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Cartman: Was it fun in Vietnam?
Many strategy wargames, have a bright and colorful look and feel. Units are painted in bright, cheery colors, the soldiers' faces look vaguely Animesque, the tanks look like ice cream scoops on wheels, and the warzones wouldn't look out of place in a Sugar Bowl. "Cute" wargames often have little plot, focusing strictly on gameplay and visually appealing designs. They also tend to be on the Idealism side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism and on the silly end of the Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness.
For the Shoot'Em Up version, see Cute'Em Up. See also the Sugar Apocalypse for a more graphic way in which war can come to the Sugar Bowl. See also A Million Is a Statistic, which is related, but the issue there is more one of scale than of style. And see Do Not Do This Cool Thing, for when this trope is invoked accidentally.
Contrast Real Is Brown.
Examples from video games
- The Nintendo Wars series started out this way, becoming less so as time went on. Days of Ruin removed this completely.
- Earth Light. Seriously, just look at the units.
- While it's not strictly a wargame, Spore's combat sections end up a lot like this.
- Though it's a First-Person Shooter rather than a wargame, Team Fortress 2 qualifies. Its art style is often described as 'like a very dark Pixar movie'. Your Mileage May Vary on whether this specifically equals cute or merely stylized.
- Cannon Fodder is the Trope Namer. Your soldiers are teeny-weeny, cute, practically chibi things (though not very colorful) that all have individual names. Then they die, incredibly bloodily while they're at it.
- However, the game's theme song from which this trope derives its name is clearly sarcastic, including lyrics such as "War never been so much fun! Go up to your brother, kill him with your gun, leave him lying in his uniform, dying in the sun!"
- Gadget Trial, in which the player's units are cute cyborg girls.
- Battle for Wesnoth
- The Metal Slug games aren't wargames (they're platformers), but they qualify due to the extremely cartoony nature of the enemies, combined with the often Family-Unfriendly Violence in the series.
- The Worms series are a cross between platformer and turn-based strategy, and everything is played for ridiculous absurdity.
- Space strategy games as a whole tend to go pretty far in this direction, since they're played on such an enormous scale, and entities have to be scaled up so much to be visible, but Spaceward Ho! probably deserves special mention for it's cowboy hat-totin' planets.
- No dark tones in Battlefield Heroes. Everything is colorful and cel-shaded with troops using strange powers and guns with funny names.
- Somewhat subverted with the introduction of the Bad Company weapons, which, oddly enough, are realistically named and proportioned (rather than a wacky name, the weapons are referred to by their real-life designations [M16, M249, M89, AK-74, PKM, and SVD] and look like the weapons they're modelled on.) Granted, they look somewhat stylized, but they look quite out-of-place compared to guns with names such as Rudolf's Rescue or Bernie's Bone Chewer.
- Command and Conquer Red Alert 2 and 3 tend towards this; the faceless, stylised soldiers, humour dialogue and wacky design philosophy completely gloss over the absolutely horrific weapons in service on all sides. It's easy to laugh when you suck a tank into space with a magnetic satellite, until you start thinking what that might mean for the crew... or when you stop and think about how pants stainingly terrifying a battlebear charge must be...or tank being shrunk to the size of child's toy by a cryocopter, or Tesla weaponry in general as it lights up you enemies skeleton like a Christmas tree.
- The fact that you can later use one of the oribital bombardment powers to drop said tank back onto its own side. Especially satisfying when done with Aircraft Carriers.
- If Dynasty Warriors isn't the trope namer, it should be. Never mind the numerous over-the-top fantasy elements (which actually isn't too far from the source material). Look at the clothing and weapons, very little of which would be practical for any kind of full-scale war (Nunchaku? Seriously?), and have just gotten more and more over the top over time. And of course, the character designs themselves, which, given that most of these people have no surviving portraits, definitely skew toward the "dependable anime archtype" side (hello, Sun Shang Xiang!). The violence is seriously downplayed: except for a single cutscene in 3, there is no blood whatsoever, and the American port even calls the fallen "KOs". In all, far more flashy and colorful and (yes) cute than any era in Chinese history has been.
- Plants vs. Zombies: You stave off hordes of Ugly Cute zombies with help of bunch of colorful animated plants. The zombies still want to eat your brains though.
- Valkyria Chronicles is far from the darkest war game out there, but arguably manages to avert this. The sequel, however...not so much, particularly in the early parts of the game. The third swings right around and gets far darker than the original.
- Played straight by Brutal Legend. Heavy Metal, Heavy Mithril themed armies fighting to the death as a Command and Conquer Economy infinitely respawns troops with The Power of Rock. Where can I sign up?
- Appears to be cranked Up to Eleven in the soon to be released Magicka: Vietnam, a Vietnam-themed addon to the popular Hack&Slay RPG Magicka.
- Applies in the three Patapon games. Brightly colored backgrounds, absolutely adorable critters as your army and your enemies, defeated units melt into the ground instead of collapsing in pools of gore. The Patapons's ultimate goal is to reach Earthend. Aww, look at the cute little eyeballs with swords and spears go at it!
- The Toy Soldiers series seems to invoke this trope. Your troops are literally toys and when they die they broke like actual toys with no blood whatsoever. It seems to be the Lighter and Softer version (not to mention the Theme Park) version of Real Life wars.
- The ultimate example has to be Paro Wars, a turn-based strategy game based upon the world of Parodius, wherein the player controls armies of penguins, Moai, octopi and all the wacky denizens of the Parodius games.
- General Chaos, a tactical-action war game that pits two squads of 5 soldiers against each other in cartoony melees and firefights across several battlefields.
Examples from other media
- The Awkward Zombie comic "No Fighting in the War Room" is, as a direct parody of Advance Wars, basically about this.
- Erfworld is a Deconstruction of the concept
"Everything's like a weird joke... everything is cute. Like it's been made safe for children. The people even look like children... Except that then they die."
- Real Life example: Peter the Great's Toy Army. Essentially a more serious, real-life version of Army Men for a child emperor to play with. They became an actual army later on, though.
- In South Park, Vietnam veterans go on and on about how fun 'Nam was.
- Dog Days Anime: War is held to settle actual disputes, but it's essentially all one big RTS or Fantasy War game to everyone joining in. In addition, all battlefields are protected by the magic of a god, and whenever they receive a blow that would normally kill them, they turn into a small animal corresponding to the ears and tail that they have.