When the grit hits the fan
Games, by their nature, are an iterative medium. That means a lot of sequels. And a lot of sequels mean that certain game franchises go on for years. And years. And then a few more. And because familiarity breeds contempt, that means that every so often things have to change. Unless of course you live on an internet forum, where everything new is treated with immediate and furious distrust, but I digress...
My point is that as game series roll on, their characters frequently change their looks, even their entire personalities. And it's not just long-established characters that get the overhaul treatment. Sometimes protagonists will alter radically from one sequel to the next, or even within the same game, if the plot or gameplay dictates it. Sometimes this works out just fine, adding a great sense of development and persistence to a game world. Sometimes though, it doesn't at all, and--except in one successfully horrific case--those poor, misshapen unfortunates are the ones I'm going to be talking about here. Brace yourself, it's going to get ugly.
Bomberman (Bomberman: Act Zero)
The original: A cute, bright-eyed, winsome white-and-blue robot, full of the joys of summer, spending his days merrily blowing stuff up like any clean-living, wholesome boy should.
The redesign: A foul, twisted abomination of metal and hatred. His blowing up of stuff is no mere party game. It is endless torment, a scorching purgatory of endless incendiary death and accursed rebirth, brought back each time only to kill and die again. He is machine. He is the destroyer. He is pain. He does not have a pet kangaroo.
Rachel Foley: Ooze Edition (Resident Evil: Revelations)
The original: Fairly loathsome from her inception, Rachel is a walking, squawking personification of Resident Evil's bastard transmogrification from tense, shadowy horror-show into Buff Models Go Zombie-Wild at Spring Break. Where Resident Evil used to equip the player with a pistol or two, a few scraps of ammo, and a knife, Rachel prefers big hair and her almost entirely visible combat-breasts. Entirely the wrong kind of dual-wielding.
The redesign: After she becomes infected with Revelations' latest, plot-convenient strain of the T-Virus, Rachel mutates into a special variant of the game's Ooze monsters. Why is this particularly disturbing? Because unlike every other virus victim, she becomes not a generic Ooze, but one who sticks her still-prominent boobs in your face while sucking your head off with her giant, globby proboscis. Because something really bad probably happened to someone at Capcom during childhood.
Naked, bloody Kane & Lynch (Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days)
The original: Grim-faced, Tarantino-inspired crims in suits, with all the personal and aesthetic charm of human effigies carved out of kebab meat.
The redesign: One big, clumsy, elephant-footed step beyond that conceit. In a later stage of the sequel, both men are stripped naked and tortured. During the torture and their subsequent escape, they're reskinned as deskinned, blood-gushing, naked jelly-baby men, soaked in musty, honking sweat and congealing haemoglobin rather than sugar and sweet, sweet, 100% natural fruit juice.
Ivy Valentine (SoulCalibur IV)
The original: Shamelessly a Female Fighting Game Character(tm), in the first game Ivy's entirely inappropriate attire was nevertheless not much worse than a lot of her needlessly sexualised genre sisters. Which is to say, she's only slightly under-dressed for the average full-time position in the darker corners of the adult entertainment industry.
The redesign: As above, but now she'd get laughed out of the interview, collapse with hypothermia on the walk home (even if it were conducted in the height of summer), and fail to ever get back up again due to the crippling, spine-cracking weight of her disturbingly fetishised mammaries. Someone at Namco was probably bottle-fed from birth.
Rad Spencer (Bionic Commando 2009)
The original: Spikey ginger hair! A light t-shirt! Sunglasses! A sweet jacket! A quirky, charismatic point to the camera, because he is a super-cool, funky-fresh awesome dude! He's not even drawing attention to his bionic arm, because "This thing? Whatever. It ain't no big deal. C'mon, bro, let's go get a beer and pop some shove-its in the skate park".
