You would think that a series like Phoenix Wright would be quite adept at making the transition into animation. It’s not unprecedented; Popular Visuals novels like Fate/Stay Night and Steins; Gate have found great success in their adaptations. But when you have projects like the Phoenix Wright anime play it so incredibly safe by adapting the source material 1:1, sooner or later you have to question the validity of these so-called adaptations.
Oh geez, look, I can experience the story of one of the favorite franchises in a considerably worse fashion! The animation is atrocious, the pacing is dreadful, and character development is all but non-existent. If companies like Capcom and A-1 Pictures are going to team up and go out of their way to bring franchises to other mediums, they need to serve as viable alternatives to their game counterparts.
With Phoenix Wright, it felt like such a missed opportunity to explore areas of the world that wouldn’t necessarily fit in within the game narratives. I would have loved to see original stories that could maintain a certain level of mystery. The charm of the franchise has always slowly discovered the facts of the crimes, eventually cultivating in a tense trial where you push your wits to the limit. By having each episode jump from investigation to trial, viewers are never given the chance to solve these mysteries on their own. It stripes the anime of any sort of charm it could have.
We have another classic Capcom adaptation, this time from a much more reputable studio, Madhouse. Devil May Cry ran for 12 episodes back in 2007 and as a huge fan of the series, I was optimistic. Dante is such a badass that I was sure you could easily pull off an action series from the various tales to be told within the DMC universe. But then I quickly realized that as awesome as Dante is, most of the fun is found in playing the games, not watching any of the cringe-inducing cut-scenes.
Still, I wanted to believe. What we got was 9 episodes of Dante just being Dante, which is cool and all, but I kind of like some plot in my action series, ya know? But the worst offense is that, despite the monumental studio behind it, they must have had all of their great animators the work with on other projects. One would expect that if the only thing going for a Devil May Cry anime would be it’s action scenes, you would be wrong. Theirs something so janky and low-budget about the animation. Fights do not flow as they should and just leave the impression that no proper planning was put in place. Either way, go play the games. Sure they still have hilariously bad stories, but at least the action is SSstylish!
There have been dozens of video game animated tie-ins over the years. Who could forget all of those wonderful western cartoons based off favorite franchises like Chili dog eating hedgehog on speed, aging wrestler plays live action magic mushroom eating plumber, Peter Pan wannabe sexually harasses a princess.
A cornucopia of quality adaptations that so perfectly captures the spirits of the games are sorely missed. You better bet that I was there to watch every episode of Street Fighter, in which Guile goes around recruiting every bum he finds on the street to fend off the forces of evil. Hey, at the very least, Mega Man has a pretty bitchin’ opening song. And now that I think about it… he was oddly ripped for a robot…
And last but not least, you cannot talk about video game anime adaptations without talking about Pokemon. I believe what made the anime so successful was its ability to capture the spirit of the games. It was never about accurate depictions of game mechanics. Fans may look back and have a good laugh at the ten badges Gary obtained in Kanto. Or the fact that Pokemon uses moves they would never be able to learn in the game. But that was never the point. It was about the ways in which Ash grew and bonded with both his Pokemon and Companions. 930 episodes later, it’s still impressive how it’s been able to maintain it’s popularity with the next generation.
While I could never bring myself to go back and rewatch the show as I’m sure it hasn’t aged well, I will always have fond memories of Ash getting his ass beat in the elite four. Glad to know that even a decade later, Ash still such a loser. It may not be the highest standard to which an animated adaptation should hold itself to, but at a time when adaptations were nowhere near prevalent, I do believe it open the doors for more companies to look at their gaming franchises and take a chance that wouldn’t of otherwise.