Winner: Final Fantasy VII Remake
There’s this moment in FFVIIR where you board an elevator and slowly descend. As that elevator lurches down, you have nothing to stare at but your own party, and it’s just lovely. The wispy particles around Cloud’s hair. The subtle warping of the metal on Tifa’s gauntlets. The woven fibers of Aerith’s jacket. Even the slight stubble of Barret’s fade — it’s all there! FFVIIR is a testament to what the fusion of technology and art can achieve, to the point that you might wonder if a bit of dark magic was thrown in for good measure. Zooming out is just as impressive. Sector 7 and Wall Market glimmer with tragic beauty. The Plates loom large overhead, precisely modeled in all their menacing glory. Even the combat is beautiful, with particle effects entrancing enough to cause more than one game over. Worth it. That’s all to say that Final Fantasy VII Remake is absolutely stunning, with each new moment somehow surpassing the last. Except maybe Chadley. Boy looks like a nightmare porcelain doll in a sailor ensemble.
by Kaleb Curry
Runner-Up: 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
No other studio has a visual style quite like Vanillaware. Their gorgeous watercolour-esque visuals have long stood out, but the artists at the studio have refined their craft to perfection in 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. Every single item on screen is lovingly drawn and animated, from the way the characters move, to the look of the food, right down to the lines in the wooden floorboards. Every scene is lit gorgeously too, with sun cracking through the windows or the moon glowing gently in the background. Regardless of whether it’s the homely feel of ’80s Japan to the destroyed cities of the future, the world of 13 Sentinels feels like a shoujo manga come to life.
by Alana Hagues