Game Characters Who Have Crossed Through Multiple Art Styles
Nothing makes a game stand out like a great art style. Whether it’s a bright and colorful cartoonish style or moody realism with a distinct art direction, the most iconic franchises usually come with an instantly recognizable visual design.
Sometimes franchises see drastic changes in their art styles over time as different artists take over direction. While most of the changes are incremental, some characters saw drastic changes in their visual design as they went through different teams and directors. Sometimes it works well and creates a unique and exciting look for the character. Other times it can backfire and raise questions about why the style was changed.
8/8 Edward Carnby (Alone in the Dark)
One of the weirdest art changes in gaming history has to be Alone in the dark. Released in 1992, the original Alone in the dark was an influential survival horror title, predating resident Evilfour-year-old similar style of play. However, its main character, Edward Carnby, has gone through drastic changes over the years.
In the original game, this private detective was an elderly man with a mustache and a vest. However, the 2001 game The new nightmare changed Edward into a younger, more moody figure, clearly drawing on the darker, bolder early 2000s styles of other media. In 2008, the series would get another reboot, with Edward now looking like a typical 360/PS3-era protagonist. With so many changes over the years, it’s understandable why new owners THQ Nordic are planning to completely reboot the series with a remake of the original.
7/8 Alucard (Castlevania)
Dracula’s son dhampir, Alucard, is one of the most frequent characters in the Castlevania franchise due to its long lifespan. However, a cohesive look has been hard for Konami to nail down. In his first game, Castlevania III, he looked like a basic smug vampire. When he returned as the star of symphony of the nightartist Ayama Kojima reimagined it in his cute boy anime style.
Later appearances also include the Netflix anime adaptation and a radically different art style for the crossover fighter, Judgment of Castlevania. While these days, Alucard’s canon appearance is generally accepted to be Kojima’s. symphony of the night design, it took Konami a while to get there.
6/8 Spyro the Dragon
Spyro the Dragon has made the leap to developers and publishers several times during its existence. Originally developed by Insomniac for the PS1, the character designs were created by designer Charles Zembillas, whose quirky style was seen throughout the games.
However, as Insomniac moved on and the rights were going to shift to Sierra, developers Krome decided to produce a more serious trilogy as a reboot, with a proper redesign for Spyro in the process. After Sierra was acquired by Activision, Spyro would become the face of the Skylanders toy series to life, with a new redesign that wasn’t popular with old fans. Fortunately, the original style returned when the original games were remade as Reactivated Trilogy.
5/8 Crash Bandicoot
just like spyro, Crash Bandicoot is another series that would see drastically different designs as intellectual property moved from publisher to publisher. Under Naughty Dog and Sony, Crash’s design would also come from Charles Zembillas, but later developers would make Crash crazier and crazier with each new game.
The most drastic change came with The crash of the titans, where Crash sported a design that could only have been created in the 2000s, with baggy jeans and tribal tattoos added to the character. However, while Crash got another revamp in 2020 with Crash Bandicoot 4it’s the one that has returned to the spirit of the original games while retaining an identity of its own.
4/8 Link (The Legend of Zelda)
With every The Legend of Zelda title, Nintendo has worked hard to give each game its own identity. Although Link’s green tunic and cap have been consistent across most depictions, how they were used changed frequently. Anime art styles from the original 1986 game and Link’s Awakening to the more sullen styles of Twilight Princess and Majora’s Maskeach style stood out while being distinctly Zelda.
The most drastic change in art style occurred with Windwaker, where the game acquired a cartoon style that gave Link a wide-eyed, hyper-expressive look that initially upset his original reveal. breath of the wild also drastically changed Link, changing his outfit entirely and featuring him in a more painterly style, which probably signifies how different the gameplay of this game was from its predecessors.
A series as long as mario the franchise is bound to see a number of changes to its art style, especially with multiple teams managing a mario project at any given time. However, due to Mario’s simple design elements, he’s able to pull off a number of different art styles without being unrecognizable.
One of the biggest changes to Mario’s portrayal includes paper mario, which takes on a cute cartoon look for Mario and his friends. Another is the Mario Strikers series of soccer games that feature an angular look more akin to comic books.
2/8 sonic the hedgehog
Much like Mario, Sonic’s basic design has remained the same over the years, but as the games have gone through different artists and directors, the art style has changed a lot. The biggest artistic shift for Sonic has to be his gradual move from a short, burly character to a much taller, leaner one.
The Sonic series also experimented with other styles, such as the sketchbook style seen in the Storybook games or the more angular style seen in Sonic battle. This matches how often the series also experiments with gameplay features.
1/8 Guybrush Threepwood (Monkey Island)
monkey island is a series that absolutely refuses to stick to a cohesive art style. While the original game’s limited pixel art visuals were accompanied by realistic art styling on the box, this would be discarded by the third game in favor of outright cartoonish. Escape and Tales would also adopt their own art styles which significantly changed the look of protagonist Guybrush.
Even with the series returning in 2022 with original creator Ron Gilbert on board, Back to Monkey Island once again completely resets its art design, this time adopting an angular papercraft style courtesy of To tear out and Knights and bikes director Rex Crowle. Although it was controversial with mainstream fans, it shows how determined the series is to constantly change its looks.
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