You know, the problem with some lists is not that I am worried about being able to fill them up, but rather that I am unsure if I can already include everything I’d like to bring up. Stian was right in that this countdown is uniquely suited to me, but I have not yet played every anime game I would like to try out. Heck, I haven’t even played every anime game I have on my shelves. Does Magic Knight Rayearth make a good video game? I dunno, it hasn’t even left its box yet.
This might be a list I get back to at some point in my life, but working with the knowledge I have now, these are the 10 worst games based on anime series that I have gotten to play.
Oh, and before I forget! I am excluding Digimon World and Dragon Ball Z: Final Bout from this list, as those have already featured on my 12 Games That Don’t Live Up To Nostalgia and there is nothing more that I can realistically add by featuring them a second time.
#10 Love Hina Advance
I can imagine many reasons for wanting to see a video game adaptation of your favorite anime series, but getting to rewatch an abbreviated version of the show on a tiny screen that might catch fire if it tries to mimic the animation for more than a few seconds? That wasn’t on my list for sure.
Love Hina Advance is a visual novel abomination that brings the harem romcom series to the GBA. It tells a heavily cut-down version of the story and mixes pixelated still-image screens with some VERY brief animations. The game’s dialogue screen can hold like four words at a time and, lacking a fast-forward button, getting through it all is a chore.
The game does offer some dialogue choices that mildly alter scenes and score you points with the girls or cause damage to protagonist Keitaro, which is a novel idea and a nice way to integrate the show’s slapstick into gameplay. However, you usually get like 2 seconds to read all your options and make a decision, so it’ll take a faster reader than myself to get any use out of this mechanic.
#9 My Hero Academia: One’s Justice
Shounen anime and simplistic fighting games are a great match. You don’t need to compete with the big boy tournament fighters in terms of mechanical complexity, because the target audience will just be happy to fight their way through a fun storymode as their favorite characters. Believe me, I like the Lyrical Nanoha fighting games. I am this hypothetical target audience.
Many franchises have done this well. Like I can fire up one of those Ninja Storm games and I don’t even watch Naruto. I do watch Hero Academia though and, my God, is One’s Justice rubbish. I actually refunded this game after an afternoon of playing it.
While it has the characters, settings, and moves from the anime, the game never feels right. All the rules of its universe and the boundaries of its logic are thrown to the wind, with every character becoming functionally the same safe for their special moves. You end up in scenarios where big, heavyweight characters are triple-jumping in the air, which all ends up looking goofy. It feels more like a bootleg game than the genuine product.
Adding to that, the storyline is boring in its presentation and the game only features the Japanese audio track.
#8 Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment
How. Do. You. Mess. This. UP?!
Sword Art Online is literally an anime about being stuck in a video game. How do you actually make a video game about that and somehow do a worse job at it than an author who, allegedly, doesn’t even play video games.
Hollow Fragment is an action-RPG with a ludicrous premise. After the conclusion of the anime’s first arc, rather than escaping the video game world of Aincrad, a bug wreaks havoc across the game and traps the main cast and their allies on a new floor. This “bug” is used as a catch-all excuse to introduce a bunch of new logic and ideas to the game’s established universe, some of which borders on lunacy. The “bug” is literally used as an excuse for dragging characters from later in the series out of their daily lives into a video game they have no connection with.
The game itself is just barely alright, if a little underwhelming compared to the exciting action of the TV series and certainly worse than any other Sword Art game out there, but it’s the complete disregard for telling a believable, engaging story that should deter even the most die-hard fans. Congratulations, you have fan-serviced so hard that it came around to being fan-disservice.
#7 Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage
My first encounter with the Fist of the North Star franchise was through a friend whose Dungeons & Dragons character was inspired by it. That same friend later gave me Ken’s Rage for the Playstation 3, which has been played through once and never again thereafter.
Effectively yet another Dynasty Warriors reskin, Ken’s Rage manages to take the exciting action of the Warriors series and turns it into a boring slog through monotonous areas. The martial arts gameplay doesn’t gel with Koei’s usual formula, creating an unsatisfying combat system that can never quite match the spectacle of the DW games, nor the animated series that is getting adapted here. The hordes of enemies are thinner than even those in Dynasty Warriors 2, but to compensate, the officer characters are all a hassle to battle with and make you feel like the biggest wimp in the post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Fist of the North Star might be a difficult franchise to get into nowadays, but this seventh generation console title is not the ideal way of catching up with it.
#6 Cardcaptor Sakura: Tomoyo’s Great Video
Take the gameplay from Pokémon Snap and then remove all the freedom and interaction from it. That’s about what you can expect from this tie-in game for the renowned Cardcaptor Sakura series.
Rather than taking on the role of the titular magical girl and fighting monsters, you play as her best friend Tomoyo, a wealthy girl who loves to design outfits and tags along to record Sakura’s adventure. Action scenes play out without your intervention, but timers will constantly appear and you must take acceptable pictures within their time limit. Regardless of how well you do, the game continues on the same as if your effort didn’t really matter.
Not only is the game unbothered by your success or failure, it also has strict ideas of what success even entails. You can’t just take pictures that look nice, you have to take pictures at the one and only angle that the game wants for that specific picture. There is no logic to this, you just follow on-screen and auditory prompts until you have turned the camera just right. Then again, it doesn’t even matter if you do or don’t.
The game is also painfully short, easily finished in half an hour. It only features 3 battles from the early part of the series with cutscenes rendered in the in-game graphics rather than snippets from the anime.