The redesign: A glowering, unwashed, nu-metal sterotype that was out of date three years before the game was released. As for the arm, "HEY EVERYONE. Look at my mangled parody of a human limb. It is a physical manifestation of my broken soul. It glows red with the anger of a thousand devils".
The Pinky Demon (Doom 3)
The original: A chubby, chunky, goofy-looking hellspawn, with a countenance somewhere between that of a shaven pug and a fat man's broken knuckle.
The redesign: Okay, we're into good redesign territory here. Everything about Doom 3 is designed to replace the original games' bright, blocky vision of Hell with an acrid, clammy, aggressively disturbing version, and the unbounded reimagining of the Pinky utterly nails that philosophy. Now a feral, full-face maw on the body of a rampaging, half-melted rhino, its mechanical hind-legs serve only to imply that a) It's probably in a lot of pain, and therefore really pissed off, and b) Something much bigger and more pissed off has ripped its legs off and is probably still hanging out around here somewhere.
Cody (Final Fight Streetwise)
The original: A tough, resilient, determined, charismatically cocky badass, fighting for the side of right.
The redesign: Character-wise, Cody is now a volence-addicted, drug-munching deadbeat. His look? A slack-jawed, dead-eyed, derp-faced crackhead who hasn't showered in a month or washed his hair in six, glaring purposeless into the middle-distance in search of some long-forgotten annoyance. Probably whoever stole his crack. "Was it Jeff? Jimmy? Wha' was that guy's name? When I gets holda tha' guy he'ss gonna.. WOAH DUDE! Your eyes have turned into SNAKES! Oh shit I'm scared man, the floor is lava and my skin feels like cheese..."
Mileena (Mortal Kombat 2011)
The original: Another scantily-clad combat-stripper
The redesign: A brand-new, fresh-out-of-the-clone-tank Mileena, attempting a Female Fighting Game Character(tm) world record for the tiniest amount of fabric ever sustained aloft by the human body. Additionally, her there-by-sheer-willpower-alone 'clothing' does nothing to conceal her gnashing piranha-face, making her every bit the seething, psycho-sexual nightmare of every young boy's dreams. Is she supposed to be titillating? Is she supposed to be disturbing? Is she supposed to a subversive, self-reflexive deconstruction of the games industry's puerile predilection with depraved depictions of the female form? Only Ed Boon knows for sure, and he's probably too busy sobbing under his desk, wracked with guilt at the horror of what he ultimately created, to explain.
Tiny Kong (Diddy Kong Racing)
The original: In Donkey Kong 64, Tiny is the cute, happy-go-lucky little sister of Dixie Kong. She romps around in dungarees and a woolly hat, and looks about 3.
The redesign: By the time of her return in Diddy Kong Racing DS, Tiny is 'all grown-up', in exactly the kind of way that would prompt a six-month torrent of depressingly high-trafficking feature content from The Daily Mail. Slender, curvy, sporting the tiniest of crop tops, and now equipped with an unmistakable hint of furry ape-boobs, her official artwork also shows her bending suggestively over a tyre, like a cover model for Juiced 3: Nitro-Chimp Orgy. For God's sake, Rare, YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE GOOD GUYS. NOTHING IS NOW PURE. EVERYTHING IS CORRUPT. BURN THE EARTH AND START AGAIN, FOR THE HUMAN EXPERIMENT WAS A MISTAKE.
Seriously, pitching this feature was the worst mistake I've ever made. I'm done.
Devil may look just fine, thanks
So there's my line-up of my current least favourite transformation transgressions. And thank God it's over. I'm now going to go and have a long lie down in a sensory deprivation tank under heavy sedation, and hope that the bad dreams stay at bay. But have I missed any particularly awful character redesigns? I haven't got the strength to go back into the article to add any, but feel free to drop any suggestions you have in the comments. I'll read them when I come back around.
And while you're here, check out some of our related features. Maybe give 8 video game characters who are totally based on celebrities a try, and then have a look at Why Japanese box-art is better.