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Realism vs. Style: the Zelda Debate 441

Bonnie Ruberg is a staff writer for Planet GameCube and Gaming Age, a freelance games journalist, and the author of Heroine Sheik, a blog dedicated to investigating sexuality in gaming cultures. Today, we have the pleasure of running a piece she's written for the site about a topic that's been brought up more than once in the comments here on Slashdot. "For Zelda fans, this is a time of anticipation. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is officially on its way, and everybody is talking. By now, we've all seen the pre-release screenshots and videos. Nintendo has made some major changes with the series' latest installment, and the gaming world has let out a unanimous gasp at the results." Read on for the rest of her analysis of this oft-debated issue.
"Realism vs. Style: the Zelda Debate"
By Bonnie Ruberg

With the stylized aesthetic of Wind Waker all but gone, Nintendo has implemented carefully rendered, highly realistic polygons in its place - perhaps in response to the outcry of fans who disapproved of "kiddy," cel-shaded Link. The game's release date has even been pushed back in part to allow developers more time to perfect the new look. The question of realism versus style is one that has plagued art for centuries, and video games are no exception. Since the 2003 release of Wind Waker, a title both adored and despised, the Zelda series has come to epitomize that debate for the gaming industry, and heated words have been exchanged on both sides. Now, with Twilight Princess on the horizon, the old argument has been rekindled. What better time to take a look back at the issue and ask, once and for all: Is this really just a question of a pretty face?

When The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker came out two years ago, it's cel-shaded graphics caused a big stir in the American gaming community. Since then, debate over the value of the game's stylized aesthetic continues to be a popular topic in online video game forums. While there are some gamers who openly defend the title and its style, it seems the majority of voices express disappointment, even disgust. Many feel that the cel-shading gave Wind Waker a "cartoon-like" or childish look. One fan writes of encountering the new aesthetic for the first time, "I felt as though something had been stolen from me." Other forums-users remark, in comments that mirror thousands by like-minded gamers, "The graphics ruined the game," and "[Wink Waker] destroyed everything Zelda stood for." Now that Nintendo is taking the series back in a more graphically realistic direction, one precedented by the artistic approach in Ocarina of Time, those same disappointed fans are starting to rejoice. "These screens are exactly what i have been waiting for [sic]," writes one forum-user. Another: "All I can say is wow!!! I am so glad the cartoonish Link is gone. That is what kept me away from the whole Zelda franchise."

The press too seems glad to see the return of realism. After playing the demo at E3, Gamespy called the change in graphics an "upgrade," noting that "the overall style is a lot more grownup" and that "the game simply looks more alive." Gaming Age said realism "seals the deal" on the title, which is "by far one of the best looking games Nintendo has ever made," while Gamespot simply refers to "the undeniable appeal of realistic Link." According to Eiji Aunoma, the director of Twilight Princess, the decision to move away from the highly stylized aesthetic of Wind Waker was based partially on fan reaction. It was also dictated in part by the new game's storyline, which follows an older Link and a more serious adventure, and therefore needed a more "adult" graphical style. Still, even this decision to focus the game on a mature hero was affected by criticism from gamers who didn't enjoy playing as younger Link. As Planet GameCube notes, in the end, "The fans asked for a realistic Zelda, and Nintendo is delivering in a big way."

While it's understandable that players would have opinions about the looks of a favorite game, the debate over the aesthetics of Zelda has gone beyond friendly banter. What makes the topic so important that gamers just can't let it go? It's not really all about looks. If Zelda weren't Zelda, no one would make such a big fuss. As it stands, the series has so strong a fan-base, full of so many die-hard followers, that it has come, in a way, to represent video games as a whole, if not the industry itself. This makes the question of realism versus style in Zelda a much larger one than if it were applied to an unpopular, or even moderately well-known game. The issue has been further complicated by Zelda's close association with Nintendo, which struggles constantly with its already "kiddy" image. While the developers of Wind Waker made an artistically bold decision in utilizing cel-shading, their choice may have weakening Nintendo's mainstream image - one which must remain welcoming to adult gamers if the company is to compete against Sony and Microsoft in the current market.

