The Conundrum of Anime Stories

If there are games that I have a love/hate relationship with the most, it would have to be titles focused on anime. Specifically, video games that are based off of anime/manga properties, and not just video games with an anime-esque art style. Whether it’s Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, or One Piece, we’ve all gone to our local game store and have seen multiple copies of anime games. As an anime fan myself, I have enjoyed many Dragon Ball Z anime games in my life. But I have also groaned as I’ve progressed through the story of said games as well. And it always seems to come down to one of two reasons:

  • The game is featuring the main anime story, with minimum additions to make the game feel less like a straight copy-paste.
  • The game is featuring a brand new story, which may or may not be bad. It’s probably mediocre, but I like to hold out hope that it gets better. Maybe.

“But Kierra, most anime stories are already mediocre,” you say, and perhaps you are correct. But at least it is a mediocre story that is expected. But which of these two options is truly the best way to design an anime-based title? Is there a certain way that anime storylines should be handled? Should the player just receive a regurgitated anime synopsis in video game form, or should they get a new storyline where it’s anyone’s guess as to how good or bad it’ll end up being?


Following the Anime Plotlines

When it comes to roping in new fans of a series, this option can be a good way introduce newcomers to the premise of the show. While most games don’t tend to live up to their animated counterparts in terms of recapturing drama and pace, the chance of bringing in a fresh wave of fans is always a plus, in my book. For example, the recently released Fairy Tale game is a series that hasn’t had a main console release outside of Japan, so following the story of the anime is pretty much expected.

But what about games such as Dragon Ball Z or Naruto? All of the Dragon Ball Z games currently on the Switch do have original storylines. However, with the abundance of games that have been released on other consoles, is yet another retelling of the same story really needed should another Dragon Ball Z game ever release in the Switch’s lifetime? Do we really need to see Goku go Super Saiyan for the first time in his fight against Frieza, when we’ve seen the same thing- and subsequent power ups, as well- for years now?

There will always be people who aren’t entirely familiar with the source material of a series. I wholeheartedly believe that there should be an accessible means for potential new fans to get into a series, even if the amount of people who would even buy a game of an anime they’ve never watched is admittedly low. I also agree though that, after a while, just repackaging the plot of an anime into a new game with updated graphics is not always the way to go.

Brand New Plots

So, what about brand new plots? If an anime game is revealed to have an original story, the demographic of new fans checking out the game is now at risk. Introducing a new player to an entire cast of anime characters, with the assumption that they know Anime Protagonist Number Fifty and his fifteen friends is dangerous. Why should new players even care about Sidekick Six and Love Interest Fifteen?

Going back to Dragon Ball Z, FighterZ is often used as an example of what happens when anime games don’t follow the storyline of the shows. Now, if there is one thing that FighterZ did right, it is character interactions. Obviously, those moments serve as fanservice for fans of the series, but I also feel that for those who aren’t familiar with the characters, it can help to clue them in on relationships between characters and personalities that aren’t always seen in the source material.

But the actual story of Fighterz still leaves a whole lot to be desired, and that ends up being the main issue with games that fall in this category. These narratives are usually not great, with some being pretty bad. In all honesty, at worst these games could be mistaken for someone’s fanfiction fantasy. That isn’t really a bad thing in of itself, especially when we’re talking about huge anime casts and pitting everyone against each other.

But I do think that we as fans deserve a cohesive story that isn’t just fanservice served on a plate. I would love if we could get more serious stories, similar to the non-canon Dragon Ball Z movies, where the plot and characters are taken semi-seriously. Yes, those movies are just as much fanservice served on a plate, but wouldn’t it be nice to see a healthier balance in an anime game?

Which Option is Better?

At the end of the day, both options have their merits. Honestly, following a storyline that already exists can make things a whole lot easier for everyone involved, and I do think that there is some merit in sticking with something that already exists. But I think like most people, after a while, I want something different and new. (I honestly just want a Dragon Ball game- no Z. We haven’t gotten one of those in a long time.)


What are your thoughts? Should anime games just stick to what exists and focus on presenting that story as best as they can, or should a risk be taken with creating a brand new story that could or could not be good?

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