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Rainbow Speak

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Gee, I wonder where we should go next.

"Sword and Shield are different colors, so you know that they are two different items."
The Legend of Zelda Speedrun Commentary

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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    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • The character names in ElfQuest, being sometimes indistinguishable from regular words (Nightfall, Treestump, Shade, Pool, Ember), are always in bold, which can give a bit of an odd emphasis to speech ("That's better, Moonshade. Now Leetah can get along in the woods"). After this long it's starting to feel a bit like they can't trust the audience to parse regular sentences with unfamiliar names.
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths voiced the Anti-Monitor with black dialogue balloons and white lettering. Ink bleed often made it nearly impossible to make out the words.

    Fan Works 
  • 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.
  • In Kantai Collection fic Eternity many of the lines are colored blue or red, a few times just to differentiate the speakers, but most of the time it is used to show the mood or feelings regarding the described subject. In Yonaga's/Enterprise's case in particular, when she really hates something to the point of almost regressing to her old Pacific War-self, the red lines look corrupted via the Zalgo font.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • It seems that Pete's Dragon (1977) 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.
    • Similarly, The familiar has the word familiar in pink, even in different meanings (e.g. familiarity). It also has a few blue houses for good measure.
  • Many versions of The Bible print all of Jesus's utterances in red font. In many other versions LORD is the translation of Yahweh whilst Lord is just your bog standard godly title.
    • Some people avoid the red-letter editions on the principle that the entire Bible is God's (and thus Jesus's) Word to us, and that pointing out a few parts as "The words of Jesus" disguises that fact.
  • 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.
  • Most titles in the Septimus Heap series present words relating to Magyk in bold, i.e. Queste, Darke, etc.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In certain Fansubs of Super Sentai, Kamen Rider, and other Toku shows, especially ones by TV-Nihon, the characters' Henshin Calls, In the Name of the Moon, and attacks will be in their signature colors.
  • An unsub on Criminal Minds had a form of synesthesia that caused him to see the words people spoke in the air.note  He came to the conclusion that white letters meant the person was telling the truth and red letters meant they were lying.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Telltale Games often gives each important character's subtitles their own color. Every game based on The Walking Dead makes the current player character's speech white, while everyone else's speech is highlighted by a unique color to indicate their importance. Tales from the Borderlands features two main characters; the male lead has blue text while the female lead has pink text.
  • 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 Kyle Hyde games set in the same universe.
  • In Ōkami, key phrases were highlighted in red.
    • 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.
  • Key terms appear in a different color in Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star. In an interesting take on the trope, the player can press a button to bring up a glossary to describe the term in question. The game even points out which terms you've encountered before. Since this is a sequel to a game that was on a different platform, it makes so that the characters don't have to drop quite the level of in-character exposition that would otherwise be necessary.
  • Terranigma uses orange to mark items.
  • 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 (yellow); Forest (green); Fire (red); Water (blue); Spirit (orange); Shadow (purple).
    • 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.
    • A Link Between Worlds takes this trope a step further, not only is there Rainbow Speak but certain characters have color-coded text boxes.
  • Used in the Metroid Prime Trilogy, to point out important terms in Enemy Scan text.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind did it as well. It uses hyperlinks in the dialogue texts to introduce new topics of conversation.
  • The SNES game Shadowrun also used the keywords system.
  • Persona:
    • 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 has a variation in fully capitalizing every monster, attack, place, or person name (i.e., "Wild PIKACHU appeared! PIKACHU used THUNDERBOLT!"). Diamond and Pearl ditch this, reverting to just putting monster names in all caps, and using some colored text for certain items. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon and Generation V decapitalize the mons' names as well.
    • FireRed and LeafGreen color speech by male NPCs blue and speech by female NPCs red.Note 
    • HeartGold and SoulSilver color 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.
    • The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games highlight locations you can visit with colors.
  • Hellgate: London had every quest giver give the important facts in bold.
  • 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 and sequel feature 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 when characters speak in Al Bhed (a one-for-one substitution cipher that the player can learn one letter at a time) the untranslated letters are displayed in bright magenta, but otherwise the trope is averted.
  • In Final Fantasy X-2, important terms such as "Garment Grid" or "Sphere Break" are presented in yellow in the subtitles when first introduced.
  • From's recap of Final Fantasy VIII, a prime abuser:
    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.
    • Though the game is just as likely to play it for laughs. For example, during the Shumi Village sidequest, the Village Elder tells his aide that "You shall not eat or sleep until the statue is complete" and "shall not eat or sleep" flashes in bright yellow.
  • 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.
  • In The World Ends with You, memes (words or sentences you can influence people's thoughts with) are written in red. This red text is also used in key words in the Secret Reports; the secret report for Another Day has entire pages written in red (It Makes Sense in Context, though).
  • Brave Fencer Musashi abused this quite badly. The colored words are apparently chosen at random.
  • 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, Ulyaoth, Xel'lotath and Mantorok).
