Change isn’t always for the better, you know. This isn’t something you hear much in the video game industry though, since it’s a business built on innovation and forward-thinking.
With that said, there are certain formulas and characters that should never be fucked with in gaming – not that that stopped developers and publishers from doing exactly that, and defiling some of our most iconic heroes in the process.
In no particular order, these are the most offensive video game character redesigns.
Remember Spyro the Dragon? He was the plucky, purple scaly hero of a glorious era on the original PlayStation, when 3D platformers were coming out in droves, and they were all good.
Perhaps not the best designed creature to ever have appeared in a game, but there’s a certain sleekness to it. Certainly, it’s the kind of thing boys and girls of a young age would find cool.
Then they brought him back for Skylanders, and it all went wrong.
This version of Spyro doesn’t look that different, but something about it is just… wrong. It’s as if they asked a man who once glimpsed a picture of Spyro from a distance on a rainy day to try and draw him from memory.
Ah, Knuckles the Echinda. Back in the days when there was no such thing as a bad Sonic game, and there were a reasonable amount of Sonic characters instead of the small army of cartoon cretins we have now, Knuckles was a pretty cool guy.
You’ve got the spiky gloves, the shoes that have LEGO on them for some reason… his design evokes the idea that he’s a tough guy without being overly obvious.
Oh SEGA, what did you do? It wasn’t enough that Sonic Boom was a fucking awful game, but they had to punish us with a series of awful redesigns.
Of course, none were more offensive than Knuckles, who looks like he’s been stretched out on Microsoft Paint to nightmarish proportions.
Look at this version of Crash. The original. The best. Isn’t he a fun looking cartoon character?
The wild eyes, the massive bushy eyebrows, the mad smile, and clothing worn on the bottom half for no logical reason – it’s a classic design, up there with the likes of Mario himself if you ask me.
You have to wonder then, just what developer Radical Entertainment were doing when they took Naughty Dog’s design and made Crash all… punk for Crash of the Titans.
The ‘messy’ fur, the skater boy jeans, the fucking Converse and tattoos – this version of Crash looks like the kind of wanker that’d come up to me on the tube and tell me about how fulfilling his gap year backpacking across Australia was.
The original Bomberman was a simple, addictive, and fun multiplayer game with a premise anybody could grasp, and the elegant design of the titular mascot reflected that.
Sure, you probably won’t see this guy starring in a game as deep as The Last of Us any time soon, but that’s not the point of Bomberman.
Just to be clear, I haven’t picked up the wrong image off Google here – this is the redesign of Bomberman from a fucking awful ‘reboot’ called Act Zero that took everything great about the franchise and completely ignored it in favour of this po-faced bag of warm milky scum.
I’m of the firm opinion that Mega Man is one of the best designed video game characters of all time – probably in the top five, for me personally.
There’s something wonderfully simple about him – it’s the kind of thing you look at and you just know it’d make a great figure or collectable (and it does).
So it’s a shame that when he appeared in Tekken X Street Fighter as a hidden character, they chose to make him look this this…
Here, Mega Man was no longer a robot that looked like a young boy about to embark on a thrilling adventure, but a retired bouncer in a bad superhero costume who’s just waiting for an excuse to glass someone.
Prince of Persia
Sands of Time Prince of Persia looks great. There’s a cartoonish style there that shows us the (brilliant) game is fun for all the family, but there’s a bit of edge there.
On other words, it managed to convey a serious side without trying embarrassingly hard, unlike his design for the sequel, Warrior Within.
Obviously someone at Ubisoft decided it wasn’t cool for the franchise to appeal to kids anymore, so their best bet was to make the Prince look like a mid 00’s emo rock star who’d spent the night at a fetish club in downtown New York.
Donkey Kong’s own Tiny Kong character was classic Nintendo when she first popped up, and pretty much exactly what you’d expect a toddler monkey to look like (maybe minus the banana crossbow).
She reappeared a little bit later, but didn’t look quite the same as we all remembered her…
I genuinely feel for the designer who came into work one day only to be told by their boss that they had a week to take a baby monkey and make it ‘sexy’.
Frankly, it’s the kind of design that leads to those terrifying pieces of fan ‘art’ you see in the very darkest and most socially unacceptable corners of the internet.
Man, I love Banjo Kazooie (like most gamers with a soul), and the wonderful, loveable design work of the two central characters is key to that love.
It’s the kind of design that oozes charm, even when depicted as low quality polygons in an N64 game, which I’m certain was the point – how can you screw up such great work?
Like this, apparently. It’s almost as if the person responsible for this cack-handed redesign was only given blurry screenshots of the game itself, and not any of the lovely promotional art.
The result is a janky, jagged, weird looking duo. It’s not that this one is a drastically different redesign – it’s just really damn ugly.
Look at this cheeky chappy. Is this not exactly what you’d expect an errant Disney character to look like?
Conker’s Bad Fur Day was one of the most memorable games on N64, thanks to its mix of brilliant toilet humour, great gameplay, and a brilliantly designed central character that got away all of the outrageous stuff he said, because of the way he looked.
Oh, there’s a new Conker game coming by the way. Don’t get excited though, it’s called Young Conker, and is coming to the Microsoft Hololens in 2017, for some reason.
In truth, this Conker doesn’t look all that different, but there’s something about him that seems just a little bit more safe… like they’ve used that annoying squirrel from the Ice Age films as a guide.
Check out a trailer below, if only to see the incredible like/dislike ratio.
Sometimes, the best thing to do really is to leave a good thing the hell alone, and remember: you can redesign a character all you want, but it won’t do any good if the game you stick ’em in is shit.
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.