Appearance, much like in life and on people, counts. Whether or not you’re good looking, doesn’t mean someone can’t still look at you and get that you’re putting effort in to be presentable. If you don’t look presentable, it equates to laziness, lack of passion and other things. All qualities you don’t really want on your person, and not a quality you want on your games.
Now I absolutely advocate gameplay first, graphics second, but if the graphics can’t properly represent the gameplay, then there is a problem. MvCI looks really bad in all visual aspects, something quickly thrown together so it could be showcased, much like someone quickly throwing on clothes to go out without giving a shit. I’m sure there’s a lot of scruffy lookin’ mother fuckers out there who have got a drive like no other, but if you were to ask me to locate on appearance who I thought had their shit together, it probably wouldn’t be the guy with two different colored socks with sandals on. Riding that metaphor, baby.
As everyone has said, it’s not about graphical fidelity, it’s about having a style which matches the gameplay you are creating. I mean, it goes back to the whole Dragonball/XRD thing again, doesn’t it? Some people hate the anime style, but any intelligent person will understand that the style is done correctly, whether you like the style or not. People have a hard time looking at things objectively, which is why most people make TERRIBLE game critics. Overall though, appearance has and always did matter in games. The evolution of graphics in video games used to mean more because it coincided with increased possibilities within the game engines, like the jump to 3D for instance. Now adays, if you make a game that just looks like generic CG models, with styleless shaders, it’s like a game with no clear vision behind it, nor passion from the devs.
Sprites are timeless, they as a whole age better than 3D graphics, because they inherently come with a very distinct style choice. Imagine if Tekken 7 had a versus game and they ported older gen 3D models into the game and just upscaled them? It would look HORRID. With sprites, it’s a lot less noticeable, but even back then, it still wasn’t the best, just porting sprites from games with distinct style differences. Capcom was always riding that budget train when it came to their fighting games. So, it’s true, they got by because the gameplay was solid. Then they made SF3 New Gen and it bombed because it’s gameplay sucked and it’s graphics were amazing but using a dated style, even if it’s sprite work was and still is some of the best ever done. They improved the gameplay, boom, a classic for the entirety of the FGC. You have to have both in some regard. The best fighting game ever made can’t be a bunch of stick figures battling it out.