RetroVision – The Anime Inspiration Behind Road Avenger
The Mega-CD was famous for its FMV games, something which it unashamedly used to promote the power of SEGA’s CD based peripheral for the Mega Drive / Genesis. Inspired by games such as Dragon’s Lair, these FMV games used real life videos and animation to tell the story and facilitate the gameplay. This gameplay primarily came in the form of quick time events.
Whilst popular at the time, these games have generally not aged well, whilst others are merely remembered for the controversy they caused, none more so than Night Trap. However, one has not only aged well, but is still popular today, recently being re-released on mobile phones. This game is Road Avenger, or Road Blaster as it was known in Japan, and this lasting popularity has a lot to do with the Japanese animation that is featured within the game.
Many will still remember the exhilarating feeling that came from controlling one mans quest to avenge his wife, in what in essence was an interactive movie. Whether it was Data East’s original arcade release, the SEGA re-release for the Mega-CD, or even the modern re-release on mobile platforms, Road Avenger is remembered for its engrossing visuals. Whilst these visuals still hold up today, evoking the feel of 90 anime, the Full Motion Video technology that was used to output the animation does seem somewhat outdated.
However, this laserdisc technology, and the animation to go with it was state of the art for the time. Not only that but the iconic animation used within the game, was the creation of one of Japan’s most famous animation studios, Toei Animation. Not known for its involvement in game creation, Toei Animation is better known for its Anime adaptions of some of the world’s most popular manga, such as One Piece, Dragon Ball, and Sailor Moon.
However, this wasn’t Toei Animation’s first foray into gaming, having created all of the animation for the earlier Mega-CD release Cobra Command. This was once again done alongside Japanese developer Data East, and a lot of what was learned on this project was later used to influence the critically acclaimed Road Avenger. Something which was especially true of the internationally released like-for-like Mega-CD port.
Nevertheless, animation for video games was a very different prospect for Toei Animation. In fact, under the guidance of Transformers: The Movie key animator Yoshinobu Inano, it would take around 15,000 hand painted cells just to create 30 minutes of animation for Road Avenger. The story was also highly reminiscent of that which is seen within Japanese Anime, being set in a post-apocalyptic American wasteland and featuring a vigilante ex-cop who is seeking vengeance against the gang who murdered his wife. This all added to the feeling of the game and helped contribute to its success, both in the arcades and on home consoles.
Toei Animation may not have continued their involvement in video games much past Road Avenger. But their involvement is still remembered today, even if many don’t realise that the famous Japanese animators were behind it. Furthermore, whilst most FMV games are now long forgotten, the animation that was provided for Road Avenger has meant the game continues to be remembered fondly.