Before I begin, this is just a personal point of view, art is subjective, blah blah, just don´t hate…
Ok, so this is a sprite from Super Street Fighter 2 HD Remix:
Yes it’s HD, but it feels wrong, basically the art doesn’t have intention and is uninspired, the style uses strokes but they are unpolished and weird in this game, that drove me mad being a hardcore fan of the series at that time, but now I think the Udon art team probably had many problems in production that were way beyond the skill to make good art, I know they can do a great work, but clearly they didn’t have the experience in game assets then, ie. they had to make compatible assets with changing color palettes using drawing tools other than “pixel art”. Also their experience comes form the comic books world, and in that medium strokes in a drawing makes sense, but is a decision I didn’t like because it goes out of the essence of the game style (more on this later).
Anyways, strokes are not the problem, you can find them in styles like anime or cartoon and comics, which can be found in another fighting games art styles like the Alpha Series, SF3, Guilty Gear, etc. The problem here is that there is no style, at least not a well defined and not so well executed one, without intention, they just make HD assets with the tools they know without thinking in the context and adding value to the game.
By the way, what I mean by intention can be understood better in this GDC talk from the Guilty Gear Xrd art team (click on the image for the video, super recommended), they have a defined style (anime) and the tools served to convey that in the game context.
The animation in HD Remix was done tracing over the frames of the old assets, that was a problem because every frame of the animation is an interpretation without thinking in the full sequence. Notice the perspective in the belt and compare it the original animation: worlds apart. Also this problem increases when the art has too much information (strokes, belt details, boot laces).
So, what it’s not wrong?
I don’t know for sure, but I think we can at least follow some clues, the main reference, the old sprites were designed with the video game medium limits in mind at that time, expressing as best they could the characters and ambient.
Maybe the HD remix asset has the same amount of colors as the original sprite (actually they use less colors) but when the old one is watched in context looks way more integrated and part of everything else in the game, also, the “jumpiness” of the animations with very few frames looked more natural in the old assets, but why?
Because the way brain processes information, it interpretes the world and autocomplete it, so when something has more and more details, the more obvious the gaps in information will become.
Why am I writing this 9 years after its release? well, when I saw the new portraits in Ultra Street Fighter 2 Turbo for the Nintendo Switch it clicked for me (no pun intended), SF2 it’s not a cartoon or anime style, it’s not comic book style, it’s another thing that could be considered just “arcade style”, which in my opinion it’s a stylized realism, something like characters from Pixar movies has but in a more primitive medium.
Even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have their own arcade style representation that has nothing to do with the style of any of the other mediums where TMNT is.
It’s a technical limitation that created a style by their own, that’s beyond pixel art, pixel art is a tool (with its own limits, of course).
But how the Ultra remix would work in the game besides the portraits? To answer that, I tried to do my own interpretation, please consider that this is beyond the possibilities of a project like HD remix because the time constraints in production are very limited (it took me 4 hours to do it), and other technical points like the color swapping feature. To be fair, and now I’m saying this as a producer and not as an artist, what went wrong probably was the scope of the project not the art itself.
So here is my shot, in the future I will try to animate it, IG! 🙂