But for the video game community, the question of aesthetics is also a cultural one. Whereas, in the Japanese market, unique style is highly regarded, realism in games is more often an American ideal. This can be seen in the supposedly negative link that critical gamers draw between Wind Waker's cel-shading, officially called "toon-shading" by Nintendo, and cartoons themselves - considered by most Americans to be a juvenile form of entertainment. Yet in Japan, anime and manga (the Japanese equivalents of cartoon shows and comic books) are regarded as legitimate art forms, and though some are designed for children, men and women of all ages enjoy these products, which lack the "kiddy" connotations they hold in the United States. Similarly, the gender expectations that are so rigid in mainstream America are not as clearly defined in Japanese culture. Japanese gamers are less concerned with appearing "masculine," at least in the American sense of reveling in games that flex their graphical muscle. The comments of U. S. gamers, especially those participating in forums, are influenced by the need to protect a certain macho image, one in favor of "grownup" realism instead of "childish" stylization.

The larger question at hand, however, is perhaps unanswerable: Is the point of gaming to recreate reality, or should it go beyond realism, into the realm of art? Video games confront this issue directly through the use of interactivity. Developers must decide whether to make a gaming experience as realistic as possible, allowing the gamer to step inside the character and his actions, or to keep him at a distance through an unfamiliar visual style. Certain types of games logically benefit from an inclusive aesthetic; racing and fighting titles rely on increasingly robust graphics technology to bring you more believable interactivity. With other categories of games, such as action-adventure, the genre into which the Zelda series falls, the decision isn't so clear. Neither is who makes the call: Should it be the developers/creators/artists themselves, or the game's fanbase, its potential consumers? If gamers demand graphical prowess in a quality game, as their response to both Wind Waker and Twilight Princess implies they do, they also have to face the possibility that all games, if rendered as realistically as possible, may soon look the same - not so much art as playable photographs of the world around them. Then they must ask themselves, honestly, whether or not that's a bad thing.

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Realism vs. Style: the Zelda Debate

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  • by gbulmash ( 688770 ) * <> on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:19PM (#13491635) Homepage Journal
    I think a major issue here is tradition vs. evolution. The stylized, cartoony look is "classic" Zelda, and for some people, their preference would be to put all the time and energy into gameplay and story while keeping a more classic feel to the visuals. On the other side are the people who feel that since the ability to present more realistically rendered worlds has evolved, so should the worlds of Zelda. More than art vs. reality, I believe the "don't fix what ain't broken" vs. "but there's so much more you could do" argument is what really drives this debate.

    Tradition vs. evolution is such a classic set of counterpoints. It pops up in religions, in corporations, in clubs, and it's no wonder it rages now in video games. They now have enough history for tradition to take a foothold. In the long run, though, I doubt that it was the cartoony appearance that really made Zelda players into Zelda fans. It may have been endearing, but it was the gameplay and stories that really made it addictive. IMO, the story, gameplay, and AI quality will be the final arbiters of the fate of this game, not the visual realism or lack thereof.

    - Greg

  • False dichotomy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daniil ( 775990 ) <> on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:21PM (#13491662) Journal
    Realism isn't the opposite of style; it's just one kind of style.
  • by kypper ( 446750 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:25PM (#13491698)
    I didn't play Zelda with the cell-shaded graphics except for about 10 minutes at a Best Buy, but I have to admit the control was phenonminal; I just hated the graphics.

    With games like Resident Evil 4, and now Twilight Princess, Gamecube appears to be finally trying to break into the 20-something market that Playstation and Xbox have had in a death-grip.

    I know I finally wanted to play Zelda again (having stopped at SNES) when I saw the previews for this one.
  • by hazzey ( 679052 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:26PM (#13491709)

    I think that there is just as much chance of Nintendo porting Zelda as there is of Sony porting Gran Turismo. The console manufacturers want there to be a game related reason for choosing their console. Having every game available for every platform is great for the consumer, but bad for the smaller console manufaturer.

  • Re:graphics (Score:2, Insightful)

    by michaeltoe ( 651785 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:26PM (#13491710) Journal
    The "old" graphics..? I'm not sure which game you're talking about, but I preferred the SNES version myself.
  • by mcc ( 14761 ) <> on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:27PM (#13491724) Homepage
    I think the graphics for wind waker looked totally awesome. It was the most beautiful video game I had ever played.

    I think the graphics for twilight princess also look totally awesome.

    I think I may like the art style of wind waker better.

    However, it seems reasonable to me to be able to like more than one thing!

