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Convenient Color Change

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Well, at least no one can accuse Flynn of turning yellow!

Video games, movies, and other media action can be fast paced and potentially confusing. Telling apart The Cavalry from the Elite Mooks they're engaging is complicated by the camera moving and lack of good lighting; this is why factions are Dress-Coded for Your Convenience and members of Super Team are Color-Coded Characters. If there's energy attacks, so are they. Ray Guns will have the color of the faction, and even normal guns' tracer rounds will be the same color.

Which works fine until the hero or a villain picks up the opponent's costume, weapons, or vehicles. Going a step further, what about characters who switch sides like the henchmen pulling a Mook–Face Turn? What ends up happening is a Convenient Color Change. The clothing, weapon, vehicle, character, building, or even city will change their default color to the one they're now aligned with. In the case of an infiltrator, the "how" for this color change is usually glossed over, but if a reason is given, it's that the colored areas are kind of like a high tech/magical mood ring.

There's a lot of variations on this. Mecha-Mooks that get hacked will spontaneously change the color of any lights on their chassis, as if they were built with multiple colored bulbs just in case they were ever hackednote . Characters under Mind Control or the effects of The Virus may have this happen to them as well.

This tends to be a staple of strategy games if different players have the same units and structures at their disposal, because you do need a way to tell your forces apart from your opponents', hence the use of Color-Coded Armies and Color-Coded Multiplayer. In this and other settings, a unit/character that can change color without changing alliances serves as an infiltrator.

Paint It Black is a subtrope of this. See also Eye Colour Change.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Subaru receives her sister's magical Device from her for the Final Battle. At first, it remains purple (her sister's signature color), but when she is preparing a powerful spell, it turns blue (Subaru's color), just like her own twin Device.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury, clothes are able to change their colors and even markings on the fly to fit the current need. Notably, the school uniform of the Asticassia School of Technology can change colors to show who's the current Holder, as happens to the protagonist in the first episode. It is then used to heartbreaking effect in Episode 17 where Suletta gets her Holder status ripped away from her and desperately tries to stop her clothes from changing back to their regular colors to no avail.

    Fan Works 
  • Vow of Nudity: While never mentioned in text, the illustrations show that the magic crystal on Spectra's necklace will change color to visually match her new color scheme when she shapeshifts into a different form.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the TRON universe, vehicles change to the color of whatever program is piloting it. Also, programs that are reprogrammed (or deprogrammed) may change color. The page picture is Flynn invoking the trope in order to pass himself off as a Mook. note 
  • In an early draft of Star Wars, lightsabers worked like this.

