Console games


Computers aside, I grew up with the Mattel Intellivision and NES. When the SNES came out I was much more into computers. Lately, I've been discovering games for consoles which I didn't have, such as the Sega Master System, MSX, BBC Micro, ZX Spectrum, etc.

I think it's more fun to draw stuff from older 8-bit games, because the graphics leave something for my imagination, and the hardware restrictions forced designs to be effective and to the point. Even if a design was messed up, it still had charm. When 16-bit stuff messes up, it's mostly ugly. Also, a lot of 16-bit graphics did nothing of value with the extra colors (stupid muddy gradients, chrome, pillow shading, etc.)

That said, the three to four colors per character restriction (e.g. NES) is a bit too tight. One or two extra colors would've done wonders, but bits and bytes don't work like that. Games like Megaman layed sprites on top of each other, but doing so can create flicker due to sprite and scanline limitations. Final Fantasy 1 had little guys where the top half of a character used a different palette. It's a bit disappointing that the Sega Master System with its 16+16 color palettes didn't have any great looking games. I haven't seen any, anyways.



Fat Link

I had a brief encounter with my Zelda 1 project in March 08. It's a little strange that I don't have more art done for it, since it's one of my favorite games.

Link has turned into a pretty boy, just like Pit from Kid Icarus. It kind of takes away their character. I wouldn't go quite as far as I've done here with Link though, in staying faithful to his sprite appearance. But his nose really was 2 pixels long on that 16 pixel sprite.


With the rough concept to the right I wanted to explore the stone statues you see when entering the first level / dungeon. Possibly the statues are meant to look like Zora (which looks like 'the creature from the black lagoon'), and Aquamentus (dragon pony thing).

I feel that the newer are too linear and have too much errand running. The original is not beyond criticism though, with the tedious security though obscurity bomb every tile burn every bush mechanic.

If I were to make a Zelda game, it's be a persistent simulation of Hyrule, with Ganon producing troops, the Cave Elves forming a resistance. Little battles taking place. The player rising up to be a hero in the midst of that.

The overworld and dungeons seem architected, sterile and orderly. I can imagine that long ago some architect built Hyrule. The trees still grow in the same orderly lines. The dungeons, unfurnished, yields no clue as to what their original purpose was.


I've worked a bit on my Metroid image. Well, I just added my Ripley concept in, and Armourless Samus. The pink tights are a way to adress the odd palette for the skin tone in the game. The color placements here are pretty close to the sprites. I figured out that I could give Samus some pink 80's tights, to explain her odd skin tone. The patches of black very roughly corresponds to black pixel placements on the sprite.

Metroid Rio Samus Aran



The recent news about Megaman 9 being NES style made me want to return to my MM project. I've been experimenting a bit, trying to find a scale and style which works, but it's difficult. I'm not a fan of the cone legs seen in the X series and later. Here's the standard Chibi approach with stick legs. I prefer a pale yellow face rather than a skin colored one. Also, the power pellets should be in the style of the first game.

I've been drawing Megaman stuff since the game came out. It's a way for me to measure how much I improve over the years. However, when it comes to drawing people interacting in environments I'm still very inexperienced.

So, I've been attempting to do a paraphrase of the Megaman 1 (PAL/EU) cover.

Megaman Somewhat pleased with:

+ The characters in the corners are deflecting escaping... eye beams.

Worried about:

- Left bottom corner... and the foot going down there... I can't have people standing on the border.

- I tend to spread out things too everything evenly with no overlapping. I need to learn to use empty areas to guide the eye, rather than just adding more stuff at every free spot. However, I do want a busy feel, kind of like the SMB1 cover.

- Megagirl is too central? I nudged it a bit to the right. It's nowhere near rule of thirds though?

Maybe I should add some foot splashes in the snow (around the feet), to make it less static.

Should Elecman be removed in favour of Iceman shooting (increasing the action)? I might try and remove Elecman and scale up Iceman.

The shadow in the snow could suggest more strongly that there's a target outside of the image.

Since the levels are generally very blocky, I've got a bit of a problem with more organic ground shapes. I've started throwing in some structures. The skull castle isn't on the ice level of course, and nor are the other bosses. I'm thinking the castle is just a portal, because it doesn't appear to be able to house 4 levels otherwise. The colors are from the game pretty much (hence the sky color).

As for the story, I'm thinking that Dokurobotto overhears Wily mentioning that he regrets not ever meeting an evil Missis, passing on his legacy, etc. So, Dokurobotto builds a mechanical daughter, Wilma (Astroboy plot, yeah). Unfortunately Wily never finds out because Dokurobotto bites the dust (or Wily jealously rejects Wilma when she outdoes him). Wilma ends up on the scrap heap, but is found much later. She's programmed with Wily's kind of personality, and promptly starts causing trouble, constructing a set of robot masters. Her hair has Tron Bonne / Oni influences.

And right below is an attempt at Splash Woman with legs. I'm not really sure what this is for though, I just wanted to draw something. Designwise, I'm borrowing bits from Z and ZX. Maybe it's Venus Girl, since she's got a shell to ride on. Everything yellow is pointy. Japanese swimsuit. Kind of haphazard design overall though. Yeah, BubbleGirl needs a breathing apparatus despite being a robot. Design flaw.

Megaman Splash Girl and Bubble Girl


Using designs from both Contra and Probotector. I prefer the Probotector robots over the boring Contra muscle men. The chick is from the Arcade poster.



Bionic Commando

I gave my Bionic Commando redesigns another shot, although I need to iterate them more to get rid of nonsense detailing and get more fluid in my expression. Anyways, I tried to stay close to the source sprites (ref The placement of colors and masses is important for achieving likeness, but I took the liberty of varying the colors a bit to liven things up. I kept the extra colors close to the main colors, e.g., purple and brown, skin tone and white, and sky blue and light gray.

There's a little specular light pixel on the boots of the sprite characters, but I made it into a gray detail instead. If my redesigns had gloss boots and were rendered in a game engine then the specular might move around or disappear, thus reducing likeness. I'm trying to think of the sprites in a nonfigurative way and more like a collection of color blobs. It's less important what the pixels portray. The type of likeness I'm after is more on a 'corner of the eye' or 'flashing by' level. In video games that kind of rapid identification is very common.

Bionic Commando

Valkyrie no Bouken and Tower of Druaga

Valkyrie no Bouken and Tower of Druaga

I'm staying somewhat close to 2-bit (4 color) restrictions here. Technically, you can overlay sprites to get more colors on a character, but here I just wanted to create a NES feeling. There's some artwork of the flying baboon guys, the jumping Kiwi-ish birds, and I've incorporated some of that into the sprites.

Rather than just palette swapping to produce variants, I made light-medium-heavy versions of some enemies. It's a way to widen the range a design (making it less than a single point), and the universe feels more solid if there are variations of things rather than just clones.

There's some logic to the colors, with a scale going from yellow, to blue, red and black.

Unlike many, I like the trees being flat slices. The houses gave me a lot of trouble until I realized that I could make them less blocky by sloping in the roofs. This also suggests perspective in a way. I copied the way Final Fantasy 1 puts the shop icons on the front of the houses.

The background stuff / map tiles probably shouldn't use black. This will make the moving characters pop better.

As for the angles of the characters, I thought I'd do four angles pointing diagonally, with horizontal flipping.

The original sprites have been included for reference (in gray fields). The sprites were drawn to be viewed at 2x.

At the bottom is some Tower of Druaga Sprites. I'm skipping the black outline at some places. It's a way to vary line weight and suggest contact or lightness. The slimes worked much better with no line underneath, because it suggested contact with the floor, whereas a black line would suggest... 'floatage' due to the shadow effect. On the top side I often skip the outline too, because it gives me one more pixel to work with, and the top side can have a thinner line (i.e. none) because it's the lit side.

Quox, the dragon in Tower of Druaga, and Zouna, the evil antagonist in Valkyrie no Bouken, were iterated a lot. Some of the other designs were too, but I cropped the failures out.



This sheet has the pencil thumbnail which spawned the chibi scale which I use nowadays. I like how the scale might work as a cute in-game scale (readable big head) without being so SD big head that it's difficult to portray feminine form or gender.

By peeking around in the game ROM, I managed to find out that the shadow enemies in the last castle actually have details if you manipulate the palette. Perhaps the designers felt that the enemies were more creepy as silhouettes. Regardless, I enjoy doing research like this, and I incorporated the hidden details into my redesigns.


Blaster Master

I may have some new stuff for my Blaster Master / Metafight project page, but I'll just put it here for now. This new jump-tank design is more faithful to the color placements of the sprite.

Metafight Sophia

Journey to Silius / RAF world (Rough world?) - Sunsoft

Journey to Silius redesign art

Ref: There are no (good) sprite sheets. I doodled these while watching a 'let's play' (pausing for ref shots) and listening to the excellent music.

This game was apparently intended to be based on Terminator. The story seems to have been changed last minute or something, and it doesn't really work with the gameplay. The main character (only character) is pretty flat too.

Perhaps some dimension can be brought to the main character if it's revealed that he's actually a machine built by his father, and that the father also made the terrorist robots by mistake (and that they killed him). That would give the ending some tension, with the main character finding out that he killed his own kind, or that he needs to insist that he's different from them. Maybe the terrorist robots only wanted their own lot in the universe. Maybe the main character has... a... ssssisstahh?

So, yeah, I made the main character into a chibi thing, again. There are 3 or 4 versions of the main character. The Japanese cover, the Japanese sprite, the US sprite (no helmet and more chibi), The EU sprite (same as the Japanese one, I think). There might be some art in the instruction booklets too, but I have not researched that far yet. Anyways, other than basic use of colors, I didn't stay close to any design in particular. The Japanese armoured version has more blue on it, and the US one has a more white baggy pants look.

The enemies I just made quick roughs of. While the designs in the game are really haphazard, I think there is a fun thing going on with the white nonsense lump look.

I'd love to turn this into a 'metroidvania' or 'controid'.

The US main character got some kind of thing going on with a black bar over his chest. I interpret that as some kind of hole/shadow under a collar of some sort.


Mario genderswap

Mari is an original character of mine. I'm thinking that... she's fighting legions of robotic turtles, and maybe some kind of mushroom-like creatures. Instead of using doors, she gets to places using some kind of tubes. Crabs are awesome too. They could get really angry when hurt and start running around. Another neat feature could be that... Mari starts out super chibi and then she eats something and grows up or something?



The name Faxanadu is apparently a joining of Famicom + Xanadu. Xanadu is the second game in the Dragon Slayer series (MSX, PC88, etc). The NES/Famicom also had Legacy of the Wizard (aka. Dragon Slayer IV: Drasle Family). DraSle might be short for Dragon Slayer. When looking at the sprites from Xanadu (Dragon Slayer 2, 1985), I could spot the Drasle family members. There are also many other interesting sprites showing ties to Tower of Druaga (84), Hydlide (85), Zelda (86), etc. Anyways, I don't like Faxanadu as a game, but I rather fancy its aesthetics and unique atmosphere.


Misc characters from NES games

Misc characters from NES games: Turtles, Castlevania, Hebereke / Uforia, Megaman, Milon's secret Castle.

Sega Master System

Psycho Fox

Psycho Fox for Sega Master System

This is a Sega Master System game which I have fond memories of. It's one of those games which I only played a few times at a friend's place, so it kept its magic, never seemed repetitive, etc. It is certainly better as a memory. There are not enough enemy variants in the game, and the few existing designs are kind of all over the place. There's a Shinto (?) theme showing here and there, but the overall theme is... silly/nonsense.

You can't see ahead of yourself much, which is bad because you can potentially run quite fast. The levels are linear but offer some degree of exploration (horiz+vert scrolling). Unfortunately there's not much to find, because there are so few power-ups / collectibles.

The main strengths of the game are character switching, cuteness, and a feeling of happy-fun. There's also a few interesting mechanical devices in the game, such as the folding stair cases and pneumatic 'springboards'.

The enemies in the game feels too simple, lacking 'range'. Most of them are just a lump body with eyes and some kind of appendage. I tried to nudge the enemy designs a bit to make them more interesting, but there's not much I can do. They might be cybernetic, so there's an idea to play with. I'm thinking of using the existing enemies as a base and extrapolate new heavier designs from them. Right now I'm pretty much just drawing the stuff from the game to gain a feel for things. A first iteration.

You defeat the enemies by: Punching them. Gradually stomping them into the ground. Throwing the fuzzy bird at them. Using the voodoo doll. Using the super potion (invulnerable).

Yeah, I forgot to mention the guns. I'm not really into the Shinto thing, so I played with the idea of a 'darker' (but happy-looking) sci-fi setting, because it feels so disjointed from the original concept. Fantasy Zone is pretty dark, a tragedy even, if you look at the story line. It's also one of the cutest games around, and I like that contrast. Dai Mahou Touge is another example.

Also, the cybernetic/robotic enemies would belong to a sci-fi setting. I'm a big Megaman fan, and I liked what Sonic did too. It was fun to watch the cute animals appear from the destroyed enemies. Maybe in this game, cute small animals are piloting the robotic enemies. I like games with small figures piloting stuff. In Megaman Legends the Servebots would emerge from the wreckage of destroyed vehicles. Such things add life and dimension to the enemies.

I think the characters become more interesting if they can carry stuff. Otherwise they're limited to standing there with their arms at their sides.

Ref: Psycho Fox video, maps, screens.

The SMS had more colors per sprite than the NES, but I haven't really seen a SMS game with delicious pixel art. Maybe I just haven't seen enough games. The SMS used a 6-bit_RGB palette, and according to the gfx specs it used two 16 color palettes with colors from the 64 color (r4*g4*b4) palette, one for the FG (sprites) and one for the BG.

Concept art and fan-art by Arne Niklas Jansson. No infringement intended.