So I’m going to let some of my character design nerdery out, if that’s alright with you fine folks. Hopefully this won’t come off as fanboy griping or anything of the like. I just wanted to do some observational writing based on a field I feel I’m pretty well versed in. By that I mean character design. I don’t know shit about making video games.
Video game characters, at least the more uniquely designed ones, seem to have a bit of a bad habit. A minor epidemic if you will.
Often a character will have a great design, or have a design that at first doesn’t seem right before being slowly tinkered with through art style evolution that it starts to come along into a good or great design. Iconic, recognizable and fun.
Then they have to go and fuck it up.
Eventually, the series runners decide they need to, or just want to for whatever reason, take the series in a new direction, and with that, new designs for all the characters.
Sometimes this can work out, and the new design becomes the new standard for the character. Take for instance Pac Man’s transformation from non-descript pizza pie shape to his limbed pie-eyed redesign in the Pac Man World games.
Other times? Well, hit the read more and I’ll tell ya
Bottom Six. Bad Video Game Character Redesigns.
Why six? Because I thought of one more than five and couldn’t think of four more to make it a Bottom Ten.
(THE FOLLOWING IS ALL MY STUPID OPINIONS.)
Okay, let’s begin, from least bad to most bad.
6. Crash Bandicoot
So lets start from the beginning with these examples. Crash to start out wasn’t exactly very handsome to begin with.
And to be fair, that was probably the point. They probably wanted him to have that sort of edge to him where he looks like a stoned biker version of Tazmanian Devil. He looks cool while also looking manic.
I think though, Crash’s design started to really come together by Crash Twinsanity and Crash Tag Team Racing.
This design I think embodies Crash’s personality very well. He’s still got that attitude to him, but at the same time visually has that feel of manic stupidity.
But then Crash in general just has a very classic look to him. His face and build compliment each other (and don’t look bloated like his face in the PS1 days), he’s got a good palette, his accessories aren’t overcomplicated, and the gloves are a nice twist on the usual “White Gloves” that every cartoon animal seems to have. A solid design.
So how did they mess it up? Like this.
Okay, fair’s fair, as far as Crash of the Titans goes, Crash didn’t get the worst treatment in the redesign department, but still. The entire thing just feels off. First of all, most damningly, are those weird, incredibly out of place tribal tattoos (how exactly do you tattoo fur?). His gloves are gone, which just make him look naked and give him different colored palms that are pretty distracting and he looks more shaggy, unnecessarily shaggy even. So shaggy that it’s actually very distracting.
In general, though, there’s much less of that manic energy the Twinsanity design had perfected. He honestly looks like some kind of weird perverted fan art version of himself. He looks like he stepped out of a DeviantART page consisting entirely of scene-styled Lion King fan characters (and believe me, that exists. That actually exists and it’s horrifying).
Crash isn’t the worst redesign on this list, but he is one of the few on here that tanked so badly it actually killed his series. Poor Crash now lays in solitary confinement, Activision having given up on him and actively refusing to do anything with him, to the point where they won’t let anyone else do anything with him, not even his original creators at Naughty Dog.
It’s sad, really. Crash deserves better.
5. Pac Man
Do I even need to show you what Pac Man looks like? Or at least what most people (ie everyone ever) remember him looking like?
What an incredibly simple image, yet you show it to someone, anyone, any average Joe off the street, and they’ll know who it is. It’s a fucking circle with a piece taken out, so that’s incredibly impressive.
That said, Pac Man has been kicking around a few designs over the years, even as the famous image of the pizza-missing-a-slice Pac Man remains as a sort of emblem similar to the three circles used to represent Mickey Mouse.
The first notable design is probably the one from the Hanna Barbera cartoon.
What’s actually really funny is that this Pac-Man would end up serving as the baseline for all future Pac-Man designs. He’s already got the red boots and orange gloves that he’d become as well known for as his big yellow headbody.
This was the inspiration for his design in Pac-Land and it’s many variations afterwards
Which then of course led in to the absolute perfection that is the Pac Man World design
Good god almighty do I love this design. Everything about it works and I actually can’t accurately describe how. It just has this classic, warmly familiar feel to it, especially in Super Smash Bros where Pac-Man absolutely shines as an incredibly expressive character with insane amounts of personality.
So how did they mess it up?
Well, we’re not quite there yet. Here’s the redesign for the 30th anniversary
It’s not a bad redesign, but it’s not a great one. It just feels like they just updated the Pac Man World design with some more detailed features.
No, this isn’t where they messed up. This is.
Ugh. Ugh. Pac Man and the Ghostly Adventures has quite possibly the worst Pac Man design yet, and I’m stacking this motherfucker against this.
Everything about the Ghostly Adventures Pac-Man feels obnoxious and mean spirited. His face is so smug, his now fingered hands are giant and creepy, and his voice isn’t even part of his visual design and yet it sucks so much it’s taking points off anyway.
He looks like if you took the head of Casper the Friendly Ghost, stuck Sonic the Hedgehog’s limbs on it and painted it yellow. He’s so damn smarmy looking I actively want to punch him in the teeth because why does Pac-Man have teeth? WHY WOULD YOU GIVE PAC MAN TEETH?
The Ghostly Adventures design is so universally despised, that Masahiro Sakurai outright, bluntly admitted that if Namco had only allowed him to use the Ghostly Adventures design in Super Smash Bros, Pac Man wouldn’t have been in the game at all, period.
Sakurai, we may disagree on a lot of things, but that right there was genius.
Banjo-Kazooie’s original renders are starting to show their age, but still have a lot of good charm to them
The Bear and Bird duo look friendly and lovable, especially in the in-game graphics which make them look even dopier
They have a sort of timeless appeal. I mean just look at them in the in-game picture above, they look so likable and goofy you can help but love them. They have nice rounded designs and overall have a good natured aesthetic to them, even amidst all the snarky dialouge.
So how did they mess it up?
I’m not even sure where to start with this mess. Who thought this was okay?
Like, there are so many questions here. Why are Banjo’s eyes so freakishly small and squinted? Why is his nose a goddamn cube? Why does Kazooie look like a stereotypical sassy black lady? Why do they look all blocky?
These redesigns aren’t drastic when it comes to details, you can still tell they’re supposed to be Banjo and Kazooie, but good god, they’re so ugly. The original Banjo and Kazooie had an endearing cuteness to them, I’d chase the Nuts and Bolts designs away with from my house with a shovel. Not that it’d do any good because Banjo legitimately looks like he’s been pounded with one for the entire five year gap between Nuts and Bolts and Tooie.
I have the same issue here that I did with Pac Man. It looks so mean-spirited. And Nuts and Bolts was an incredibly mean spirited game, constantly ripping jokes at the last two games to the extent where it feels less like good natured self depreciation and more like a legitimate self-hatred induced mental breakdown.
So if the tone is going to be ugly, might as well make the characters ugly too. And like Crash, they blew it. They blew it hard, and there hasn’t been a Banjo game since.
3. Spyro the Dragon.
Spyro started out looking like this in the original Playstation days.
And I can’t even say “So how did they mess it up” because ever since, he’s been falling off he ugly tree and hitting every branch on the way down.
And hoo boy. It gets worse. Oh my fucking god does it EVER GET WORSE
How in all that is right and just in this world does Spyro have so many different designs that are all absolutely terrible? It just keeps getting worse and worse and worse and just when you think you’ve seen the absolute ugliest Spyro has ever been, Skylanders comes out. Skylanders has done more damage to Spyro than the Raving Rabbids have ever done to Rayman. At least Rayman didn’t look like a rotting, shovel beaten, Henson’s Creature Shop reject abomination.
2. Sonic the Hedgehog.
Sonic the Hedgehog, the once proud icon, started off with this utterly flawless design.
Sonic was specifically designed to be the perfectly classic, universally appealing character. He takes cues from elder statesmen such as Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat, looking like a character straight out of that era. And yet despite this, he exudes this feeling of contemporary coolness. Of sheer attitude. This little guy is about to kick some ass.
Heck, even the revised design for some American Sonic media wasn’t that bad, if not as great as the original.
Now I know what youre probably thinking. You think I’m going to start smashing Sonic’s “Modern” design.
Fuck no! I love that design too!
Okay, so the Modern Sonic design as it first appeared in Sonic Adventure took some time to really find it’s footing throughout the games that came after it, often coming off as gangly and lanky, but by Sonic Unleashed? Look at this guy.
The current “Modern Sonic” is actually a seamless blend between the timeless sensibilities of the Classic Sonic design of the Genesis era and the hipper Modern Sonic of the Dreamcast era. They’ve found the perfect balance, making him tall, but not too tall. Making him sleek and athletic, but still having a bit of a belly. And the blue they’ve picked for him is just the perfect shade. He looks like the kind of guy you could see running faster than the speed of sound. It’s one of my all time favorite character designs.
So… and I just hate to do this…. how did they mess it up?
I hate it. I hate everything about it. It’s cluttered, it’s gangling, he’s got a forehead you could put a billboard on, his spines look like they’re made of fucking cheese string, why the hell does he have to have THAT MUCH SPORTS TAPE?
And for the love of all that is holy. His bloody arms. They’re blue.
People mock those of us who point out the blue arms, likening it to some of the more rabid Sonic fans who complain about Sonic’s eyes being green. Quite honestly, Sonic’s eyes could be fucking purple and teal gradient for all I care, those arms are actually a problem.
They manage to blend in with the rest of him while at the same time being incredibly distracting. They throw off the color balance that the tan arms added and make him look like he’s wearing a body suit. It looks insanely awkward and draws attention to the fact Sonic apparently has shoulders and a neck now that they need to have the scarf around so you don’t notice, but the blue arms just make it painfully obvious. And another thing to note is that Amy Rose gets to keep her tan arms, yet Sonic has to go with blue ones? Why? That makes no sense.
It’s an incredibly cluttered, over complicated, overdone redesign to what was otherwise a very simple, appealing design. He looks like a dirty hobo mummy with a caveman brow. There are so many distracting elements that just clash with each other.
And apparently this was the LEAST radical design the hack artists behind Sonic Boom came up with. The concept art for Sonic Boom is a terrifying marvel, because there were actual real people who thought this kind of stuff would have gone over well with one of the most psychotically unpleasable fanbases out there.
I know it could have been so much worse, but what we got was still several different layers of awful.
What I am about to show you defies explanation and logical sense. If, by reading the name “Bomberman” you suddenly experienced a chill down your spine and a twitch in your eye, you probably already know where this is going, but if you didn’t and have no idea what I’m talking about…
Then nothing I can say can prepare you for the sheer audacity, the complete and utter deranged insanity, the sheer what-the-fuck-itude of what you are about to see. It just goes against any common thought. It legitimately betrays any human decency.
Let’s start from the top here, just to show you the magnitude of this
This is Bomberman.
Jolly looking fellow, isn’t he? It’s a cute, simple design. It’s colorful, and despite having less facial features than Kenny from South Park, Bomberman expresses so much emotion through just two eyes.
So…..how, how in god’s green earth did they possibly mess this up? How did they do it?
Ladies and gentlemen? It is my great displeasure to introduce the WORST redesign of ANY character I have EVER seen in my entire goddamn 23 years of life on this godforsaken planet, up to and including The Joker in the upcoming Suicide Squad. Even worse than that.
No. I am not kidding.
I am absolutely dead fucking serious.
No, really. I fucking mean it.
This is what they thought Bomberman needed to be. The iconic little cherry bomb slinging robot dude wasn’t good enough. Dark and gritty reboots were apparently all the rage those days. So they did this.
I have no words for this. None. I am spent. I have absolutely, positively no goddamn clue what anyone at Hudson was thinking when Bomberman: Act Zero was made. Not a single solitary flicker of any possible thought process that could have led down to them turning Bomberman into a post-apocalyptic mash between Iron Man, the Combine Guards from Half Life and a construction site. I would have an easier time believing you if you had told me this was a revival of Vectorman .
Rather than THIS FUCKING GUY.
This is stupidity to an indescribable degree. You could say there were other idiotically gritty reboots of classic franchises, like Loonatics Unleashed, but at least that had the decency to separate the gritty characters of that tripe from the timeless characters that inspired it. The Loonatics were the Looney Tunes’ descendants in a futuristic world.
The Bomberman of the majority of the series and the Bomberman of Act Zero are the same fucking character.
To be a fly on the wall during the meeting that spawned Bomberman: Act Zero, to wonder how they not only managed to think of such a thoroughly stupid idea, not only managed to get the entire company behind it, not only managed to get it made and released in stores….
But somehow managed to survive afterwards.
Bomberman’s original design very quickly returned and Act Zero was, rightfully so, unceremoniously swept under the rug and forbidden from ever being mentioned again.
The Bomberman franchise would eventually meet a sad, anticlimactic demise years later, yet somehow Act Zero had nothing to do with it. Bad redesigns killed Crash, killed Banjo, killed Spyro, and is currently in the process of killing Sonic. It is nothing short of a miracle that Bomberman somehow got out of that unscathed.
There will be a lot of terrible redesigns for many famous characters, but I want you folks to do something. Whenever you see a redesign that you really hate, stop and think:
“It’s at least not as bad as Bomberman: Act Zero”
Any redesigns you guys think can stand up to these pieces of slop? Let me know in the comments!