    Video Games 
  • In Paperboy, when a house cancels its subscription (because of your incompetence), its paint suddenly turns gray and metal skulls appear on its fenceposts.
  • BioShock
    • The security bots in BioShock change from red-light to green-light when you hack them. Likewise, Big Daddies' helmet lights will turn green when hypnotized and red when aggro'd.
    • The sequel's multiplayer uses red, white, and blue in a similar way; red machines have been hacked by the enemy team, and blue ones by your own. White is unhacked (vending machines) or inactive (turrets).
  • When buildings are captured in Command & Conquer games (or when soldiers are mind-controlled), they change to the color of the team that captured them. Garrisonable Structures also get instant sandbags, flags, and color-coded paint jobs.
  • In Dune II, when an Ordos Deviator tank hits an opposing unit and put it under Ordos control, the unit's color changes to Ordos green.
  • Gears of War: The light on guns change to either blue or red depending upon which side picks them up.
  • Shadow Force is a Beat 'em Up game with a unique gimmick, that your Ninja characters (all 4 of them) can, with a power-up, transform into "souls" of themselves and possess any weakened enemy, allowing the player to control the enemy and make them attack other mooks. When this happens, the possessed enemy will swap colours to tell them apart from other mooks.
  • StarCraft has it for mind-controlled units in the Brood War extension, but averts it for "rescuable" units in missions (usually heroes).
    • The sequel also does this, with the color of mind controlled units changing to the controller's side as long as they are being controlled.
    • Campaign or custom map triggers that change unit control will also change the color accordingly. E.g. One early mission has you bring your hero unit to a beacon, which sets off a script to turn the whole base to your control, along with a new paint job.
  • Though not universally true, Fire Emblem characters will often switch their outfits to blue instead of green (NPC) or red (enemy) upon joining the player's army.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, Phantoms being controlled by Zelda turn pink.
  • El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron has the weapons change color from black to white as soon as you steal (and purify) them from enemies.
  • In Star Wars: Battlefront, any command posts you/the enemy captures will change colour.
  • At one point in Transformers: War for Cybertron, an Autobot Brute picks up the hammer weapon dropped by the Decepticon Brute he just killed. The weapon immediately switches from the purple-tinted Decepticon version to the red-tinted Autobot version of the same weapon.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, the main characters tattoo's will change color from blue to red when health is critically low.
  • In Ratchet & Clank, Nodes captured in the multiplayer modes of Up Your Arsenal, Deadlocked and Full Frontal Assault change from uncaptured grey to that of the team who captured it, blue or red.
  • In Age of Empires this occurs when a civilization switches allegiance.
  • Played with in NieR: Automata. At the start of the opening sequence, 2B's flight unit isn't the white one - it's one of the five identical black ones. Once the flight leader gets picked off by long-range fire, 2B assumes command of the mission, and her flight unit takes on the white coloration. It becomes a moot point when she's the only one left 30 seconds later, but in later flight segments 2B's flight unit always turns white, while 9S's remains black. This persists when playing as 9S, what changes is which flight unit you control during the sequence.
  • In Lord Monarch all units who belonged to defeated king will change their color to victor's side, otherwise they disappear when their leader is killed from environment(exhaustion or monsters).
  • All factions in Populous: The Beginning are cosmetically identical, differentiated only by the secondary colors of their clothing. The preacher unit gives sermons that nearby enemies will sit and listen to; eventually, the audience members will be converted to the preacher's side, changing colors accordingly.
  • Endless Sky: In a setting with Color-Coded Armies, joining one recolors all of your ships from the civilian blue to your faction's color, and any captured ships are automatically recolored to match yours as well. Since this involves physically repainting the ship's hull, docking at a spaceport is required to do the trick.

    Web Comics 
  • In Erfworld, raiment has similar properties. It changes color and even symbol depending on who a unit serves. So when Wanda uncroacks or Decrypts a unit, its raiment immediately changes to her or Parson's symbol.
  • Magic weapons in Goblins are explicitly said to glow with the aura color of their wielder and change depending on who is wielding them.

    Western Animation 
  • In Ben 10: Alien Force, Albedo is an alien who created a knockoff Omnitrix that has synced with Ben's, rendering him stuck with Ben's normal human form as his default. Eventually, the two Omnitrixes react to each other, and Albedo becomes a color-inverted Ben - dark hair becomes white, green clothes become red. Eventually, he creates another, better one called the Ultimatrix. It's red, like his jacket. So is the flash created when Albedo transforms with it. Then Ben gets it... and when he puts it on, it becomes green, as is the flash when he transforms with it.
  • In Code Lyoko, Ulrich's katana usually glows blue when striking or parrying, but in the hand of a XANA-controlled warrior (like a polymorphic clone, a brainwashed Aelita, or William), it glows red instead.
  • The laser guns of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero have different-colored laser blasts for good guys and bad guys. Infamously, in one episode, a Cobra weapon is picked up and used by a Joe, and the color of its fire changed to match its user. It is joked by fans that the guns have a "good" and "evil" setting.
  • When gems in Steven Universe fuse, their gemstones change color to match their fused form's palette, despite not otherwise shapeshifting like the rest of their bodies. Notably, gem homeworld society has a taboo against the cross-caste fusions which cause such color shifts, hence the in-series pejorative "off color".
  • Transformers

    Real Life 
  • A male gorilla develops a patch of silver fur on his back upon reaching adulthood. Hence the term "silverback" for a gorilla troop's patriarch, who's quite easy to pick out from the rest of the troop by virtue of being Colour-Coded for Your Convenience.

Alternative Title(s): Convenient Colour Change