The Best Shit Ever: Game Art
I'd say there was a revolution in gaming around when the PS1 came out in the mid-90s. Before this, games were really aimed at kids. However, the PS1 ushered in a new focus, Me! Countless gamers grew up with Mario, Sonic, the NES, the Master System (Famicom and Mark III in Japan). We were all growing up, in our 20s (early or late) and with gaming's maturation came a growing up in all elements of the field. Graphics, gameplay, themes, music, all of these things changed from a 'kiddy' theme to a more adult-driven focus. Along with this maturation, we saw game art change into something remarkable. I quite enjoyed this and would like to post some of my favorite gaming art! This is the fourth entry into my Best Shit Ever column.
I played the original Metal Gear games on the NES, but 1998's MGS was a renaissance (as I've already documented). Every element of the game was 'grown-up' and this title stands among my favorite games ever. Its artwork, which continued throughout later games in the series, remains some of the best art ever. Let's look initially at Grey Fox, the enigmatic ninja from MGS.
(Spoiler!) We can't forget though...Grey Fox was killed in the first game, a pretty epic death too! The main character in the series was Snake. That could be Solid or Naked, they're essentially the same game design. And let us not forget that Snake was utter bad-ass throughout. From his epic beginnings to his pitiful ending, he was a human character. I loved Snake in all the games.
I'll reveal at the outset that I have beaten neither Ico nor SotC. As of this writing, I'm waiting for the HD remake collection on the PS3. However, I loved the presentation, entire feel and certainly the artwork of the 'sequel'.
The massive scope of this game just fascinated me: the lonliness of scouring the barren world around you, the main character's emotionless features, that moment when a colossus appeared in front of you for the first time. I'd approach him and marvel at the grandiose appearance. I ran from his massive attacks searching for his one weakness. It's no real surprise even IGN listed it as the best PS2 game ever! I don't agree, but I never finished it, so I guess I can't really comment.
This image is just huge. Taken from the artbook, you see the land around you, devoid of life except for a solitary bird flying. I just love it.
One fine example of the massive nature of the colossi is shown below. Finding each one would slow the game down as you stared at the gigantic beast. Few games really left me as impressed as this one did. Remarkable!
A good story makes you feel like you've walked into something that's existed forever. This game does that. I wonder about these places, why they're there, how old they are, all of that, even though I know it's just fiction.
I like Final Fantasy but Disney? An odd combination, but I was intrigued. The first Kingdom Hearts was awesome! My wife played it incessantly, late nights, didn't make dinner, she was hooked. I watched along, helping her when she got stuck, and I thought the art was just amazing. The characters were cool, the locales were amazing recreations of classic Disney settings, but done in a stylish and vivid style. Even the logos were cool.
Again, typically Disney wouldn't be atop my lists...even though as a father, I watch and enjoy plenty of their movies. However, the style given to the characters coupled with the cool designs of Square's main characters make the art awesome to scour.
After completing the first game, my wife and I jumped straight into #2. It was not nearly as good as the original and Kairi's role was reduced. We became pregnant the following year and decided that Kairi would be a wonderful name. So it was chosen. Our third daughter was named Kairi! I liked the character and her design. Here are two of my favorite pics.
Recreating the locations found in Disney movies was done with care and the results were spectacular. The original places were cool as well! 2 awesome designs are shown below.
Unless this is the first page on this site you've visited, you've likely seen some Street Fighter reference somewhere. I have several extensive sections devoted to sprites and a full-fledged site, SF Galleries. Oh, AND I declared SFZ2 one of the best games ever. It shouldn't be much of a surprise that I also find its art amazing. In fact, the Ryu - Gouki staredown is one of my favorite pieces of gaming art ever.
While the first Zero/Alpha game introduced the anime-inspired graphics, the sequel perfected them. I was in awe of the visuals from the moment I saw them. The animations, supers, background art, character art, everything was incredible. All of the character designs and the art style still is the best in the series.
The stage art is some of the best in the series as well, I've included a sketch of Ryu's stage and the final product. Both are excellent.