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How the Steam Deck changed my anime-style gaming landscape

How the Steam Deck changed my anime-style gaming landscape

Written by Ross Locksley on 03 Jun 2024

It often makes me smile when I look at the handheld gaming space. As an early adopter of the Atari Lynx, I remember the criticisms being lobbed in its direction - chiefly that it was too big and used too much power. The Game Boy, with its low power usage and huge library of simple but addictive games ultimately won out, but people often forget that the Atari Lynx was far more innovative than any of its rivals - it could be flipped upside down for left-handed users, it was the first true 16 bit console ever released and it had some of the finest games of the time on that crisp full colour screen. I lost hours to California Games and Electrocop.

In the present day, bigger is now better and nowhere is that more evident than with Valve's mighty Steam Deck. Thinner than the Lynx but just as wide, this powerhouse is now on its second iteration (which quietly brought many subtle performance improvements outside the obvious OLED) it really has opened up PC gaming to the masses and, closer to home, me. 

Now I've always had a reasonably powerful PC, but before Valve released their hardware the last PC game I played seriously was Unreal Tournament. The Deck has really opened up a huge amount of gaming opportunities, and more importantly, Japanese gaming opportunities. While the Nintendo Switch has many indie anime based games, the store is a pig to navigate, which is why I've actually managed to find games like Sword of the Vagrant, Anno Mutationem, Code of Princess and Dead or School more easily and much cheaper.

Lastly (before I start recommending games) I'll also say this for the Deck - it is delightfully customisable, making the console feel far more personalised than any other system. By installing Decky Loader, you can change the graphics (logos, covers, hero banners and more) displayed for each game in your library, either choosing from the creations of others or making your own. I've spent a lot of hours now creating new banners and covers so that my library looks as colourful as possible (I use the handle Acteon online so you can find my designs under that name). You can also add music to the game information screen where it will pick automatically from the soundtrack, but you can change this too. Basically my games library has never looked more appealing. If you're really adventurous you can add emulators and other utilities too. It's enormous fun to fiddle with!

So with this new world of anime gaming opportunity opened up, what have I found? Let's make a few recommendations shall we?

Million Arthur: Arcana Blood

Million Arthur: Arcana Blood

I love fighting games, they're probably my favourite genre. DNF Duel, Street Fighter, Samurai Showdown, Granblue Fantasy Vs and Guilty Gear Strive all play beautifully on the Deck, but there's a ton of obscure anime fighting games too. Million Arthur is a surprisingly challenging fighter from 2017, with you choosing your fighter from various King Arthur candidates, with guest characters from King of Fighters XIV and Trials of Mana. Full of attractive, well animated designs and awash with colourful visuals and effects, it's as gorgeous a title as you'd expect from Team Arcana and Square Enix - I highly recommend picking this one up.



A witch and a demon run a cafe in this sassy little reverse castle defense game. When customers bring their problems into the cafe, it's up to the owners to invade their troubled minds and ease their worries by taking out their inner demons - "Battle & Brew" as the game puts it. With spellbinding designs, interesting characters and fun gaming mechanics, this won't knock you for six but it's a beautiful little time sink which I genuinely enjoyed.

Blazblue: Entropy Effect

Blazblue Entropy Effect

I've long been a fan of Arc System Works, and visiting the studio many years ago was a genuine pleasure. Entropy Effect is a PC exclusive (well, iOS and Android too but I don't play games on my phone) and I must say this was a very pleasant surprise indeed. Essentially a combat simulator to sharpen your mind, you're given access to avatars (Blazblue's most popular fighters) in the virtual world and thrown into combat, levelling up as you go. It's a sharp looking little game that becomes highly addictive as each dive into the Mind Training yields more and more abilities that look very impressive on screen. It runs as smooth as silk and still gets regular updates from the development team. A quick 5 minute session can easily turn into hours here!

Mullet MadJack

Mullet MadJack

I've reviewed this game already but it's so much fun that I'm going to give it a mention here too. Essentially a corridor shooting speed run, it's a real love-letter to retro anime with a sassy operator, growling hero and one of the best game soundtracks I've heard in ages. All the attitude of Duke Nukem with the neon explosion of anime colour, it's a must-have Steam exclusive.

Honourable Mentions

Blade Arcus is a terrific beat-em up from the Shining series, Glimmer in Mirror is a fast and fun anime 2D shooter, Idol Showdown is a daft but fun Vtuber fighter, Needy Streamer Overload is a fantastic idol manager sim with 27 endings and back to Vtubers, Virtua Limited Project is a lovely pixel-art platformer in the style of Mega Man

Honestly, I could go on, but I what I wanted to get across here is that the Steam Deck is a great device for fans of anime-style gaming. The OLED model makes everything pop, but it's access to thousands of indie and PC only games that makes it a real treat, all given that little extra class by being totally customisable. I've curated a wonderful library and even tried some mainstream Western games that never previously crossed my radar - Control, Horizon and Hogwarts Legacy have all been discovered through the Deck, even with a PS5 sat in the lounge. There's just something about a handheld device that makes everything feel more immediate, and after a lifetime of gaming on the go I have to say this is as near to perfection as I've seen yet.

And so, the PS5 sits mostly neglected, the Nintendo Switch sees far less action and even the retro handhelds have fallen to the wayside, and I have to say I'm surprised that of all the gaming company hardware I'd want to save from a blazing building, Valve's debut system would be top of the list. Remarkable.

Ross Locksley
About Ross Locksley

Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time. You can read his more personal articles on UKA's sister site, The Anime Independent.

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