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5:20 AM on 12.08.2010 // ShadeOfLight
Happy Holidays: It's the Arts(tyle)



Question:
What do Okami, Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Limbo have in common?

I just mentioned all three of them. But more importantly, all of them feature incredible, creative and unique art styles. Okami has its wash painting, Kirby has its cloth and Limbo does noir like nothing else. These are just a few examples of games that stand out because of their distinctive styles and I could think of (and will mention) many more.
Why do I mention this during the Happy Holidays? Because it makes me happy every time and I absolutely love it.

For many people nowadays, it seems that a good-looking game means a game with the best and most realistic graphics. As such, games like Crysis are considered the best looking games ever.
And yes, they can and do look good, but really? After bracing for the ensuing flamewar, I will gladly state that I’ll take the visuals of Muramasa: The Demon Blade (pictured above) over Crysis any day.

This love of unique or interesting art styles is strong enough to make me play games in genres I don’t usually like. For example, I’m not a fan of First Person Shooters. Don’t ask me why, I just don’t enjoy them very much. However, there are exceptions to this rule, because there are shooters I like: two of those would be XIII and Borderlands. XIII did everything it could to look like a playable comic book and Borderlands tried to become interesting by completely changing its art style to a cel-shaded look during development…with both of these, it worked like a charm.



“So then”, I know you’re asking, because I can read your mind, “what happens when it’s a game in a genre you do like?” Then I’m pretty much ready to declare ‘best.game.EVAR.’
I like platformers, point-and-click adventures and action-adventures, just to name a few. I will mention some of my favorites, which stand out simply because they constantly bombarded me with “Wow” and never fail to put a smile on my face. Some of my favorites in these genres, and by extension favorite games overall, include respectively; Wario Land: Shake it!, which had a great hand-drawn cartoon style, Machinarium with its futuristic sketchwork (see above), and Okami, which you should know by now, but here’s a picture anyway:



Does that mean realistic games can’t be good? Of course not, gameplay makes all the difference. In the same way, not every game with a unique style is automatically good. But could a cool style make a particular game seem much more interesting to me? Absolutely. (So if you know such a game that I don’t, be sure to mention it in the comments!)

Now comes the hard part, I have to explain why this stuff makes me so happy and why I love it so much. Unfortunately, I can’t just post dozens of screenshots and say “That’s why, this stuff is bloody gorgeous”. Not only because Destructoid won’t appreciate that, but also because screenshots just don’t do these games justice. In fact, I would argue that not even videos can do these games justice.
After all, in my experience the absolute best part of such art styles is being able to explore the worlds they bring to life for yourself.
Okami is the best example in this case: there is nothing like standing on a hilltop, turning the camera around, taking in the entire area at once and then running trough it to the other side. It makes the beauty come to life much better and therefore much more impressively than any screen or video ever could.

But what really grabs me with these games is that they’re able to show me stuff I’ve never experienced before and will never experience except in the game.
To elaborate: you know what it is with realistic graphics? 1) They are not and will not be perfect
and 2) I’ve seen it before.
Yes, it is very impressive that you can render a tree which looks so much like the real thing, but I’ve seen realistic trees before…outside. And yes, human faces are hard to recreate and it’s highly impressive that you managed to render a realistic face…but I’ve seen those before as well.
What I haven’t seen before is Chinatown in a style a la Sin City. What I’ve never done before is run through a forest which looks like it could’ve come straight from a painting.
So you see, not just the fantastical, but even the ‘mundane’ can become a great, “wow”-inducing and even adventurous experience in a way that realistic styles just can’t match.

If that’s not a joyful gaming experience, I don’t know what is.

Tagged:    cblog    Opinion Editorial  

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