The art of a video game can be just as important as any other aspect that goes into what makes or breaks a game sometimes. The color palette, the lighting, and the style itself, whether its going for a realistic look, a hyper-realistic look, or one of the EGM crew’s favorites, cel-shaded, are all critical factors to the visuals of a game. So, being that they are video games and since the guys love it so much, we here at EGM have decided to compile a list looking at our Top 5 Cel-Shaded Games.
Dragon Quest VIII
Released: Nov. 15, 2005 – PS2
If one modern RPG can stand toe-to-toe with the graphical powerhouse that is Final Fantasy XIII and come out looking more beautiful, it’s Dragon Quest VIII. It was definitely at the cutting edge of cel-shaded graphics upon its release, so you could easily be convinced it was made for the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 instead of the PS2. The game saw you, the silent hero, lead your allies across the world in order to defeat the wicked Dhoulmagus, one of the best RPG villains of all time. Not only did it have the looks, but it also had the brains and personality to match, with a perfectly paced story, instantly lovable characters, charming British voice cast, and an intuitive-but-familiar turn-based battle system.
Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus
Released: Sept. 23, 2002 – PS2
At a time when games seemed to be getting more and more realistic, Sucker Punch came along and gave us Sly Cooper, a raccoon descended from a long line of thieves bent on recovering pages from the Thievius Raccoonus, the book detailing the history of the Cooper family. The game looked and played like a comic book come to life, with Sly and his friends Bentley the turtle and Murray the hippo lending a hand at putting the Raccoonus back together and tracking down the Fiendish Five. The diverse gameplay mixed healthy parts stealth and platforming, with a few minigames just to mix things up. The game was popular enough to spawn two sequels on the PS2, as well as an upcoming return on the PS3.
Released: Jan 25, 2007 (Japan only) – Xbox 360, PS3
Cel-shading and Japanese games go together like chocolate and peanut butter—the promise of being able to bring Japan’s favorite art styles to life in fully interactive 3D is reason enough for me to champion the polygon. But what to do with it? I know—you use the technique to produce the most awesomely awesome gaming concept ever. Witness THE iDOLM@STER, Namco Bandai’s magnum opus about becoming a music producer tasked with leading a ragtag group of young idols as they attempt to conquer the Japanese music scene with ridiculously catchy pop tunes. Nobody can deny how great THE iDOLM@STER’s cel-shaded art style comes across—though my fellow staffers might not share my excitement about the game’s soundtrack.
-Eric L. Patterson
Jet Set Radio
Released: Nov. 1, 2000 – Dreamcast
Known as Jet Grind Radio here in the States, Sega’s peerless blend of street art, extreme sports, and classic action gaming was packed with personality and playability that knows few rivals, helping put the idea of classic 2D animation in a 3D space on the map. Featuring memorable characters, a rebellious spirit, and one of the best original soundtracks ever slapped on a disc, JSR remains a shining example of originality that’s undoubtedly inspired countless gamemakers to escape the status quo—and it went a long way toward legitimizing the idea that artistic expression will always have a place in the game industry. Plus, hey, you get to piss off cops and deface public property!
Released: Nov. 18, 2003 – Gamecube, PS2, Xbox, PC
A game based directly off a comic book—but, in a bit of novelty, an obscure Belgian one—XIII was a first-person shooter conspiracy thriller with a secret society attempting to pull the world’s strings after the assassination of the American President. As the titular XIII, it’s your job to unravel the mystery behind your involvement in this secret society and recover from your amnesia—all while taking down would-be assassins trying to stop you from revealing information you can’t even remember! Along with great action and a thrilling story, the game also featured the voice talents of David Duchovny (who unraveled a conspiracy or two on The X-Files) and Adam West, a man used to playing comic-book characters as the ’60s-era Batman.