By Josh Speer / January 25th, 2017
2013: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
2014: Shovel Knight
I always find the “Best Design” award to be a somewhat contentious category. Even last year, the obvious winners didn’t take the gold, instead, games like Yoshi’s Woolly World, Splatoon, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse and Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water were usurped by Bloodborne. This year, we also have quite an eclectic mix of games, ranging from sexy anime to the “Neptastic” to brooding dramas to over the top fighting games. Art is always very personal, but each of our 5 nominees is beautifully rendered and lovingly crafted. Without further ado, here are our “Best Design” nominees.
Dark Souls III
NA Release Date: April 12, 2016
Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Speaking of Bloodborne, our first nominee is definitely in the same vein, with hideous monstrosities, sweeping vistas, crumbling derelict architecture and almost balletic violence. The Dark Souls series has always been equal parts beauty and horror, and the unique artistic style certainly helps convey this, with a palette of contrasting darks, lights and eerie luminescent hues. It’s certainly no surprise that Dark Souls III made the cut, but the question is, will it take the gold, much like Bloodborne did last year?
Final Fantasy XV
NA Release Date: November 29, 2016
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One
The next contender is the latest in the long-running classic RPG series, Final Fantasy XV. No matter what generation, Final Fantasy has always had a tremendous focus on one unifying art design. While that started out as simple yet beautiful pixelated art and lush hand-drawn images, the later entries have adopted a cutesy Japanese pop culture aesthetic that is both focused on and totally divorced from realism. This is readily apparent in Final Fantasy XV, which is both charmingly Japanese while still paying homage to the roots of the series. Regardless of what you think of how the series has progressed, you can’t deny it’s always been visually stunning.
Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator-
NA Release Date: June 7, 2016
Platform(s): PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Steam
Finally, a nominee that isn’t obsessed with realism! The Guilty Gear series has always been a great representation of lush, intricately detailed 2D art, and Guilty Gear -Xrd Revelator- is no exception. In many ways, it also represents what I love most about Japanese games – that crazy mix of inspiration and excess that is so wonderful to behold. Perhaps best of all, Guilty Gear is always immediately recognizable, despite each game having new characters and themes represented. It would be a shame if Xrd Revelator didn’t take the gold this year.
Megadimension Neptunia V-II
NA Release Date: February 2nd, 2016
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Steam
It might be somewhat surprising that Megadimension Neptunia V-II made the cut since we usually nominate that series more for character awards. However, the Neptunia series is unique in its aesthetic. It embraces both the cartoony cut scenes, littered with in-jokes and snappy dialogue, as well as the overly dramatic, super cool battles when the goddesses go all out. It’s not super realistic, but somewhere in between that and utterly silly. Which is great, since this discrepancy is part of what makes the Neptunia series so utterly unique. I also appreciate the bold and varied color palette used in Megadimension Neptunia V-II, and the great designs of our lovely ladies doesn’t hurt any. While it may not be as immediately eye-catching or technically impressive as some of the other nominees, Megadimension certainly holds its own against some tough competition.
NA Release Date: July 14, 2016
Platform(s): PC, Steam
While it was a little surprising to me that Megadimension made the cut, it is even more surprising to me that Muv-Luv made it. Which isn’t to say that it’s an ugly looking game, just that the artistic style is somewhat dated. Again, not ugly, but it immediately brings up comparisons to the Yu-Gi-Oh series or other classic anime from the past decade or two. But that all makes sense, since we got Muv-Luv a good deal later than Japan did, and they didn’t do much to update any of the art. That said, Muv-Luv is well animated and does a good job of showcasing the many lovely ladies you’ll meet throughout. It even does a good job of transitioning between the relatively normal events of Extra into the extreme sci-fi style of Unlimited. Really, it’s hard to be offended by anything that has pretty women and crazy technology, so I guess I can give Muv-Luv a pass. The question is, how did it fare against such stark competition?
AND THE WINNER IS…
Turns out, the distribution of voting was once again a bit unexpected. Final Fantasy XV managed to tie with Megadimension Neptunia V-II for 4th place. Dark Souls III didn’t fare as well as Bloodborne, only making its way to 3rd place. And to my great surprise, Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator only took second. Which can only mean that none other than Muv-Luv took the glorious golden crown! You will recall that I said things often take unexpected turns in this category, right? But nevertheless, you have to give Muv-Luv credit. It’s not easy for something from 2003 to beat a bunch of other much more recent nominees. Here’s hoping we keep things unexpected in our Best Design awards for next year!
2016 awardsBest DesignDark Souls IIIFinal Fantasy XVGuilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR-Megadimension Neptunia VIImuv-luvOpRainfall Awards