Top 10 Failed Video Game Hero Makeovers
In order to draw new attention to an old hero, sometimes game companies will radically alter their characters' designs. In some cases, this is successful and gives the franchise a welcome resurgence. In other cases, it results in embarrassing failure, forcing the company to go back to their tried and true designs. This list features games from the latter category, and while not all of these redesigns were bad, none of them stuck for any extended period of time.
10. Armored Ratchet, Ratchet: Deadlocked (PS2)
The Ratchet and Clank series was always a mix of cartoony platforming and third-person shooting, but as the series progressed, it moved away from the former. After three games on the PS2, Insomniac dropped all pretense of adventure and exploration with Ratchet: Deadlocked, a squad-shooter that cast the Lombax protagonist as an armored gladiator unwillingly fighting for a reality TV audience. With his features covered in a helmet with a glowing visor, the resemblance to Master Chief from the popular Halo series was readily apparent and a bit embarrassing. Thankfully, when the series returned on the PS3, Ratchet was able to show his true face once more, and enjoy elaborate worlds as well as destroy their scenery with outlandish guns.
9. Bio-Organic Samus, Metroid Fusion (GBA)
In 2002, Metroid returned after many years' absence with two different games. GameCube owners had Retro Studios' Metroid Prime, which brought the series into 3D, while the Game Boy Advance received the 2D Metroid Fusion. In the latter, Samus was ravaged by a bizarre parasite and forced to take an experimental cure that transformed both her and her suit. Now Samus wore a a bright blue and yellow techno-organic muscle suit - an appearance that unfortunately didn't offer any substantial new powers and wasn't as iconic as her traditional metal armor. While the game was excellent, the new look didn't stick - and if you unlocked the garish appearance's 3D model in Metroid Prime, it's especially clear why.
8. Everyone, Castlevania Judgment (Wii)
Takeshi Obata is one of the greatest living manga artists, with a resume including classics like Death Note, Hikaru no Go, and Bakuman. However, his designs for the Wii fighter Castlevania: Judgment are hardly the brightest spot on his resume. Every character received an extremely overdone makeover that would be considered tacky even in a Final Fantasy game. Original series hero Simon Belmont looked like a Chippendale's dancer; Dracula's trademark black cloak was joined by an ostentatious golden dress; and 12-year-old Maria Renard wore a skimpy dress wildly inappropriate for her age. This, coupled with the game's poorly implemented Wii controls, left Judgment as proof that even great series and great artists can make terrible mistakes.
7. Adventurer Fox McCloud, Star Fox Adventures (GameCube)
When most gamers think of Star Fox, they think of dogfighting in space with laser-shooting Arwings, not exploring lost civilizations on foot. But that's just what Rare did for their final Nintendo game, haphazardly stapling the Star Fox franchise onto their in-development Dinosaur Planet title. In this game, not only does Fox spend the vast majority of his time out of his ship, but he doesn't even get a blaster, instead forced to rely on a goofy magic staff. The game itself wasn't bad, but every Star Fox title since has returned Fox to his Arwing, his tomb raiding days nothing more than a footnote in gaming history.
6. The entire Marvel Universe, Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (PS2 / Xbox / Xbox 360)
When Electronic Arts got hold of the Marvel Comics license, they tried to do a fighting game in the vein of the popular Marvel vs. Capcom series. However, since EA didn't have nearly the wealth of potential fighters as Capcom, they created the Imperfects, a series of overtly gloomy villains with names like Johnny Ohm and Fault Zone. Worse yet, the overly shadowy art style of character designer Jae Lee was thrust upon the existing Marvel characters, rendering everyone in a dull, dour light. This unpleasant grimness, coupled with the overly simplistic gameplay, made the Imperfects dead on arrival. Unlike other comic characters, the Imperfects didn't come back from their series' demise.
5. Big-headed Mega Man, Mega Man Powered Up (PSP)
The PSP remake of the original Mega Man did more than just update the graphics. Instead, it exponentially increased the cuteness of the Blue Bomber's world, by giving everyone bigger heads and more comical movements. As always, some fans complained, under the assumption that Capcom had taken the dark, serious nature of Mega Man. Fortunately, the game itself was extremely fun, and the animation captured the Saturday morning aesthetic of which the original 8-bit games could only hint. Nevertheless, it failed to prove successful enough for a sequel, though the original version of the character did receive two subsequent games (albeit in a thoroughly retro style) in Mega Man 9 and 10.
4. Chibi Prince, Prince of Persia: The Fallen King (DS)
This is ultimately a footnote to a footnote in video game history, but it deserves mention for its goofiness. When Prince of Persia came to the current generation of consoles, it was joined by a simultaneous DS version. But the DS' hardware was severely limited by comparison, so the game created for the handheld was a two-dimensional platformer with a big-headed, cel-shaded Prince. This scimitar-wielding toddler looked like a Playskool dilution of the Prince from any previous games, and The Fallen King ultimately fell into the critical ghetto of so many half-hearted handheld adaptations of console games.
3. Toon Link, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (GameCube)
One of the GameCube's tech demos was a high-resolution video of the handsome adult Link, so it came as a shock to many when the system's actual Zelda game appeared with scalding cel-shaded colors and bobble-headed cartoon characters. Few gamers liked seeing Link with the proportions of a bug-eyed lawn gnome, so Wind Waker was thoroughly panned before it even released and ended up as one of the lowest sellers in Zelda history. Unfortunately, the final game was one of the best titles in the series, and it featured a beautifully animated world with imagination that few titles before or since have matched. Fortunately, Toon Link lived on in several handheld Zeldas, where his cartoony proportions were better received.
2. Dark Prince, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (PS2 / Xbox / GameCube)
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time brought the PC series out of retirement with a bang, using then cutting-edge hardware to bring the old Arabian Nights mythos into vivid 3D. Unfortunately, the hit game was followed up with the executive-enforced darkness of Warrior Within. Here, the Prince went from an lovable rogue to an angsty thug, often coated in the blood of his enemies (as Ubisoft thought the series would sell better with an M rating). The game was still critically and commercially successful, but its predecessors' magic was lost. Fortunately, the follow-up title The Two Thrones brought back the old Prince, cleverly casting his angsty phase as the influence of a literal dark side.
1. Cyborg Bomberman, Bomberman Act Zero (Xbox 360)
Did anyone, upon looking at the cute and cuddly Hudson Soft character Bomberman, think that he could've benefitted from a Halo-style, ”mature” makeover? Apparently the higher-ups at the company did, and they paid dearly for that error. Giving the series a dark, rusty makeover with a brutal storyline and harsher robot characters (including bizarrely shapely Bomberwomen) took away much of the series' charm, and Act Zero's only legacy is as an example of how not to make a series darker and edgier.
Neil Kapit is a freelance writer, cartoonist, and "La Li Lu Le Lo" agent based in Los Angeles. His work can be seen on www.therubynation.com.
[Other Features +]
More from GameDynamo