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Art Evolution / Video Games

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Gaming's premire Third-Person Seductress needs to look her best.

There has been much discussion over whether or not Video Games qualify as Art, but one thing's for sure: they sure have evolved as much as any art form, and not just because of the increase in processing power.

  • Brawl Stars: After the global launch, the devs have been working on improving the look of every single brawler in the game, a process that ended in July 2020 with Crow.
    • Starting in July 2020 with Shelly and Colt, brawlers have been getting new facial animations.
    • Starting in December 2020, more and more brawler pins are being animated.
  • The Legend of Zelda has undergone this quite a bit:
    • Compare short, squat, brown-haired Link with his modern tall, blond, bishonen counterpart. It is worth noting, however, that these are technically separate characters — Link and Zelda both canonically reincarnate again and again in Hyrule's history, and most Zelda games are set centuries apart from each other.
    • The Zelda games actually had different artists throughout the years. In the beginning it was Yoshiaki Koizumi and former anime studio employee Yoichi Kotabe that worked on the first few Zelda games. However Metroid artist mainstay Yusuke Nakano is the most popular one due to his work on Ocarina of Time (which was his first Zelda project). Later he did Majora's Mask, the Oracle games (for a guy inspired by Kotabe's work on Link to the Past and Link's Awakening for his work on Oracle of Ages/Seasons he didn't do too bad), and his work on Twilight Princess (2006) shows how his style improved drastically since Ocarina of Time (1998).
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    • Yusuke Nakano also did the artwork for The Wind Waker. It's also noticeable: Look closely at the artwork in the instruction booklet and you will find the way the outlines are drawn to be quite similar to the artwork of Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess. Even though it's Super-Deformed, it's still his style. Nakano himself stated in an article, that he liked working on Twilight Princess the best, because he is into this kind of fantasy art, but found The Wind Waker to be an interesting experience as well, because of the drastic change in style.
    • However, you can even notice it with Links that are the same characters. Ocarina of Time Link has gone from having small pupils and a long nose to gigantic pupils and a small nose, from the original game art through appearances in spinoffs, to the 2011 3DS remake.
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    • With the HD remake of Wind Waker you can see a direct art evolution here. More drastic art evolution is present in the 3DS remake of Ocarina of Time, due to the fact that technical limitations prevented the N64 version's graphics from resembling the game's official artwork.
  • Street Fighter has had noticeable art shifts within the various incarnations of just the main franchise. The original game used character designs that were more realistic than cartoony, albeit with pretty sparse animation. Its sequel, Street Fighter II, was running on the same style, but had bigger sprite size, more frames of animation and slightly deeper details. Realistic design was thrown out entirely for the prequel Street Fighter Alpha series and the characters all took on a more anime-inspired look that also led to a few looking noticeably different in both costume and builds. Street Fighter III backed away from this and returned once more to more realistic designs. Street Fighter IV appears to be looking to blend the two concepts by maintaining cartoony facial expressions but otherwise returning to more classic, realistic character designs. However, many characters are noticeably a lot more muscular.
  • Trauma Center's art style was cartoony and unrealistically proportioned in the first game (even for anime styled artwork), but the subsequent sequels and remakes improved the artwork by a huge margin.
  • Bubble Bobble:
    • Bub and Bob have basic 8-bit sprites in the original. For Part 2, they only have their color and white for their sprites but get a simplified outline and a new short square silhouette. Bub and Bob get nicely shaded yet still keep their silhouette for Bubble Symphony. They get brighter shades and get a slimmer silhouette for Bubble Memories, in which by that time they don't have literal-black-line-struck-out eyes upon death anymore — their eyes go missing.
    • Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move: The 1st game follows yet slightly improves the original Bubble Bobble sprites. The 2nd game follows the Bubble Memories' sprite style (as both games were released around the same time). The 3rd game has an Anime style, and the 4th game goes back to the 2nd game's style.
  • Resident Evil’s artstyle has changed greatly since 1998 (along with the graphics). Originally Chris, Jill, Leon, Claire, Ada etc had bright distinct colours in their outfits and slightly more cartoony features, the later games give them more detailed clothing, more muted colours and realistic features. In the rest of the games the characters tend to wear darker colours, militarily vests and enough utility pouches to make Rob Liefeld proud.
    • It’s not especially notable in HD REmake of RE1 where you can play as Chris and Jill in their RE5 incarnations and they stand out like sore thumbs in the environment and compared to other characters due being more advanced graphics-wise. Similarly in RE2make you can have Leon, Claire and Sherry wearing their classic colourful 90s attire from RE2 and they look somewhat ridiculous in the gritty HD realistic setting.
    • The hair colour of the characters changed over time as well, Chris had light brown hair in the first game but it darkened to black over the course of the games. Claire was brunette in the second game but changed to auburn for Code Veronica and she became outright red haired in Degeneration and Revelations 2. Leon was also had brown hair in his debut, but his hair lightened in every game to point where he’s dirty blond in RE6.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
  • In the earlier expansions of Shadowverse, the "Evolved" artwork of a card simply has the original artwork mirrored and depict minor changes to the follower's equipment, weaponry, or background. However, there are few cards where the follower sports a new pose when evolved.
  • Space Invaders is quite an odd case. Nowadays, they're usually depicted in their classic pixelated forms (even the UFO), but in the Bubble Bobble series, to fit in with the new sprite style of Bubble Symphony, they look more like robots (and the UFO became sentient). The opening sequence of Amiga version of Super Space Invaders '91 actually manages to feature warped versions of the Bubble Bobble designs.
  • Ken Sugimori of Game Freak is known for his style change over time:
    • His art from back when Game Freak was a humble fan magazine had a generic style resembling general contemporary anime/manga of the time.
    • By the time of Game Freak's first game, Quinty, his characters had a squat and chubby appearance, their faces having large, wide eyes with big round irises/pupils.
    • Around the time of Jerry Boy his characters had become a bit more slender and taller, their heads having a slightly more angular appearance and their eyes getting more taller than wide, with their irises in particular getting much thinner.
    • It certainly shows in Pokémon in the jump from the second generation to the third. Originally, the artwork had been stiff and lightly shaded, like that of Akira Toriyama. As time went on, Sugimori's style had become more natural and fluid, and more shading has been used. The Pokémon themselves have undergone art shifts over time. Just look at their sprites from the original Red and Green Versions (*shudder* horribly deformed Mew), and look as they have changed over time as the series continued.

      You can really see how things have changed when you view the artwork from Red and Blue Versions and compare it to the updated art seen in the remakes of the first two generations (FireRed/LeafGreen and HeartGold/SoulSilver Versions). They've all gotten friendlier-looking and the style has smoothed out considerably. Pikachu especially has gotten thinner and sleeker over the years. Compare the fat mouse-like original work to the modern style. Then compare Dedenne from Pokémon XY whose design is meant to invoke Pikachu's earliest design as a sort of throwback to the Red and Blue games.

      The release of Pokémon Black and White is also accompanied by a new art shift: while protagonists Hilbert and Hilda seem to hearken back to the art style featured prominently in Generations III (i.e., Brendan; May) and IV (i.e., Lucas; Dawn), the artwork of Unova Gym Leaders such as Cilan and Iris shows a marked change in drawing style.

      The change in art is apparent in the Pokémon battle sprites: 1996 Pikachu vs. 2010 Pikachu.
    • This is also noticeable when comparing Pokemon species designs from earlier generations to later ones. Earlier mon designs had more naturalistic proportions and details, whereas later mon designs verge into Thin-Line Animation with simplified features and big, round heads. When you take into account the ever-growing increase in graphical demands, mainstream recognition, and sheer number of mons to program, a more simplified and easy design ethos makes a lot of sense.
  • Shinkiro, a video game artist for SNK and Capcom, has had his style change dramatically over time. His early work, such as for Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters have some realistic touches but still look hand-drawn for the most part. Later on, his work (for example, the cover for Samurai Shodown II, the SNK-style artwork in the Capcom vs. SNK series) became very realistic, while avoiding some details to avoid going into the Uncanny Valley. His current style, seen in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom and Marvel vs. Capcom 3, is a mix of both, almost appearing as cel-shaded. Though early on, it is an evolution in art, he attributes his current style to his preference to draw digitally nowadays. His art is immediately recognizable in all styles, though.
  • The same could be said of other SNK artists. Compare the earlier work of Shinkiro's protégé Hiroaki (Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition, Buriki One, The King of Fighters EX & EX2) to his illustrations in KOF '94 Re-Bout, KOF XI, NeoGeo Battle Coliseum, KOF '98: Ultimate Match, and even projects outside of SNK such as God Hand and Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. Like Shinkiro, his overall style has been consistent throughout the years, although Hiroaki's drawings in some of his works like KOF 2002: Unlimited Match and KOF Sky Stage have the characters looking a bit more youthful than before, a slight sylistic change which has continued onto other projects like his illustrations for Soulcalibur VI's "Soul Chronicle" Story Mode.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • In Sonic Adventure, Sonic was remade to be taller, have green eyes, and have longer limbs and quills. He has since become more compact, and his limbs more shorter, to the point where in the Sonic Unleashed beta he was his classic design with green eyes; his fur color was also darker in the early to mid 2000s. From Sonic Unleashed onwards, his looks are now a hybrid of the "Classic-Era" and "Adventure-Era" designs. This is Lampshaded in Sonic Generations, where the current-style Sonic teams up with his very different-looking Genesis-era self.
  • World of Warcraft has gotten progressively more stylized since the game first came out in 2004. Early weapons and armor were fairly mundane and realistic, while newer items are larger, more colorful, and more extravagant.
    • Until you hit Wrath of the Lich King. While these items are larger, they seem to have turned the trend upside down in terms of coloration and texturing — nearly all Wrath armor is drab (to avoid Clown Suit armor) and textured in a semi-realistic way. Case in point: that horse you can buy from the argent crusade. It's the direct opposite of the happy, fantasy, colorful paladin mount — drab and gritty.
    • True in the last few raid dungeons. Sure, most of the generic armor is drab, but the Tier sets and the high end weapons take the grimdark thing and run straight int the realm of flashy evil looking weapons and the tier10 armor is all based off various undead monsters.
  • AdventureQuest:
    • Since has been adding new content every week for years and hiring more and more decent artists along the way, the art has changed a lot. There's even a page in the forum-based encyclopedia showing the old versions of monsters that have been redrawn. The differences can be memorable.
    • Even the ones that haven't had their basic design changed can look very different; their Mascot Mook the Frogzard went from this to this. They revamped a lot of old low-level monsters at the same time, such as the Arroc, formerly this ugly thing into this, which actually looks kinda cool.
  • The Touhou series has the protagonist Reimu Hakurei change a lot over the years. Take a look at her.
    • The artwork from series creator ZUN is (memetically) considered to be horrible. Sometime after Subterranean Animism his drawing skills began to improve quite a bit.
  • Final Fantasy VII's designs and art style in the original PlayStation game are extremely anime-like and cartoony. The Compilation games have dumped that for a heavily realistic style. Even when you take into account the loss of those awful polygon characters its still a huge shift. Compare the artwork from 1997 to 2007.
    • There is a pretty noticeable chain of art evolutions in Nomura's work, seen in about three different phases: his pre-1999 stuff, when he drew mostly lego-people, his "Belt and Zipper" years where people were slightly lanky and had very detail-heavy costumes, and his stuff starting from the Compilation of FFVII on, where the black outlines of characters have more weight (and in some games, replace color shading) and more attention is given to poses and colors rather than clothes.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics, Akihiko Yoshida's cutesy character designs have noseless characters. When the game's protagonist, Ramza Beoulve, joined the roster of Dissidia Final Fantasy (2015), his character design was updated so he more closely resembled the semi-realistic character designs of the other cast members.
  • Star Fox goes through this a lot. Fox's outfit in particular seems to be completely redesigned every game.
  • Mutsumi Inomata, the artist most frequently used for character designs by Namco for its Tales Series, has really refined her art style as the series has progressed. Her work has gotten more detailed and the proportions have improved (many of her early character designs look anorexic), she uses more vibrant colors, and male characters (usually) look less effeminate. Compare Leon of Tales of Destiny's character artwork from the original game to that of his updated artwork in the remake.
  • Warcraft:
    • Trolls have had their appearance change a little bit throughout the years. In Warcraft II, they had 5 fingers, only Berserkers seemed to have tusks, and their ears were much shorter. In Warcraft III they now had three fingers, almost all trolls had tusks, and their ears were longer and more exaggerated.
    • High Elves also had this happen to them. In Warcraft II they had normal eyes, regular eyebrows and short pointy ears. In Warcraft III their ears were long enough to poke someone's eye out, their eyebrows were similarly long, and they had blank white eyes. Their appearance changed again in World of Warcraft: the Burning Crusade and now they all had blue or green Glowing Eyes of Doom.
      • Also, their designs became almost Animesque when they were made playable in Burning Crusade.
  • This is the Japanese cover of Mega Man. This is Mega Man 7's. Can you notice any difference? In fact, even the Mega Man X series suffered Art Evolution - the cover for the first game still has shades of its Lighter and Softer older brother; but it found its own style a few titles later.
  • Several customers in Papa Louie Arcade have underwent this, particularly the customers who debuted in Papa Louie: When Pizzas Attack. Rita had brownish hair instead of the black hair she has today, Timm did not wear glasses and have fizzed hair, Robby did not wear a bandana, Prudence had a fuchsia colored shirt and didn't have her dog, Pickle, etc. Hell, none of the customers even had names until Papa's Pizzeria. Other customers have experienced evolution such as having their hair dyed (Clover, Mindy), obtaining new outfits (Kingsley, Greg), or getting pets (Cooper, Prudence).
  • Monkey Island is a fairly drastic example. For the first two games in the series the art were much more realistic, and while the characters look a bit cartoony during gameplay, the first Monkey Island often had close-ups of characters during cutscenes and dialogue trees that depicted characters in a much more realistic style. Jump to Tales of Monkey Island and the Updated Re-release of Monkey Island 1 & 2 and everything has been stylized, characters are far more exaggerated and the games are much brighter and more colorful. The fan base is divided on which art style looked better.
  • While still primarily stick figures and simple illustrations, revamped zones in Kingdom of Loathing will often get new art of better resolution and detail.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The series started out with a comparatively realistic style that made most characters look plausably Japanesenote , but characters gradually gained more Mukokuseki and modern anime features. It's extremely noticeable in the original trilogy, due to the tendency to reuse sprites from the first game. By the 4th game, the new sprites look so much more impressive that the old characters appear to be downright ugly standing next to them. Maya suffered from it the most, to the point that she's almost unrecognizable as herself with her new pose, "just exorcised and exhausted", added to her sprite repertoire in the 3rd game. Also, in her maid spriteset, the differences between the shading on her body (old) and on her clothes (new) are painfully obvious. Problems like this are avoided starting with Ace Attorney Investigations, which had all sprites redrawn from scratch, even those of old characters.
    • In Dual Destinies, the series made the jump to cel-shaded 3D models instead of sprites and added fully animated and voiced cutscenes produced by Studio BONES. Some returning characters have had their designs changed slightly, such as Phoenix gaining a waistcoat and a strand of Idiot Hair. Despite this, the animations of the returning characters mimic the animations of their old sprites, and the new characters are animated in a way that resembles sprite animation.
  • Series 1 and 2 of Telltale Games version of Sam & Max: Freelance Police had a semi-cartoony but perfectly workable fitting style. Come season 3, The Devil's Playhouse, and the same style is around, but with added textures on the backgrounds, much more detailed and complex animation, details on the characters themselves (such as Sam having realistic textures on his clothes and saliva on his tongue, and Max having a crease down his back where his spine is) and a nice noir-style grimey filter over everything. It's quite a jump to go from one directly to the other.
  • In 1992, when Kirby's Dream Land was brought to America and Europe, Kirby was colored white both because Nintendo's American and European divisions figured pink wouldn't sell and because of the monochrome Game Boy would only show Kirby as white anyway. Starting with Kirby's Adventure, he's been allowed to remain pink in all regions. Also during the 90's, he was very big and fat-looking, with pointy hands, and very small eyes and mouth. From Kirby Super Star for the SNES to Super Smash Bros for the N64, his appearance began to be refined with a smaller, less bulky body, and rounded hands; his eyes and mouth became bigger and he gained dark blue irises.
  • The Umineko: When They Cry sound novels have roughly the same art through all episodes, but the intros' use of CGI and movement evolves. Just compare the intro to episode 1/2 and ep 3/4, also look at the opening for 5/6 and 7/8 which evolves it even further. Though be warned that they contain mild spoilers. When compared to Higurashi: When They Cry you can also see several changes in structure.
  • Dead or Alive, the 5th installment is moving the game away from the animé look of its predecessors to a slightly more realistic style similar to Ninja Gaiden.
  • The Living Books games started with some basic graphics (the characters had no shading and had noticeable aliasing). The animations were also basic and were normal sprites moving across the screen. As time moved on, the characters started to look like actual illustrations, and the animation got more complex.
  • Super Mario Bros.
    • Looks like Mario actually lost some of that weight nowadays, didn't he? Mario's limbs were a lot stubbier in the early days, which gave him a much stockier look, modern art gives him longer limbs, going from two heads tall to roughly three heads tall, which has the side effect of making him seem not quite as fat as he used to be.
    • The original Mario (aka Jumpman) from Donkey Kong had squinty eyes, a large nose and chin and beared a not-miniscule resemblance to Popeye. Fittingly so, as Donkey Kong started life as a Popeye game before Nintendo lost the license.
    • In the later two NES / Famicom Super Mario Bros. games, the sprites are drawn with dark outlines (dark blue in Super Mario Bros. 2, black in Super Mario Bros. 3) along the edges and sometimes also along the border between differently colored areas, whereas the sprites in the first game and The Lost Levels don't have these outlines. This was part of a larger trend in sprite-design style that occurred throughout the lifespan of the Famicom console. (Incidentally, in the NES port of Mario Is Missing!, which also used black outlining on its sprites, Luigi's sprite looks like the one in Super Mario World, redrawn to meet the color palette limits of the NES.)
    • This image goes into detail about how the series' 3D character renders got upgraded with each advancement in console hardware.
    • Mario & Luigi had an art style change over time as well. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga looked rather exaggerated and cartoony compared to the toned down (but still cartoonish) style in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time and Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. Likely because the DS allows for more detail than the GBA did in terms of graphics and the fact the first game was experimental at first. Then comes Mario & Luigi: Dream Team for the 3DS, which ditches the Thick-Line Animation for the characters, and uses polygonal graphics for the environments.
    • Yoshi debuted in Super Mario World resembling a slightly anthropomorphic Tyrannosaurus rex. In Yoshi's Island he was redesigned with larger, human-like arms, a smaller neck, a more upright position and became more cute looking in the face. The saddle on his back also morphed into a shell.
    • Bowser originally had a very large head, a round belly, stubby arms and squat legs. Overtime, Bowser was given a flatter stomach, beefier arms, slightly longer legs, and his head was made a bit smaller. Bowser's posture was also changed from having a hunchback to standing more upright.
    • The first three Mario Party games had simple, flat boards with simple 3D-ish models. The fourth game had a 3D background, but all the paths took place on the same four-direction metal walkway. Starting with the fifth game, the paths are incorporated into the boards themselves. 4 was also the first game in the franchise to show most of the characters with their current designs (although most of the generic enemies would retain their N64 designs until 7).
  • Every Mega Man series has undergone a noticeable change over the years. The classic series started with artwork of rather crude, chibi-esque character designs that progressed into a more serious and detailed style over time, reaching its peak with the 8th game. When Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 came out for the Wii, the time gap between new games led to a hybrid of both the class NES-style artwork and more detailed SNES/Playstation era Mega Man. The original in-game sprites, however, haven't changed much at all, aside from lone games that were on more consoles that had better graphics to work with. The Wii downloadable games actually revert back to the original sprite style out of nostalgic reverence. Plus, it's cheap.
    • The original NES series generally progressed towards its own brand of anime style in the enemy and stage designs. The first game noticeably had more Faceless Goons with exceptions becoming classics like Metool and Yellow Devil. The stage designs started to take on more of sheen starting with Mega Man 3.
    • Mega Man X has official art with a very distinct cartoonish, almost 80's shonen feel in the first few games, notably the original. As the plots of the games turn increasingly dire and the platforms for each change, the art detail dramatically spikes. In that same vein, so the game sprites, first subtle changes, then major alterations to in-game sprites as the console graphic capabilities are ramped up.
      • To take it into perspective, the "classic" style designs are used from the first game to Mega Man X3, growing more pronounced in detail with each sequel, along with sprites that have more elaborate, shaded coloring (very noticeable in X3.) Mega Man X4 marks the jump to PlayStation, where the characters gain sterner, toughened looks that reflect the darker nature of the plots, and the sprite artists try to replicate their appearances in respect to their artwork as faithfully as possible with immense details. By Mega Man X6, the sprites even undergo slight palette changes to more accurate colors. Mega Man X7 is the first game to be on a 3D platformer, now shifting to polygon models and a few updates to character designs. Mega Man X8 goes as far as to give the Reploids lankier, humanoid-proportioned armor and smaller, oval-shaped eyes, but these changes are disregarded in Mega Man X: Command Mission — though this time, X sports new body armor and a Scarf of Asskicking out of the blue.
      • Compare Sigma in Mega Man X to Maverick Hunter X and you'll see his look has gone from cartoony to downright menacing.
    • Mega Man Zero has a similar change in art. Faces seem a bit more circular and puffy in the first game, but by the last game, their appearances are more angular and unique, especially Zero. In the inital game, he's sporting generic, determined expressions, but remarkably hardened, stern, and outright badass by the final game installment. The mugshots, too, reflect changes. The initial game actually used rough concept art for the mugs, but the later games have sharper and cleaner pixel art ripped straight from official art or done by hand.
    • Mega Man Battle Network changes art style in between 3 and 4. The character's eyes are rounded instead of semicircular (most prominent on Mega Man) and the shapes of their bodies feel more slender and less blocky, though the Navis are prone to some wacky, far-fetched designs. The games themselves shrink down sprite dimension and gain thick outlines to create a crisp feel of objects. Mugshots also change considerably, going from fairly Off-Model to almost spot-on by the last game.
  • Felicia from Darkstalkers was originally voluptuous in the first game. In Night Warriors, she was a rather frightening creature. By Vampire Savior, her looks had been finalized.
  • In Devil May Cry, the idea of Vergil being Dante's pure identical twin has been slowly phased out of the narrative, at least visually, as since Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition his facial features have been modelled more closely to his own son's face than his brother's. This is a downplayed example, as Vergil still—rather accurately—resembles a younger version of DMC4!Dante, but the differences became more pronounced in Devil May Cry 5: Vergil resembles Nero with slight alterations, making him look very different from Dante.
  • The community-made games for Unlimited Adventures. The oldest are very much subject to Sturgeon's Law, while the newest ones are much better. This is caused in part by technological evolution (better graphics editors, etc.)... and in part, unfortunately, by the community dwindling to a few most experienced and oldest fans.
  • Halo has this by virtue of how long-running the series is. However, the creators have given many of the changes explicit in-universe justifications; for example, Word of God is that the varying physical appearances of the different Covenant species between each game are supposed to all represent equally canon phenotypes. Nevertheless, comparing between the original and ten-year anniversary editions of Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 makes it clear that the franchise has had plenty of visual changes that can't solely be explained by improved graphics or any sort of plausible in-universe justifications.
    • While the change in the Chief's Powered Armor between the first and second games is explicitly stated to be him switching from MJOLNIR Mark V to MJOLNIR Mark VI, Word of God regarding his armor change in Halo 4 has vacillated between either Cortana redesigning his armor during the time-skip, or all but admitting a Retcon of the Mark VI's design (though they seem to have settled on the former, given the faithful-to-the-original design of the Mark VI in Halo 2 Anniversary).
  • Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus looks quite different from further entries in the Sly Cooper series. Sly looks more cutesy, Bentley's clothes are different, the graphics themselves are more simplistic, and the cutscenes are very crudely drawn and animated, compared to the smooth artwork and animation that the other games gave.
  • Odin Sphere: The art piece that became the cover for Leifthrasir, made 9 years after the original release. It shows the evolution in George Kamitani's style; it has the main playable cast with more realistic body proportions, longer limbs compared to their in-game selves who look more cartoony, and more somber coloring compared to the bright colors he originally used.
  • Professor Layton went through subtle yet noticeable changes in art style as the series went on (and its budget increased). It's more noticeable with Luke — between the first and the third games, his face became rounder, his hairstyle became more defined, and his proportions became less noodley. note  Layton himself got similarly more well defined, coupled by artwork that started showing him from different angles. The animated cutscenes were also noticeably improved (compare how they are in the first game to how they would be later on).
  • In Fallout 2, the Mark II Advanced Power Armor used the same sprite as the standard Advanced Power Armor. With the series' leap to 3D in Fallout 3, it completely changed in appearance, more resembling the Midwestern Brotherhood armor from Fallout Tactics. Fallout: New Vegas reverted to the original APA design for the Remnants Armor, although FO3's version remained in the game's code.
  • In Quest Of Yipe, the first game has very crude and flat graphics, to the point that your player is a stick figure. The sprites become a little more involved and gain shading in the second game, and the art takes a major leap in the third.
  • The character appearances in Saints Row change significantly between 2 and The Third, though this can be excused by the Time Skip. The Third Street Saints went from street thugs and drug dealers to international superstars and their clothes reflect it. For example Pierce Washington goes from a baseball jersey, dew rag, baseball cap and silver chain to a more professional (though no less garish and Nouveau Riche) set of casual suit and a gold chain.
  • Dragon Quest:
  • Every Fire Emblem game has different artists (or one artist for one saga, namely Tellius note , until Yusuke Kozaki of No More Heroes fame broke the trend by working on Awakening and Fates (and Heroes)—which take place in separate "worlds"), but Intelligent Systems clearly didn't get an actual artist until the Jugdral games.
  • Granblue Fantasy: Over the years, the art styles of some characters improved in such a way that they have become more vibrantly-colored or more detailed in their new gacha versions or 5★ uncaps. Compare Sara's initial artwork to her Summer version's uncap, or Lady Grey's initial artwork to her 5★ uncap.
    • The Story characters received updated artworks on the later chapters of the story, as well as a 5★ uncap artworks which are of a higher resolution (due to the additional Primal Beasts bonding with them).
    • The 4th Anniversary introduced a 4★ uncap for the six main Omega Summons, alongside updated artworks (making them the first summons with two-in-one artworks).
  • In Robopon, in a special version of Moon, the sprites for some Robopon were altered. Some new looks transferred to Robopon 2.
  • Heather "Makani" Campbell's artwork in the Team Fortress 2 official comics. She was awesome when she first started out, but only got better over time. Compare the her initial design for The Announcer to the "Meet The Director" comic.
  • Vector Thrust and its general aesthetic, color palette and music has gone through three major iterations through its two-year development. Vector Thrust started off as a minimalistic game with royalty-free soundtracks and a color palette similar to most modern games. After its Alpha-funding ceased the game gradually evolved a more colorful environment and aircraft as well as sourcing an independent musical composer. Finally on its Steam release the music changed from synthetic orchestra to live recordings and the HUD grew more complex and prominent.
  • Running from near the dawn of PC gaming up through the late '90s, the King's Quest series has naturally undergone some dramatic shifts. The first games used simple, blocky graphics, although each installment was less blocky and more detailed than the previous. Then a switch to a new engine allowed much more elaborate backgrounds and sprites. After that came a more cartoony version and finally the jump to 3D.
  • Tatsuya Yoshikawa, famous for his work on Breath of Fire and other Capcom games, had a massive shift in his art over the years. The designs for Breath of Fire II look like a lot of manga from the 80's and early 90's. Come Breath of Fire III, his work looks very different, with more fluid but stylized anatomy and more flat-looking colors. His work in Breath of Fire IV is similar to that of III, but the illustrations' colors are much more painterly and less flat. Skip forward a few years to Last Ranker and his art became even more painterly.
  • The first three games in the Advance Wars series went through this in terms of character design, which started out as extremely cartoonish and exaggerated but became fairly realistic and detailed by Dual Strike. For example, contrast Kanbei's original design with his design for Black Hole Rising, and then again with his Dual Strike design.
  • The character artwork in Ace Fishing has changed drastically since its first release. At first, the style is closer to a 2D cartoon, but is now a semi-realistic 3D render, presumably so that it doesn't look as out of place in the realistic design of the backgrounds.
  • The title character from Max Payne drastically changed appearance between the first game and its sequel. In his debut, Max's look was based on photographs of the character's creator exhibiting a strange, squint-faced grimace. His sequel appearance in The Fall of Max Payne used a professional actor who wore a much more plausible expression. This also applies to many of the other characters who appeared in the comic panel "cut scenes". The first game used who ever happened to be around in the office the day the photographer showed up. The sequel took advantage of an increased budget to hire professional models and actors.
  • Metroid:
    • Samus's appearance changed quite a bit over the years. While the sprites of Samus (both in her armor and out of the armor) were mostly just refined, the artwork of Samus outside of her armor changed quite a bit in between games. Samus in Metroid Fusion wore a two piece while having long blonde hair (probably to keep the style of her sprite of her suitless form from Super Metroid) whereas her appearance in Metroid: Zero Mission has her in a fully covered suit while her hair is in a ponytail and has a richer shade of yellow while her face is more defined. The new style helped bring out a more stylized look to Samus.
    • In the Metroid Prime Trilogy, Samus's Varia Suit was more in line of its look in Super Metroid by being very bulky and broad. in the later games, her Varia Suit is changed slightly by making it be more fitting to her body rather than looking like a stiff robot and her Shoulders of Doom got reduced in size so they no longer dwarf her head.
    • Samus' face in the Prime series were also changed and refined as the games went on; Metroid Prime had Samus look somewhat like she did in Super Metroid by having full lips and her hair being a muted color of brown. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes went for the Zero Suit look from Zero Mission while trying to make her look realistic as she looked in the last game, which caused some oddities in the eyes and lips. Metroid Prime: Hunters returned Samus's look to the one from Prime while retaining some of her Zero Mission art style. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption kept the Zero Suit look, but also completely redone her face to look more like a character from an anime rather than trying to look realistic, which helped bring out the style more naturally. (You can compare the styles here.)
    • Metroid II: Return of Samus:
      • Enforced, since the game's monochrome nature prevented the designers from using Palette Swap to differentiate some aspects of the suit. This resulted in changes to Samus's suit that carried forward into later titles. First, the barrel of Samus's Arm Cannon visibly opened when switching to missiles. Second, the Varia Suit looked significantly different from the baseline Power Suit (including larger shoulders). In the original Metroid, both the missiles and Varia Suit were represented by color changes. All flashbacks to the first game depict the redesigned armor, though Zero Mission's Varia Suit lacked the shoulders (at least until Samus gets it back after losing it in Chozodia).
      • There are no more air tubes that look like literal tubes, though that could be the result of SR 388 being a different place than Zebes.
      • Arachnus is much smaller than it was in Metroid Fusion, although that could just be a different arachnus, given that one can be hurt by beams and missiles, can't jump, and has more powerful projectile attacks.
  • If you have the first 3 Dragon Ball Z: Budokai games, the jump from 1 to 2 (or from the original PS2 of 1 to its GameCube re-release) is staggering in only a year. 3 makes more enhancements to the gameplay than the art style, as 2 did the best in that department, but if you play the Budokai HD Collection, it's definitely a trip to see the jump between games. The art style was so good after the jump that every future game uses it, with minor differences in shading, but it's been relatively the same ever since 2004.
  • Rayman's appearance has evolved over the course of the original trilogy. In the first game he had giant circular Sphere Eyes and wore a red scarf. The second game made his eyes smaller and more oval-shaped, while the scarf was changed to a hoodie for the third game.
  • The Elder Scrolls
  • The first four installments of the Mr. Driller series used a different art style for each installment. From Mr. Driller Drill Land onwards, the same art style was used.
  • Splatoon:
    • The first game was a relatively small project that ended up a Sleeper Hit. Its sequel Splatoon 2 has a bigger budget and it shows. It's especially noticeable when you compare the Squid Sisters' dancing to Off the Hook's dancing. The models are clearer and there is much more movement. Another major change is that in 2 ink is sparkly.
    • In the first real life Off the Hook concert in Japan, Marina's tentacles were very hyper. Her tentacle movements were downplayed in the European concert to celebrate the Championship. The models also received a slight upgrade.
  • Somewhere between Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness and Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility, the art-style for Harvest Moon took a sudden change. Gone were the more muted colours and relatively realistic designs of the first few games. Now the designs are brighter and the characters are prettier. Cast Full of Pretty Boys, and its female counterpart, are in full effect. The clothing styles have also changed. Ever since Grand Bazaar, more European-inspired designs have popped up.
  • League of Legends has undergone considerable evolution over its nine years or so in existence, given the vast changes in technology and processing power over that time. Additionally, Riot has essentially had to do its worldbuilding on the fly using the material they already had, including at least one enormous Retcon. This has led to certain oddities, such as the Void's eventual aesthetic — a sort of Giger-meets-Escher display of weirdness — not being reflected by most of its champions, who look more like bug monsters. And of course with 140 or so characters it can take a while for visual updates to happen.
  • The quality of collectible game assets in Love Nikki - Dress Up Queen has increased dramatically in the years since the game was first released. Compare gowns from the time of the game's release like "Nikki's Dance" and "Blue Lily*Rare (and even "Star Sea," which is said to be "the most precious dancing dress in the Miraland") with more recent offerings like Evernight "Monologue" or "To No End" or "Odette's Dance" or "Snow Queen" or "Graceful Venom." The early gowns are drawn with harder lines (much like a coloring book) and minimal volume/ shading, rendered with large swathes of unembellished fabric and simple details. By contrast, the newer gowns are more detailed. Fabrics are rendered with realistic textures, weight, and shading — ruching, drapery, ruffles, and tucks are used to give the 2-dimensional illustrations the illusion of volume. Embellishments like translucent lace panels, intricate embroidery, and sparkling beadwork are applied liberally. These elements work in concert to give the clothes and accessories produced later in the game's chronology a much more luxurious and expensive feeling. It can be jarring to make outfits that combine these newer assets with older accessories.
  • Deltarune's spritework is a noted improvement over Undertale's, with more frames of animation throughout the game (especially during combat, where both the party and all opponents are fully animated, whereas in the original game the player's body is never visible during combat and enemies are depicted as mostly static sprites with only the occasional single frame of animation.)
  • Starting with the 3D universe (namely Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto had some pretty rough artwork for its characters where nearly everyone's eyes were in a perpetual squint and the males's faces looked very rough and tough. As the series progressed, the characters in the artwork looked more detailed while keeping its vibrant style. Compare the art of one character from ''GTA3 to one from San Andreas.''
  • The Sakura Wars series has undergone a significant evolution in the artwork:
    • For the first two games on the Sega Saturn, Sakura Wars (1996) and Sakura Wars 2: Thou Shalt Not Die, the battlefields were similar to the tabletop-like designs from Fire Emblem with limited movement range. With the introduction of the ARMS system in Sakura Wars 3: Is Paris Burning?, battles take place in 3D fields thanks to the Dreamcast's updated graphics system.
    • In Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love, most of the maps in the adventure mode was given a 3D look.
    • Director Tetsuya Otsubo confirmed that the visuals in Sakura Wars (2019) have been updated to fit the PlayStation 4's graphic capabilities, including the adventure mode, which up until that point used 2D animation models. The characters are also animated with full 3D models instead of the 2D animation models used in the previous games.
  • Marvel Puzzle Quest streamlined its interface very much (at least on mobile - compare the original 2013 to how it looked 5 years later - given the Steam version looks about the same), and had some badly drawn characters, sometimes looking old or constipated, improved: Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man Kamala Khan, and Captain Marvel are good cases. Wolverine and his son Daken also looked alike, but now Logan has different poses.
  • In its initial release, Harvest Town has a very bright and cartoony-looking character artworks. A later update toned down the stylized elements of the designs, giving the characters more realistic colour-schemes and proportions.
  • Tamagotchi:
    • In Japan, the artwork for the characters used to be cruder and had black outlines. Beginning in 2004, the artwork looked better, but had blue outlines and several older characters who originally had black body parts had said parts recolored to match the new blue.
    • In the USA, the artwork looked even cruder than the original Japanese artwork, looking like it was colored in by a preschooler. In 2004, they later received the 2004 Japanese style, but later switched to the anime designs with the Tamagotchi Friends.
  • The Ys series's art style varies between games, though one example of a change in art style is Ys SEVEN having Adol and Dogi looking older than in the first game (which they both debuted in), but since several years passed between those games, it actually makes more sense than a lot of examples of the trope and ends up being less noticeable. Notably, Ys I & II Chronicles introduces new in-game artwork different from the Eternal / Complete versions Chronicles is based on while also including an option to use the artwork from those versions.
  • The first Dragon Age game has a very generic fantasy aesthetic, while later entries gave every culture a distinct look in architecture and clothing. It really stands out when Inquisition revisits Redcliff, which now looks distinctly more "Fereldan" than it did in Origins.


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