    When I see them doing something one way the first time, and another way the second time, and find that some people like the first way and some other people like the second way, my response here isn't to think "huh. we should figure out which way is 'better'." My response is something closer to "yay for variety". Doing it this way means that the people in group one get what they want in the first game, the people in group two get what they want in the second game, and I get exactly what I want in both cases-- because, much as I think both art styles look awesome, I think it could get a little tiresome to look at the same art style all the way through two games in a row, even if it was the one which I preferred (Wind Waker's). I think it's much neater that they are mixing things up, and thus satisfying my sense of artistic ADD.

    It's just funny, Nintendo gets frequently accused of making the same game over and over but then on the other hand there's a huge contingent of people on every single game complaining about the things they changed.
  • by Zunni ( 565203 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:27PM (#13491725)
    I'm not sure what the issue with the other graphics were. 8 bit Zelda was rather cartoonish, as was the 16 bit SNES Zelda.

    Zelda was never touted as a "realistic" game, and was instead a fun RPG romp. Splinter Cell and the myriad of FPS games need to have realistic graphics in order to convey a sense of place and time. Zelda was never about being in a real world, it was the land of Hyrule where sticking out your sword in one direction was the name of the game. I'm not saying Zelda can't grow up and take advantage of the new graphics, but why push the game in a more realistic vein?? It's like making the new Street Fighter and using actors for Ken/Ryu. It worked for MK, but SF was about that cartoonish feeling.
  • by ianscot ( 591483 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:27PM (#13491731)
    Personally I'm 38, my kids were 11 when they played Windwaker, and I loved the emotive cartoon style. We haven't seen games that more gracefully bring across emotional reactions by the characters.

    That said, there was almost nothing in the game that seriously challenged the kids. Despite the (deservedly) legendary depth of play from Zelda titles, I think the designers decided they were making a cartoony title so they should pitch it to kids in terms of the level of challenge too. Which sucked.

    We can accept gritty realism or the cel shading thing. Either one has to be stylishly executed, and the game has to be far more than a shooter where I'm opening doors in order to hold my interest.

    (Near as we can tell the delay with the new Zelda is the development group adding play depth. Props to them.)

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:29PM (#13491751) Homepage Journal
    Is that it isn't realistic enough. One thing that has been pointed out, by more than one person, is that when graphics reach a certain level of realism, the brain looks for characteristics that would occur in the real world. Reflections, muscle movements, etc.

    It is utterly impossible - at this point - to reproduce each and every pattern the brain is looking for. In consequence, realistic graphics often look slightly ghoulish. They aren't what the brain is expecting, so the brain signals that something isn't right. This is actually a part of why Gollum, in the Lord of the Rings movies, was so effective.

    In consequence, the games that are labelled "realistic" are often deliberately unrealistic enough that the player can be comfortable. It's also often less demanding on the computer and the programmer.

  • This is pointless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ekman ( 60679 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:30PM (#13491764)
    Who cares what it looks like. Is it fun?
  • by orangenormal ( 728999 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:32PM (#13491787)

    So the graphics in Twilight Princess "realistic" and not stylized? Would anyone confuse them with reality?

    The fact is, Twilight Princess, which embracing a darker style, is still heavily stylized. I do like the style, but I do not believe it's any better or worse than Wind Waker's style. (Wind Waker's graphics, in my opinion, were absolutely stunning and held a charm perfectly suited to the storyline.)

    The problem with "realism" is that it's very difficult to get right. The closer to reality you get, the more grotesque the imperfections seem to the human mind. It's called "The Uncanny Valley," a term coined during the development of human-like robots. People have a much stronger negative reaction to graphics that look almost, but not quite, real than ones that approximate features.

  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:32PM (#13491788) Journal
    FTA: "Is the point of gaming to recreate reality, or should it go beyond realism, into the realm of art?"

    Realism and art are not opposed; rather, realism is one method of creating art.

    IMO, the point of games such as the Zelda franchise is player immersion. Some people can feel immersed without realistic graphics; others have a harder time making the leap.

  • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) * on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:32PM (#13491790)
    Wind Waker is a perfect example of why games are polish over substance these days. People bitch about how there's no focus on gameplay because the industry is too busy pushing more polygons, and this is why.

    There were plenty of things wrong with Wind Waker, but the graphics weren't one of them. They successfully conveyed the mechanics and story. If you're one of the people who didn't by Wind Waker solely because of the graphics, you're part of the problem. How can game makers focus on good gameplay when financially everybody makes graphics king?

    Worse, maybe we could have had a few more Zelda games this hardware generation with new plots and content... But instead they had to waste time writing a new engine.
  • by konstant ( 63560 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:35PM (#13491811)
    This newer title also seems very stylized. I certainly wouldn't mistake it for a video and the context (sword, elfin outfit, monsters) is obvious fantasy.

