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Characterization Marches On / Video Games

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  • In Street Fighter III, Dudley was Gentleman Snarker, spewing a surprising amount of trash talk (Gutter Trash talk, to be precise). In Super Street Fighter IV, he is much more dignified and respectful toward his sparring-mate. This gets even more confusing when you consider that SFIV takes place before SFIII in the timeline. Essentially, Dudley goes from an out-and-out Nice Guy whose only criticism is against a rival boxer who is a legitimate disgrace to the sport (i.e. Balrog) to something of a rich jerk in III, only to ease into his more well-known Gentleman Snarker characterization by the time of Third Strike.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Luigi was originally a just a Palette Swap of his older brother, Mario. The early Mario Bros. anime and other promotional art depicted him as taller and thinner than Mario early on, but this depiction would take until the US version of Super Mario Bros. 2 to show up in the actual games. He also gained divergent gameplay traits in both, SMB2 and The Lost Levels, jumping higher and, in the Japanese game, having less traction while stopping.

      Additionally, the Cowardly Lion traits and fear of ghosts first displayed in Luigi's Mansion also stuck through later games, going a long way to distinguish his personality along with his physical characteristics. Later games (especially the Mario & Luigi series) would have quite a bit of fun with this.

      Many of Luigi's distinctive character traits came from Western sources like The Super Mario Bros Super Show! and were eventually introduced into the games, in a rare example of Mario canon embracing rather than contradicting fanon. Even the character's voice has gradually come to sound more like his cartoon counterpart.

      It's interesting to listen to the openings to battles in the Mario and Luigi games— it's always "Here we go" and "Okie-dokie", but the tone of the latter (Luigi's line) changes over the three games, and goes from fairly-reluctant to... well, pretty confident. The scene where Luigi joins the party in Super Paper Mario is also worth mentioning.
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    • Mario was presented as more of a Jerkass and an Anti-Hero in his pre-Super Mario Bros. titles, often being an obvious animal abuser in Donkey Kong titles. He shows mild signs of this personality in later games, which makes it a common Alternative Character Interpretation, but for the most part he's The Hero.
    • Super Mario RPG was the first game to give Mario any sort of personality (well, with as much as they could get away with for a Heroic Mime) and it's extremely jarring compared to his current one; Mario, at one point, tries to run in fists flying against one of the minions of the Big Bad and has to be restrained by Mallow so he doesn't get himself wrecked via Leeroy Jenkins. When a child talks about how his Geno doll is cooler than his Mario doll, Mario looks like he's about to punch the kid in the face. The dialogue options also paints Mario as pretty mean spirited and/or sarcastic if you choose to make him that way. Future games would heavily tone it down.
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    • Yoshi gained a host of abilities in Yoshi's Island (swallowing enemies to make and shoot eggs, the Ground Pound, shooting his tongue up, the variation on the Double Jump), that became an inherent part of his character in his later appearances. As such, it's a bit of a shock when one plays the severely limited Yoshi in Super Mario World, especially since said game was set chronologically after Yoshi's Island.
    • Princess Peach was also a more generic monarch figure in earlier games. Later, she was changed to a girlier, ditzier character with a high voice and a Sweet Tooth. This change happened between 64 and Sunshine, with 64 DS keeping the old characterization for remake's sake.
    • Wario. Compare the greedy Anti-Hero of Wario Land and WarioWare to his first appearance in Super Mario Land 2. "Obey Wario, DESTROY MARIO!"
    • Waluigi. In his first appearance he had little personality beyond being Luigi's angry and rude rival who wants to beat him in any competition. Some time later, we have this comical and lunatic Trickster who wants to ruin the days of everyone else and wants to take over the world (you can expect him to fail hilariously) because he wants things to go right for him at least once. It's kinda amazing how a simple Satellite Character can evolve into something much deeper (and funnier).

      Conversely, Waluigi was somewhat scary in his original appearance in Mario Tennis. Note his glowing eyes. While the glowing eyes did make a brief reappearance in Game & Watch Gallery 4, Waluigi's scary side was dropped to make him a comic relief villain.
