A new game has been released in Japan. Of course there exists at least one person somewhere outside the country that wants the game to be localized. But not every game makes the cut. Nevertheless, you will see the umpteenth Naruto or Dragonball game (or to a lesser extent One Piece or Bleach) from your friends at Bandai-Namco
Hello ladies and gentlemen, the Inverseman here discussing games, anime, and business tonight. Certainly, there’s no sense in bringing a game when it seems nobody will buy it, but gamers know a good thing when they see it. While Kyosuke’s Kendo Showdown Wii at the Lawson’s 500 yen bin won’t ever see Stateside, there is more than good reason to ensure Xenoblade Chronicles (BUY IT!), The Last Story (Coming soon!), and Pandora’s Tower make it over here. But what do we do about the cash-in anime-based game? Especially one about a popular series? What makes a game of this nature a worthy buy or another bargain bin title?
Games based on existing anime and films usually get a bad rep, and usually for good reason too. But it’s not impossible to make a game worthy of a purchase, like the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure fighting game, which so seamlessly had Stands and everything incorporated. Let’s see what it takes to make a good anime-based game instead of a shovelware one.
Okay, so we know the Queen’s Blade spin-off game won’t ever see it here, and the first criteria is what the spin-off is about. And logically, in this department, Namco-Bandai knows how much cash they’ll milk from Dragonball, Naruto, and One Piece. Sad matter of the fact really, as much as I’d like to play the Bakuman game for the DS, I know it’s not the money-maker that could warrant it being here. Now for the criteria.
1. Know your audience
For some reason, I don’t think a Azumanga Daioh fighting game would work (okay, unless it’s ironic and Chiyo Dad is top tier), and the developers contracted should know the fighting game crowd and what they would want (tight mechanics, solid netplay, diverse characters, etc.) So in the case of the recently released Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations (which we will be using for a case example) it has a bit of an identity crisis. On one hand, it doesn’t reflect the “competitive fighter” as you have to unlock the roster, but instead of a big story mode with diverse cutscenes, you get an arcade mode that gives a brief synopsis of the character’s story. The end result is a chore of unlocking all the characters that will eat an hour or so, with the exception of Killer Bee’s arcade mode. If the developers wanted to emulate a more “casual” Storm 2, they could have fleshed out the story mode, but if they wanted to be similar to a “more competitive” fighting game then the roster would have been fully unlocked from the start. That is why knowing the crowd is important.
2. It should reflect the anime
The game should capture the essence of the anime. This goes for any game based off of a manga, tv series, or anything. Even stateside, a Spongebob RPG would be silly and have plenty of genre-aware fourth wall jokes, but seeing a serious angsty game that contemplates the existence of the human race would be ridiculous and the only way it would sell would be if it was so bad it was good. A game like One Piece: Pirate Musou does a proper job capturing the zany 1,000,000 on 1 experience of mowing down legions of enemies as your favorite character. The game should eat, live, and breathe the series.
3. It must immerse the player into the series
This is the most important criteria, the big sell of a game. When you see Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations in action, it truly does feel like you’re watching a scene lifted out of a chapter of Naruto. The folks at CyberConnect2 are so into the series that Hiroshi Matsuyama, the CEO, owns all the current bound graphic novels and lots of merchandise, you could say he’s Kishimoto’s biggest fan. You, the player, should feel like you have been dipped into the manga when you play, as if you could surely see this being a scene from an episode or chapter. Even if the game isn’t the most competitive or the most refined, fans need to get that kick as if they entered a world they know well. The fans need to see that service of “who would win in a fight?” or realize their dreams of “yo bro, what would happen if…?” Maybe the animation studio could go above and beyond and make content just for this game. And that brings me to the “news-ish” part of tonight’s piece. The Xbox’s Kincet will have a Dragon Ball game this fall. That’s right, every kid’s dream of doing a Kamehameha with their own two hands will come true. If this game makes it, it certainly will capture and fully immerse the player into the series. So as a developer, your fighter based on a popular shonen won’t necessarily be the next Guilty Gear or Street Fighter and that should not be as prime objective, but give the fans what they want and make it an extravaganza and you will win.
Join me next time when I make a Shakespeare racing game.