Friday, June 9, 2017

5 Games with Amazing Anime Aesthetic



In the world of video games, art design and animation play a big role in giving each game its own unique identity. Some go for realism (much like Naughty Dog's Uncharted and The Last of Us) with the use of motion capture in conjunction with handcrafted animation. Others embrace the chance to create a game that revels in an animated aesthetic, either one of their own design or taking inspiration from animated films/television. So it comes as no surprise that certain games do their best to emulate the unique and expressive appeal that comes with Japanese animation. The challenge is that finding a game that is as fun to play as it is pleasing to the eye can be difficult. The search of which can be tiring in the endless sea of cash-grab titles. But there are a few hidden gems out there that go the extra mile in their aesthetic design. Games that truly push the imagination of bringing a traditionally two-dimensional style to life in the third dimension without losing its identity or charm.

Here is a list of five video games that are not only fun to play but have gone above and beyond with their anime-inspired aesthetic.

Ni No Kuni: And the Wrath of the White Witch




A collaborative effort between Level 5 and the Japanese animation titan that is Studio Ghibli, Ni no Kuni is a game lives up to its prestigious pedigree.

Players follow the story of 13-year-old Oliver, compelled by the loss of his mother to venture into a magical parallel world to find her counterpart.

This game simply oozes with Ghibli charm. From the character designs right down to the sweeping orchestral score. To the point that even as the game switches from traditional 2D animation to the in-game animation, it still feels like playing an interactive Ghibli film. Though the monster raising combat can be hit or miss with some, it is a mechanic that is well suited to the title and offers a great deal of creative monster designs. The large fantasy world that Oliver traverses is breathtaking. Full of bright colors, with huge variety to the landscape. From the cool green of a mountain forest, bright orange contrasting with the dark rock of a volcano, to the soft browns and reds of the Aztec style buildings in the town of Perdida. Traveling from one place to another is as much a joy as finding the next point forward in the story.

This can also be a good game to play with kids as one of the primary mechanics the game makes use of is Oliver's talent for magic and using it to mend the broken hearts of the people he meets (who have lost an important emotion they need in order to function). But even with our kind yet reluctant hero and his small entourage of friends, this game doesn't mess around with its villains who are all out to take young Oliver's life and make this charming fantasy world a living nightmare.

If you are a die hard Ghibli fan and you own a Playstation 3, you would be remiss from giving this game or it's upcoming sequel a look.



Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm series



Regardless of what you think of the Naruto franchise as a whole, there are few that can deny the impressive strides that CyberConnect 2 has made in order to recreate the series iconic style. Yet still delivering a fun fighting game title with a ninja spin. The games follows the entire length of Kishimoto's famous manga while taking a few creative liberties in order to keep the experience fresh to both newcomers and long-time fans.

Though CyberConnect2 has spent years making games with anime-inspired visuals (.Hack/GU series and Asura's Wrath being prime examples of this) the Ultimate Ninja Storm series seems to be, at this time, the studios crowning achievement in breathing life into their animation. A few stand out examples of in-game animation, in my opinion at least, come from the battles against the Nine-Tailed Fox (found in the third title) along with any of the other cinematic focused battles.

Over the top ninja action has never felt, or looked, so good.

Danganronpa





What happens when you combine a revamped Phoenix Wright style trial system with a narrative filled with brutal murders and a despair driven psychopath under the guise of a talking bear? You get one of the most unique visual novel games of the decade, Danganronpa.

You step into the shoes of Makoto Naegi, a young man who has been recently accepted to the very prestigious Hope's Peak Academy. A high school made only for the best of the best. However, it is only after he arrives that he is suddenly struck unconscious. Only to wake up to find that he and his fellow classmates have been imprisoned in their own school. Which has been taken over by the eccentric Monobear. The devious bear gives the teens an ultimatum. That the student who kills one of their classmates and doesn't get caught will be able to leave the school scott-free. Leaving the rest of their class to suffer the consequences of their stupidity. It is up to Makoto to find the fellow students responsible for the murders and a way to escape this terrible game.

The game may be more of a visual novel than a traditional video game and doesn't have a lot of active animation (other than the despair-inducing execution sequences). Yet it is the art style that, along with the heart-pounding mystery that makes this game a must play. The character designs are distinct and while their personality types may seem cliche, there is more to them than what can be seen at first glance. Maintain a sharp eye and you may just survive this game of hope vs despair.


Odin's Sphere




Though many acknowledge game developer Vanillaware for the incredible look of its games, not many seem to talk about them beyond that. Which is truly a shame since there is certainly a lot to love aside from the living picture book animation style. One game from the studio that comes highly recommended if you're a fan of this art style, with a little Norse mythology thrown in, is Odin's Sphere.

This narrative is a quintessential fairy tale filled with magic, betrayals, romance and grand epic battles as you follow the story of not one, but five protagonists. Each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and perspective on the events occurring around them. There is a great deal of grandeur but also a cold hard edge to the story as the world these characters inhabit moves steadily closer to the end of days. The battle system is side scrolling/hack and slash at its best. With unique ways to level up each character to improve their chances for the tough battles that lie ahead (that may or may not involve cooking).

The almost hand painted look of the animation was already an impressive feat for the Playstation 2 era, but the game has since been remastered for the subsequent consoles to great effect. Odin's Sphere may not be the only game to come out of Vanillaware but it is easily one of the most iconic and visually impressive.


Persona 5





Even only months after its release, the long-awaited fifth installment of the Persona franchise has already been making waves for its jaw-dropping visual style. The game follows a similar formula to previous titles in the series, where players take on the role of a Japanese high school student forced to juggle school and a social life while moonlighting as a shadow slaying hero of humanity's collective unconscious. However, while many of the series earlier titles are relatively slow to start, Persona 5 wastes no time throwing players headlong into the action.

The protagonist, code named Joker, is a young man who has been forced to move to Tokyo for the purpose of his parole. Tried and convicted after saving a woman from being sexually harassed by a drunk man (who promptly sued the young man for his trouble). Joker is forced to start anew in an uncertain city plagued with mysterious accidents and psychotic breakdowns,. All of which are tied to the otherworldly Metaverse, an alternate dimension which manifests as an individual's distorted desires. As these distortions lead the world to ruin, it will be up to Joker and the friends he makes along to way to dawn the masks of their true selves. All to steal the source of these distorted desires and get the world back on track.

Like any game in the Persona series, it is a very long JRPG with well over a hundred hours of content. Time management is key as you balance out the in-game days, studying for exams, working one of many part-time jobs, or traveling to the Metaverse to bring justice to the wicked. But while this can be a challenge for newcomers, the gameplay is no less addicting as you traverse the virtual playground that is Persona 5's Tokyo. The turn-based battle system the series is famous for has never felt better (making use of every button available on the Playstation controller), and a reliance on stealth that really helps drive the thief motif. It is also worth mentioning that anyone who is a fan of the Phantom Thief Lupin, will undoubtedly spot references to the character, on top of all the mythological symbolism that saturates every Persona title. Stylish anime art design, relevant themes of resisting corruption and taking responsibility for your actions, Persona 5 is a JRPG that is worth every cent.










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