    This isn't a conflict between realism and anime. It's a choice of ghost in the shell anime over hello kitty.
  • by Skasta ( 594110 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:35PM (#13491818)
    One thing I have to say with windwaker is the fact that it has a Timeless look, just like A Link to The Past before it. Both of these Zelda games took what the console hardware gave them, and rendered a style that as time goes on, does not lose graphic appeal. I feel like Ocarina of Time\Majoras Mask and maybe Twilight Princess, do not have this effect. I look at Ocarina of Time today and it looks ugly compared to todays games, yet I can still pop in my A Link to the Past cart and not have a problem with the way the game looks. The same with Wind Waker, It looks just as nice as the first time I popped the disc in my Gamecube, and it still has a unique style that works well with the gameplay world it lives in.
  • by sycomonkey ( 666153 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:38PM (#13491843) Homepage
    Realism is entirely overrated. It's just one of many styles, and one that's been used way too much lately. Twilight Princess looks to be very very pretty and cool, but I'd be sorely dissapointed if every zelda game for the rest of time looked like it. I don't dislike realistic graphics as a matter of course, but they have their place, and there's room for all kinds of expression. For example, what in the world would have been as appealing about Rez if it wasn't wireframe? Would Mario 64 have been nearly as fun if it was animated like Ocarina of Time?

    The article is pretty much right on the money. The realistic look is popular, but I don't think that it should be to the exclusion of other forms of expression and style. Game designers are artists, and they should be able to paint their picture with less concern for what sells and what doesn't. But that's not the enviroment right now, so...
  • by orangenormal ( 728999 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:40PM (#13491864)

    I feel bad that some people are willing to instantly dismiss some of the most fun and creative games because they feel the graphics are too "kiddy." Nintendo's games carry a charm which I think is sorely lacking in the industry today.

    Paper Mario, Pikmin, Wind Waker, and other Nintendo franchises are games I think everyone should have the chance to play. They're charming and fun, and somehow manage to be so without featuring multiplayer killing action or large weapons to blow other players up in numerous ways.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:41PM (#13491871)
    They fear that anything that is not dark and realistic is calling them a "kid". That is why they get so upset. Americans would be embarrassed to play a game like Wind Waker because they fear that people will perceive them as not adult or not mature. Sure, the game may be FUN as hell... No, wait... it can't be fun... if I enjoyed it, that means I must also be a kid... No... Musn't play fun Ninja Turtles game... must maintain respectable mature, macho adult persona... :)

    It's really sad, because many of the "dark and realistic" games are mediocre, at best, and yet they will become best sellers here because they re-inforce the player's ego as an "adult gamer" who has "adult needs". :)

    I can see the reason and market for making a dark and mature game, but I think the game's "world view" should be what decides that, not a need to make players feel better about themselves. This is a real bummer because I like fun games, and yet they're being driven out of the marketplace by insecure gamers with lots of money to burn. Developers spend so much time making sure the sweat drips off the CG player's face so realistically that gameplay is almost an afterthought. I used to go to a video game store struggling over which game to buy, now I go and say "meh." Once I decide I don't want an FPS or sports game, I'm about ready to walk out of the place.
  • by RUFFyamahaRYDER ( 887557 ) <slashdot&kelsdomain,com> on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:42PM (#13491894) Homepage
    I'm not sure how many others are with me on this, but I am getting tired of realistic games in general.

    It's cool to have physics that work like real life but then again, that's not why I play games! I play them so I can see things that can't be done in real life. Remember in Virtua Cop when you shot someone they flipped around like the bullet was 20 times powerful than it should be? That was cool! I loved it when RUSH came out because it let cars drive with semi-realistic physics but they could fly off cliffs and float in the air unrealisticly - but it was awesome and fun! I want the physics to be a little warped. I want characters to be huge compared to normal humans. I want them to be able to do things not possible in real life... I want to see things I've seen in a few games to be extended upon - such as jumping off walls, or small explosions that make characters bounce really far into the distance... I don't know! Just something new and crazy that isn't supposed to happen in our laws of physics!
  • by jkuff ( 170923 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:43PM (#13491904) Homepage
    Over the history of animated films, there has developed the concept of "suspension of disbelief" [] that allows the audience to forget that they are watching a film and become emotionally attached to the characters. Disney films were particularly good at doing this, despite the fact that the renderings are not "realistic" (Mickey mouse has four fingers, etc.)

    For computer animation and video games, audiences are especially critical of mistakes in the depiction of human characters (both appearance and movement), particularly if they attempt to be too "photorealistic". Remember how audiences reacted to the movie "Final Fantasy"? Making characters believable is not simply a function of realistic rendering, but depends deeply on the story and personalities. In the case of Final Fantasy, audiences were too distracted in noticing subtle rendering and animation flaws that they failed to suspend disbelief. If the rendering had been more stylized (like in Japanese anime), viewers may not have focused only on rendering flaws, but on the story and characters. This is what Pixar knows how to do very well, making movies about Toys, Bugs, Cars, etc.

    I love the Zelda series, and I love how Nintendo has consistently worked hard at developing storyline and characters, and bringing it all to life with a unique stylized rendering. I simply hope that the new Zelda will not be too "realistic" that players will be distracted by any small flaws in the appearance to appreciate the underlying story.

  • by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:53PM (#13492002)
    Remember how audiences reacted to the movie "Final Fantasy"?

    IIRC, everyone I remember talking to about it said "the graphics were great, but the plot and characters were shallow and undeveloped."
  • by nekoes ( 613370 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:54PM (#13492006) Journal
    There were plenty of things wrong with Wind Waker, but the graphics weren't one of them. They successfully conveyed the mechanics and story. If you're one of the people who didn't by Wind Waker solely because of the graphics, you're part of the problem. How can game makers focus on good gameplay when financially everybody makes graphics king?

    This is exactly how I feel. I originally was confused by the change in graphics, but understood that Cel shading had some potential after playing JSR for a bit. In the right hands, Cel Shaded games have the potential for an incredible amount of style. Nintendo didn't let me down - they made Wind Waker have one of the most animated worlds ever created for a video game. Often times while watching a roommate play it, I'd confuse it straight up for a cartoon. The animation in the game is just so fluid, and the visuals are dead on for the type of story they are used to convey.

    Every time I read or hear someone saying they didn't play Wind Waker because of the 'kiddie' Cel Shaded graphics, I want to slap them. What the hell is kiddie about it? Link is still in there, kicking ass, and looking better than he did in all the rest of the games up to it. Especially now after seeing the screen shots for the new games, I'm annoyed that they switched to a more realistic style.

    It seems whenever developers opt to make the game as realistic looking as possible, it ends up looking off and lifeless. Morrowind, Everquest 2, and other games come off as looking good in the screenshots, but seeing the game in motion really breaks the experience for me. The characters and backdrops seem dead and bleak. The Soul Calibur series has been the only one I've seen that doesn't seem to suffer this problem, probably since the character's motion plays such a huge part in the game.

    At least it is heartening to see that for Twilight Princess they are keeping some of the stylized aesthetics and tying it in with the dry looking realistic stuff. The trailers had some nice footage of a stylish looking wolf running through a black and white castle, controlled by a character that looked partially remeniscient of a Wind Waker character...

    Either way I guess it's good to know that at least it will play as good as any other game in the series, that is, it will be yet another Zelda game.
  • by PhoenixFlare ( 319467 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:58PM (#13492049) Journal
    It still puzzles me why Nintendo refuses to grow up. Since the Sega Genesis, they've been stuck in 'baby game' mode where you play as fruity little stuffed animal characters and use whistles instead of swords.

    In my experience, (this may or may not describe you personally as well) people protesting the loudest about Nintendo's 'baby games' tend to be the ones that equate "mature" to really mean "Full of extreme violence, blood, sex, and/or guns".

    Some of us aren't afraid of some bright colors and cuteness if it means there's a great game behind it, which Nintendo titles often are.

    The comments in the blog article from hardcore players, complaining about the graphics on the last title, bear this out. The world no longer consists of single platform living rooms, and Nintendo needs to face the facts.

    Maybe I missed something, but Wind Waker sold very well, was generally thought of as an excellent game, and many people loved the new graphical style.

    Comments from "hardcore players" and forum posters don't always reflect the opinions of the larger player base.

    Who cares about Nintendo anymore, seriously? Sure, they have a great handheld market...well except for the dismal sales of the DS and lack of titles. The GBA is still strong right?

    Where are you getting that the DS is doing dismally? Got any specific numbers to back that up?

    I've said it before and I'll say it again..Nintendo, it's time to grow up.

    Grow up? Yes, because the world really needs more of the avalanche of cookie-cutter "mature" titles that Sony and Microsoft have for their systems.

  • Re:Expectations (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rihjol ( 904281 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:03PM (#13492102)
    Exactly. There are a lot of games like Katamari Damacy, the Nippon Ichi tactical games, several RPGs, etc., which have dated graphics, but have been very successful because they are interesting or fun or whatever.

    But when you have a monumental franchise like Zelda, people have their own expectations what the game is going to be like. Meeting those is difficult no matter how you approach it.
  • by jkuff ( 170923 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:06PM (#13492135) Homepage
    IIRC, everyone I remember talking to about it said "the graphics were great, but the plot and characters were shallow and undeveloped."

    Yes. The filmmakers spent too much time trying to make a photorealistic film that the story and character development was neglected. And in the end, the audience was unfortunately too busy noticing the realistic light reflections on a character's helmet to pay attention to the storyline anyway...

  • Re:False dichotomy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SlayerofGods ( 682938 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:10PM (#13492162)
    He actually didn't.
    He really just purposely misinterpret what the writer was trying to say.
    It's pretty clear that by style the writer was referring to stylized graphics of the game.

    Of course a better word might have been chosen, but the fact remains that the writers meaning was clear.
  • by bussdriver ( 620565 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:19PM (#13492262)
    Nobody has real looking graphics! I've heard this whole real vs toon thing since the SNES--- and anything "realistic" from back then is a joke today.
    "realistic" graphics are for shallow people without imagination or those who have some serious insecurity issues (americans are brought up with major insecurities so they consume more.)

    I suppose next they will want nintendo to add voice overs to the game because its more realistic than learning to read.

    I just hope the new Zelda at least is on par with Windwaker gamewise. They probably need the extra time to make it into a real nintendo game---not to tweak the graphics.
    Windwaker had MORE emotions come out from a game than I've ever seen. Studies show that toons do a better job at this, so I don't see how they will be able to top windwaker on that.
  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:21PM (#13492291) Homepage Journal
    Why go for Realism at all cost. This week I have had more than enough realism.
  • by forkazoo ( 138186 ) <> on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:23PM (#13492306) Homepage
    Personally I'm 38, my kids were 11 when they played Windwaker, and I loved the emotive cartoon style. We haven't seen games that more gracefully bring across emotional reactions by the characters.

    every person over the age of 25 that I've heard comment on the cell shading has been supportive of it. The only people complaining about the style not being sufficiently grown-up are 14 year old morons who have no sense of how not to bitch about things, and no idea of what adult actually means. They want the blood and guts style in an effort to seem macho. they have no concept of game development, art, or the technology. they just know that having a game with a lot of blood will impress their 14 year old friends.

    Nintendo should release a cell shaded game where the main character is a persecuted homosexual who has to solve puzzles which refer to classical literature in order to avoid being lynched and attacked by a suspicious homophobic public. The goal is to be able to adopt a child in Missouri. Then, we can see what style is more grown up.
  • Nintendo "lost" in the last round? Sure, they were far from market dominance, but the way I remember it they were the ones who were making all the money while MS and Sony were losing money or making minimal profit. Nintendo has their niche market and makes the money. I think Nintendo wins.

    I just want to know how you think Nintendo's games aren't fun and innovative, but Microsoft's and Sony's are.
  • by greyjoy ( 912923 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:26PM (#13492342)
    Similarly, the gender expectations that are so rigid in mainstream America are not as clearly defined in Japanese culture. Japanese gamers are less concerned with appearing "masculine," at least in the American sense of reveling in games that flex their graphical muscle. The comments of U. S. gamers, especially those participating in forums, are influenced by the need to protect a certain macho image, one in favor of "grownup" realism instead of "childish" stylization.
    Come on. American gamers prefer realistic graphics to grotesquely caricatures, and she blames it on the male ego? I grew up watching Batman: The Animated Series. It's not realistic -- if anything, Miller's film noir styles intentionally distorted dimensions and lighting -- but it's among the most brilliant cartoons I've ever had the privilege to watch. Pokemon, less so. It's not (just) the difference between the IQs each cartoon markets to, it's simply smoother, better graphics which look as though they took more than five minutes of effort and three years of age to create. If you'd rather do an apples-to-apples comparison, try Pokemon vs. Yu-Gi-Oh. The richer colors and more talented voices of the latter interest me more than the choppy five-frames-per-show style of Pokemon. I prefer Batman to both, but that's simply because it's a far more intelligent and mature cartoon, just as this coming Twilight Princess may be superior to Wind Waker. Also, it's not as though Americans are opposed to unrealistic games. Grim Fandango is quite possibly the best game I've ever played, and its main character is an Aztec-styled skeleton in a suit. Is my love for this game based on my comfort with my masculinity, or with the quality graphics LucasArts employed to make it a beautiful, brilliant, mature world? I'm a feminist myself, but blaming taste and maturity on male insecurity is ridiculous.
  • by lidocaineus ( 661282 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:29PM (#13492373)
    I've never understood people like you. So the game is fun and has spot on control, but you can't enjoy the game because you're hanging on to some weird voice telling you that because it's got "kiddy' graphics it's for kids? WHO CARES as ong as IT'S FUN? Do the graphics insult you in some way? Do people come over while you are playing a single player game in the privacy of your own home and point and laugh at you calling you a wimpy two year old girl when you pop the disc in?

