Looking back over 25 years of the animation block’s enduring reviews
Toonami celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. For many, it was a window into so many worlds; it was how you learned about Dragon Ball, Tenchi Muyo, and Outlaw Star. It was the after-school animation programming with hype and lights, battles and arcs. And Toonami also had video game reviews.
Growing up, those reviews were unknowingly forming my basis for learning about video games. My best means for learning what games were cool was word of mouth and the occasional magazine or demo disc, but Toonami was a pipeline of video game information.
As I was nostalgically looking back on old Toonami promos today in light of the 25th anniversary, I stumbled across some of the reviews from my era of Toonami viewing. Between the adventures of my favorite anime protagonists, I’d hear about some cool new PlayStation 2 game that might be worth looking into.
To its credit, Toonami covered a surprising breadth of games. The animation block’s Wiki is a great repository for all the scores and games covered over the many, many years. Many of the reviews, according to the Wiki, are written by Jason DeMarco or Gill Austin. At one point, Toonami even had written reviews. Yes, the Web Archive contains a full written review of Grandia for the PlayStation from Toonami.
There are novelties and oddities to behold, sure. Blue Stinger for the Dreamcast is the lowest-scored review from the team, at a 1 out of 5. Games like Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, and Soulcalibur earn full marks, while some dip lower. Someone at Toonami clearly loves the Hot Shots Golf series, and honestly, that’s relatable.
There’s also the time The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind earned an 8/10. Don’t watch it for the score, though; watch it the excellent line delivery from TOM 2 voice actor Steve Blum.
Jokes aside, I’ve been enthralled with revisiting these today. They really do mark the developing landscape of video game coverage, especially as it grew into video formats. And the conversational tone feels ahead of its time. It’s tough to pitch the game, sum up its many parts, and assess it in the span of a minute and a half. Toonami manages it pretty darn well.
And it’s also worth noting that while I’ve gone over the older legacy reviews, Toonami game reviews are—much like the block itself—still rolling on. Its most recent score, via the Wiki, was an 8/10 for A Short Hike. And it looks like the block has made an effort to cover independent games too, including lesser-known games like Golf Club Wasteland, Ender Lilies, and Gris alongside the likes of Animal Crossing and Assassin’s Creed.
So here’s to Toonami, a block that got me into anime and also got me thinking about games at a very young age. They’re not the sole reason I’m putting words on a page today, but it’s hard not to look back fondly on these as some early sparks. Plus, they gave Beetle Adventure Racing the same score as Final Fantasy VII. That’s just fantastic.