I’d like to start off by saying that I really like anime. At one point in my life, I would have said I loved it. I grew up during the first generation Toonami era. This was a time when anime had just started to become normalized in the United States. Up until then we had it but it was considered niche. Most people who called themselves anime fans only watched a handful of shows such as Dragon Ball Z. Toonami was one of the first places, maybe even the first place, where American kids could watch anime on cable easily. They started showing flagship anime like Dragon Ball Z, Ronin Warriors, and Sailor Moon. As it got bigger, they created a nighttime program where they could show more mature anime such as Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell. This was the origin of Adult Swim. Now Adult Swim is mostly American cartoons, but in the heyday, it was mostly what is now considered classic anime.
Why did I start this post with a history lesson about anime? Because now anime games are an important part of the gaming industry and community. I love anime games. Or more accurately, I love the idea of anime games. There are some really good ones going all the way back to the PS1 era. The first Japanese import games I ever played were Dragon Ball Z: The Greatest Dragon Ball Legend, Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout, and Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Battle 22. I loved these games. It was amazing being able to play my favorite anime of the time in the form of some really well made games. My favorite of the three was always Dragon Ball Z: The Greatest Dragon Ball Legend, which is very important to the point of this post, but we’ll come back to that later. Some other really good anime games I’ve played are Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku (Gameboy Advance), Berserk and the Band of Hawk (PS4), and Attack on Titan (PS4), which I consider to be the greatest anime game ever made. Not because it’s the best anime ever made, but because that game more than any other does everything a good anime game should. It follows the story intimately, it has a gameplay system that really brings the anime to life for the player and it has innovative gameplay that provides an experience I hadn’t really ever seen before. That’s what makes a good anime game. But sadly, the bulk of anime games aren’t like this.
I love that developers make anime games and I love that people want to buy them. I’ve seen lots of anime that I really loved over the years get put into games. Shows like Yu Yu Hakusho, Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, and of course Dragon Ball Z have all been made into video games. Some of these franchises have spawned several games over the years. I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think any anime has more games under its belt than the Dragon Ball franchise. According to the Wikipedia page, there are at least 94 video games spanning multiple generations of consoles, handhelds, and the arcade. I myself remember frequenting a Golf-N-Stuff in southern California to play a DBZ arcade fighting game. Ninety Four games spanning all the way back to 1986, the same year the anime, Dragon Ball, first appeared. And there’s a 95th game that was just announced at E3 last week. Do you understand how many 95 games is? There are only 24 games in the entire extended Metal Gear universe. Castlevania only has 42, also spanning back to 1986. Even Final Fantasy as a whole only consists of 92 games and that’s including mobile apps and weird spin off standalone mini-games. Even counting the recently announced Monster of the Deep Final Fantasy XV fishing game, the franchise still falls short of Dragon Ball for sheer number of games made. The Dragon Ball franchise is just that powerful. One might even say its power level is OVER 9000! Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.
The reason I’m focusing on Dragon Ball Z is not just because it’s so big and so famous in the anime games world, but also because they just announced Dragon Ball FighterZ. Everyone is excited about this game, but sadly I’m not. Don’t get me wrong, it looks great. I’m sure it will play great. And as far as 2D fighters go, I’m confident it will be a widely loved and respected game that will ultimately make its rounds in the eSports community. But as a long time gamer and more specifically, Dragon Ball Z gamer, I have to say that I’m really tired of 2D anime fighters. This includes every well-known Naruto game, most of the famous console DB games and so many other anime games. Why are they always 2D fighters? I get it, they’re easy to make, easy to sell, and very logical as far as what people really care about when it comes to the anime that usually get made into games. There’s even Gundam 2D fighters, but there are other options. Dragon Ball Xenoverse was such a breath of fresh air for me because for once it wasn’t just the same old thing. It’s still basically a fighter, but at least they tried to break the mold with that one. Just about every great anime game, with the exception of the ones by Koei Tecmo, end up being 2D fighters. It’s played out at this point. Especially considering the 2D fighter genre is already extremely bloated. Mortal Kombat, Injustice, Street Fighter, Soul Calibur, Tekken, Dead or Alive, King of Fighters, and the list of the famous and highly reputable ones goes on. Not to mention all the smaller ones like Skull Girls, BlazBlue, and Guilty Gear. I mean when is enough enough?
I wish they would make other types of games with anime. Games like Berserk and the Band of Hawk and Attack on Titan, but go even more outside the box. Where’s my Naruto stealth adventure game? Where’s my Yu Yu Hakusho action RPG? Where’s my One Piece turn based RPG? There are so many sensible anime game ideas other than a 2D fighter, but they rarely try any of them. Fighters are fun for a while, but I just wish someone would think outside the box. Take a risk like Koei Tecmo and just make something different. It’s not like people wouldn’t buy it based on franchise prestige alone anyway. I just want something new. Really, how many times can I go Super Saiyan Goku and kick the crap out of Frieza, Cell, and Vegeta? I would love a high graphics, AAA, Legacy of Goku style console game. That would be so much fun, more than just fighting. Actual plot based gameplay with NPCs, exploring, and character leveling. With items that do more than just restore health.
I know a lot of people are still riding the high from that Dragon Ball FighterZ E3 reveal and now that competitive PvP is all the rage, many people don’t even play single player games anymore, but come now. Wouldn’t you like to play something like Mass Effect, Uncharted, or Final Fantasy set in the world of your favorite anime? I know I would.