Video game visuals in the last couple generations have become a sort of arms race by different developers to make the most realistic-looking-but-not-real thing. It all looks so similar that the visuals of most games aren’t worth talking about.I can’t say that stuff is lazy or uncreative. It’s hard work. Games like Battlefield and Gears of War are gorgeous and full of rich detail.
What they lack is vision.
I love games like El Shaddai, Ico, Rez; games that are daring enough to imagine a gorgeous new world and developers brave and talented enough to make them work.
El Shaddai’s director, Sawaki Takeyasu, had intended to make the game look like a painting while still looking lively. The side scrolling levels make me think of Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints. The thick lines and bright pastels show strong influence from those prints and remind us of some of Takeyasu’s previous work, Okami, though it never feels derivative.
The art standard to the third-person gameplay, on the other hand, glows. Literally, everything glows. It’s gorgeous. The world has an ethereal look to it. It looks like everything I could imagine a battle of angels would look like. It isn’t always bright, exactly, but it always glows.
When I walk into my local comic-shop, the owner knows I’m looking for art that’ll roast my eyes. And also Batman, but mostly the art thing. I don’t buy a whole lot of comics, and if I was the same way about games, I’d probably spend a lot less money. But El Shaddai would still be in the stack.