Over The Weekend, We Were Also Able To Interview The Legendary Voice Actor, Richard Epcar!
Check It Out Here!
Anime NYC Is Also A Premiere Gaming Convention
Following the cancellation of Anime NYC 2020 due to the pandemic, Anime NYC returned to the Jacob Javits Center for the weekend of November 19th. As one of the major returns to the convention scene, the weekend had its highs and lows yet progressively got better as the weekend went on. Despite its rough start, the spirit of "nerd culture" beats alive and well in New York. Being based in New York ourselves, it was an amazing vibe to experience. Despite the name, Anime NYC has always been a convention that gave just as much love to gaming as it did with anime. In more ways than one, gaming and anime go hand-in-hand.
Arguably one of the largest games released in the past year is Genshin Impact, with MiHoYo's booth celebrating HoloFest all weekend. Surrounding the MiHoYo booth were several mobile, card, and board games based on anime such as Cowboy Bebop. One such game, Tanto Cuore, has been around for almost a decade that's centered around maids. While the mobage market thrives, what is there to say about console games and anime?
Earlier we looked at the Demon Slayer fighting game, The Hinokami Chronicles, ushering in the return of anime fighting games. It's amazing to think that at one point during the 2010s this was commonplace. Various anime IPs including Jojo's Bizzare Adventure, Kill La Kill, and Naruto all had at least one fighting game in their repertoire. 2019's Jump Force may have been the culmination of anime fighting games, featuring iconic characters from various series in one game.
Arc System Works Was One Of The Anime Gaming Originators
Very few developers have captured an original IP that combined the impressive visuals and aesthetics of anime with the white-knuckle adrenaline that this genre of games provides. Arc System Works has been one of the major pioneers of combining anime and fighting games beginning with 1998's Guilty Gear. Arc Sys's "anime style" wouldn't begin to flourish until 2009's BlazBlue, being one of the first fighting games to have an art style that was completely hand-drawn as opposed to classic sprite work.
Arc Sys's iconic style would see the fruits of its labor come full force with 2021's Guilty Gear Strive, a game that we have covered in great detail. One of the major details about Arc Sys games from BlazBlue to Guilty Gear is its importance of story. In the terms of the latter, BlazBlue has seen anime specials on occasion. While Guilty Gear has yet to have the anime experience, its characters, art, story, personality, and actors are highly familiar. Strive was successful in bringing two different fandoms together in one package, as evident by the number of cosplays I've seen over the weekend.
On Friday, there was a Guilty Gear Strive panel featuring some ArcSys staff as well as the voice actors of Axl Low and I-NO, Alexander Gross, and Amber Lee Connors respectively. These two have a rather interesting dynamic not just in the characters they voice as a canon couple in-game, but also in their backgrounds.
Gaming's Biggest Fans Happens To Be The Voices Behind Them
With Connors, she has been actively voicing anime and games for over a decade. Her voice can be heard in several games we've recently covered ranging from Anna Conda in Huntdown and Guillotine from Mary Skelter Finale. Coupled with I-NO, Connors fits the sadistic confident femme fatale character to the letter and it was brought front and center in the Strive panel. Connors knew her audience and had them eating out of her hand through inflection and capturing the attitude of I-NO in person. I-NO was a role she was made for and being a fan of the game alongside the character was just a bonus.
Gross, better known through his Gamertag as Octopimp, is a similar case to Connors as a fellow Voice Actor yet he represents a different spectrum. While an amazing voice actor in his own right, Octo represents the gaming superfan who uses his passion to complete his character. Prior to voicing Axl Low in Strive, Octo was already an active Guilty Gear fan and player. He was so much of a fan of his own character that his lines felt more nuanced, bringing Axl Low to life in his own way.
The rest of the Guilty Gear Strive panel was information that fans may have already known prior to the panel. These include the reveal of Happy Chaos and the announcement of the Online ArcRevo tournaments. The stars of the panel, Amber and Alex, served to show what was evident amongst the two fandoms. Anime fans are not far from gaming fans, with the number of games having an anime adaptation and vice versa. The number of gaming cosplays featured throughout the review is testament to this, but like all anime-themed cons, there was a designated gamer room.
Anime NYC's Game Room Is Also A Trip Through Gaming's History
The companies who were in charge of the game room were Psychic Drive's arcade cabinets and Defend The North's console set-ups. In terms of the latter, the effects of the pandemic also affected offline tournaments as DTN is considered New York's annual regional tournament. As such, the organization held several tournaments within the convention, bringing in members of the FGC along for the festivities. What's cool about this was that Alexander Gross, fully in his Octopimp mode, entered a Guilty Gear Strive tournament and won.
Whether or not Gross was the first-ever VA to enter a tournament on the same weekend they were invited as a panelist and won remains a mystery. For the sake of coverage, we will indeed crown Alexander "Octopimp" Gross as the first ever to do such a thing and offer tremendous amounts of congratulations.
The arcade cabinets available to play were too many to name, although there was a healthy amount of rhythm, fighting, and miscellaneous genres of games. The staples for conventions such as these, including Dance Dance Revolution Extreme, Sound Voltex Vivid Wave, Jubeat, and Chuunithym were all present. I would have loved to play my first love Beatmania IIDX, but to play such Japanese rhythm game classics, both modern and past, for free was more than enough.
Any relevant fighting game released in the past two decades was present on convenient candy cabs. These included, but were certainly not limited to, Melty Blood Actress Again, Marvel vs Capcom 2, Street Fighter 3: Third Strike, Street Fighter EX2, Windjammers, and Mr. Driller 2. The latter two aren't fighting games but who cares, they are fun and more people should play Mr. Driller anyway, so I'm glad Psychic Drive remembered us fans exist.
F-Zero AX Reminds Us What Was Taken From Us
Perhaps the coolest arcade machine they had was a sit-down F-Zero arcade racing cabinet. It's almost a crime on Nintendo that Gamecube's F-Zero GX was the last console F-Zero game to ever be released. Back in 2003. 18 years ago. Anyways, that same year an arcade version of GX was ported to the Triforce arcade board in conjunction with Sega and Namco.
F-Zero AX was one of the two games released on the board, with Mario Kart Arcade GP, the one with the Pac-Man characters, being the second game. In the past, there was connectivity between the GX and AX games, meaning players who had access to the arcade version, as well as the Gamecube version at home, could transfer and obtain exclusive data.
The likelihood of players having the hardware at home in 2021 compared to 2003 is incredibly slim, making F-Zero AX a novelty yet one that is an absolute blast to play. Again, it makes me sad that Nintendo had done nothing with the IP. All hope isn't entirely lost as the developers of F-Zero GX would go on to become RGG Studio. Maybe they can be a third-party developer to work on a new F-Zero considering Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania's success?
The Lines Between Gaming And Anime Are Blurred; We Coexist
As one of the first major cons to make a return following a yearlong break, Anime NYC proved that there was something for everyone. There was a lot to enjoy and indulge for fans of anime and gaming alike, whether competitive or fun-going. From mobile gaming, fighting games, and arcade games, anime has had its influence across the board.
The fandom lines between anime and gaming are so blurred that they happen to co-exist at this point. It's amazing to see how far both communities have come since their infancy and with next year's Anime NYC dates already planned, the ride never ends. Thank you Anime NYC and I'll catch you all next year!