Gameplay or graphics--which one one of these characteristics is more important to create a successful video game? It seems like this debate has gone on for as long as video gaming has been around. One side claims that good gameplay is the most important aspect of gaming and the other believes that it is the advancement of technology and graphical quality that needs to be more emphasized.
Many times, however, good quality graphics aren't important to create a successful video game. The following is a rundown of video games that have great gameplay, but hideous graphics.
5. Katamari Damacy (PS2, Released March 2004)
In a industry where game developers often copy successful franchises in order to make an easy dollar, it's refreshing to see a quirky and innovative game such as Katamari Damacy. The game involves a diminutive prince on a mission to rebuild the stars. He does this by rolling around a really adhesive ball, picking up increasingly larger objects ranging from paperclips to entire buildings. Due to the sheer amount of chaos going on all at once, the quality of the graphics had to be sacrificed. Everything in the world is blocky, from the people to the trees. However, the ugly graphics somehow add to the game's charm, making it even more memorable than it already is.
4. Dragon Quest VII
(PS1, Released August 2000)
The graphics of Dragon Quest VII are simple and charming. This is fine, but it doesn't take away from the fact the game looks like an ugly SNES game released late into the PlayStation's life cycle. Considering that games like Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy VII presented revolutionary graphics (at the time) on the PS1 and were released two and three years pior, the pixelated graphics seem like a step backwards. But that's what the Dragon Quest series is all about--great narrative, memorable characters and outdated graphics.
3. Dragon Age: Origins (XBOX 360, PS3 / Released November 2009)
Dragon Age: Origins is a great game with an interesting hook. Players are able to choose between a male or female of a variety of races at the beginning of the game, which will ultimately affect the story along with the actions that he/she makes. There aren't too many games available with a narrative that branches as much as Dragon Age: Origins.
Unfortunately, the graphics are slightly less than ugly. At times, it even looks uncomfortable to look at. The textures on the costumes, for example, are flat and pixelated, giving the appearance that everyone is wearing t-shirts with armor graphics on them. The stiff animations and character models make all of the characters appear to be more like puppets than people. To top it off, the blood that is left on the player after a fight looks like he/she was involved in a food fight rather than a battle.
2. Body Harvest (N64, Released October 1998)
The most outstanding characteristic of Body Harvest is its great gameplay. Players are able to commandeer up to 60 vehicles, jumping in and out of them at any time. Sounds a bit like Grand Theft Auto, right? That's because it was developed by DMA Design, which was later renamed Rockstar North. The combination of action, mystery, RPG, puzzle, and strategy molds Body Harvest into one heck of a game.
The crappy graphics, unfortunately, caused many people to overlook this gem of a game. The textures are bland, there are clipping issues, and the world is covered in fog. This is a great game to spark arguments between graphic-mongers and gameplay lovers.
1. Xenogears (PS1, Released February 1998)
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Even to this very day, there aren't too many RPGs with a narrative and fictional universe that are as grand in scale as the ones in Square's Xenogears. Influenced by the ideas of Freud, Jung and Nietzsche, the story in Xenogears covers religious and existential themes that aren't too common in video gaming. It may be preachy and not make a whole lot of sense at times, but the narrative along with the beautifully composed music create an immersive experience unlike any other game available.
Unfortunately, the game's graphics are anything but pretty. All of the characters are two-dimensional sprites in a three-dimensional world. This works well in most games, but Xenogears uses a dynamic camera that often zooms up uncomfortably close to these sprites, making them look like a blocky mess. The style looked outdated even during the game's release, and the game was even rumored to have started off as a SNES game before making the transition to the Playstation.