 22nd, 2008 at 10:15 AM by Rukario

Halo, Gears of War, Warcraft, Diablo … just a few video games that have made the successful transition to other forms of media from novels to trading card games, action figures, music and more. Moving from one media to another is never a guarantee of success no matter how successful the franchise. For every success like Halo there are tens of failures such as BloodRayne and Dead or Alive (both to movie) as well as hit-and-misses such as Street Fighters bad movie, but excellent comic line from Udon. The formula for success does not exist, but there are trends to be learned from. Let the game talent, Halo for example, write the novels, and create the comics. Don’t hand the property to someone with no knowledge of the source material, guide the creators.

Learning these lessons is critical in order to take a solid gaming franchise and turn it into successful media elsewhere. One such media is anime, Japanese animation, and while it’s a staple of the Japanese gaming market to see games turned into anime, manga and more, it’s a new trend here in the states, a new mainstream trend being driven by companies such as Viz and FUNimation along with Namco Bandai, Atari and Sega to name a few. So how have game spawned anime turned out? Let’s take a look from a few different angles.

Games Beget Anime – First came the game, then the anime to cash-in and, or expand the story. Creators do not have this formula down yet, but there is much potential. Blue Dragon and Ragnarok use the game name, some world settings and a few characters, but it’s Devil May Cry that sets the standard here.
  • Blue Dragon – The game was a standard RPG with big names behind it, great design and a way to work the Xbox 360 into Japanese households. While a solid game the anime trends to simple, Saturday morning fare, not a great ambassador for games as anime.
  • Ragnarok – Above average animation and a standard fantasy adventure with character classes from the online game, but not much else in common. The game and manga both offer rich worlds with myth and legend intertwined, but the anime is the same in name only. A good anime, but not one fans of the show will dig.
  • Devil May Cry – Fast paced, brutal, beautiful and action packed. Everything Devil May Cry is on consoles it is as an anime. This short series bridges the gaps in between games and does so with a style and flare worth of Dante. Great animation, voice action and stories, this is how games as anime should be done, to tell side-stories and fill in gaps, not recreate the wheel.

Anime Beget Game – Popular anime calls for money making game, usually a fighting game. As the anime and/or manga have already told the story these games are ways to add in side-stories or just allow fans to take control of their favorite characters. As the systems get more advanced it feels more and more like playing the anime itself.
  • DragonBall Z – The forger, creator of the path. DBZ with its Budokai series of games moved anime based games into a new level. These are great fighting games, regardless of the licensed characters. Yes there have been misses (Sagas anyone) but overall DBZ did fighting games right and set the stage for …
  • Naruto – Taking the baton from DBZ and running with it, Naruto it taking a different approach to publishing with three publishers on three systems. Namco Bandai is utilizing the fighting game, RPG hybrid on Sony’s system while D3 is targeting the DS and Wii with a combination of fighting and RPG adventures. Where Naruto shines on the transition is on the Xbox 360 where Ubisoft has created a hybrid … not really fighting game, but not full RPG action adventure. They’ve turned anime gaming into an art form, which is replicated with Ultimate Ninja Storm on PS3. Bottom line Naruto is rock solid, does anime and gaming right while advancing the sub-genre.
  • Afro Samurai – The wild card. Yet to hit shelves the game looks as fluid and stylish as the anime and manga it’s pulled from. With runs on Spike TV and re-releases from FUNimation, Afro looks to succeed where other stylish anime (Samurai Champloo) have failed. Jury still out until Afro hits shelves.

Anime & Game Co-Exist – One cannot exist without the other, that’s how all the green is made. These titles exist all at the same time, as the Alpha and the Omega and deliver in spades.
  • .hack// - It’s an anime, card game, manga and video game (with packed in anime) that went beyond any anime type game before. All properties were created at the same time with seven video games in the books, numerous anime and manga all of which are meant to exist at the same time and tell different parts of the same story. Play the game, watch the anime, read the manga, play another game while watching another anime then pick up a novel … marketers gold, but … a little much. While a fun game it takes a large investment to get the full story and jumping in from anywhere but the beginning can be a bit confusing even with all the recaps.
  • Pokemon – Gotta catch ’em all, over and over and over again. The handheld Pokemon RPG’s are pure gold and worth every purchase. The side-story adventures, non-traditional titles and consoles titles have been mostly misses. The card game is still going strong as are collectibles and the anime just won’t stop. This is the gold standard and while the formula is apparent it’s not easy to replicate, just ask …
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! – Not quite the Go-Bots to the Pokemon Transformers, but Yu-Gi-Oh! is not on the same level as Pokemon. There have been three main anime with tons of booster pack cards and some very engaging DS titles; heck there is even a world tournament for both card and handheld. Skewing a bit older than Pokemon, Yugi and buddies deliver gaming, anime, manga and card adventures that stand well on their own but are best enjoyed together.

In the world of cross-media titles anime has a ways to go. The penetration of titles like Naruto, Bleach, One Piece and Afro Samurai is strengthening the anime industry in the states and with rock solid games to back them anime games are here to stay. On the other hand games as anime need to do some work follow the lead of Devil May Cry and serve the proper audience, fans of the games. Don’t rip off a title and expect flans to flock to your DVD banner, give a reason to buy. Don’t believe yet, take a look at EA’s Dead Space, what it’s doing with comics, novels and an anime. Anime based video games are, and have been here to stay and slowly video game based anime are moving this direction, just at a much slower pace.
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