Many developers found the solution to this in the last generation of consoles with cel-shaded graphics. Adding a cartoony visual style - complete with black outlining - gives some of the prettiest games today. Though cel-shading is by no means cheaper than the alternative, count me as surprised if there's a cel-shaded game that doesn’t look good. Recent games such as Borderlands and Team Fortress II changed their visual styles mid-development into this style. Not only do they both look great, but they were also critical and commercial successes.
Can you imagine if Okami ended up looking like the boring one on the left?Some would like to believe that not every game can be sold with this style of graphics. And they are right. I wouldn’t want to see Solid Snake going all ‘toon on me (oh wait!). It wouldn't be hurt if cel-shading was used so it makes the visuals look unique, yet be barely noticeable. I always have to remind myself that Crackdown is cel-shaded.
I also believe more than anything that cel-shading keep games looking great for more than just a few years. Doom 3 looked good at first but its polygons aged much faster than cartoons. This is probably why the best looking cel-shaded game in my opinion is still Dragon Quest VIII... no wait I think Level-5 has just outdone themselves with Ni no Kuni.
Playing a Ghibli movie as a game was a wet dream – until recently that is!