There are a lot of things that can go wrong when transferring a video game’s story, characters, and lore into a different medium. Here are the four biggest factors to look out for when adapting a video game into an anime.
Retaining the Original Art Style
Each game has a unique art style that, at times, translate better in video game format than in an animated format. Maybe the original character designer’s art is too difficult to mimic, maybe the character designs are too detailed, or maybe the animation studio doesn’t have enough time or money to meticulously draw every single tiny detail on a character’s outfit. These changes can range from slightly different to “they may as well be different characters”.
Trying to Appeal to an Established Audience
Unlike cartoons or anime that debut without a source material, shows based on video games already have an established audience that the show may prioritize appealing to over new fans. This is more prevalent in video game adaptations compared to manga adaptations, since the latter is much easier to adapt in an animated format. All the animator has to do is read the manga and decide how to animate certain scenes, but for the most part, most of their reference images are drawn for them. Not so with video games. Animators have to figure out how to include game mechanics, how to animate character movement and expressions (especially if most of their reference come from character sprites), and most importantly, how to retain the game’s original atmosphere. Unfortunately, animators try a little too hard to retain all of the parts of the game in the anime, confusing new fans and irking established fans who were probably hoping to see some new content (and probably weren’t impressed with how the game mechanics were awkwardly inserted in an animated format).
Video games have a lot of hours packed into a single disc. There’s a lot of ground to cover, a lot of exposition to make, and most of the time (due to the party member system prevalent in most games), a lot of characters to flesh out. Writers have to figure out how to smash all of this content within a limited time frame, usually within 13 to 26 (if they’re lucky) episodes. Due to the limited time frame, sometimes certain events or plot points have to be cut out, leaving behind massive plot holes. Sometimes certain characters get more focus than others, making them seem one note in comparison to their video game counterpart. Sometimes, they might even just assume that only fans of the game are watching, so they probably don’t have to bother going into more detail about an important event or plot point, leaving behind new fans scratching their heads in confusion. For video game adaptations, time management is key and every single episode needs to be meticulously thought out if the writers want to be able to produce a coherent story whilst appeasing new and established fans alike.
Sometimes an adaptation has all of the things that could make it succeed. It has great voice acting, good pacing, and is able to effectively keep the game’s original atmosphere and properly translate the game mechanics into an animated format. But there’s one huge thing that prevents it from becoming the perfect anime adaptation: bad animation. Viewers find themselves distracted from the story because the main character’s face is off model, or the way the characters are running looks really awkward, and did they seriously forget to color in that character’s shoes? This is especially bad for established fans of the games, who have probably been waiting years to see their favorite video game characters walk and talk. But not like that.
So, will we ever be able to find the perfect video game adaptation? Probably not, but one can hope…One can dream…