  • During the briefings of Descent: FreeSpace and its sequel, the names of friendly ships (like the GTD Galatea) are in green, while the names of enemy ships (like the SJ Sathanas) are in red. There is also purple for unknown-allied ships, but is rarely, if ever, used. These colors are also used during the game for targeting ships.
  • The Mario & Luigi series also use this trope, usually when referring to one of the brothers.
  • In Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, any info on the books you can find that's required to solve a puzzle is highlighted in red.
  • Sid Meier's Colonization uses this too, so that you can quickly get to the point without looking for the relevant parts in the text messages.
  • 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.
  • Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch does this pretty heavily— just about any important item or location will be indicated in red.
    • In the sequel, Ni No Kuni II Revenant Kingdom, during the stories in the Trial of Knowledge with the Kingmaker, the key terms that are part of the puzzle you have to navigate are presented in rainbow speak. Within the puzzle itself, the respective statues are color-coded based on these keywords.
  • In Star Ocean, names of locations are marked in red.
  • Dynamite Dux's opening is written like this: "Lucy" is in pink, "Bin" and "Pin" are blue and red, respectively, and anything related to "Achacha" is colored orange.
  • 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.
  • In Shovel Knight, the names of the knights and The Enchantress appear in appropriate colours (along other words, like "pay" appearing in green for example). In addition, the text may wave or shake to add emphasis.
  • In Space Quest V: The Next Mutation, an alien at the Space Bar conveys rainbow Symbol Swearing, leaving the narrator to remark, "What a colorful language!"
  • Undertale:
    • Various things throughout the game are written in yellow text, usually indicating a helpful hint for the player. Most significantly, a monster whose name appears in yellow on the battle screen can be immediately pacified with the SPARE command.
    • Red text is almost always used to highlight something of a violent nature. (One sign even has the word "GREEN" written in red, explaining it to mean "Destroy at all costs!") The name of the antagonist Asgore is rendered in bold, all caps, and blood red upon first mention, though another character refers to him in yellow text and, contrary to earlier and later information, insists he's just a Nice Guy. Both portrayals turn out to be true in a way. One sign a player has started down the No Mercy route is messages entirely in red appearing in place instead of some of the ordinary Flavor Text.
    • A literal rainbow text highlights the name of Asriel Dreemurr.
    • Some attacks in the game are special, in blue or orange. Thus, when they're mentioned, the relevant color is used. Which provides a moment of foreshadowing when Sans mentions his brother's own special blue attack: he uses a different shade of blue, and indeed the attack is different.
  • In LittleBigPlanet, NPC dialogue highlights important items and game mechanics in pink. The ability to do this in player-made levels was added in the Play Station Vita version.
  • In Darksiders II, names, locations, and important concepts are highlighted in different colors in conversation subtitles.
  • In Kingdom Hearts χ, information in Notices often tends to presented in this - for example, medal, gem and Keyblade names will be presented in the color of their element (Magic - Blue, Strength - Red, Speed - Green), information they want you to pay particular attention to will be a dark orange, and references to boosted strength or defense will be presented in a bright yellow, which is also true on medals themselves with boosted stats.
  • Pyre highlights certain words - most often character names or places, but also other terms used in the worldbuilding - in a dark orange. These keywords can be hovered over for a tooltip explaining them. This is also the only way to understand one of your team members, who can only communicate in shrieking noises - the tooltip tells you what he's really trying to say.
  • In The Stanley Parable, part of the subtitles will change to red if you wait long enough to type in the password (2845) in the boss's office, thus annoying the Narrator. This will also occur in the Real Person ending when the Narrator is agitated with your refusal to say the password for a voice receiver (Nightshark-115).
  • for Fire Emblem Warriors, you'll often have your forces named in blue, enemies named in red, neutral units named in yellow, and allied units named in green.
  • Taming Dreams: Some words are highlighted, like these segments from Episode 1:
    • When Enki asks Mardek about his dream:
      Enki: You know, your purpose. You have to be driven by a dream! Something you'd ask the gods to make true if you found them!
    • When Enki discusses his own dream:
      Enki: My dream is to reach the Nexus and find the gods, who'll make my dream come true, that's what gods do!
  • BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm uses this here and there. Actions in the text (like *sigh* and *gasp*) are always written in green, and terms related to the First Internet are often written in red. One_Wing, for his part, speaks in solid gold.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.
  • Ballad of an Evening Butterfly: Red menacing-looking text appears several times in the visual novel to set the creepy and suspenseful mood.


    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • These instructions for a the thing s. It is a good to read the mALL!
  • This DK Vine article about Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. It has all the Batman & Robin-inspired ice puns highlighted in light blue.
    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!
  • TV Tropes:
  • Tilda Moose of the SCP Foundation apparently has the ability to speak in blue.

    Real Life 
  • 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.
  • The vast majority of text file editors integrate some form of "syntax highlighting", in which the editor will recognize the programming language used in the open file and display things like keywords and numbers in different colors than the rest of the code, so as to make the code easier to read.
  • Textbooks frequently use boldface and/or colored lettering to call attention to new vocabulary words when they're first used and defined, and italics for subsequent uses of such terms. Likewise, academic exams may use boldface to highlight key instructions within a short-answer question, e.g.: "Describe two examples of _______________."
  • On many websites, links are displayed in a different color, typically blue.
  • Aviation and spaceflight checklists always capitalize the BUTTON or instrument to check and which action to take, so pilots can reference the checklist quickly without having to read the entire sentence and figure out the right button, but instead can follow the checklist from memory.

Alternative Title(s): Color Coded Keywords, Rainbowt EXT


Example of: