Ni no Kuni
Let’s start with an easy question, shall we? Ni no Kuni is an absolutely beautiful game, one of the best of the last generation. The key is great art and some of the best cel-shading ever, with models that look much more like fully realized animated characters than the rough paper cutouts found in other cel-shaded games. It’s amazing how close it feels to being a real Studio Ghibli movie.
The other, less obvious strength of Ni no Kuni is its lush world map. Back in the days of 16- and 32-bit RPGs, it seemed like world maps would get better and better. but around the time of Final Fantasy X, developers began to favor a more seamless experience. Ni no Kuni marks a throwback to the days of the classic JRPG world map with its lush hills, sparkling seas, and scorching deserts. It’s a must-have for anyone with fond memories of the Final Fantasy VI era.
Dragon Quest VIII
While we’re on the subject of Tier 5, it’s definitely worth mentioning one of the most beautiful games on the PlayStation 2. Dragon Quest VIII was the proto-Ni no Kuni – another JRPG with exceptional, unique cel-shading art. Yes, it’s true that Akira Toriyama’s art can be a bit of an acquired taste – particularly if you’re not a huge Dragon Ball fan – but there’s no denying that it’s at least interesting to watch. Monsters like the Slime in particular really stand out – all bursting with life and personality, despite being little more than cannon fodder.
Dragon Quest VIII is now nearly ten years old, but it still looks pretty good for a PS2 game, even when played on a high definition TV. If there’s one game that really cries out for an HD remake, this would definitely be it. Interestingly, it was recently released in Japan for mobile devices; a poor replacement for a Full HD upgrade, perhaps, but it should look decent on the iPad. We’ll see for ourselves whenever it comes out in the US
Alright, one thing that should be clear from the start – Asura’s Wrath is not what you would call a “good game”. It actually has more in common with older FMV games from the 90s than anything else, relying heavily on fast-paced events and long cutscenes to drive its points. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that it’s still so much fun to watch. The visual style is reminiscent of old anime Fist of the North Star, even featuring a god who can punch at high speed with what looks like a dozen or more arms.
In keeping with this tradition, Asura’s Wrath has its share of attacks capable of knocking the Earth off its axis and 300,000 mile long swords. It’s all about having fun; and more importantly, it’s unique. With so many anime-style games tailored to a particular look, it’s kind of nice to see an anime game that evokes the feel of mid-80s Shonen Jump. Too bad there aren’t more games like this one (sorry, Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage doesn’t really count).
Persona 4 Arena
It’s tempting to pick Persona 4 Golden here, because it really is a superb game on the Vita. But Persona 4’s graphics have always been more functional than pretty, choosing to focus on style and substance rather than pure flash. Persona 4 Arena, however, is a legitimately awesome anime fighting game – certainly the best-looking of its kind.
Arc System Works is known for beautiful animated fighters like Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, but they’ve really outdone themselves by adapting the world of Persona 4 to the fighting game genre. Relying on sprites rather than cel-shading techniques, Persona 4 Arena looks incredibly clean, with a user interface that fully matches the aesthetic of the original series. The backgrounds aren’t as active as some of what you’ll find in Street Fighter IV, but they make up for it in detail and variety, borrowing a number of locations from the RPG while introducing a few of its own.
Like all Arc System Works fighters, Persona 4 Arena is just fun to watch in general, with a very active style that fits in well with the genre. Even if you’re not a big fan of fighting games, they are at least worth ogling on Youtube.
Chronicles of Valkyria
More great cel-shading, but what do you expect from anime-based games? Valkyria Chronicles may not match Ni no Kuni in terms of visual splendor, but it’s certainly no slouch. And in fact, some people may find the more realistic art style of Valkyria Chronicles more appealing than the whimsical approach taken by Ni no Kuni or Dragon Quest VIII.
Interestingly, while fairly conventional, the original art for Valkyria Chronicles wasn’t what you would necessarily call “cliché”. Its style blends the aesthetics of WWI Europe with that of military anime like the new Yamato 2199, making it look appealing on both sides of the Pacific. Unfortunately, Valkyria Chronicles II eschews this approach for a style more in line with an anime like Bleach, which matches its more cliched high school setting. Sega restored the balance somewhat with Valkyria Chronicles 3; but alas, this entry was never released overseas, leaving what had the potential to be a classic RPG series with a mixed and complicated legacy.
Tales of Vesperia
Don’t worry, Tales fans – you get your due too. Tales games have long been known for their excellent graphics, which allowed the series to transition relatively seamlessly to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 at the turn of the previous generation. In this, the series is quite unique among JRPGs, as even juggernauts like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest had their fair share of trouble making the leap (Dragon Quest never even made it to the PS3, opting instead for desktop PCs). poached).
You can argue which Tales game looks the best all day – even older entries like Eternia still look pretty enough – but Vesperia gets the green light over Xillia and Graces for its superior character design and more dynamic world. . The towns of Xillia might be bigger and more interesting to look at, but it looks like Vesperia has a much wider color palette, which makes it more interesting to look at as a whole. Obviously, your mileage will vary; Regardless of what you prefer, the Tales series is the graphical benchmark for long-running anime-style RPGs.
2nd Generation Original Super Robot Wars
Lesser known to American audiences due to the fact that the series hardly ever gets Western releases, Super Robot Wars nonetheless deserves to be among the finest anime-style games of the current era.
Typically a mash-up of various robot anime series, SRW stands out for its seamless integration of several conflicting art styles, from the bonkers Gurren Lagan to the more circumspect Armored Trooper Votoms. It’s all notable for its excellent attack animations, which simply need to be seen in motion to be fully appreciated. No matter what platform the series is on, it still looks great. This scene, for example, was rendered on the historically underpowered PSP. If that’s not an endorsement of the show’s technical chops, I don’t know what is.
2nd Super Robot Wars OG gets the green light here due to it being high definition; but whether on PSP, PS2 or even NIntendo DS (yep), Super Robot Taisen will continue to be a magnificent game. The upcoming release of Super Robot Taisen Z3 on the Vita should be glorious.
For more anime goodness, check out the six anime we think would make great video games.
Kat Bailey is an independent Pokemon Master. You can follow her on Twitter at @The_Katbot.