Which video games used visual changes to signify a change in a visible item?
April 20, 2012 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Can you tell me which games for either the NES, SNES, or Genesis (or their contemporaries) had the visual appearance of your character change logically when you got a new item? I'm not looking for something like Final Fantasy I, where the appearance changes due to an event, but you otherwise look the same, no matter which armor you have on; I'm looking for games like Metroid, where Samus's Power Suit and Varia Suit are different armors, and your character looks different as a result. Not looking for examples from later-gen systems such as Playstation onward, which seem much more likely to do this.
posted by Greg Nog to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, and 3 (NES) -- especially 3, with the tail, full racoon suit, frog suit, and so on. Also Super Mario World (SNES).
posted by John Cohen at 3:00 PM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Road Rash (Genesis) - your appearance changed based on what bike you bought.
Super Mario 3 (NES) - your costumes change your appearance (tanooki suit, frog suit).

Trying to think of more... my husband is firing up the emulators on the Wii
posted by flex at 3:04 PM on April 20, 2012

In the Shining Force games on the Genesis, characters were shown holding the particular weapons you gave them. Armor and whatnot doesn't change (except once in a Final Fantasy-style class change), but the games don't actually allow you to equip different armor, just weapons, so that's not surprising.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:08 PM on April 20, 2012

In Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, different swords, shields, armor, and even some items would render accurately on the avatar.
posted by muddgirl at 3:08 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Athena for the NES! I loved this game despite its frustrating controls and the way the helmets would obscure her excellent blue hair.
posted by ausdemfenster at 3:10 PM on April 20, 2012

In Altered Beast, of course, each time you got a "POWER UP" you would get a little bit more muscular, and then take your Beast Form.
posted by jozxyqk at 3:14 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure this was the case in Phantasy Star 1/2 when you would equip a new suit of armor--the top-down view on the map would change.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:21 PM on April 20, 2012

Every Megaman game.
posted by Nomyte at 3:22 PM on April 20, 2012

Admiral Haddock - No, in Phantasy Star 1-4 your characters did not change based on armor. In some of the games the effects in battle would differ with your weapon though.
posted by Riemann at 3:33 PM on April 20, 2012

Black Tiger had this. The same sprite donned different armor that you had to purchase (and also lost armor to his skivvies, like Arthur in Ghosts'n Goblins/Ghouls'n Ghosts). It was ported to Genesis.

Does that count, or are you looking more for the Altered Beast type stuff?

Try Little Nemo, one of my favorites on NES, or maybe A Boy and His Blob, where you fed jellybeans to your blob and he changed shapes accordingly. If spaceships count, then R-Type fits too.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:50 PM on April 20, 2012

In the original Legend of Zelda, you could see if you had the magic shield, and your clothes changed color when you got the blue and red rings.

The sword in the animations also matched the sword you had.
posted by aubilenon at 3:53 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Kirby on the NES changed form based on which powerup he had absorbed.
posted by solotoro at 4:00 PM on April 20, 2012

In Final Fantasy V, the job system changes your outfits in menus and during battle. If I recall correctly, it does not change your outfits on the overworld maps.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:05 PM on April 20, 2012

Not sure if this fits, exactly, but in Little Nemo: Dream Master for the NES, one of the basic game mechanics would be to feed animals candy in exchange for being able to use their powers. So you'd either become the animal, or ride it.
posted by griphus at 4:34 PM on April 20, 2012

Kid Chameleon for Genesis was all about the different suits you picked up to wear which drastically changed your gameplay. You turn into a tank, a medieval knight, a skeleton, and a cyclops, for some examples.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 6:00 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Faxanadu for the NES did this in 1989, 1987 on the Famicom in Japan.
I only know this as a Cron gramer is currently attemping to play through all console RPGs and just finished this one.

"One of the coolest parts of the game is that it shows different weapon and armor sprites depending on what you're wearing. Definitely a first, and probably won't be seen again for a while."

Here is his full series of posts on it.
posted by Canageek at 6:34 PM on April 20, 2012

Mega Man X works the armor upgrade appearence changes nicely into one of the games themes. Each upgrade makes you look a bit more like the mentor character as you grow stronger.
posted by Winnemac at 10:19 PM on April 20, 2012

The Final Fantasy series had certain levels of appearance changes in the SNES era. 4 and 5 would only change weapon appearances when attacking, but 6 had a few armors for two characters that would change their entire sprite as they were considered full costume suits. Square games in general would change weapon sprites without altering armor sprites. Given the size limitations of cartridges and how close they cut the edge sometimes, this was no surprise at all.

Crystalis on the NES played very similar to The Legend of Zelda. There were no sprite changes for different armors, but the sprite would detect whether a shield was equipped or not. Every shield looked the same.

In the Phantasy Star series, Riemann is correct in that the only changes were based on weapons. In fact, the alterations were very minute in 1-3. In Phantasy Star 4, the characters would be in the same outfits, but their animations were appropriate for type and number of weapons. The most noticeable change was in Chaz, who could use one knife, two knives, or a sword. Each attack animation was different. Also notable was that different weapons would show different effects when attacking, generally related to the affinity or element of the weapon involved.

In the game Robotrek for the SNES, you can alter your robot appearance both via equipment and design, although design difference is solely based on color. Equipment alteration would change depending on melee, ranged, or back weaponry was used.

Typically, the RPG genre was known for pushing the limitations of storage space and any alteration in appearance would typically require a full new set of sprites and animations. Developers were prone to choosing a single character sprite with more detail and better animations over the option of several sprites requiring their own animations stressing an already tight space limitation. When moving to the vastly larger CD format for PSX and beyond, space limitations were far less painful and multiple CD games were possible, meaning RPG characters could show off two dozen outfits without going beyond the physical limitations of the medium. Keep in mind, some of the older games on NES would shorten names/skills/items to four characters just to stay within space limitations.

Action platform games could show off greater changes due to keeping track of one or two characters with a far more limited set of items. Some were simply palette swaps such as in Mega Man on NES, but some were more complete alterations as listed above in Super Mario Bros. 3 and others such as Amagon where your character would either appear as a normal soldier or obtain a power-up which left him as a musclebound bruiser. I'm not quite sure where they were going with that one.

The only system that was a "contemporary" of the SNES/Genesis which was not battling space limitations during the entire life cycle of the hardware was the Neo Geo. The system was considered more of a "home arcade", so it wasn't used for RPGs. Action games such as Metal Slug offered significant differences in the form of vehicles. In that case the literal "armor" you were using was a complete and total change.

I'm sure there are even more than I have listed here, but the best places to look are action platform games, especially on the Neo Geo or perhaps the SNES due to space limitations being significantly tighter on the NES, where games would often weigh in at 256kb or less.
posted by Saydur at 10:23 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Wizards and Warriors series did this. In particular, I remember Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors 2 having several different sets of armor that affected your sprite.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:47 AM on April 21, 2012

While talking about the Mario Brothers world, add on the various embodiments of Yoshi in Yoshi's Island (and more?). Though you could get permanently colored Yoshii and their specific power (wings, breathing fire, ... what else?), the regular green Yoshi, upon eating a colored Koopa shell, would gain that ability until he spat out or digested the Koopa shell. While remembering this, something important has surely been forgotten in its place.
posted by whatzit at 9:48 AM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Super Mario Kart: Ghost, Star, Shrinking Mushroom
posted by Jorus at 8:06 PM on April 22, 2012

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