  • by Manchot ( 847225 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:34PM (#13492443)
    What I found most interesting about the Wind Waker is that despite its appearance, it seemed to have the darkest plot of any Zelda game. (Stop reading now if you don't want any plot details spoiled.) Essentially, it takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where Hyrule has been completely forgotten, buried (though preserved) in a massive flood. At the end of the game, it is completely destroyed, and Links sticks a sword into Ganon's forehead.
  • by Omkar ( 618823 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:46PM (#13492583) Homepage Journal
    Did you even play beyond Outset Island? The game's style gets much more epic as it goes along, culminating in an absolutely fabulous final battle against Gannondorf. Link and Zelda fight for their lives and the future while old Hyrule dies around them... But apparently that's not epic.

    And for people who complain the game was too easy, give me a break. Yes, it was easy. On the other hand, so was every other Zelda game. If you want a really difficuly challenge, you don't play Zelda. Just because something's not really that hard doesn't mean it isn't amazingly fun.
  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:46PM (#13492584) Journal
    Related to style, but doesn't quite apply:

    "Over the history of animated films, there has developed the concept of "suspension of disbelief" " (emphasis mine)

    Willing suspension of disbelief is not specific to animated films, nor did it develop along with them. Willing suspension of disbelief has been around as long as literature has been; for example, Aesop's fables require it for true understanding.

    The trick with both realistic graphics and fantastical graphics is to not interrupt the flow. Inconsistencies will disrupt the suspension of disbelief -- but the disbelief has more to do with content than with style.

    We choose to accept that Mario can leap five times his height, regardless of graphics style.
  • by thesandtiger ( 819476 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @04:13PM (#13492886)
    I play many different games, and one of the main things that bugs me about games today is that, in essence, they all look alike.

    Why? Because the development houses are going for a "realistic" looking game. Oh, sure - the atmosphere in a Half-Life 2 is different from a Halo is different from Doom 3 - but the fact remains that they are trying to make things look like they "really would" if you were in any of those situations.

    A rare-ish exception is World of Warcraft. I *like* that it doesn't look real. I *like* that the fantasy world looks, more or less, like a dream. I enjoyed XIII as much for the game as for the aesthetic, and I enjoyed Wind Walkers unreal style as well.

    In my opinion, "realistic" graphics often wind up wrecking the concept of suspension of disbelief for me: Doom3 had "realistic" graphics, but the whole damn point of the game was that it was a nightmare scenario - in the "real" world, the undead don't walk around trying to eat you (except in Congress) - so for me, the realism really made it hard to immerse myself in the story. World of Warcraft, however - when I'm there, *anything* can happen exactly because the world doesn't look like the one I am familiar with, and therefore there's no expectation that gets violated when I see something strange.

    Personally, I have one hope for games, and that be that eventually the rendering engine come with controls that let the user change the render option. Want Cel shading? Go for it! Want it to look like water colors? Stained glass? Real? Tweak your settings and change it on the fly.

    Real is good for some things - sports games, I suppose - but when you're trying to sink into a world that is as unreal as it gets, I think it hurts.
  • by Pxtl ( 151020 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @05:11PM (#13493492) Homepage
    Screw realism. I've already got all the reality I can handle. On a game console you've got the power to make any reality you like - why slave away making a pantomine of this one?

    The same thing cheeses me off in FPS games - how players want sniper rifles and nazis and waiting for the next round to restart because respawning is unrealistic... this perspective limits things so damn much. Reality and history has a much shorter list of gameplay and artistic possibilities than your imagination.

