Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Yeah, for reasons I won’t bore you all with, I’ve been without Internet for the better part of a month. But I’m back now and boy is it good to be back! That being said, I filled the void by doing what most people do: watching TV. After looking over my DVD collection during this time, I realized something very interesting: There are a LOT of cartoons based on video games!
Yes, it seems that in the business world it is always a good idea to reach out and try to adapt something from one medium into another, regardless of whether or not the idea could really work in the new medium. Video games are a prime example for adaptation and while it’s more common to see a movie or show turn into a video game, sometimes it’s the opposite. There are a lot of cartoons and even some live action shows based on video games, many that are pretty awful.
Luckily, there are a few that are worth noting. While some of these may just be for pure nostalgia, there are others that are purely fun to watch, whether as a straight adaptation of the source material or as a show that takes the concept in an unexpected direction. So here’s a list of the top ten best cartoons based on video games. The only real limit I’ve imposed on myself this time is that there’s only one cartoon per franchise, with exceptions made for multi-franchise shows. Other than that, animation from anywhere in the world can end up on this list, and from any company!
So, get ready to walk down memory lane, and be introduced to some new material as we take a look at the best of the best when it comes to turning a game into one giant cutscene (no, the Xenosaga games don’t count).
Based off of Star Ocean: The Second Story on the PlayStation, this is a fantastic representation of what one can do with some good source material. The anime is basically a straight adaptation of the game, with liberties taken only when absolutely necessary, and it actually does a lot with its 26-episode length, delving a bit deeper into character personalities, and making a lot of the secondary characters seem important rather than just having them appear as just ‘along-for-the-ride’ side characters.
It included a lot of the characters from the game too, and gave them some great backstory and emotional development while at the same time having a lot of fun with their individual quirks like Celine’s fear of insects or Ashton’s bizarre barrel fetish. A few characters were left out, but there wasn’t a whole lot that could be done to include ALL the party characters, for reasons I’ll get into in a second.
As good as this series is, it does flounder quite a bit. It’s a good adaptation, like I said, but Studio Deen doesn’t do super awesome animation. Given that this series premiered in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, the animation is okay, but nothing stands out, and the action scenes are forgettable enough that it doesn’t leave a whole lot of an impression. The second, and worst reason why it just barely gets onto the list is because of its ending. Without giving anything away, the anime series ends at what could be considered the halfway point of the game, the point in the game where you would have to switch to the second disk in fact. So the whole thing ends on a huge cliffhanger, basically presenting itself as one giant commercial for the game that had come out three years prior to the show.
If they had only given the show a proper ending, it would have bumped this thing up a few more spots. Instead, they decided to pull a Berserk and leave us hanging. If the rest of the show weren’t great, I’d be pretty pissed right now.
I’ll warn you all up front, DiC’s going to show up on this list a lot. They seem to have the monopoly on video game cartoons, especially from the early 90’s.
Anyway, I’m willing to guess that there are more than a few of you who would argue about this being on a ‘best of’ list, and I will openly admit that the show is on here mostly because of my own personal nostalgia. I loved the show as a kid and I have the DVD on my shelf proudly. Yes, it had a lot of plot holes. Yes, the animation quality could bounce from good to poor depending on the episode, and yes, it was pretty much nothing more but a huge marketing campaign by Nintendo, but at the same time, as a kid’s show, it really isn’t the worst.
It had an entertaining premise and it was never god-awful. It didn’t talk down to its audience like a lot of other shows of its ilk did, and it did have a lot of cool ideas. Not to mention, you can really tell what era it was made in just by looking at it and listening to some of the music. It’s an unintentional comedy, and it is still a lot of fun to watch. I’d put it on the same level as a lot of the older Hannah-Barbara cartoons; despite being so simple, and minimal in animation, they’re still fun to watch from time to time. And in some ways, at least it had a cohesive plot, compared to things like The Herculoids.
I will admit though, yes I hate what they did to the characters here, particularly their treatment of Simon Belmont. I can’t deny that was a big misuse of characters. Other than that, though, I still find the show a lot of fun to watch, even if it is just to riff it. So I count it amongst the best.