#5 Soul Eater: Monotone Princess
Soul Eater: Monotone Princess is a hack & slash game for the Wii, which is probably the last thing this series needed. Known for its colorful characters, fluent action scenes, and punk-rock aesthetic, a video game tie-in really calls for some flair. The best the Wii can muster is a barely-controllable button-masher where you spam 4-hit combos while battling in areas that look like they could have run on a Nintendo 64.
You can only play as the three lead teams from the show with “support” from various side-characters and take on missions that eventually begin to unravel a larger story about a new villain. While it was an original story back in 2008 when the manga was unresolved and the anime had just started airing, the plot has become retroactively redundant because series author Atsushi Okubo decided to recycle the villain character, resulting in Noah and his Book of Eibon. To now play this game and see a much weaker character with the same design and book-related powers is bizarre.
It also means that Monotone Princess doesn’t go anywhere interesting. Its unbearably stiff combat alone should deter fans of the franchise, but it also doesn’t feature many of the series’ highlights or add much of interest to the setting.
#4 Yu-Gi-Oh!: World Championship 2007
I am nowhere close to having played every Yu-Gi-Oh! game and there are no doubt worse entries in the series out there. For me, though, World Championship 2007 was such a poor experience I haven’t touched a video game version of the TCG since.
The game is completely crafted around grinding. You need to grind money for card packs, that’s no surprise, but this grind is also baked into the story progression. Every AI opponent is super simplistic, yet you are forced to defeat each of them 5 times just to unlock the next batch of slightly-harder foes to battle with. This is the entire game. You grind battles against the terrible AI to work your way up the tiers and beef up your deck.
To top it off, it’s not even that good of a video game adaptation. The AI turns are processed at top speed, making it impossible to follow along with their moves and figure out what’s happening. There are no options to set custom rules and the interface is not fun to work through. And, during all of this, you get to listen to some of the most hideous music loops that the DS speakers can squeak at you.
Like with Love Hina earlier in this list, Akira is a visual novel style rendition of an anime classic, in this case Katsuhiro Otomo’s cyberpunk epic Akira from 1982. And if you thought the GBA was struggling to imitate the animation of Love Hina, then wait until you have seen the Super Famicon’s pathetic attempt at presenting one of the most stunning anime ever made.
While Akira does have the benefit of some action segments, the storytelling portions are boring copies of the scenes from the movies in which you have you some leeway to decide how events unfold. In most cases, however, dialogue will loop you in circles until you made the canonical decisions or cause a non-standard Game Over.
The arcade sequences injected into this visual novel are few and they are basic. The best that can be said about them is that they’ll only momentarily interrupt the fun for those who came to the game just to experience the story. However, it can not be understated how absolutely hideous this game looks and how poorly it adapts the amazing movie it is based on. I can’t fathom why this was made, but at least Akira fans can find joy in the knowledge that somebody eventually ported an Akira pinball table to the Playstation 2. Go play Akira Psycho Pinball, it’s amazing.
#2 Neon Genesis Evangelion: Ayanami Raising Project
Rei Ayanami Raising is a bizarre title in which you play a teacher that is brought in by NERV to take care of Rei’s education and daily life. You are given full leeway to do whatever you want with her, with the only goal being raising her stats and increasing her piloting skills so that she can make it through the battles with the angels.
The main source of gameplay is setting the schedule for each week that decides what classes and activities Rei undertakes, which increases and decreases various statistics and balances her overall fatigue. You also buy goods for her, decorate her room, dress her up, feed her, and you can even stuff her full of questionable power drinks to buff up those stats. The entire goal of the game is pumping those numbers, which instantly loses its appeal when angel battles happen and they are just turn-based back-and-forths with no involvement from you.
Meanwhile, the game features a few rare visual novel segments and constantly alludes to a romantic affection between Rei and the player character. I can’t quite decide what part of that idea I find the most repulsive.
#1 K-On Ho-kago Live!!
K-On! Ho-kago Live!! is a special tie-in game, because it managed to make me less of a fan with every minute that I played it. It takes the adorable anime about a high school music club/amateur band and has the very straightforward job of making a rhythm game out of that.
Ho-kago Live!! manages that much and does feature the characters and songs from the series with some nice music clips to dress up the background, but as a game I found it difficult to tolerate. The picture above shows you what to expect for gameplay: press the buttons as the line passes over them, which can be direction keys or face buttons, and sometimes you have to hold them for longer or press a combination of two.
However the line exits at the right of the screen and then immediately pops back in on the left, forcing you to dart back and forth with your eyes in order to keep up. While this happens there are distracting music clips in the background, the sheet keeps tilting and flashing in different colors, and each note you play causes text and animations to happen, creating one big distraction in a game that demands constant focus. I could get stuck on the later songs for more than an hour before barely making it through with a D-rank.
Those who are better at rhythm games than I will then find the game awfully short with less than 20 songs and only a few brief comedy sketches to act as a story mode.
Stian loves to make my life difficult with these challenges, but I have a counter-challenge in mind that seeks to exploit his relentless optimism. Few things fill me with as much regret as paying way too much for a bad anime game imported from across the world. It’s called “Buyer’s Remorse” and I am all too familiar with it.
So Stian, tell us about the game purchases you regretted the most. The limited editions for games you ended up hating, the crappy statues that are just barely recognizable as the intended character, or the day 1 purchases of broken games that wouldn’t be fixed until you were way tired of them.