Note: Originally uploaded on Shoryuken. Post has been slightly altered from original upload.
One of the most important aspects of a fighting game–outside of the gameplay–is the selection of color palettes for its characters. Colors define much of how we perceive and feel about a fighting game before we even start playing, and they have a lasting impact once we grow accustomed to our title of choice. The character we choose acts as our avatar and our outlet for competition. Having a varied selection of good palettes helps the player connect more strongly to their character, making them feel more unique among other people using that same fighter.
We identify and define ourselves, our friends, our rivals, and our celebrities all by their choice of colors. It’s so prevalent that we know and expect our favorite players to use specific palettes, we take notice when they don’t, and we may even be able to know who’s playing simply looking at the palette choices. A good example of this that I like to use is showing players this simple screenshot:
Most can identify the scene, the players, and the hype of one of the FGC’s most famous moments on sight because of this. Simple changes to an outfit’s tint have proven drastic enough to constitute clone characters, most easily seen in the Mortal Kombat games with Ninja clones. It’s clear that color is very important to how we perceive our games, and I think it is necessary to discuss the need of distinct palette diversity.
Today, our topic will be revolving around Street Fighter V’s palette selection.
As an aside, I would just like to state that I do not at all agree with Street Fighter V’s method of putting so many colors behind a pay wall, or having them be unlockable by putting in literal hours of effort in Survival Mode. Street Fighter IV had a similar mechanic, where you had to play each character a certain number of times to receive their colors. I’ve seen the argument made that making palettes difficult to unlock actually rewards the player for their effort. This “reward,” having an interesting color scheme, was something given to players without such time-consuming methods in the past. Booting up any copy of 3rd Strike gives you access to every variant, provided you know the button input (for example, Start+Roundhouse gives my favorite Ibuki color). Since the point of a different palette is to make the player feel unique, withholding that feeling until the player puts in X amount of time or money doesn’t feel like the appropriate way to handle colors.
With that out of the way, let’s get into the actual colors themselves. I started off with a criticism, so let’s talk about a set of palettes that I believe were handled really well: Balrog.
Balrog’s colors are very well defined, and they all have a sense of power to them. This matches very well with Balrog’s character, and I think he has one of the more interesting selections of palettes in Street Fighter V. This outfit has a few tones that stand out; the coat, the two accenting details on the coat, and then the gloves. Balrog’s idle pose actually gives a distinct pattern, laying out all four of these main colors next to each other. Clever use of coloring on these pieces of his outfit can give an entirely different feel to the character. Do the gloves match the main color of the coat (color 11, below), or one of the accents (color 13)? Does the accent compliment the main color (color 03) or stand out against it (color 08)? How each outfit answers those two questions define the feel of the palette.
There is actually not much I can point out specifically that the colors themselves are lacking, though a few minor details could be improved. One such detail on his outfit is the fact that the stars on his gloves and his belt buckle are always gold, aside color 12 (pictured below) which they are silver for. There’s also the studs on the coat, which are always silver. For the stars and studs, some cases these could have been altered to accent the surrounding color and improve the overall palette. I’m uncertain why this wasn’t attempted beyond color 12.
There is also the subject of Balrog’s shorts. While so much care is focused on the layering of colors that I mentioned earlier, it’s a little odd that the collection of shorts are so bland. Out of 15 colors, 14 have dark trunks and brightly colored trim, with 9 of those having a nearly white trim. It’s not a bad theme, but having that be the overall choice is honestly boring. A good color to look at that stands directly opposed to this theme is color 10 (pictured below), which has trunks that pop in a way that none of the other outfits do. This effect is achieved simply by making the trunks bright with dark trim.
The overall theme I mentioned for his trunks work well occasionally, like his 12th palette (pictured above), but some of them seem like they would have been much better served with brighter trunks or a trim of another color. For example, take a look at his 5th palette:
These trunks manage to blend in with the back of the coat when the rest of the palette is focusing on popping out and grabbing attention. With this eye-catching color scheme, having dark yellow trunks that fade from view doesn’t seem to fit, especially when considering the almost renegade white trim that matches nothing else on the outfit. For this palette, blue trunks (matching the boots) with yellow trim (matching the coat or gloves) could have pulled the theme together neatly.
Another aspect of his outfit that rarely pops are his shoelaces. Unless you happen to be looking for them, you hardly notice his laces at all in most outfits, with a notable exception being palette 07 (pictured below). This color has very dark boots with bright blue laces, which draw the eye in a way that no other color really does. Most palettes try to have the laces stand out a bit against the boots, but there is one color that does the complete opposite. Palette 09 completely hides it’s shoelaces, choosing instead to highlight and accent the boots themselves instead, which is a nice break from the expected routine.