Anime games have a checkered past. In the last gaming cycle, the market was flooded with them, and everything from fighters to card games seemed to sell well. However, as gamers consumed more and more of the same type of games, a disturbing trend started to emerge. Anime games released on an annual basis, almost never really changed, and, aside from an added feature or two, players started noticing that they were paying year after year to play what was almost the exact same game. It was a disturbing trend, and one that knocked anime games out of the public eye almost completely. However, even if you are the most jaded former franchise player around, you owe it to yourself to give them one last look.
Anime Games May Not Be Around Much Longer
Anime as a whole is somewhat of a fading star in the U.S., and, unfortunately, video games are part of this downward trend. Manga and anime sales are down by double-digit percentages, and, depending on whom you ask, it's either due to online piracy or waning interest. But no matter which side is right, if the money is not there, fewer anime games are going to be produced, which means you'll have to play them while you can.
Fewer Games Are Coming to the U.S.
Though few games are being produced that are based on anime, even fewer are being localized for the U.S. market. Games based on Gundam, Fullmetal Alchemist, and One Piece have all come out within the past year in Japan and will most likely never see a U.S. release date. Of course, many of these games can be imported, but if you don't speak Japanese you may have a hard time actually understanding what's going on. Unfortunately, localization is a lengthy and costly process, so if American developers/publishers don't think a franchise is a big hit—especially when anime games are in decline in the U.S.—they are less likely to even consider the process.
Games Are Getting Better
Though anime games seemed to hit a creative wall several years ago, some developers have gone back to the drawing board and have come back with some fresh ideas that might surprise even the most jaded anime gamer. A good example is last year's Bleach: Soul Resurreccion, which took the traditional two-player button mash fest and turned it into a quest-based Dynasty Warriors-type affair that worked pretty well. The Naruto franchise has also been revised substantially over the past few years to include more compelling story elements and less one-dimensional button mashing. Though it's easy to gloss over anime games and claim they're all the same, the fact is that developers have been getting better about actually improving games in between entries. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy a more modern anime-based game.
It's a Cheap Way to Support a Franchise
Chances are, if you are immersed in the world of anime, you hear a lot about supporting your franchise. Because online piracy takes such a huge cut of money from franchise creators, fans have become very vocal about using their dollars to show their appreciation for their favorite shows. However, box sets are expensive, and we don't all have money for extended cable packages with sci-fi and anime channels. But if you still want to do your part and show your support for your favorite anime franchise, you could do a lot worse than plunking down $50-$60 on a video game. Even if you read all your manga at the library and watch all your anime for free on Hulu, you can still feel like a proactive member of your chosen fandom by purchasing a game every now and again.
You Might Miss Them... Eventually
Look, I'm not going to sugarcoat this: Anime games probably won't be around much longer. As I mentioned above, there are plenty of reasons why fewer and fewer games come out every year. And while you might not notice their disappearance immediately, you might feel a bit wistful in a few years and want to check out the newest DBZ brawler or Naruto action game. And when you realize that one hasn't come out in several years, It might make you just a little bit sad. Anime games may not have had the best run, but I think we'd miss them if they disappeared completely.
I can't say that any anime games have become true classics, but I've played some pretty good ones over the years. It's certainly sad to see a genre that was once so prominent go into decline as fast as anime games have. Even if you have been burned by some seriously crappy anime games in the past (and at this point, who hasn't been?) you should at least check out one new release in 2012 and give the genre one more spin while you still can.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
Senior Contributing Writer
Date: January 27, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*