We gamers seem to have an odd obsession with realism. We constantly anticipate the next generation of hardware so that we can create more and more life-like graphics. Yet, the nature of our medium allows for much more creativity than simply imitating real life. As a result I want to pay a brief homage to ten games that brought the bright and vivid world of cel-shaded visuals to the fore of gaming. As always, I don’t have a completely encyclopedic knowledge of all games in the world, so if I’ve missed out any real beasts from this list then let us know in the comments section below.
10. Eternal Sonata
Eternal Sonata was a game that was unique in many ways. Any JRPG based in the mind of Romantic composer Chopin certainly deserves your attention, but its clever subversion of the standard turn based formula used in JRPGs also made it a refreshing take on the usual Hero’s Quest paradigm. What made the game stand out most from a first view was its cel-shading. The bizarre musically infused world was brilliantly brought to life by the game’s visual style, earning Eternal Sonata a solid place on this list.
9. Sly Raccoon
It might not be the best looking game on the list, but it stands as a textbook definition of how to do cel-shaded visuals. Sly Raccoon (or Sly Cooper for our American readers) was one of the first games to jump on the cel-shaded band wagon, but it just epitomises what the visual style can bring to a game. Sly was one of the most vibrant, colourful and down right fun games on the PS2, and this was in no small part due to its incredible cel-shaded graphics.
Most of the games on this list match their cel-shaded graphics with a cute and cartoon style XIII is notable for its juxtaposition of a bright and vibrant comic book visual style with a rather disturbing plot of conspiracy, deception and repressed memories. Not only were the graphics a real treat for the time, but they were also integral to the gameplay, with your character being able to see the “tap” of enemy footsteps during the game’s many stealth sections. The game didn’t sell as well as it deserved, but it still remains one of the best examples of what cel-shaded visuals can do. Thanks to Alanpr016 for the video.
7. Dragon Quest VIII
The Dragon Quest series has always given us adventures of an epic scale. Yet, with the first seven entries in the series being played from a top down 2D perspective, Dragon Quest VIII was the first fully 3D game in the franchise. The vistas and landscapes really helped to take your breath away and they were well realised through the game’s cel-shaded graphics engine. The animé style aesthetic also helped to compliment Akira Toriyama’s characteristically strong character designs, making DQVIII one of the most enjoyably traditional experiences on PS2.