Video games, movies, and other media action can be fast paced and potentially confusing. Telling apart The Cavalry
from the Elite Mooks
they're engaging is complicated by the camera moving and lack of good lighting; this is why factions are Dress-Coded for Your Convenience
and members of Super Team
are Color-Coded Characters
. If there's energy attacks, so are they. Ray Guns
will have the color of the faction, and even normal guns' tracer rounds
will be the same color.
Which works fine until the hero or a villain picks up the opponent's costume, weapons, or vehicles. Going a step further, what about characters who switch sides like the henchmen pulling a Mook-Face Turn
? What ends up happening is a Convenient Color Change
. The clothing, weapon, vehicle, character, building, or even city
will change their default color to the one they're now aligned with. In the case of an infiltrator, the "how" for this color change is usually glossed over, but if a reason is given, it's that the colored areas are kind of like a high tech/magical mood ring.
There's a lot of variations on this. Mecha-Mooks
that get hacked
will spontaneously change the color of any lights on their chassis, as if they were built with multiple colored bulbs just in case they were ever hackednote
. Characters under Mind Control
or the effects of The Virus
may have this happen to them as well.
This tends to be a staple of strategy games if different players have the same units and structures at their disposal, because you do
need a way to tell your forces apart from your opponents', hence the use of Color-Coded Armies
and Color-Coded Multiplayer
. In this and other settings, a unit/character that can change color without
changing alliances serves as an infiltrator.
Paint It Black
is a subtrope of this. See also Eye Colour Change
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Anime & Manga
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Subaru receives her sister's magical Device from her for the Final Battle. At first, it remains purple (her sister's signature color), but when she is preparing a powerful spell, it turns blue (Subaru's color), just like her own twin Device.
Films — Live-Action
- In the TRON universe, vehicles change to the color of whatever program is piloting it. Also, programs that are reprogrammed (or deprogrammed) may change color. The page picture is Flynn invoking the trope in order to pass himself off as a Mook.
- In an early draft of Star Wars, lightsabers worked like this.
- In Erf World, raiment has similar properties. It changes color and even symbol depending on who a unit serves. So when Wanda uncroacks or Decrypts a unit, its raiment immediately changes to her or Parson's symbol.
- Magic weapons in Goblins are explicitly said to glow with the aura color of their wielder and change depending on who is wielding them.
- In Paperboy, when a house cancels its subscription (because of your incompetence), its paint suddenly turns gray and metal skulls appear on its fenceposts.
- The security bots in Bioshock change from red-light to green-light when you hack them. Likewise, Big Daddies' helmet lights will turn green when hypnotized and red when aggro'd.
- The sequel's multiplayer uses red, white, and blue in a similar way; red machines have been hacked by the enemy team, and blue ones by your own. White is unhacked (vending machines) or inactive (turrets).
- When buildings are captured in Command & Conquer games (or when soldiers are mind-controlled), they change to the color of the team that captured them. Garrisonable Structures also get instant sandbags, flags, and color-coded paint jobs.
- In Dune II, when an Ordos Deviator tank hit an opposing unit and put it under Ordos control, the unit's color changed to Ordos green.
- Gears of War: The light on guns change to either blue or red depending upon which side picks them up.
- StarCraft has it for mind-controlled units in the Brood War extension, but averts it for "rescuable" units in missions (usually heroes).
- The sequel also does this, with the color of mind controlled units changing to the controller's side as long as they are being controlled.
- Campaign or custom map triggers that change unit control will also change the color accordingly. E.g. One early mission has you bring your hero unit to a beacon, which sets off a script to turn the whole base to your control, along with a new paint job.
- Though not universally true, Fire Emblem characters will often switch their outfits to blue instead of green (NPC) or red (enemy) upon joining the player's army.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, Phantoms being controlled by Zelda turn pink.
- El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron has the weapons change color from black to white as soon as you steal (and purify) them from enemies.
- In Star Wars Battlefront, any command posts you/the enemy captures will change colour.
- At one point in Transformers: War for Cybertron, an Autobot Brute picks up the hammer weapon dropped by the Decepticon Brute he just killed. The weapon immediately switches from the purple-tinted Decepticon version to the red-tinted Autobot version of the same weapon.
- The laser guns of G.I. Joe act like this. The beams are Color-Coded for Your Convenience, good guys and bad guys having different-colored laser blasts, and infamously, in one episode, a Cobra weapon is picked up and used by a Joe, and the color of its fire changed to match its user. It is joked by fans that the guns have a "good" and "evil" setting.
- In Code Lyoko, Ulrich's katana usually glows blue when striking or parrying, but in the hand of a XANA-controlled warrior (like a polymorphic clone, a brainwashed Aelita, or William), it glows red instead.
- In Transformers Animated, when Mixmaster and Scrapper change their allegiance to the Decepticons, their optics go from yellow to red, as Autobots have blue eyes and Decepticons have red ones. They also go from the colors of the vehicles they were made from to the bright yellow and purple of the G1 Constructicons.
- The franchise also has many, many, maaaany characters over the years get a repaint from a powerup, sometimes temporary and sometimes permanent, because it lets them sell the same toy again.
- In Ben 10: Alien Force, Albedo is an alien who created a knockoff Omnitrix that has synced with Ben's, rendering him stuck with Ben's normal human form as his default. Eventually, the two Omnitrixes react to each other, and Albedo becomes a color-inverted Ben - dark hair becomes white, green clothes become red. Eventually, he creates another, better one called the Ultimatrix. It's red, like his jacket. So is the flash created when Albedo transforms with it. Then Ben gets it... and when he puts it on, it becomes green, as is the flash when he transforms with it.