It would be unfair of me to compare anime-based games to the dreaded movie video games. For the most part, anime games can retain much of the stylistic charm of its source material without jeopardizing much. However, while anime games aren’t nearly as explosive in the West given the kind of niche market it already caters to, the games themselves do have admittedly glaring problems of their own. And that’s why I’m here, not to rain on your parade, but maybe just a light drizzle might suffice.
Firstly, anime games may sprout their own categories. We can’t call anything definitely “anime” because it really is only a stylistic choice of the game, but that does include visual novels, RPG’s, adventures, hack and slash, and basically any other genre it could possibly fall into while retaining the anime style. We can consider Dragon Quest and Chrono Trigger, for example, as anime games based on that one stylistic design alone, irrespective of their gameplay mechanics. While the most successful ones like the aforementioned above and titles like the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm series and various Dragon Ball Z fighters have nestled into well-earned popularity in the West, there’s the little known ones that take the heat over in the East.
I recently dove into Anima: Gate of Memories on PlayStation 4, and while it’s not a bad game by any stretch, the problem is it lacked the core audience necessary to already establish big enough budgets. With big budgets, of course, comes more attention to development, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to a good game. The same can be said in reverse, where games with tiny budgets have managed to become sensations, e.g. Fez and Super Meat Boy. But the market for these lesser known anime games only primarily exists in Japan, and any outside success games can hope of achieving are minimal. After playing Anima, and while we’re on that subject, Senran Kagura Estival Versus, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven, or Onechanbara (just to name the ones off the top of my head that I have played), they simply lack the finesse or punch of its Western counterparts.
This is largely due to the appeal itself and budget constraints. More often than not, these games fall back on very cookie-cutter gameplay mechanics that feel rushed, unrefined or unoriginal. Japan pushes out these titles to meet the needs of the very same anime niche market that its style caters to, be it an existing franchise (like Jojo’s) or not. As such, without the world’s spotlight on them, there’s no pressure to put out a product that’s spectacular if its only going to primarily be sold in Japan. Unfortunately, most of them will never see the light of day in the West, and I’m not downplaying Japanese developers here. It’s just the sad reality of how undervalued anime in general really is globally.
But on the bright side, I do encourage people to pick up the Senran Kagura games. As pointlessly (and shamelessly) pandering to breast fetishes it is, the gameplay is still a blast.