How would your favorite anime translate to gameplay?
Hello everyone, and welcome to Why It Works. Have you heard the announcement of Dragon Ball: The Breakers? It looks like we’ve got a new Dragon Ball videogame coming, though this one features some novel twists. Rather than simply facing off as Super Saiyans, The Breakers will see players splitting into two unequal sides. One “Raider” will terrorize the countryside from above, taking the form of Dragon Ball villains like Cell or Frieza, while seven non-powered “Survivors” will scramble for cover, cooperating and gathering weapons to take down their much greater foe.
The Breakers' gameplay seems pretty darn fun, but personally, I was most struck by the ingenuity of the game’s fundamental concept. The game seems like a brilliant riff on the unique dramatic properties of Dragon Ball, celebrating its appeal from an angle that isn’t frequently highlighted in video games. That feeling of terror as a lone figure floats in the sky above isn’t exclusive to Dragon Ball, but it is a quintessentially Dragon Ball feeling and it’s encouraging seeing a game studio attempt to synthesize that feeling into gameplay.
Generally, the anime-to-game pipeline is pretty straightforward: you take an action anime and turn it into an action game, resulting in our current proliferation of anime brawlers and anime fighting games. There’s nothing wrong or unusual about this; it’s clear we all want to beat the tar out of each other with our favorite anime characters. That’s totally normal. I know I’m personally still holding out for an ArcSys One Piece fighting game. At the same time, games like The Breakers illustrate how the diversity of anime experiences could also inspire a diverse array of video games. Today on Why It Works, I’d like to offer just a few examples of some novel yet natural game adaptations I would love to see.
The first idea that struck me, and one which I was frankly a little surprised doesn’t exist already, is a The Promised Neverland survival horror game. Both the alienating corridors of Grace Field House and the all-encompassing forest canopy of the world beyond would serve as ideal venues for sneaking, discovering, and trying not to get killed. The very qualities that made The Promised Neverland unique as a manga — its lack of overt “fight scenes,” its focus on mystery, etc — also make it perfectly appropriate to be adapted into a non-combat-oriented game, where running and hiding are your only options. A The Promised Neverland game inspired by properties like Little Monsters or Amnesia sounds like a slam dunk game experience.
The ongoing 86 EIGHTY-SIX also seems perfectly suited to game adaptation. 86 EIGHTY-SIX’s distinct approach to assessing the battlefield, wherein the overall lay of the land and strategic decision making is valued over individual acts of heroism, seems like it’d lend itself perfectly to an ambitious strategy game. You could easily adapt the tactics and themes of 86 EIGHTY-SIX to a Valkyria Chronicles-esque battlefield simulator; but if you wanted to truly emulate the feel of the show, you might instead go for a more ambitious approach, creating an asymmetrical action-strategy game where both the Handlers and units on the ground are controlled independently, fusing high-level strategy with skill-testing action gameplay. Can you imagine a game where the soldiers and strategists are technically working in cooperation but driven to conflict through their focus on personal survival versus overall victory?
The uniquely game-like elements of Mob Psycho 100 also seem like they could inspire a distinctive game design. Sure, you could easily adapt Mob Psycho 100 as an action game, but what if your goal was to avoid that worst-case scenario? Mob doesn’t actually want to fight, you could help him by guiding him on his way to school or the office, dodging obstacles and difficult conversations, and carefully working to keep his stress low. Falling somewhere between Super Monkey Ball and a reverse Katamari Damacy, “Manage Mob’s Mind” seems like it’d be a charming arcade-style experience as you attempt to keep anime’s goodest boy happy and flourishing.
All three of the games above could easily be produced by a small or mid-level studio, as they’re essentially condensing one element of their show’s appeal into a concise, level-oriented framework. For my last pick, I’m going to dispense with all of that pragmatic scale-managing and just reach for the holy grail: a sprawling open-world One Piece game where the sea is a “world map” you sail to travel between destinations. Combining the pacing of Dragon Quest, the meditative seafaring of Wind Waker, and the open-world exploration of games like Spider-Man or Assassin’s Creed, the ideal One Piece game could either chart an expanded version of the Straw Hats’ own journey or simply offer its own path to glory in the context of their world. There’s no harm in dreaming, right?
Those are the first unique anime games that come to mind for me, but the possibilities here are as endless as the diversity of anime itself. Think of your own favorite shows, and imagine all the unique ways drama and gameplay can intertwine. And before I go, let me offer you all one final cursed thought: Parasyte Among Us. My condolences.
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