Change can be good. In fact, I’d go so far as to say change can be great, if handled with care and precision.
While we’ve had to suffer through some truly awful video game reboots and redesigns over the years, there are those rare occasions when a developer hits it out of the park, and breathes new life into an old character.
Do you want some examples? Let’s take a look at some examples.
Prince of Persia
The good prince also made my list of absolute worse redesigns, owing to his horrendous appearance in Warrior Within, which just screamed that it was trying too hard to be ‘edgy’.
You can see that grim redesign above, but the wall running royalty was redesigned once again in 2008 with a cel-shaded makeover – this time with far more success.
Here, the Prince is looking cool without trying too hard. A simple outfit makes him look more like a dude that wanders the wilderness and less like an extra from a Game of Thrones porn parody – good job, Ubisoft.
With the excellent 2013 reboot from Crystal Dynamics, the iconic treasure hunter finally looked less like an eleven-year-old’s wet dream, and more like an actual woman.
Still the kind of woman that kicks all kinds of arse and spends most of her time burrowing around in caves and tombs – but one with a relatable, human quality.
Obviously, this quality was key for the grittier approach the reboot took, and I think it’s safe to say that the grounded take on gaming’s first lady was a huge success.
The hero of Hyrule has had more new looks and reinventions than David Bowie managed in his entire career, and every single one of them has been pretty great.
Whether we’re talking the divisive cartoony look of Wind Waker Link, the more conventional grit of Twilight Princess Link, or the Hero of Time from the N64 classic we all know and love, there’s a green-garbed swordsman out there for everyone.
Of course, some fans are slightly alarmed that we’ve not seen the merest hint of a green tunic or stupid hat in the upcoming Breath of the Wild, but I’d bet my Switch savings it’ll show up at some point.
Team Fortress Crew
Valve opted to give the Team Fortress crew more of a cartoony makeover when the time came to update the original classic, eight years in.
Gone are the imposing, snarling characters who look like they’d stab you to death in a lift. In their place stand distinct, stylised, larger than life characters who opened the door for all manner of ‘hilarious’ (depending on your point of view) memes and videos.
It also helped the gameplay no end, if only because the characters were suddenly much easier to see – a real boon for such a fast paced game.
Samus Aran’s chunky, big-shouldered varia suit is one of the most iconic pieces of design in gaming, so it was brave of Nintendo to take a risk when they decided to throw it out and give the bounty hunter something new to wear for the excellent Metroid Fusion.
By its very nature, the Gameboy Advance classic was all about Samus being less powerful than ever before, and her new duds did a fine job of selling that.
The armour was stripped back to its barest essentials, and Nintendo managed to resist the urge to take this opportunity to make Samus a curvy slice of fanservice. Credit to ’em for that.
There’s nothing wrong with classic Doomguy, exactly, but he doesn’t really look like the kind of dude who’s up to the task of defending Earth (and Mars) from the endless hordes of hell.
The version of Doomguy from id Software’s incredible 2016 reboot, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of chap I could see heading in to the depths of hell to beat demons to death with their own severed arms.
In fact, that’s just what he does. Almost exclusively.
The concept behind the character of Raiden was a decent idea, but his initial appearance didn’t really leave much of an impression.
However, when Kojima brought Raiden back for Metal Gear Solid 4, it was as a ridiculously cool cyborg ninja killer that impressed the fans so much that players were eventually treated to a Raiden solo adventure in the form of Platinum Games’ Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
There’s not a ton of difference between Barret of the original Final Fantasy VII and the Barret of the upcoming remake, but enough smart tweaks and adjustments have been made to ensure this very ’90’s’ design can still hold up in a modern game.
This incarnation of Barret is sleeker, cooler, and altogether less cartoonish than his predecessor – the perfect fit for an updated retelling of the classic RPG.
Oh, and he wears shades now, and seems to have learned that there’s no shame in covering up his muscly man chest with a nice shirt, which is a welcome change.
Does this count as a redesign? It’s my article, so… I’ll allow it. Thanks, me.
Pokemon Sun & Moon decided to shake up the classic formula in a lot of ways, with one of these being ‘Aloan’ variants of certain classic monsters.
These redesigns ranged from great to knowingly ridiculous, but the best of the bunch has to be the adorable Aloan form of Raichu, a less spiky looking and altogether kinder version of its Kanto cousin.
Plus, it combines electric moves with some cheeky psychic powers, and surfs on its own tail – how could anyone have a problem with that?
Sometimes it’s best to leave a character alone, but other times, change really can be for the better. Go out and embrace it. Go on.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.