Undoubtedly, anime is one of the most popular fiction mediums and has been soaring in popularity recently. With the rise of its popularity, many video game developers are also turning toward anime adaptation, with CDPR recently hinting at another anime for Cyberpunk 2077.
Similarly, developers are inclined to adapt beloved anime IPs into video games. Out of many anime games, fans will immediately recognize the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm and Dragon Ball Tenkaichi series.
Both have been ongoing for more than a decade and laid the template for many of the recent adaptions. The Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm series has consistently received newer entries with little to no significant changes since 2008.
All Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm games adhere to the same template, featuring minimal combat variety and lacking emphasis on other crucial aspects such as characters, loadouts, and customization.
This absence of diversity in gameplay and features leaves players yearning for more, as these elements contribute significantly to keeping the game feeling fresh and engaging throughout the hours invested.
This makes me wonder if the arena fighter genre is outdated or whether the developers are just lazy.
Why it matters: Arena fighters, in general, lack depth, which makes the games less appealing to a broader audience. Therefore, most arena fighters usually attract audiences invested in the manga or anime itself. This kills any chance of introducing the game to a broader audience.
With the latest Sparkling Zero game marking Dragon Ball Tenkaichi’s return after more than a decade, fans of the anime and the Tenkaichi series are more than excited about the game.
But that’s it; it’s only the fans of the franchise that are excited, rather than your average gamer interested in fighting games. Still, Dragon Ball is one of the most famous franchises in the world.
Combined with the nostalgia of the Tenkaichi franchise returning and the hype around Dragon Ball itself, it is safe to assume that they have enough attention from people.
However, arena fighters don’t need to be limited to this core audience.
Are Arena Fighters Bad, or Are the Devs Just Too Lazy?
The more niche anime-based fighters are not safe from this conversation, with most of them looking generic and identical to each other.
Take the recently revealed Jujutsu Kaisen: Cursed Clash, for example. Despite being announced at the height of the anime’s popularity, the response to the game was fairly negative, considering it looks like a Naruto Storm derivative.
However, there may be more factors than that since the game seems uninspired and outdated in every aspect. But the main question is: isn’t the whole arena fighter genre outdated?
That’s a whole other debate on its own, and the statement may not be accurate, but in my opinion, it is for anime video games, at least. The thing is that such games can still be pretty enjoyable if they are utilized properly.
Arena fighters have untapped potential, and I partially blame the developers for not utilizing them properly. They are also limited by the hardware factor, which is their limited options due to the camera angle.
However, the thing with anime games is that developers are often uninspired when it comes to creating the games and rely on the popularity of the IP to sell such adaptations.
The lack of creativity could be credited to Bandai Namco since they are the publisher that owns the license for almost every anime game and keeps publishing newer clones as cash grabs with zero creativity.
I’m not implying that every anime game or arena fighter is bad, but most rarely try to break away from the mold. This is a stark contrast to fighting games like Tekken or Street Fighter.
Arena fighters also face the challenge of overcoming balance issues among characters since they don’t care much about competitive aspects despite the communities that try to extract any competitive potential found in these games.
What Approach Should Anime Video Games Take?
Anime has so much potential in the video game industry only if created by the right teams and on a bigger scale.
Imagine a Ju Jutsu Kaisen game with a narrative and semi-open world approach with multiple playstyles. Even though fighting is a significant feature in most newer shonen animes, it is only part of the charm.
I’m not saying that all anime video games should be 3rd-person open-world RPGs; they can also branch out. 2D fighters work particularly well for anime IPs. Dragon Ball FighterZ, for instance, was a huge success and even had a competitive aspect to it.
The more recent release of One Piece: Odyssey is an honorable mention. The game was immensely successful because it was a turn-based RPG and adapted a new story that had never been explored in the source material.
FromSoftware’s parent company plans to develop new games based on IP, opening up the possibilities of FromSoftware working on a few such games. With this studio leading the charge, a Souls-like Berserk game could be the perfect breath of fresh air needed.
With the recent popularity of Souls-likes, imagine a Berserk game with proper cutscenes and a well-executed narrative. Surely, that’d be a dream come true for many fans, including me. However, ignoring such possibilities, the industry seems content with churning out arena fighter after arena fighter.
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An avid gamer is passionate about writing to deliver insightful and engaging content to the audience.