The problem with a lot of videogames based on cartoon shows is that they usually fail to serve as good videogame representations of the properties they were based on. At best, we get an enjoyable game that had nothing to do with the cartoon outside of the visuals. At worst, we get a really crappy game based on a show we love.
However, there are shows that really do manage to capture the essence of the shows that they were based on, such as:
1. Dragon ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 (Playstation 2) – I’ve been a fan of dragonball since the 90s, and I’ve played the games they pumped out for the SNES, the Genesis, and the PSX. Some of them were good (like the Botouden series on the SNES) but most were really bad and made you feel like the developers didn’t even watch the show. It was the PS2 that started churning out a lot of good anime games, including the Budokai series of fighting games. However, it was the Budokai Tenkaichi series that really managed to incorporate all of the things that made Dragon Ball Z stand out: from multiple transformations (that can be toggled on and off), to planet-busting blasts, to giant apes, and freeform flight.
2. Batman: The Animated Series (SNES) – a lot of Batman games that came before it plain sucked, so Batman: The Animated Series was already exceptional right out of the gate. It was the first Batman game that offered decent combat mechanics and enough challenge to prevent you from getting bored, without veering into “hard-for-the-sake-of-being-hard” territory. It also sported visuals that almost look like they were taken straight out of the show.
3. Astro Boy: Omega Factor – The Astro Boy game on the PS2 was crap, not just because it was based on the crap movie, but also because it was a badly designed game – Astroboy or no Astroboy. Adding insult to injury, the Gameboy Advance, which had a fraction of the computing power available to the PS2, got an Astro boy videogame that not only captured the true look and feel of the show, but was also a thousand times more enjoyable to play. It seamlessly incorporated beat-em-up and shmup gameplay while wrapping it up in a deep, time-and-space-spanning story that begged multiple playthroughs.
4. Popeye (NES) – I chalk it up to the show itself having a very simple premise and formula. All the nes had to do was give you a game where you try to gain olive’s approval while trying to stay out of Bluto’s way, and that spinach gives you the power boost to send Bluto flying away. The music score also helps.
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (SNES) – the TMNT cartoon is good, clean fun. It’s colorful, funny, and fairly straightforward. It’s just the turtles fighting shredder, the foot clan, and a whole bunch of mutated monsters. There are no lengthy story arcs with mature-oriented plot twists, nor any romantic subplots, etc. The game is pretty much the same deal: no-frills beat em up action. There’s no find the key crap or solve this puzzle schtick. You just pick your favorite turtle and beat up enemies one after another in colorful, sidescrolling stages.