    I loved the cel-shaded games the moment I saw them. Dreamcast had a laundry-list of awesome titles with cartoon shader graphics.

    The problem is that the US game market is full of early teens. These kids are quite possibly the worst possible target market - look at the wasteland of the movie and music industries that cater to them. In games, they're obsessed with things being adult and serious and dramatic, because they're so desperate not to look like kids. In the end, it's a reflection of their music - the games are as emo as they are. Everything has to have an end-of-the-world plotline and serious, dramatic graphics and real-world weaponry.

    By the time you realise that what really rocks are games that are fun and unique, you're too old to have the time on your hands to kill playing them.

    Which is the more adult person? The one who plays KillZone? Or the one who plays Chu Chu Rocket unabashedly because it's FUN.
  • by Verteiron ( 224042 ) * on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @05:40PM (#13493774) Homepage
    I find that a lot of people who hated the toon-shading made their decisions before they actually saw the GAME. Hell, I was guilty of that myself. The screenshots didn't impress me, but the first time I saw the game actually on display at Video Games Etc I was completely blown away. The animation was the smoothest-looking I think I've ever seen, the characters' motions looked real and solid, everything had -weight- to it. Everywhere I looked in the game, details, details, details! Look at a star through your telescope.. it's actually twinkling. Moths dance around the torches. Link's facial expressions are used well, especially the way his eyes will give you hints about something nearby that you need. I'm looking forward to the new "realistic" Zelda game as well, but I sure hope they haven't lost the feel and movement of Windwaker.
  • by staeiou ( 839695 ) <> on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @05:47PM (#13493844) Homepage
    You may be right, but here is the thing: image is everything. Millions of 11-30 year olds still base their gaming decisions on what either the latest magazines and review sites say, or copy their "cool" friends attitudes. You don't want to be the company who makes the "childish" games, even if they are the most entertaining. Even if a game is fun, it being "childish" will get in the way of their ego. Irrational? Yes.

    So who cares? Nintendo, and everyone else selling stuff to teens should care. If they are fueling millions of dollars into a game, only to have it be rejected (even if it is a stupid, baseless rejection) by the male, adolescent gamers, it affects them. They either need to put out advertizing that convinces people it isn't childish, or make it seem less childish.

    And it hurts the entire console. Games like WindWalker and Mario Sunshine made people think the entire Gamecube was for children only, which seriously hurt sales. If you are a developer, you don't want to be known as the children's platform - there is no way to go but down from there.
  • by Brundylop ( 886427 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @06:38PM (#13494324)
    It's nothing the gaming industry can do. All of the hooplah over video game stems from shitty parenting.

    Hell, when I was a kid, my parents didn't want me playing Mortal Kombat II because they didn't think the fatalities were suitable for people my age. So what did they do? They sat down and talked to me. They started explaining about violence, that video games weren't real, that the best way to solve problems was throught talking, blah blah blah.

    They didn't start complaining to the media/government, they did their jobs as parents. That's not what I'm seeing a lot of today. While I'm sure there are still good parents out there, there seems to be too many parents who want companies to do their job for them.
  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @07:09PM (#13494613) Homepage
    Does Metroid Prime count? What about Eternal Darkness? I see your point, but does it matter if those more mature games come from 1st party teams working closely with Nintendo, rather than an internal dev team in Nintendo itself?

    I just don't think "mature games" are the kinds of games Shigeru Miyamoto wants to make, and frankly I'm not about to tell that man what he should do.
  • by Kintar1900 ( 901219 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @10:13AM (#13499355) Homepage

    ...that the people who tout realism tend to talk about explosions, bullet impacts and sound like psycopathic gun-nuts, and the people who tout Nintendo's "charm" and the unrealistic graphics tend to sound like overprotective parents of three-year-olds who would blanch if someone said "poo"?

    Maybe the fact is that our culture, our personal biases, and our views about what the world is or should be are a large part of what determines if we enjoy a given game's presentation. Wind Waker took a threat to the lives of everyone in the world and scaled it down to a stylized, sanitized level of violence that could be applied to pre-teens. The people who want their children to be playing games without body parts flying everywhere loved it. The people who want to play games where they can make body parts fly everywhere didn't.

    Granted, there are middle views to those two extremes, and my argument is deliberately over-simplified...but I still think it's a valid point. I'll go put on my asbestos underwear now. :)

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller