2022 - 12: Spiky heads

Written in 2022


Back in the late 80s and early 90s, characters consisted of pixelated sprites - little artwork, composed pixel by pixel to make the most expressive and recognizable character possible. The sprites were limited in size, and limits in video memory of the old consoles usually limited the amount of possible emotions or facial features characters could show.

This changed when the 16 bit generation of consoles really replaced the older generations and developers could focus on designing characters that could display more emotions. The examples shown here are three characters that are somewhat similar in design. They all have spiky haircuts, they are present in 90s JRPGs, and they have lots of emotions to show. The mid 90s were a time where this style of hero design was pretty much in favor by the designers.

Companies that develop games usually try to focus on their target audience in terms of main heros. The players (or at least the majority of them) should be able to identify with the heroes of the games. Video games started to appear in the 70s, but the big success started in the early to mid 80s. Most of the gamers were young teenagers in the 90s, and this is why the heroes are not only aged like young teens, but also try to appeal to a teenage male audience in the 90s - the type of gamers that played the games the most.

The first of this three is Randi, from Secret of Mana. He is an orphan child who was raised in a small village. Being some kind of outcast (but still somewhat socially accepted), he discovers a sword at the age of 16. This causes monsters to appear and Randi to be expelled from his village. He then tries to figure out why the sword was able to talk to him and why he was able to pull the sword out of the stone it was stored in.

The second hero is Crono, from Chrono Trigger. He lives with his mother in the city of Guardiana and is about to visit a local fair that celebrates the year 1000. There, he meets Marle, a mysterious girl who wants to explore the fair with him. When trying out a contraption made by Crono's friend Lucca, Marle disappears and Crono follows her. This leads to a story revolving around time travel and an old evil that threatens to destroy the world in the year 1999. Crono is 17 years of age.

The third spiky head is Ark, who lives without parents in the secluded village of Crysta, a bright and cheerful place in a dark and unfriendly world. Ark is kind of a rebel and causes lots of mischief. One day, he breaks a forbidden door which leads to all of the townsfolk freezing. To atone for this, he is sent out to five towers by the village elder where he frees all of the villagers by defeating the towers' bosses. Eventually, this will lead to a battle against a divine entity. Ark's age is not stated within the game.

So to summarize everything: A spiky haired young teenager with very loose pants, with at least one parent gone, does something that causes immediate problems to people around him, tries to fix it and has to fight a divine being at the end.

These games are great and legendary thanks to their great stories, soundtracks and worlds, but the developers seem to have designed their heroes a bit too close to their target audience.

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