An NPC has just told you that you have to retrieve the legendary golden sphere from the ancient dragon. Legends say he's in the Cave of Horrors. To find out where that is, you'll have to ask The Town Sage.
...Yeah, you've all seen this. Important words and phrases are highlighted for your convenience in at least one different color. While the exact first game to implement this is unknown, certain games like Ultima VI (using links in the dialogue to introduce topics of conversation), Final Fantasy I, and the opening scroll to Star Wars: A New Hope (putting the DEATH STAR in all caps) come to mind.
This happens mostly in video games, especially those that lack voice acting, but can occur in comics and other media from time to time. The World Wide Web, especially, invokes this for identifying hyperlinks (well, usually). Also common in subtitled anime, to differentiate characters.
See also: Painting the Medium, Bold Inflation, Notice This. Contrary to what one might expect, this is not the binary opposite of Black Speech. Text of this kind lends itself very well to a Dramatic Reading.
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Spider-Man's foe Delilah had an odd speech pattern; some of her words would be colored purple and written in a formal, flowery looking font.
In the SLG Gargoyles comics, sound effects produced by gargoyles ("ROAR!", "SNIFF!". etc.) would be rendered in the color of the gargoyle making the noise.
In Divided Rainbow, whenever the story shows a direct POV 'flashback' from one of the Swapped Five's "past", the font color switches from black to purple.
It seems that Pete's Dragon has colored closed captioning, and there are little gags whenever certain words are said. For example, the titular dragon's growly noises are all in green, money words in yellow, angry words in red...
House of Leaves always has the word house in blue, Minotaur in red (and crossed out), and a few significant words in purple.
Many versions of The Bible print all of Jesus's utterances in red font.
And in many other versions LORD is the translation of Yahweh whilst Lord is just your bog standard godly title.
The Neverending Story actually used this to distinguish Bastian reading the book (red) from the actual adventures in the book (green). Only certain editions of the book do this (namely hardcover versions), while the others (paperback) simply use italics.
Penn & Teller's book Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends has everything printed in red being a lie.
Done in-universe in The Light Fantastic: As Rincewind reads aloud the Eight Spells, the words appear in various bright colours. A mispronounced word appears a dirty brown.
An unsub on Criminal Minds had a form of synesthesia that caused him to see the words people spoke in the air. He came to the conclusion that white letters meant the person was telling the truth and red letters meant they were lying. He did not like being lied to.
On the internet, certain words are blue. This means they are links you can click on. If it's red, it's a dead link.
On some forums, blue is used for sarcasm and green for innuendo.
>implying imageboards did not know about this trope (Imageboards like 4Chan).
On the Penny Arcade forums, an alternative to 'quoted for truth' (QFT) is 'limed for truth', in which the quoted post is lime coloured.
Time Cube uses this all over the place and seemingly at random.
A lot of conspiracy theorist sites in general—or any site that is an online Room Full of Crazy—will do this. Expect ALL-CAPS and flashing text and GIFs as well.
Some moderators on internet forums use a different "ex cathedra" color or font for posts in their capacity as moderators. E.g. red in RPGNet, where it's sometimes called "mod voice".
Various subsets of The Slender Man Mythos use this; for example, there's A Lack of Lexicon, which has each character speak in a different font; at one point, the font actually changes in colour as it reveals one character (jokingly) masquerading as another.
Cue Retro Studios at E3 2013 to deliver the ultimate chill pill. Donkey and Diddy are back for another adventure, this time in glorious High Definition ("HD", I like to call it; I just made that up off the top of my head but you can use it yourself if you like), but they better stay frosty as they battle yet another new slew of enemies: a cold-hearted Viking crew!
Tropers working on pages for the more recent Kamen Rider series have a tendency to work colors into text referring to riders' varying forms. There's a lot of this going around on Super Sentai series pages too.
In many games, especially MMORPGs like Everquest, an NPC will say something like, "I'm glad you stopped by. Right now, our village is under attack from [dragons]." At that point you respond, "Dragons?" And he then goes on to explain. Saying anything besides the "highlighted" word gets you nowhere.
The Another Code series used this lightly, mostly to highlight conversation choices, as did the KyleHyde games set in the same universe.
A person actually used this to play Okami in Japanese despite not knowing the language, simply because he could match up highlighted key phrases.
Used in the Breath of Fire series, particularly in the second installment, making an already bad localization an eye-gouging chore.
Certain words and phrases you needed to remember in the original Banjo-Kazooie trembled and shook in their text box. When Brentilda reveals Gruntilda's embarrassing secrets, the secrets are in an animated wavering font.
The page quotes refer to The Legend of Zelda, which has been known to use it ever since the first game.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time takes this to the extreme. Especially when referring to the Sages/Temples. Light (cyan)-Forest (green)-Fire (red)-Water (blue)-Spirit (gold)-Shadow (pink). The game also uses purple and orange.
The franchise does this in most games since Ocarina of Time or so, and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker parodies it a little. The legend of the Triforce has been lost to the ages, and the few who talk about it call it the... Triumph Forks. Just hearing about it (from Fishmen or Salvage Co.) does get you on the right track, though.
Used in Metroid Prime and its sequels, to point out important terms in scan text.
The SNES game Shadowrun also used the keywords system.
The Savage Empire uses this.
Persona 3 has a variation: Words that show up as terms in the game's Dictionary are in blue, while otherwise-important words or phrases are red. The red words are also used quite heavily near the end of the game to inform you about the upcoming Point of No Return.
Persona 2 was the first Persona game to use Rainbow Speak, only using orange for rumors. Persona 4 uses it sparingly, and it's been introduced to the PSP remake of the first Persona too, even though it was unnecessary.
Devil Survivor has it as a plot point. After Mari is taken over by Kresnik, her text shows up as bright pink whenever she talks to distinguish between the two voices.
Final Fantasy II had this for its "passwords" system, where you had to advance the plot by asking NPCs about certain terms marked in red. It's pretty straightforward until the game starts throwing Guide Dang Its in there, such as the method to get the Infinity+1 Sword. The post-game Bonus Quest gives you an additional 30 or so words to work with, most of them only present to up the Guide Dang It moments.
Since Pokémon started as a monochrome series, it had a variation in fully capitalizing every monster, attack, place, or person name (i.e., "Wild PIKACHU appeared! PIKACHU used THUNDERBOLT!"). Diamond and Pearl eventually ditched this, reverting to just putting monster names in all caps, and using some colored text for certain items. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon and Generation V decapitalized the mons' names as well.
FireRed and LeafGreen colored speech by male NPCs blue and speech by female NPCs red.
HeartGold and SoulSilver colored the words "Sinjoh Ruins", "Mystri Stage", and "time travel" red for an unexplained reason. More normal is the starters' names being highlighted in color of their types at choice screen.
N shouting command to save you in Giant Chasm is colored blue in Black 2 and red in White 2.
Sonic Battle. No key words, just the basic trope. It also had the tendency to put important terms like "Chaos Emerald" in quotes.
Super Mario Galaxy features this. Not only will the name be highlighted in red, but a picture of the item will be displayed next to it.
Civilization 5 does the icon thing too, preceding words such as production or science with hammers and beakers, respectively. It doesn't actually color the text, however.
The Mario Party series generally uses yellow for the word "Star" or "Stars", and green for player names and other assorted words.
Final Fantasy X highlights the names of places you have go in blue, and there's that weird colour-coding translation thing going on with the Al Bhed language, but other than that, it (mercifully) gives this trope a rest.
She also reminds Squally (read: us) that he can review his studies at the [study panel] which he can access from [[his] seat], but if he's ready, he should meet her at the [front gate] and they'll head over to the [Fire Cavern]. Ah, I [get it]. The brackets are to let us know where the hell we're supposed to go. It's a nice touch when you're the type of gamer who doesn't always pay attention and sometimes misses the destination, but I think it's a little overdone in [this case]. Next thing you know, they'll have blinking text, a big neon sign, fireworks, blaring horns, dancers in sequined leotards dancing around, and a big flashing arrow that says "GO HERE" to let you know the next destination. Jeez.
Xenogears has [several] methods of -catching- one's "attention".
Star Ocean: Till the End of Time not only does this, but gives you an electronic encyclopedia which gives description of all the location names, etc, you encounter... including in the text of the encyclopedia. The game not only talks in WikiWords, it gives you a read only wiki for reference purposes.
Amusingly, you could find a mild spoiler before you were supposed to by reading (and unlocking) certain articles before you meet Maria.
Used in City of Heroes, particularly in later missions. The user created story arcs also permit the player to colour text as desired; in fact, one of the people who will give you advice on how to build an arc suggests coloring important information in mission briefings/debriefings to make sure people who only skim the text will see it.
Cave Story uses a variation of this which few people have seen before: Important words are surrounded by ●bullets●.
In Hey You, Pikachu!, words that Pikachu can understand are red, while important terms, like locations, are in blue.
This is a major annoyance in Folklore, which marks words in blue quite often.
Wild ARMs 3 crossed this with a gimmick called the [ASK System], marked in red. It allowed you to press for further information on a highlighted phrase or topic by selecting it, but in practice, all it did was give you a small conversation tree that didn't give you that much more information than you would have otherwise gotten.
Xenosaga episode III colored words that you could "ask" about when overhearing someone else's conversation, leading to conversation trees.
Rayman 2 puts anything of remote importance in red. If you didn't notice the importance of the pirates the first time, don't worry; the game won't stop putting the word "pirates" in red. Ever.
Neverwinter Nights had the option; traditionally, normal text was displayed in white, skill checks in red, and actions in green.
In Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, everyone has their own color-coded dialog. Dash (brown), Luke (cyan), Leia (gold), Leebo (gray), Xizor (lime green), Guri (red), Palpatine (purple). IG-88 and the nameless swoop jockey speak in white.
Similarly, the subtitles for Half-Life 2 give a distinctive color to each character.
Dragon Spirit: The New Legend for the NES uses the Star Wars version of this.
AMRU and ARISHA were married and had twins named LACE and IRIS. AMRU became ill from his battle with ZAWEL. Meanwhile, GALDA started conquering the EARTH.
Nethergate has no Dialogue Tree in the proper sense, instead letting you type in words to ask about. If a character mentions, say, Emperor Nero, asking about him will get the standard "I don't understand" message, but Emperor Nero marked in blue indicates that they have something special to say about him if asked.
Eternal Darkness is all over this trope. There's gold for keywords, and each resident Eldritch Abomination has its own color code: Chattur'gha (red), Ulyaoth (blue), Xel'lotath (green) and Mantorok (purple).
Guilty Party; this trope, with the lie detector, makes it easier to find out whether someone is telling the truth (green) or lying (red).
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn uses these like internet hyperlinks; if a phrase is in red then you can pull up a short encyclopedia article explaining it on the second screen (bright red means it's new or updated, dark red means the entry hasn't changed since the last time you saw it).
Assassin Blue marks Assassin Blue's and Red's names in blue and red respectively. A smaller version of this appears again in Banov's another game Dubloon, where the Chest and the key to it are marked in yellow.
In the game Lux-Pain, in the pages that showed information on certain subjects, they would use this to indicate what type of information it was.
The intros to Hydlide and Hydlide II for the PC-88.
Throughout the Monkey Island series, Guybrush is the only character whose text is always white when he speaks, even when voices were added to the later Monkey Island games. Many characters often speak lines of dialogue in colors, with one text color attributed to each character's speech. In Tales of Monkey Island, for example, in forming subtitles, Elaine's text is "cameo pink", while Demon LeChuck's text is "asparagus green". Similarly, the Voodoo Lady's text is "thistle" (a shade of purple), the Marquis De Singe's text is "pink lace", and Morgan LeFlay's text is "munsell red".
Solatorobo uses red for items or people vital to the plot, green for important-but-not-quite-vital sentences, and (blue in parenthesis for thoughts or whispered words.)
If you talk to the villagers in Rune Factory 3 and they mention an item they like a lot or give you a hint regarding the storyline, it will be highlighted in blue. The things that Sophia and her father mean in the opposite are highlighted in red.
In Shantae: Risky's Revenge, important items and innuendos in dialogue are highlighted yellow.