Of course this one was going to end up on the list somewhere. This is basically in the same ballpark as Captain N, but I hold it in higher regard because it was a lot more fun to watch, all things considered. It doesn’t really do a whole lot with the original premise, but let’s consider this: the original Mario Bros games had a very basic plot, almost to the point of having no plot: Bowser’s kidnapped the princess and Mario and Luigi have to save her. That is about the extent of the plot. But this show just did whatever the heck it wanted.
Call this show what you want, but it certainly was not boring. It pretty much throws everything it can at the wall just to see what will stick, and the ever-changing locales and plots and parodies are a thrill for a kid to experience. Never knowing what to expect for the next episode was a lot of fun as well, and as cheesy as the cartoons were, one could say that a lot of the choices on this list are at least a little cheesy. Making Toad and Princess Toadstool into active characters in most of the episodes was also a great idea, and while future Mario series would have more structure to their plots, this was the one that started it off and it laid the ground work, while remaining simple and interesting for its target audience.
There’s not a whole lot more I can say in defense of this series as it is a very love it/hate it sort of show, but I will say that it certainly doesn’t feel like a great big endorsement when compared to other Nintendo TV and movie attempts. “The Wizard” anyone?
This four-episode OVA is, obviously, an adaptation of the Darkstalkers franchise. It loosely follows the plot of the first two games, and when I say loosely, I mean very loosely. A lot of the major plot elements (that is to say, everything that was told to us in the opening text scrolls of the games) were kept, but the show does have some major focus issues. It’s constantly jumping back and forth between several different groups of characters, some of who don’t really have a whole lot to do with the main conflict until the last half of the last episode.
But this is one of the fun parts of the series. While it can’t decide who it wants to focus on, and I’m sure a few of the characters were thrown in merely to placate the fans, the multiple side plots and characters are at least entertaining, even if they don’t amount to much. What people fail to realize is that a straight adaptation of a fighting game, save for a few exceptions, would probably be really boring; minimal plot with a lot of fighting. This is a short series that manages both. Some fun and goofy plots with one overarching serious plot and some great action besides.
Not to mention the animation is actually pretty good as well, and despite a few of the characters having some very obvious… assets, the series is not very heavy on fanservice. Yes, there are a few obvious shots of Morrigan in a rather provocative pose (which could be forgiven since she’s a succubus and all), but for the most part, the series is not there to titillate its audience.
I would like to see an expanded version of this series, maybe with more of a focus on specific characters, but what we have here is actually really good, and once again, it had a very slim premise to go off of. For what it had to work with, they did make something that was fun to watch, and will please fans of the games (the less crazy ones anyway).
Now we’re getting really good. Bomberman Jetters isn’t an adaptation of any Bomberman game in particular, but is instead its own entity with its own plot and premise, but it still puts in a lot of references to plenty of other Bomberman games. Of everything on this list, it’s the only series that has never received an official release outside of Japan (though confusingly the game Bomberman Jetters WAS released in America and Europe) but it still deserves mention because it is damn awesome, especially for a kid’s show.
The plot basically concerned Shiro Bomber and his group of friends as they tried to stop the Hige-Hige clan, a group of universal thieves, from stealing rare, one-of-a-kind treasures and artifacts from the plants in the Bomber system. While the show started off as a basic monster of the week show, these episodes did give a lot of insight into each of the individual characters, especially the ones that were created specifically for the show, and as it progressed, it actually started to take on more of a dramatic light, especially with Shiro Bomber’s search for his missing brother, Mighty.
I will admit that the show was pretty simple, as it was a kid’s anime, but the animation was beautiful and it had a great mix of comedy, action, and drama that would keep even older viewers entertained. Even more important, it respected its source material and didn’t try to shoehorn in unnecessary characters or objects from the game unless they were necessary for the immediate plot, thus maintaining the balance between satisfying fans of the games, while keeping itself open to a broader audience as well.
Oh, and it has Louie in it too, and I freaking love that little green rabbit!