Recreating Gameplay Elements in Anime Adaptions


Long ago, manga was the only main source for anime adaptions, but as of now, there are dozens of source materials that anime can adapt from – ranging from manga, light novels, visual novels, games and so on. Additionally, there are even originally produced anime. Of all of these though, the ones I have the least preference of is anime adapted from games. There are a lot of obvious problems of such adaptions – rushed pacing, lack of characterizations, time restrictions, and the list goes on. However, today we will look at a certain element of such game-based anime – gameplay elements in anime.

Although due to the very wide array of media, and their recent developments, the very basic nature of their purposes get lost in the process. However, at their very core, we watch an anime to see a story unfolds, while we play a game for gaming, entertainment and eye-coordination. In this case though, gaming itself had underwent huge changes along the way, so attempting an adaption of them gets trickier. Even so, I personally think anime producers should consider about this particular aspect of game-based anime more.


Have any of you watched the currently airing Dangan Ronpa? I feel that it was produced in an awkward manner.. or perhaps lazy is the more correct term? From what I can see, the presentation of the scenes and visuals don’t seem any different from the original PSP game, no, in fact, it horridly looks copy-pasted. There are a lot of visual cues and gameplay mechanics that I feel completely unnecessary to be included into the anime adaption – for example, the visual pop-ups after finding evidences, the “ammunition”, the choices, the flashing anagrams, and even the M.T.B. (probably the players will be more familiar with these terms). On the game, such interface is fabulous but it just doesn’t feel the same in anime format. Even the execution scenes were straight out extracted from the game itself.


Taking a little trip back in time, we will have a look at Persona 4: The Animation. The anime remains one of the more satisfying game-based anime in my opinion. In this case, the adaptions of the gameplay elements actually works. The screen showing the changes in date gives direct information of the day progression and more importantly, the weather conditions – a very crucial plot element in Persona 4. Another thing that is actually shown in the anime, is the main character’s ever-changing parameters. The main character, or Yu in the anime, is a reserved and stoic individual. If you had played the Persona games, you will notice that ALL the Persona main characters are the silent protagonists-type. The parameters at their blank state in the beginning shows that Yu is still a greenhorn, in regards to his social life or when dealing with the Shadows. As the plot and his characterization progresses, so does his parameters – showing character developments, thus gradually discarding his silent self.


When you’re playing a game, you are the player, you will be the one controlling how you should go about and how the events should proceed. Such gameplay integrations in an anime feels incredibly awkward instead – when a menu suddenly pops up in an anime showing something had happened, it’s like another event occurred without your knowledge. It feels as if “someone” else is playing the game, instigating the events without your permission. It’s as if you’re the third person, watching a game played by someone else.


However, as evidenced by Persona 4, adapting aspects of gameplay mechanics will work. Persona 4: The Animation was able to blend the gameplay elements into the context impeccably. I wouldn’t say copying the gaming elements into anime adaptions is wrong, but blasting away those copy-pasted visuals all over the place aren’t exactly right either. The ratio usage, balance, context, variation – I feel that a lot of consideration is needed when adapting gaming elements into anime – a consideration that I hope producers will take into account more.

This entry was posted by Kai.

18 thoughts on “Recreating Gameplay Elements in Anime Adaptions

  1. Ah, same. I thought P4 was able to integrate the game elements very well. I think it added to the sense of style that the anime was going for, and the gameplay elements didn’t feel like obvious visual gimmickry in the first place, which helps. Besides the status bar appearing as the mid-episode eyecatch, P4 didn’t utilise the parts of the game that could only have worked in the original context. I think P4 was let down by other game-y aspects, however, like the pacing. Given the amount of episodes it had to work with and the immense size of the game, I doubt that could have been avoided, though.

    • And if you compare to the battles of the anime and the game, there’s a difference, which is pretty refreshing. And indeed, the style of battles the game had going for probably only worked for gaming. In regards to the battles, the anime’s slight shift in direction is a good one. Pacing had always been one of the bigger and most common issues when adapting from heavy-content media like games, visual novels and even light novels indeed. Not sure how that would had avoided but in comparison to some others, I would say P4’s pacing was already satisfactory.

  2. While I haven’t seen it (or any of your examples, unfortunately), i’m intrigued by Sword Art Online’s portrayal of normal MMO user interfaces. It’s interesting that an anime that isn’t based off any particular game would go so far as to include elements from the game type it is focused on (I mean, the .Hack anime is also set in an MMO but doesn’t really have any MMO features).

    • But you had played the games for both Dangan Ronpa and Persona 4 right? Long story short, if you watched Persona 4, it actually feels like a genuine anime but if you watched Dangan Ronpa, it feels like you’re “watching a game” instead, not really a lot of differences then playing the game.

      MMO, and especially MMORPG has a pretty general interface, so it was indeed fun to see how anime like Hack and Sword Art Online doing a decontruction of those systems^^

  3. I have watched quite a good amount of video game adaptations and it’s pretty understandable that the adaptation won’t be the same exact experience, especially if it involves battles. Heck, a good example of adapting gameplay elements differently is Pokemon as Ash is able to make his Pokemon do various types of moves while in the game, you can only choose 4 moves and thats it. But aside from that, the nature of video games are dynamic, which makes it difficult for companies to cram it into a set amount of episodes without cutting some stuff.

    • Hmm, indeed. The game I assume, was going for a bit more difficulty by limiting the skills. No matter how you think about it, in anime, just having Pokemon only blasting out 4 moves during the whole course of the show is a bit cringeworthy too ^^” So that change is acceptable. Unlike anime, manga and light novels, because games aren’t just about story but about “games” too, how the anime adapt the later part is more or less a hit-or-miss. Then, there’s also how anime adapt visual novels, especially one with multiple routes and some other unique structures, but more on that on another time I guess.

  4. Honestly, most of the anime adapted from games, very few I have actually played. Neptunia is the only oe right now, and I consider it to be the best adaptation I’ve seen in ages. Then again, Neptunia isn’t exactly revolutionary. Oh well, why should it be?

    Anyhoo, hopefully future “game shows” will work harder to properly adapt stuff rather than “copy-;paste”.

    • Speaking of Neptunia, that’s another I’m considering. I haven’t play the game (I know, I should), but is it good for non-followers of the game to watch the anime?

      • It took me a year to reply to this question but I assume you played the games and watched the anime by now and drew your own conclusions. I still say Neptunia TV is one of the better game-anime adaptations because the franchise feels like an anime series that was turned into a video game series. Again my apologies for not replying then.

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