The Best and Worst Character Reboots and Redesigns

Sometimes change is good. Sometimes, it's not. Here are a few of the best and worst character changes ever. Now with video!

List by Mike Williams, .

The problem with utilizing the same characters for multiple decades is eventually you'll have the bright idea to reboot or redesign them. Both are a fine art. A reboot is a bit of house-cleaning, removing what doesn't work and keeping what does. Redesigns run on the fine line of improving on a character's original look, while adding a little something to make a stronger character. Sometimes, it all works out. Other times? Not so much.

Here are some of the best and worst character redesigns and reboots. To soothe the wounds you're about to receive, I'll start with the worst. Think of it like ripping a band-aid off rather quickly.

The Losers

Dante (DmC)

I'll be honest, I'm doing this one first because I don't wholeheartedly believe in it. I actually have no problem with DmC Dante, even if the delivery of his overall story was crude. I even enjoyed DmC. That said, a ton of people hated new Dante, especially since he supplanted the classic white haired rogue who joined fans in four prior Devil May Cry games. Old Dante knew his life was a joke and loved every minute of it, while new Dante takes the joke too seriously. The white hair and badass red trenchcoat may be gone for now, but they are not forgotten.

Rad Spencer (Bionic Commando)

This is another case of losing the humor in the quest of seriousness. His name is Nathan "Rad" Spencer folks, you don't have to try so hard to make him and his world gritty. The Rad in the original Bionic Commando and its remake Rearmed is a sarcastic redhead who wore sunglasses on his super-secret mission to destroy Hitler lookalike The Leader. Nathan in the reboot is fighting a war against terrorists while looking for his missing wife. The weird thing is, that's supposed to be the same guy ten years apart. I hope I don't age like that.

The Prince (Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within)

In 2003, Ubisoft successfully rebooted Prince of Persia with the Sands of Time, featuring a charismatic Prince in the vein of swashbuckling movie heroes like Robin Hood and the Three Musketeers. How do you follow a great reboot? Ubisoft decided that the answer was more grit and despair. Enter the Warrior Within, which takes the Prince's adventure and replaces it with a relentless flight from an undying enemy. The Prince turned dark and so did his world. The character and the series were not the better for the change. In fact, the Prince of Persia series never quite got the magic back in the two sequels and reboot that followed and Ubisoft has since shelved it.

Bomberman (Bomberman: Act Zero)

Like most of these other poor reboots and redesigns, the problem with Bomberman Act Zero is trying to cram serious themes into characters that don't need them. This game lost the plot in spectacular fashion, turning a family-friendly cartoon into a nightmarish post-apocalyptic cyborg. This is a thing someone greenlit; a committee of people looked at Bomberman: Act Zero and thought it was a good idea. If you ever need an illustration of how little some executives know about what players want, here's the best example ever.

The Winners

Team Fortress Crew (Team Fortress 2)

When it came time for Valve to update Team Fortress Classic eight years into the original's lifespan, they decided to go a different direction. Instead of the snarling, grimacing faces of the original TF classes, Valve gave the Team Fortress 2 classes a cartoony spin. Each class's silhouette was pushed to be even more distinct, which actually improved the gameplay; being able to tell what you're up against quickly is important in twitch gaming. It also opened the door for the hilarious TF2 movies that Valve has created. What were once just random classes are now actual characters.

Lara Croft (Tomb Raider 2013)

This could've gone horribly wrong - see the Losers up above - but somehow Eidos pulled it off. While Lara Croft in her original incarnations was a soulless sociopath with ample bosom and short pants, the new Lara Croft is a well-realized young woman who will eventually become a soulless sociopath. Big improvement. Plus new Lara wears pants, which is probably a good idea with all the mud, snow, and rock she slides around in. Now if someone could get her a sensible jacket.

Raiden (Metal Gear Solid 4/Metal Gear Solid Rising Revengeance)

Is there anyone who didn't hate the Raiden and Solid Snake bait-and-switch in Metal Gear Solid 2? (Don't answer that, I'm sure there is someone.) Raiden was a decent idea, but the naive soldier thing didn't work out as planned. When Kojima and company brought Raiden back for Metal Gear Solid 4, in his place was a cold, hard, badass cyborg ninja. Even in heels - yes, he has heels - New Raiden was so awesome that players wanted a Raiden-only game, which went on to become Platinum Games' Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. This is one redesign that actually saved a character for fans.

Link (Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker)

Here's another example where heading in a cartoony direction actually worked out. When Wind Waker was first released, the game was met with some skepticism, especially because fan expectations were tainted by the semi-serious Zelda demo in early GameCube reveals. Years later, after serious entries like Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, Wind Waker is an more-appreciated game and Toon Link is a well-loved version of the character. Wind Waker Link and his overall world just ended up more fun and expressive than anything that has come before or after.

Honorable Mention: Voldo (Soul series)

Voldo is forever. Every Voldo design is perfect. Every Voldo design tells you everything you need to know about Voldo. Every Voldo is special. He is the best gaming character today. Give love to Voldo. Some call him a demon, but can a demon take up residence in your heart? When the world turns to ash around us, the only thing that will save us is our prayers to Voldo. All hail Voldo.

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Comments 30

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  • Avatar for mobichan #1 mobichan 4 years ago
    Not sure I can agree with the inclusion of Link. Considering he is portrayed in so many ways in all the games (including the newer ones), it just seems like his look reflects each specific game's style. It isn't like the toon Link became the redesign that all Zelda games used after Wind Waker. I personally like the cartoonier Zeldas over the realistically proportioned ones, but seeing the original anime/manga design on the left, I really wish someone would go full on retro 80's style with one of the Zelda games.
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  • Avatar for Daikaiju #2 Daikaiju 4 years ago
    I'm glad you mentioned Bomberman Zero. I would have cried foul otherwise. Weird thing is how closely he resembled the original American NES box art.
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  • Avatar for Thad #3 Thad 4 years ago
    Here's another example where heading in a cartoony direction actually worked out.

    I'm not sure I agree with the use of the word "actually" -- it implies this is surprising or exceptional.

    (Well, maybe it IS surprising, to the Internet commenters screaming "CELDA!" on the original unveiling, or to the designers of the SERIOUS BUSINESS reboots in the top section. But it shouldn't be surprising to the audience of this site.)

    I definitely agree that the overwhelming problem seems to be publishers and designers taking things way too seriously. There's a whole lot of overlap between this and the superhero genre. I sure don't mind comics or games targeted toward adults, but they don't all need to be so samey. And, too often, "mature" products ain't so mature, and the self-serious approach is just as ridiculously cartoonish as something lighthearted and funny. (The Dark Knight Returns is ridiculous. So is Gears of War. That's not saying that they're bad, any more than saying Super Mario Bros. is ridiculous means that it's bad. Each is laughable in its own way -- and there's nothing wrong with that.)
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #4 SatelliteOfLove 4 years ago
    Voldo: Cuz mindgames are key to winning at Fighters, so do the Worm and crotch-thrust to VICTOLY.
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  • Avatar for metalangel #5 metalangel 4 years ago
    Thank God Link finally put on some pants. In his early incarnations he seemed doomed to fruitbowl the enemies to death.

    I don't know the story behind Raiden's transformation into a cyborg* but from the looks of it I almost feel sorry for him, being forcibly encased in mechanical bits (a la Vera in Superman III which scared the crap out of me as a kid) to become the Cuban heeled badass he now is.

    I don't like new Lara. If she's meant to be a real person, she could actually look more like one, not an extremely toned athletic young woman** who just by sheer freaking coincidence happens to land in an adventure.

    *I never finished MGS2. I got as far as rescuing the old police chief bomb disposal guy. As soon as he launched into his monologue of woe about what tragedy had prompted him to be here on the platform, I turned the game off. Life was too short.

    **'new' Lara was famously described as being young and still retaining a 'layer of puppy fat'. Maybe the designers have never seen a young woman before to actually know what that means, but Lara there looks like she jogs, cycles and goes to the gym at least four times a week.
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  • Avatar for Wellman #6 Wellman 4 years ago
    Great until you exposed your love of Voldo and in doing have shown more then I personally ever wanted to know about your true self... also no love at all for SNK's Athena?

    She went from scantily clad 8-bit platformer to eternal teen psychic martal arts pop idol in the King of Fighters series. Damn fine reboot IMO.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #7 Kuni-Nino 4 years ago
    You're wrong on Link and Wind Waker. Link probably doesn't even qualify because his appearance changes in every game. You're also wrong on Raiden. He became a lot worse. His look and characterization were the best in MGS2.
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  • Avatar for Vlad27145 #8 Vlad27145 4 years ago

    I have to disagree with you assessment on Lara. If yo played the game you'd see that while she is, indeed, athletic, the devs' description of her is absolutely correct. You just need to look at the "old" Lara in order to easily see the difference. Face, waist, arms... "puppy fat" signs are visible in all these areas of the new version in comparison, albeit in smallish amounts (very small if not compared to the old model).

