Best Character Redesigns In Fighting Games

best character redesigns in fighting games

Best Character Redesigns In Fighting Games

  • Some iconic fighting game characters have received visual makeovers that enhance their designs.
  • Street Fighter's Urien got a modern revamp in Street Fighter 5, improving his appearance in battle.
  • The evolution of Mortal Kombat's ninja characters showcases better individual distinction in recent games.

The visual medium of fighting games is rife with memorable and iconic character designs. However, with the continual shift of the medium as well as the wide range of designs, some will be better than others. Certain characters have designs and outfits that stand the test of time.

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Nevertheless, some characters have benefited from an overhaul in the visual department. The examples below are some of the best. The focus will be on the default designs of characters in fighting games. Alternate costumes or colors in various games will not be taken into consideration for any of the character designs showcased below.

Urien

Not Gill's Better, Except As A Dresser

Street Fighter 5

Platform(s) PS4, PCReleased February 16, 2016Developer(s) Capcom, DimpsGenre(s) Fighting

Gill is the main antagonist of the Street Fighter 3 trilogy. His design made use of, at the time, cutting-edge graphics, with an asymmetrical body that was red on one side and blue on the other. The simple design had such visual grandiosity that one may recall his only article of clothing was a white loincloth, save for modest robes which burn away during fight intros.

His younger brother, Urien, often characterized as his upset inferior, is less visually compelling at first glance. His initial outfit in battle is also a loincloth, paired with a less visually compelling bronze metallic alloy coating his skin and complementing his physique, with a rather plain tan suit ripping away before battle. It was perhaps this fact that led to him getting a visual overhaul in Street Fighter 5.

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He maintained a metallic coating around his skin but also added a black-striped suit and a purple undershirt. This design served to still show off his physique, with his undershirt going unbuttoned to reveal his muscular chest. Gill's primary design in 5 was instead lifted directly from his initial appearance.

In an odd bit of continuity, Street Fighter 3 largely takes place after 5. It is unknown why Urien ditched his better outfit as time went by. Maybe he just liked ripping out of them to show off or, more likely, he was just jealous Gill did it first.

Kabal

A Quick Fix

Mortal Kombat 11

Platform(s) Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, Switch, PS5, PS4, PC, Stadia, Xbox OneReleased April 23, 2019Developer(s) NetherRealm StudiosGenre(s) Fighting

Mortal Kombat's resident speedster, Kabal is hard to pin down. Beyond his inconsistent morals and backstory, lies a deeply scarred burn victim clinging to life. Consequently, the hook sword-wielding member of the black dragon clan commonly sports a respirator mask. For the majority of games featuring Kabal, this mask sported round eye holes.

Mortal Kombat 11 heavily redesigned the character while still sticking to his origin point. He was given messier hair, a beaten-up coat, and overall had his greater ensemble designed to reflect a damaged state, likely owing to him dying a few games prior. An important, yet subtle distinction in his design was his eyeholes. The rounded eyes of his previous mask looked downright friendly compared to the severe expression implied by his sharp laser red eyeholes. Although Kabal has not yet appeared in 11's sequel Mortal Kombat 1, this newer design element was carried over into the film adaptation Mortal Kombat (2021), where Kabal is an antagonist.

K9999/Krohnen McDougall

Changed For Legal Reasons...Or Maybe Not?

The King of Fighters XV

Platform(s) Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PS5, PS4, PCReleased February 17, 2022Developer(s) SNKGenre(s) Fighting

K9999 took obvious inspiration from Tetsuo Shima of Akira fame. He was a similarly short-tempered man with a mutated body and a love for his motorbike. This fact is also reflected in his visual design, taking elements such as his undershirt, cape, and a similar hairstyle. He was even voiced by Nozomu Sasaki, who was previously Tetsuo's voice actor.

There was speculation that the blatant similarities to Shima permanently retconned the character out of existence, with the fear of legal action being held over SNK. Regardless, K9999 resurfaced under the name Krohnen McDougall, attempting to run from the remnants of NESTS alongside his fellow defector, Ángel. Although still based on Tetsuo, McDougall has a much sharper fashion sense. McDougall trades in his old undershirt for a black and yellow jacket. He also grows out his hair and adds a set of red-tinted aviator goggles to the mix. These changes all serve to visually distinguish him from Tetsuo, but there is one element left over. McDougall still wears a red cape, the same piece that helped Tetsuo's otherwise fairly plain design come together. Whatever the reasons behind it, this character received an incredible redesign.

Yoshimitsu

The Ever-Changing Face Of Ninja In Tekken

Tekken 3

Platform(s) Arcade, PS2, PC, PS1Released March 20, 1997Developer(s) NamcoGenre(s) Fighting

Yoshimitsu is a prominent character in Namco fighting games. He is a staple of the mainline Tekken series and his predecessors (who also use the Yoshimitsu moniker) frequently appear in Namco's Soul series. As the leader of the manji clan, Yoshimitsu uses his ninja skills to fight the powerful and aid the oppressed.

Compared to the majority of fighting game characters, Yoshimitsu is a bit of an anomaly design-wise. Most characters who have been in as many fighting games as him tend not to stray too far from their original design, if at all. Yoshimitsu instead changes his outfit in almost every Tekken game, with them all sticking to the same general theme of resembling demons or monsters from Japanese folklore.

In Yoshimitsu's case, Tekken 3 produced one of his best outfits to date, a clear step up from Tekken 2. Yoshimitsu's design in 2 was somewhat basic. He wore a conical hat, a white demon mask, and metallic armor. Tekken 3 reconstructs this idea, giving him an armored demon suit embedded with what looks to be exposed demon musculature. The upscaled graphics of the newer game also help add to the visual improvement. This design also appears in many spin-off games featuring the character, including Street Fighter X Tekken and the first Tekken Tag Tournament.

Almost Every "Ninja" Character In Mortal Kombat

A Rainbow Of Redesigns

Mortal Kombat 1

Platform(s) Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, Switch, PS5, PCReleased September 19, 2023Developer(s) NetherRealm StudiosGenre(s) Fighting

Mortal Kombat has continually made use of motion capture technology and live-action performers for its fighting games. However, this led to a relatively less creative slew of designs for earlier games in the series. These manifested in the "ninja" characters as a baseline.

In these games, most ninja share a single actor. The actor would perform the moves of all the various ninja, which the developers would recolor for each character in a game. This is very impressive from a performance standpoint and shrewd from a development standpoint, but sadly not too visually dynamic. Characters affected include Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and Reptile among others. This also spread over to subsets such as the female ninja (such as Kitana, Mileena, and Jade) and cyborg ninja (such as Sektor and Cyrax), which all were recolored from individual sprites.

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More recent Mortal Kombat games, such as Mortal Kombat 10, 11, and 1, did a much better job of individually distinguishing each character. Whether emphasizing aspects of characters such as Reptile's zaterran heritage or simply just giving each one a more unique design, the phasing out of recycled ninja sprites improved character design in Mortal Kombat overall.

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