I feel like another rant, and since I've been back to playing with game graphics now for some short moments, I'll rant about my preferences in game graphics.
Let's start with some bashing. I generally hate the 3D graphics in games. I have no idea why. It's not because it's so popular – and hence 90% of it is crap. I often saw beautiful concept art, projects, etc. – really nice and well executed – that were then converted into yet another ugly 3D game. This is mostly about character graphics, and also game items, and all that "detailed" stuff. Surprisingly, terrain is usually pretty well executed, even if it's mostly plants or other organic material. But creatures just don't look right, even if they are robots.
Now, if there is something worse than full-3D graphics, then it's raster 2D graphics generated from 3D models. It has all the crappiness of both worlds – the ugly models, plastic surfaces, unnatural moves, and then the pixelated sprites, bad anti aliasing, low number of frames in animation. This particular technique was very popular in times of Diablo, but hopefully will die off.
The technique of preparing graphics for a game I love the most is obviously the most labor-intensive one – pixel art. Most of the games I admire for their graphics were prepared in this way. Unfortunately, it's becoming impossible to make games for PC this way – because of the growing resolution. Because of it (and probably because of many other reasons) pixel-artists mainly do very small icons (the kind to be inlined in text) and Game Boy graphics. Shame.
There is one more technique, that usually needs as much work as pixel art, but scales much better. It's very rare in games, but the few games I know that really use it (and are well done) are very good, at least in terms of looks. I'm talking about 2D vector graphics. And not some algorithmically-generated: full-blown, artist-made, sweat-and-blood-soaked 2D art, like in "Another World". They could take this game, replace the graphics engine, up the resolution a bit, and sell it today – and nobody would complain. Well, maybe they would complain about the difficulty level.
To sum up, what would be the perfect technique for making the game graphics? For me, it would be a 3D world (with nice textures, lighting and fog, of course), with 2D sprites, similar to "Ragnarok Online", "Star Ocean" or "Xenogears", only the sprites would need more frames of animation, and they would have to be… vector. And not your Commodore64 vector graphics – modern, SVG-like vector sprites, with anti aliasing, smooth scaling and alpha channels. And – this is very important – animation done by drawing separate frames, not by moving the parts of the vector image.