    Still, she looks like a perfectly believable young woman. A high majority of young women I know are either fitter or skinnier than the new Lara. I don't know what you were expecting, they couldn't very well make her plump now, could they? THe game would've hardly been believable otherwise.Edited July 2014 by Vlad27145
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  • Avatar for Krustentier7 #9 Krustentier7 4 years ago
    Voldo is love. Voldo is life.
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  • Avatar for Kadrom #10 Kadrom 4 years ago
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  • Avatar for nickn #11 nickn 4 years ago
    I really liked the new DMC and the cell shaded Prince of Persia. It's a shame I won't get to see any follow ups to them. I guess I like bad things.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #12 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    I agree with most of these. Especially the rebooted Dante, which is a trainwreck of a character. DMC certainly didn't need a reboot, the old Dante was a great character and I'd like to see him return.

    The one I disagree with you on is Lara. Not that she's a terrible reboot, but she's certainly not great. I guess the character became more realistic, but in doing so she became dull and uninteresting. Give me the old cheerful sociopath any day.
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  • Avatar for darrinwright55 #13 darrinwright55 4 years ago
    @mobichan Agreed. 80's Link would be nice to see at least once.
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  • Avatar for Sam-Derboo #14 Sam-Derboo 4 years ago
    I'm not at all fond of the redesign for DMC's Dante, but considering how the original is one of the worst character designs in all of video gaming history, I have a hard time seeing it as a "loser", if only for being the less miserable variant of the two.

    Still can't stand cartoon Link and wasn't able to play any game he (or one of his slighter variants) appears in as a result for any prolonged period of time. It just grosses me out.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #15 MHWilliams 4 years ago
    @ZenRain I agree that Ninja Theory's PR handling of the reboot are poor at best. It felt like they were taunting Devil May Cry fans.

    DmC was fun, but I understand hardcore Devil May Cry fans' dislike, because the gameplay overall isn't as tight as say... a Platinum title.
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  • Avatar for docexe #16 docexe 4 years ago
    Honestly, I have never liked the Toon Link redesign, even if I actually like otherwise the celshading from Wind Waker and the Zelda games from that timeline branch. For me, Link’s best design is the one from Skyward Sword, although the design from the coming Wii U game might supplant it.

    And well, classic Dante might follow typical anime archetypes (white haired pretty boy with a cocky attitude, tragic backstory, red trench-coat, sword and guns), but that doesn’t make him a bad or poorly designed character in the least. He is certainly campy and looks at times like a pastiche but that’s the beautiful thing of the Devil May Cry series: Like the classic Resident Evil games from the PSOne and PS2 eras, it presents a homage to horror B-movies while constantly winking to the audience and letting them in on the joke. Dante’s cocky and irreverent personality helps with that and actually makes him a quite charismatic protagonist. The campiness, silliness and over the topness meshed with the exhilarating combat, monstrous enemies and sinister environments works very well as a result.

    The rebooted Dante… honestly, the redesign is poor. It’s in part that it loses the anime aesthetic, but also like the article points out, that it seems to lose that “wink”. It seems that the designers were trying to go for a pastiche of the “grunge” or “punk” aesthetic, but it feels dour, it just doesn’t work as well. And well, I have played little of DMC, but from what I have seen is not a bad action game in the least. The problem: It’s just not a Devil May Cry game.

    @captainN2 I don’t necessarily disagree with your point about how later Soul Calibur games went too far with the oversexualization of their female cast (although I do disagree with your opinion of Sigfried, his Soul Calibur possessed armor was awesome). But you do realize that the section with Voldo was a joke, right?Edited 2 times. Last edited July 2014 by docexe
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #17 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    @captainN2 I disagree, strongly. Original Dante is indeed a great character, precisely because he's goofy and doesn't take himself seriously. Being a "great" character doesn't always mean depth and pathos. There's also something to be said for fun, likable protagonists that stand out from the crowd. Dante was iconic for a reason.

    Oh, and let's get one thing straight... the DMC reboot is called "DmC:Devil May Cry." So let's address it by it's proper name, DmC:DMC. It's a stupid title for a stupid game.