In Layton's London Life, a bonus RPG packaged with some versions of Professor Layton And The Last Spectre, rainbow speak will indicate whether a character's speech affects your character's happiness. Red text will reduce your happiness, while green text increases it.
In Catherine, some plot-important words are outlined in pink.
La-Mulana highlights important terms in either red or blue. Blue usually refer to locations, but not always...
In Fate/EXTRA, blue is generally used for characters, like your Servant and the other Masters, while red is usually used for important terms and for enemy Servants. Gold is also used once, in a book you can read if you visit the library during the 4th week.
In Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland, when you qualify for one of the Multiple Endings you get a MeMemo(journal) entry with the phrase "I feel like I've uncovered a whole new future for myself!" and it's presented in Rainbow Speak to emphasize the fact the phrase is something you should pay attention to.
In the Animal Crossing games, your name/nickname is in green; the name of your town is in purple; the names of villagers are orange; and the names of items and other important text are in blue.
Ace Attorney highlights hints and key evidence in orange. It also plays a 'ping!' noise when a hint is displayed. Also, the protagonist's inner monologue is presented in blue, and witness testimony during the cross-examination stage is a nice green.
Socrates Jones Pro Philosopher, which is heavily inspired by the Ace Attorney series, uses blue and green the same way, while using purple for notifications like "New statement added."
Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth adds light green for leads that are added to Miles' logic page. Which is used masterfully. By making logic a gameplay mechanic, the player doesn't have to work so hard to deduce what happens by themselves as they had to in other games. This is when they subvert this trope by specifically not highlighting any text and therefore not adding it to the logic page. There is quite a few points where Miles realizes all the important things he missed, which flashbacks to the text, this time highlighted in green, and getting a logic overload that's harder than usual to work out because of the large amount of possible connections that you may drain your life by trying to work out, encouraging the player to try to draw connections that Miles himself doesn't catch on to by looking at wherever this trope is averted for possible leads.
Danganronpa uses different colored text like Ace Attorney but also has the Re:ACT system wherein you could press Triangle once purple text appears to interrupt and inquire further about purple text. The Non-Stop Debates also use Orange text for possible contradictions and purple for chatter.
Umineko: When They Cry features Rainbow Speak as a plot point. In it, anything said in red is guaranteed to be true, while things said in blue are used for theories of possible explanations of events. This carries over to the anime adaption, making it possibly the only non-textual example.
As of Episode 5, Umineko has a third colour: gold. It's used for making statements that use Beato's rules as a basis for deduction.
And on the final Episode, there's purple, which is functionally the same as the red truth, except that anyone can use it, and only the culprit may lie using it.
In Homestuck, differently colored words are also often converted into animated GIFs and have a sort of supernatural sparkle to them. Then there's this particularly memorable piece of Angrish: SHE HAS WHAT!?
In an offshoot timeline where Gamzee succeeded in killing all the trolls minus Aradia, he used their blood to write a code in a book. Each letter used an alternating color of the rainbow. Literal Rainbow Speak.
Then there's the fact that all the kids and trolls speak with some color of the rainbow, with the colors corresponding to eye color for the kids and blood color for the trolls, with the exception of Karkat and the cherubs.
The webcomic Sodium Eyes started using distinctively colored speech balloons for each character, so that readers could more easily tell which lines of dialog were spoken by which character. It works so well it's surprising the technique wasn't employed by many comics long ago.
Gunnerkrigg Court also uses colored speech balloons for various characters, though the colors are very subtle.
Closed captions sometimes give different characters different colors.
Subtitles for anime often use different colours for the different characters, especially while several are talking over each other (including background conversations); and plain white or yellow for translations of text (signs, newspapers, etc.)
For movie and TV scripts, as well as aspiring authors writing their synopses, it is common practice to put the first instance of each character name in all caps. This is used both to denote importance and to help the agent/publisher in case they need to reference back who a character with a certain name is.
—In loving memory of CAD, who fell off the face of the earth shortly after proposing this trope, and the colour mark-up, which used to frolic around this page before being disabled. May they forever exist in the memory of children everywhere. Good Night, Sweet Prince.