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While the word anime is officially just a Japanese term referring to any animated TV show or movie, in the United States and elsewhere, it has come to represent the unique style typical of artists from the Land of the Rising Sun. Anime has become a cultural phenomenon throughout North America, with countless Japanese cartoons and comics finding their way overseas, not to mention video games based on these various works of film and literature. Here are some of the best anime video games on the market, listed in no particular order.
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Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution
The Naruto television series, currently aired by Cartoon Network, is one of the most popular currently running anime series here in America. The show features the adventures of a hyperactive trainee ninja, named Naruto, who wound up attending martial arts academy after having a demon sealed within him as a small child. Naruto has spawned several games of varying quality, with the Clash of Ninja Revolution series for Nintendo Wii standing out as the best. Several critics have dubbed these Naruto one-on-one fighting games as the best offerings in the genre for Nintendo's current generation system, and they're right. It offers gamers the choice to play using the Wiimote and Nunchuck or the GameCube controller, and that level of customization is part of the attraction. Anyone who's a fan of the show and/or a fan of fighting games should definitely check this one out.
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Dragon Ball Z: Budokai
Also a one-on-one fighter, Budokai is set in the Dragon Ball Z universe. Dragon Ball (and its eventual successor, DBZ) was a manga (Japanese comic novel) and anime series created by Akira Toriyama, the man also responsible for the character designs in the Dragon Quest series and Chrono Trigger. Loosely based on the Saiyuki legend, Dragon Ball Z followed the adventures of an alien weremonkey, his friends and eventually his children and grandchildren as they fight evil across the universe. The series was notable for Toriyama's artwork and for the impressively choreographed fight scenes, and those both translate nicely into the impressive Budokai series of games. The most noteworthy features in this series -- especially in later installments -- are the detailed story modes, the impressive character-specific special attacks and the immense number of different playable fighters. Like Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution, the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai games are quality anime brawlers.
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While the first two entries on this list where games that were inspired by existing anime series, our next game series was planned simultaneously as both a PlayStation 2 video game series and a television series. The project we're referring to was called .hack and both the games and the TV program were set inside of a futuristic MMORPG. However the PS2 titles, of which there were four, were single-player action RPGs in which players assumed the role of Kite as he and his companions investigated to find the cause of a mysterious in-game event that would leave real-world players in a coma. In addition to an innovative concept, this underrated roleplaying game series also featured fun combat and addictive exploration of various levels. Since the release of the original games, .hack has expanded to include a sequel trilogy as well as manga books and more. Still, it is the original quartet of games, subtitled Infection, Mutation, Outbreak and Quarantine, that truly stand out.
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Ghost in the Shell
The Ghost in the Shell series of movies and TV shows has spawned three different games, including a 3D action shooter for the original Sony PlayStation. More recently, however, a third-person Ghost in the Shell game was created by Cavia (developers of the Drakengard series) in 2004 and was based on the Stand Alone Complex series. Available for both the PlayStation 2 and the PSP, this title featured both single and multiplayer modes of play and allowed gamers to assume the role of main characters "Major" Motoko Kusanagi, Batou, and Tachikoma. In addition to being able to blast your enemies with a variety of weapons and slick special moves, gamers can even hack into their enemies and use them to help overcome obstacles and accomplish a variety of goals. Single player mode is unfortunately short, but the game should be relatively inexpensive at this point, and is highly recommended for fans of anime as well as games like Metal Gear Solid or Mercenaries.
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Yu Yu Hakusho: Tournament Tactics
Closing out our list of the best anime video games of all time is one that was critically panned, but is one that I personally enjoyed very much, and that is Yu Yu Hakusho: Tournament Tactics for the Game Boy Advance. This strategy RPG, which is playable on the Nintendo DS and the DS Lite, was released by Atari in November 2004. It is a pretty standard tactics game, as players guide the main characters of the popular Yu Yu Hakusho television series through a series of battles in something known as the Dark Tournament. While fans of the show will probably enjoy the story, personally I found the true highlight of the game to be the strategic battles, which are admittedly on the easy side. It wasn't as epic as something like Final Fantasy Tactics or as deep as Disgaea, but Tournament Tactics was a thoroughly enjoyable roleplaying game from start to finish.