With The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker out in the wild in all its cartoony and bloom-filled glory, a few of us got to thinking about how much we love cel-shaded games.
Cel-shading within games got its start with Jet Set Radio for the Sega Dreamcast, and a plethora of companies have been utilizing this unique art style ever since. The black outlines of the characters and the bright visuals call to mind a comic or cartoon come to life in 3D, complete with interactivity through our controllers.
There’s a good reason why we’re seeing so many HD ports of cel-shaded games. They hold up greatly in 480p, but why stop there when they can shine even more in full HD? Honestly, most of us wouldn’t mind more cel-shaded HD upgrades. We’re looking squarely at you, Dragon Quest VIII, Dark Cloud 2, Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter and Viewtiful Joe.
In any case, allow us to chime in on our favorite cel-shaded games. Feel free to sound off in the comments if we missed mentioning the one you hold nearest and dearest to your heart.
Being able to draw from seven characters is cool enough. What’s cooler is when they all share the same body.
I chose Suda51’s breakout hit over No More Heroes as one of my favorite cel shaded games because it is simply art. Killer7 is what you’d get if Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch got together to make a videogame.
This surrealist tale of assassination, multiple personalities, and global political intrigue combined a perfectly bizarre plot with several different gaming conventions all mixed into one freaky little cocktail. The world and characters of Killer7 are accentuated by the bold lines and moody shading that only cel-shading can provide.
- Maxwell Coviello
Jet Set Radio
There’s something just so interesting and lovable about Jet Set Radio’s universe. It’s all considerably wacky: several roller-blading gangs go toe-to-toe in graffiti battles while avoiding the ever-looming presence of a police state. The cel-shading adds to the fantastical silliness of the story and allows the animation to thrive in being over-the-top.
Moving about the game’s world and causing a ruckus for the bumbling police force is mischievously cathartic. And you get to do it all with some incredibly sick beats in the background.
Everything about Jet Set Radio just screams “hip” and “cool” even though a realistic portrayal of its world would have just been goofy in a bad sense. Now if only the game had the superior controls of its sequel…
- Patrick Kulikowski
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Being a Zelda title, the game was highly anticipated before release. However, due to the drastic change in appearance for the series, it was widely criticized. After the dark atmosphere of Ocarina of Time and, even more so, Majora’s Mask on the Nintendo 64, fans were expecting more of the same but with better graphics on the Gamecube.
Instead, they got what might be the most completely realized game in the entire Zelda franchise. It was really a combination of the setting, scope and the decision to go with cel-shading. This was a game that was focused on the joy of exploring and the visual style played right into that. The Wind Waker just put a smile on your face in every way.
When I first got the game, I distinctly remember jumping off of the dock into the water at Link’s home island over and over again just to see the animation. I remember being blown away by the size of the Great Sea and how pretty the world was. With The Wind Waker HD out now, I’m excited to experience that all over again.
- Ken Smith
Okami is heavily inspired by the Zelda series, but I don’t think anyone has dared to call it a ripoff. While the skeleton of the gameplay follows a very Zelda-like structure, Okami is in a world of its own.
Rather than a hero with a sword, Okami‘s protagonist is a calligraphy-wielding canine named Amaterasu. She also happens to be the goddess of the Sun.
The game is also full of lovable characters and a great sense of humor. In many ways, Okami trumps its main source of inspiration.
Regardless of your preference, Okami heavily rivals The Wind Waker in its cel-shaded designs. The visuals of the game correspond well with the combat; essentially, you fight with art. Special moves will make the sun rise and instigate other nature-related powers. Walking around will spawn flowers under your feet, and even just standing still is a beautiful thing to do. Okami is one of the few games to choose a graphical style that meshes its visuals with gameplay. Its graphics are still impressive today, even without considering its HD-ified PS3 version from last year.