What’s a palette swap? The simplest explanation is in video games, where one sprite graphic has its colour palette changed and is presented as an entirely new object, character or power-up. As random as the topic is, I thought I’d put together a list of some of my favorites.
6. Shiny Pokemon
You could go your entire life without knowing shiny Pokemon are a thing. They can have higher than average stats and different conditions for determining if you’re going to encounter one throughout the various games. Funnily they’ve existed since generation 1 but there was no way to tell except by examining the Pokemons stats or transferring it to generation 2. One of the most popular is Gyrados who appears in the anime adaption as well as a major story plot point in the second generation games.
5. Ryu and Ken (Street Fighter)
In the later games their appearance and movesets have become more unique, the backstory explains they’re both students of the same master which is why they (and many others in the franchise) don their particular attire. There were others such as Akuma and Dan although they’re different enough to be more than just palette swaps.
4. Hell Knight and Baron of Hell (Doom)
I’ve been playing my way through the Doom Zero superwad recently in the Steam client of Doom, to get a sort of classic experience (it’s as vanilla as they come and I won’t get into a tangent about the frustration of not being able to jump. Featured prominently are two monsters from the classic series, the Baron of Hell (the pink one) who appear in a pair (affectionately referred to as the bruiser brothers) as the final boss at the end of the first episode of the original Doom and throughout the subsequent episodes. The brown one is the Hell Demon (or as I like to think of them, Baron lite as they have half the health). Some well directed plasma fire or a few rockets from afar make short work of them.
3. Luigi (Mario series)
Likely one of the most iconic palette swaps in history is
green Mario Luigi, it wasn’t until Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA) that he featured his own unique look in game and which also debuted his signature fluttering jump. SMB2USA is a very interesting title, the game itself being developed upon the Japanese exclusive Doki Doki Panic – The real Super Mario Brothers 2 was deemed too difficult for western gamers of the time which funnily enough was our introduction for characters like the Bob-omb, Shy Guys and Birdo.
2. The Mortal Kombat Ninjas
It wasn’t just lazy developers, there’s a substantial financial and time cost to designing completely new characters, this is especially true in the original Mortal Kombat games which features graphics based on real actors. As time passed and we got new Mortal Kombat games there were more ninjas, some of them being created as jokes but they all have a fleshed out story and background in the MK universe. The original two were Scorpion and Sub-Zero (and the green Reptile at the bottom of the pit), but since then there has been Smoke, Noob Saibot, Rain, Ermac, and Chameleon. Eventually all of the characters would get their own completely unique look but that wasn’t until the modern 2.5D era.
1. The clouds in Super Mario Bros.
This was a startling revelation when I discovered it, but it’s led me to look at how things can be re-purposed for efficiency. Did you know the clouds in the original Super Mario Bros. game are actually white bushes? It makes sense considering the limitations they were working with at the time (the entire game is 32kb).