    • When Damsel in Distress Princess Daisy made her reappearance in Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64, she was made out to be an Adorkable Klutz as shown in her trophy celebration. This characterisation was kept until the GameCube era, which gave her a more energetic, tomboyish personality while dropping her clumsier moments. It's best shown with her trophy celebration in Mario Power Tennis.
  • Captain Falcon of the F-Zero games never had much development character-wise that differed from his lawful bounty hunter racing driver look. Then Super Smash Bros. gave him the FALCOOOON PAUUUUNCH and other such moves, to the point that he even uses it in the official anime of the series.
  • Punch-Out!!:
    • Aran Ryan (don't think too hard about his name) was just a generic opponent, more or less, in the SNES incarnation of Super Punch-Out!!. Then Next Level Games decided to play up the "hot-tempered Irishman" stereotype for the Wii game and made him a complete lunatic.
    • In the Wii game, Kid Quick was probably going to be this... but his new characterization got so out of hand that the developers just called him a new character, Disco Kid.
  • In inFAMOUS, Evil Cole was an actively malicious Jerkass who thrived on causing pain and trouble and saw Empire City as his personal playground to do whatever he wanted. In inFAMOUS 2, if one plays the evil route, Cole is simply unconcerned with the consequences of his actions rather than actively sadistic.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • The series has a pretty shaky history of consistent characterization, which makes sense since multiple writers are working on the series and some never communicate with each other. Because of this, characters tend behave very differently between games Depending on the Writer, with very broad traits to keep them recognizable. This especially evident when one compares how the plot is handled through years. Starting out, the games had as much plot as you would expect from a 2D platforming series in the 90's (As in, barely) and characterization was very minimal (Sonic was the Mascot with Attitude, Tails was his sidekick, Knuckles his rival, etc) but starting in Sonic Adventure the series adopted a more cohesive and serialized narrative not unlike common Shonen Anime/Manga, and characters and relationships became much more dynamic. (Series Breakout Character Shadow the Hedgehog debuts here, and has the most fleshed out background of any character to date,) but after much criticism over that direction, starting with Sonic Unleashed the series is back to simpler characterizations and plot to allow for more broader narratives but mostly ignored the character development that took place before. (I.e. Tails is mostly back to being Sonic's sidekick despite his bout of independence before.)
    • A couple characters have some rather notable changes in characterization from their first appearances: Knuckles in Sonic 3 & Knuckles is seen laughing constantly, whereas in later games he seems to have almost No Sense of Humor (indeed, his theme in Sonic Adventure even says "Unlike Sonic, I don't chuckle.")
  • Kirby:
    • In the first game, Kirby lacks the power absorbing ability which would later become his most well-known characteristic. Not to mention in the box art he was white rather than pink.
    • Also, King Dedede in the early games is portrayed as an outright villain, rather than the Anti-Villain he would become for most of the games.
  • While some vestiges of her original personality remain, the Touhou character Marisa Kirisame was significantly different in the first five (PC-98) games. She was originally fairly bland, distinctly feminine, and moderately evil. Following the shift to Windows, she became the tomboyish Lovable Rogue we know and love. To some extent, Reimu had it worse, as she didn't really have a defined personality in those games at all.
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Mortal Kombat features a very different Raiden from the rest of the series. In every other game, he's the protector of Earthrealm, the mentor to Liu Kang and the other Earthrealm warriors, and one of the most powerful forces for good. In the first one? He's a Chaotic Stupid Jerkass who enters the tournament simply to show he's not afraid of Shang Tsung, thinks nothing of the mortals he's fighting, and in his ending bans anyone but gods from entering the tournament and blows up the Earth as a result. Whenever a work references the events of the original, they just pretend the second characterization is what happened.
    • Kung Lao's first appearance and later games including him prior to Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks characterized the monk as a Martial Pacifist who faked his death during the old trilogy so that he wouldn't have to fight again and even made peace with Goro, the Shokan prince who slew his ancestor. Come Shaolin Monks, Kung Lao is shown as more of a hothead and to have a rivalry with Liu Kang that wasn't mentioned in earlier lore. While the game's staus in canon is dubious, elements of it still resurfaced in later games (in this case, Kung Lao's characterization).
  • Occurred often in the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors franchise as they added new playable characters, even if they had previously been generic NPCs in the games in look and voice — for example, Cao Pi (son of Cao Cao) was Zhen Ji's generic NPC husband in 3 and 4, only to later acquire a unique look, weapon, and personality in 5 when he was promoted to both a major playable character. (Amusingly, one hentai doujinshi author put out a Zhen Ji-centric doujin based on DW3 with Cao Pi looking like one of the game's generic NPC general templates, only to later release another doujin based on DW5, now with their DW5 versions.)
    • Likewise, Sima Zhao (second son of Sima Yi) is somewhat "Sima Yi Lite" in his mannerisms and speech in Dynasty Warriors 4: Xtreme Legends (in Meng Huo's Legend Mode stage), 5 (Battles of Jieting and Chencang) and 6 (in Sima Yi's ending cutscene), only to get a complete revamp in personality befitting his central role in the Jin storyline of 7.
  • Several of the characters in the first Advance Wars had very different personalities.
    • Andy was a Naïve Newcomer taken to the extreme. While he's still somewhat innocent and excitable in later games, you'd never see him asking what an airport is.
    • Olaf filled the role of the incompetent Starter Villain, who was stated to be a former Orange Star CO who defected to Blue Moon, and vaguely implied to be Nell's father. While he had been tricked into fighting Orange Star, he still acts far more antagonistic than he does in later games, where he's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold at worst who's more than willing to help out the other nations if they're in danger, albeit grudgingly. Later games also seem to retcon his origins, giving him Patriotic Fervor towards Blue Moon (now stated to be his homeland) and dropping all hints of connection to Nell.
    • Eagle was The Rival to Andy in a manner that borders on Blood Knight. In later games, he's a lot less cocky and smug, though still prone to rushing into things.
    • Kanbei was a total moron who needs his daughter's advice to do anything right... and he still screws it up. (Told he should have bases to deploy units? Makes a base on an island where his units can't do anything) In later games he's more of your typical honorable samurai, his only remaining comedic trait being his extreme over-protectiveness of Sonja.
    • While Sonja was still The Strategist, her methods are a lot more morally-grey in the first game, where she knocks out and kidnaps the Orange Star commanders just to test her theories.
  • The Medic from Team Fortress 2. What his in-game lines and a laconic bio provided by Valve revealed was not much more than "swaggering Mad Doctor with fairly Camp Gay mannerisms". The "Meet the Medic" video released 4 years after the game not only deepened his character, but also nearly completely changed what he was originally perceived as - he turned out to not be cold and grumpy, but much, much more outspoken and affable than first thought. He isn't even an ounce less insane than before, though.
    • The Scout's unsuccessful attempts to hit on Miss Pauling were first introduced in the TF2 comics, and treated as nothing more than macho posturing by him that was ignored by her out of disgust. Three years later, A Cold Day In Hell hinted his attraction to her might be sincere, since in it the Scout turns down sex from a horny Sensual Slav upon thinking staying chaste might give him a bigger chance with Miss Pauling. The short film Expiration Date then completely recharacterized their relationship. In it the Scout's swaggering pickup lines turn out to be because he doesn't know any other way to treat girls aside from as stereotypical "chicks", a problem he recognizes. As for Miss Pauling aversion to him, she's actually Oblivious to Love and hadn't noticed his feeble attempts to ask her out. Unlike the comics, she has no personal aversion to the Scout and they end up planning one date at the end of the short (since she works literally 364 days a year.)
  • Raynor as seen StarCraft II. His Character Development over the course of the original ...
  • While Anders's personality shift from Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening to Dragon Age II can be explained by his passenger, Merrill changes from a serious, sensible minor character in Dragon Age: Origins who calmly greets Duncan in the elven ruins to a cheerful Cloudcuckoolander who can barely get out a complete greeting to Hawke and company, for no apparent reason.
  • Yasuhiro Hagakure from Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc starts off a bit weird, but gradually grows even dopier as the game goes on and other characters start dropping like flies, leaving him with the "comic relief" role. The page quote is provided when one of his classmates notes his change in behavior.
  • Lara Croft in the Core Design era of Tomb Raider started out as a cheeky but bold woman. This is contrast to Lara's later appearances in the series where she's deep in Deadpan Snarker territory and is prone to using violence to achieve her goals.
  • Zant was portrayed in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess as a stoic, almost menacing figure whose facade only broke when he was on the verge of defeat. In Hyrule Warriors, his Psychopathic Manchild traits are more prominent from the start and he's more prone to bouts of histronics and hysteria, though he still retains his moments of smartness, being particularly cunning as a battlefield commander. The end result is that he comes off as more eccentric than truly frighteningly insane. This may just be because, in the context of Hyrule Warriors, Zant is no more the main antagonist, but one of Ganondorf's second-in-commands, sharing his spotlight with Ghirahim, so it's harder to be frightened by the man when you keep the child-like mood swings and temper tantrums, but remove the creepy music, the build-up and the army backing him up, and then put him in a game where Ganondorf is one of the playable characters. Context is mostly what made Zant menacing.
  • Compare and contrast the way the characters are in Harvest Moon 64 to how they are in games Harvest Moon: Back to Nature and afterwards. Karen, for example, was a cold woman until you befriend or court her who wanted to leave the small town she was raised in for the city. In future games she works at a grocery store instead of a bar, loses all of her attitude, and becomes a Cool Big Sis. Even Back to Nature to Friends of Mineral Town has this, to a far lesser degree. Kai was a Jerkass who intentionally bugged Rick but in later games Rick is just an overprotective brother towards Popuri and Kai is a Nice Guy.
  • In the first two Lufia, the Sinistrals were typical evil gods without much to distinguish them from each other in terms of how they wreaked their havoc. Come Lufia: The Legend Returns, Amon and Daos develop differing methods suiting their powers of Chaos and Terror respectively, while Gades gets his (frue) destructive tendencies exemplified. This carried over into the remake of Lufia II, Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals.
  • Shin Super Robot Wars: Ryusei Date, one of the "mascot" characters from the franchise, was an outright Jerkass in his first appearance. Almost all his in-battle dialog when dodging an attack amounts to "Wow, you suck. Just give up already, loser." And at one point, he goes around telling the other characters that his teammate Rai is gay (which earns him the beating of a lifetime when Rai finds out), and several of the official Yonkoma end with the two of them pointing guns at each other. In fact, Banpresto actually lampshaded this in the Original Generation storyline, where Ryusei's rival Tenzan Nakajima essentially has Ryusei's old personality, demonstrating that he's a better person thanks to opening up and making friends instead of obsessing over video games like he did in Shin.
  • Compare the first Star Fox game with its Continuity Reboot Star Fox 64. Fox and Falco didn't change much, if at all, but the other two members of the team are noticeably different. Slippy had a Verbal Tic and showed no signs of the Gadgeteer Genius tendencies he would eventually develop, but Peppy is almost a completely different character. In the SNES game, he was far more excitable and came off as Hot-Blooded in some instances, demanding to know "Who's next?!" after each stage. In 64, he's the oldest member of the crew and typically acts as a mentor figure of sorts.
    • Star Wolf are shown as more obviously villainous Evil Counterparts in Star Fox 2 and Star Fox 64 than in Star Fox: Assault. Between the presence of arrogant rival Wolf, smooth voiced assassin Leon, Andross' nephew Overlord Jr. Andrew and treacherous Pigma, their mocking and/or murderous dialogue, and accepting a job from Andross to hunt the Star Fox team Star Wolf were introduced as the series' Psycho Rangers. Come Assault, we learn that Andrew left Star Wolf to lead Andross' leftover forces while Pigma was kicked out of the team for being a treacherous swine, dashing rogue Panther joined the team, and Wolf himself was presented as more of a Worthy Opponent who even saves Fox from the Aparoids.
  • Sly Cooper:
  • Leon Magnus in the PSX Tales of Destiny was a short-tempered Jerkass Woobie who enjoyed shocking his teammates (especially Rutee) when they wouldn't listen to him. When he appears in the second game, he's a much calmer snarker with more of a Sugar-and-Ice Personality. The remake of the first game sticks closer to his Judas characterization, while keeping some of his short temper but removing any of his more sadistic qualities.
  • One of the first pieces of Halo media was The Cortana Letters, a series of emails sent to a Marathon fansite. They show that early on, Cortana was an expy of Durandal from Marathon, being contemptuous of the Master Chief and wanting to achieve godhood. Fragments of these letters were eventually used in Halo 3, but re-purposed and with the unused parts declared non-canon. The "achieving godhood" part was repurposed for Halo 5: Guardians, though unlike in the Letters, Cortana still has a soft spot for the Chief.
  • Several cases occurred in the Crash Bandicoot series, especially due to the series constantly trading hands:
    • In his first appearance, Tiny was a more terrifying silent associate of N. Brio working to stop Crash from helping Cortex. From Warped onwards, he is Cortex's most loyal follower, and upon gaining his Hulk Speak patterns, more emphasis is put on his childish, clumsy personality compared to his fierce one as games go on. The Radical Entertainment games reinvent Tiny completely, making him a soft spoken, intelligent, and somewhat wimpy cohort of Cortex, almost a complete antithesis of his original self.
    • The multiple developers of the series couldn't seem to agree on a characterisation for Nina. In Twinsanity, she was initially conceived as a Heroic Mime without much of a personality. In Ripto's Rampage she was a infantile baddie with a fondness for cute things. The Radical Entertainment games established a more consistent personality for her, a bratty, conniving villainess who plots to usurp her uncle's position.
    • Most of the villains to some degree became more goofy and hammy as games passed, especially Cortex and N. Gin.
  • Albert Wesker in Resident Evil was nothing more than the mole in the S.T.A.R.S. unit working for (and also working against) the Umbrella corporation and was also the one who was in cahoots with the other scientists when the mansion incident releasing the T-virus happened. In his original incarnation, Wesker just wanted to take the results of the research for himself and was using his teammates as guinea pigs. In Wesker's later appearances, he's a cold, calculating, and very cunning villain with superhuman powers that manipulates everyone to further his own goals and by the events of Resident Evil 5, he attempts to annihilate the world to "save" the human race from their own self destruction.
  • Yakuza: When introduced, Goro Majima was a notorious madman who liked to bash on his underlings for laughs. As the series progresses, his more insane traits are gradually downplayed: while he is still nuttier than a squirrel, he's more an eccentric genius, becoming the leader of one of the biggest and most powerful branch families in the Tojo Clan and inspiring Undying Loyalty in his ranks.
  • Nepgear was a somewhat bland and very Vanilla Protagonist in her debut. There was an attempt to remedy this with her lack of defining features being a Running Gag in the sequel, along with being Butt-Monkey for a vicious and humiliating universe, but to no availnote . After three Video Game Remakes worth of progressive retrofits to her character, her next fully original appearance in Megadimension Neptunia VII is as a well-rounded, well-liked mecha-nerd.
  • In Blazblue, Ragna was far more belligerent and unheroic in the original Calamity Trigger than later on. Notably, the pre-release short stories for CT showed he murdered indiscriminately. After Continuum Shift however, his more common traits began to show, to the point of that Continuum Shift's retelling of Calamity Trigger retconned his initial acts of violence and personality.
  • Garrus Vakarian of Mass Effect is introduced as an aggressive, violent and uptight Cowboy Cop who seethes constantly. Two years later, he's reintroduced as a laid-back, friendly Deadpan Snarker who rapidly locks in as Shepard's Number Two and keeps this characterisation indefinitely. Presumably, working with a squad in Omega helped mellow him out a lot.
    Joker: It seems like Garrus has finally worked that stick out of his butt, but now he's beating people to death with it.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Orcs have experienced this as a race. Originally, were simple "hurr durr smash hoomies" Tolkien-style Orcs with nothing particularly noteworthy about them (they weren't even playable in Arena or Daggerfall). Beginning with Morrowind, however, their characterization has shifted massively. Rather than just being dumb, they've been severely marginalized for ages - even their patron deity reflects this. The Imperial Legion of Emperor Uriel VII's time, among other things, however, helped them to begin to properly integrate into the Empire better - thus making them playable.
    • The Daedric Princes cross this over with Early Installment Weirdness. The personalities of many of the Princes are very different in their first appearance in Daggerfall than they would go on to be depicted in later games. Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness, is a notable example he didn't seem to settle into his Mad Hatter-esque characterization until his A Day in the Limelight episode in Oblivion's Shivering Isles expansion. (Even his vocal appearance in his quest in vanilla Oblivion didn't match in voice or temperament.) For details on the other Daedric Princes, see their entries on the series' Daedra Characters page.
    • This is also the case for many of the types of lesser Daedra which have made multiple appearances in the series. Please see the series' Daedra Characters page for specific examples.
  • Lucian, the main character of Divine Divinity appears throughout the Divinity series. However, if one were to play the series Chronologically, getting to Divinity: Original Sin 2, will be very surprising to find that, rather than being a Big Good who only made a few mistakes and was very affable, he comes off as a total Anti-Hero (at best) and a Jerkass at worst - willing to allow his own son to be assassinated, happily attempting genocide, lying, and betraying some of his closest followers. Larian has in fact admitted this - given that Divinity has had somewhat loose continuity and the world changed to a much more Crapsack World... yikes.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Solid Snake has a Campy-cool, suave side to him in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake and Metal Gear Solid, cracking witty one-liners, and being quite friendly in overall demeanour, giving sincere compliments to his radio contacts and attempting to sweep all the women he meets off their feet. (Hideo Kojima even said he was inspired by Lupin III.) In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty this is mostly dropped, and he becomes more of a dry, serious character, and Straight Man to the more comical Otacon (and, later, Raiden).
    • Ocelot in is introduced as being an unsympathetic and somewhat nerdish villain; he's a sadistic torturer, screws up most of his plans, sexually harasses his female coworker, and his boss fight is a simple chase-and-shoot affair while he breathes heavily over his cool gun. The Reveal that he was really working for the President the whole time plays less like he's a manipulative genius, and more like his obsessive toadying to Liquid is taken to its logical extreme. Come Metal Gear Solid 2, though, and he's much cooler and more intimidating, getting a Big Entrance, and disowning his previous stated motivations as a lie in a Wham Line. His backstory as revealed in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater makes him a fairly sympathetic, even Adorkable Anti-Hero, as well as gay (making his apparent attraction to Wolf in 1 seem very weird in retrospect).
    • Otacon's introduced as being shy, awkward, and quite thoughtful and sad. He's responsible for several humorous moments, but they are largely unintentional. In Metal Gear Solid 2 he is suddenly much more funny and playful, and displays a detached, cynical reading of situations in contrast to his naive personality in the original. His brief scene of crying about the death of a woman is also flanderized into a Cartwright Curse and a tendency to break down into tears. Also, in Metal Gear Solid, he has a consistent theme of being deeply superstitious, obsessed with curses, bad luck and general magical thinking - this side of him is all but scrapped with no explanation, save for his conviction in 4 that Vamp's powers are based on magic, while Snake thinks otherwise and is proven right.
  • Yo-kai Watch 2 is essentially a Soft Reboot that changed a lot of elements of Yo-Kai Watch to match the anime more:
    • The first game implies that Eddie likes Katie, while Nate and Katie are (not particularly close) friends. In the second game, Nate has a crush on Katie.
    • Whisper is more serious in the first game.
  • Ensemble Stars!: all of Nazuna's early cards feature him glaring or looking angry, presuming in reference to his tendency of getting annoyed when anyone calls him cute or treats him like a kid. However, it swiftly became clear that most of the characters - especially his juniors in Ra*bits - were simply too nice to annoy him like that. Instead, he became more of a genuinely helpful Big Brother Mentor and an Only Sane Man among the third years. As a result, his cards swiftly changed to instead typically feature him looking friendly and earnest (or, at best, flustered). Since most characters typically use their original one star card as their profile image, Nazuna is the only one who has a totally different personality than most people initially think.
  • Destiny:

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