Graphics have often been a core talking point when discussing new videogames. This can be used to promote how good a game is. But good graphics don’t make a good game (see The Order 1886). Just because a game does have good graphics and good gameplay doesn’t mean that they will hold up in a decades time.
There are however videogames that have gone that extra mile and created a visual style that goes beyond the quality of its graphics and helps it not just stand out among its contemporaries, but also fares better against everyone’s greatest enemy; time.
- Metroid Prime (Series)
Slightly cheating with the first one, although if pushed the first probably stands out the most. The Metroid Prime series stands out because not only does it masterfully transition the series from 2D to first person 3D, it also creates a wonderfully diverse environment layered with secrets. The locations throughout the series manage to all feel unique despite working from the standard tropes of forest, fire, water, ice, and abandoned temple themes.
You might not have heard about XIII before. Created by Ubisoft it came out in late 2003 to pretty good reviews, but unfortunately failed to get the sales it deserved. This was a great shame as its story was akin to The Bourne Identity (even though it is based on a Belgian comic of the same name from the 1980s) but with even more conspiracy theories thrown in. Oh and Adam West, can’t forget about Adam West. The game also utilised the cel-shaded approach in order to emulate its comic book origins, which was used to full effect. The graphical style is part of the reason why the game is so easy to come back to today despite coming out before the standard FPS tropes of regenerating health and only two guns at a time came in. Also it was back when you had to get card keys, remember when guards would always lose them somewhere?
- F-Zero GX
F-Zero GX is a game that still looks pretty damn good despite being a decade old now. This is because of the developers commitment to get the game running as smoothly as possible; 60FPS was the goal, and if it hadn’t been achieved then it’s unlikely the game would have been released. Some aspects of the game are a little blocky, but this was done in a way that they still seem detailed. Also when you blasting past something faster than the speed of sound, it’s not much of a concern. F-Zero GX manages to capture the essence of speed, and this is surrounded by a fantastical vision of the future.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Yes, another cel-shaded game, but for a game that, when it was first properly announced, generated so much hate Wind Waker managed to overcome this spectacularly. Wind Waker is often looked back on as being one of the best Zelda games in the series. This is thanks to its beautiful art style, with so much attention to detail such as the way in which flames burn, or wisps above a wave. Link in this adventure is also the most expressive in the series, and this is also used to benefit gameplay with the direction of his eyes giving clues of where to focus on. The Great Sea is an expansive world, one that you can spend hours just exploring, and the HD remake that came out a couple of years ago further demonstrated the power of its style.
Killer what? Killer7 is almost the archetypal cult videogame. An obscure game from Japan that has an outlandish premise and plot, a control system that makes the original Resident Evil seem futuristic (although the director of Resident Evil is the producer of Killer7), and gameplay mechanics that combine elements that is off putting to many. Yet damn, is that one cool looking game! The levels are for the most part fairly simple, and with a considerable number of corridors, but it has some of the best looking moments to be found in a videogame so far. Sometimes you might find yourself marvelling at the screen in front of you as this spectacular use of colour envelops the character. In addition are the excellent anime cut scenes that appear in between certain missions. Killer7 also managed to make blood look really cool, when you get a clear shot at one the mutated heavens smile (which are essentially brightly coloured zombies that self destruct – and also have the most spine tingling laugh/scream ever) and bright red blood spurts and pours out. If any game could do with an upgrade to HD it would be Killer7. Then again as long as I have a working GameCube, this game will still always look excellent.