    Taken on it's own merits, yes DmC:DMC managed to be a mediocre action title. But you can't just take it on it's own merits because it was a continuation of the DMC series, a pillar of the action genre. DmC:DMC willfully turned it's nose up at everything good about the series, and delivered a more generic, dumbed down action game. That is exactly the wrong direction for the series to go in.
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  • Avatar for Stevegasm #18 Stevegasm 4 years ago
    Samus needed to be here. Other M Samus may look the same and all that, but maybe I was just projecting what I thought of her through about 25 years of playing the character. It was a decent enough game, but they butchered that character's soul to me.
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  • Avatar for Critical_Hit #19 Critical_Hit 4 years ago
    "The white hair and badass red trenchcoat may be gone for now, but they are not forgotten" - yeah, it is gone for now... or whiners could've spent 2 seconds looking up some info on the game and found out that "classic dante" skin was in the game and they could play through the whole game as this guy:


    Jeez louise. No game this gen has pissed me off more than DmC. Because it's fantastic and idiots dismissed it for THE DUMBEST REASON EVER. Ninja Theory gets no respect. And yeah, I know DmC did over a million units sold... too bad this was the generation where a million units sold (PLUS!) means, "What a disappointment! Time to close a studio!". Ugh.
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  • Avatar for Critical_Hit #20 Critical_Hit 4 years ago
    @Stevegasm : Other M wasn't a reboot though. It slotted into the series right after Super Metroid, remember? I mean... to me, that's the real problem with Samus' portrayal in that game. She's a complete idiot, and a bit of a wuss, and dependent on others. Those are all qualities that scream "ROOKIE STORY!" to me.

    If it was made as a prequel to the very first game, everything would be justified in an instant. You may not like it, but it would've made sense, right? After Super Metroid though? Which is like the 7th game in the series since all 4 Prime games (don't forget Hunters) are sandwiched in before that? It's insulting.
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  • Avatar for andrewshaw86 #21 andrewshaw86 3 years ago
    @Kuni-Nino How ironic. Your Profile fits your comment. A whiny fanboy. "YOU'RE OPINION IS WRONG!!!"
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  • Avatar for Spooky-Toast #22 Spooky-Toast 3 years ago
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  • Avatar for alexb #23 alexb 3 years ago
  • Avatar for Thad #24 Thad 3 years ago
    I did not notice this was a reposted old article or remember that I had already read it. So it was pretty jarring scrolling down into the comments and seeing that it already had a post with my name on it!
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #25 Monkey-Tamer 3 years ago
    Am I the only person that didn't care for either Raiden? Seriously?
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  • Avatar for Da_Beerman #26 Da_Beerman 3 years ago
    I will have a soft spot for the 2009 Bionic Commando game, I really enjoyed the 3D swing mechanics when the other games at the time were clunky open-world games like prototype that gives you a million tools that are mostly useless, but the story is pretty dang dumb.Edited April 2015 by Da_Beerman
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  • Avatar for matthewjohnson31 #27 matthewjohnson31 3 years ago
    Bomberman isn't just terrible (laughably so), it's borderline copyright infringement. Unless Tony Stark lent Bomberman one of his spare suits. Hey, maybe the original guy is still in there!

    Anyway, my choice for worst character redesign is from DMC, but it's not Dante. It's Lady, from DMC3 to DMC4. Or rather, some random porn star in Lady's outfit and hairstyle. She appears in, I think, one scene in DMC4, so it would hardly be worth mentioning aside from the skeeze factor, but I've heard that she and Trish are both playable in the new version and I really hope someone fixed Lady's design. (Trish might have suffered a similar fate in DMC4, but I don't really remember because Lady was so grotesque.)
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  • Avatar for andrewmayes78 #28 andrewmayes78 3 years ago
    @Monkey-Tamer While I've never /disliked/ Raiden, I can certainly understand why why others do. Really, though, I think the real reason people in the West never really took to him (even after they got over the betrayal of the bait-and-switch) was Quinton Flynn's portrayal of him. Sons of Liberty is a weird game, and Raiden is meant to be the sole sane, relatable voice amidst all the insanity. But Quinton Flynn completely ignores the script's intended punctuation and makes Raiden come off as a passive-aggressive jerk. It seems the voice director explained Raiden's character to Flynn -- a hotshot newbie who's constantly being undermined by his superiors and caught off-guard by all the weirdness around him -- and so Flynn decided to read lines as though the character deserved to be treated that way. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Next time you play Sons of Liberty, mute the TV and read Raiden's lines without Quinton's performance, and you'll suddenly start to respect him as an intellectual. I don't think I'm going too far by saying Flynn effectively ruined the character for Western audiences.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #29 MHWilliams 3 years ago
    @Spooky-Toast May Voldo bless our endeavors.
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  • Avatar for ElunaGirl #30 ElunaGirl 2 years ago
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