A good selection of palettes is one of the most important aspects of a fighting game, outside of the actual gameplay. If you've ever played a fighting game, you've gone through some period of time picking the right color for your character. One that just felt right for you, the one you always go to when the pressure's on. We've all done it.
The primary goal of a fighting game is to give you someone to fight through, someone who you can call your own, and having a nice arrangement of colors to choose from helps you feel unique among your friends and rivals.
Stop me if this sounds familiar: you go up against another player you haven't played before. He picks your character. It's fine, because you have your palette and they have theirs. Suddenly, you go to pick your color only to realize it's been swiped by the opponent first. Another person playing your character is one thing, but it's a whole 'nother story if they also take your palette. That's YOUR color, after all. You feel something, from a mild displeasure to a territorial competitiveness, and the fight is on. If you can't have your color, you do your damnedest to prove you're better with that character.
The meaning behind this article isn't simply to stress the importance of alt colors. I want to use this time to open dialogue about some basics of Alternate Colors. I want to eventually discuss what makes good alts, interesting alts, things to look for in your character's color choices, and occasionally some ways that games could improve on their palette options for certain characters, or all of their characters in general.
The character I want to specifically talk about is R. Mika. She was one of my favorites from Street Fighter Alpha 3, but like many Street Fighter characters her palette selection tends to be poor. She's only been in 2 games so I cut her a little slack, but she's still a good example. In Alpha3 she had 6 palettes, and in SFV she has 20, and I think that's more than enough of a base to look at some colors. Let's take a look at all of her palettes in the recently released SFV.
The first color has a very Army vibe to it, making her look almost like a boot camp instructor, reminiscent of Sargent Slaughter. It's also got a very earthy vibe to it as well, if that's all the player is looking for. The second color uses black and purple, a scheme on R.Mika's SFV but with the accent reversed. Making the accent purple gives it a completely separate feel, almost like a Batman character, with white hair and darker skin to further highlight the dark tones of the outfit.
The third color has a little more variety in interpretations. It could be a super hero, could be Hulk Hogan, could be a fire fighter. That variation in how the player perceives a color is great, because it means the player can imprint their own meaning onto a color, giving it a greater range of appeal than it had prior. The final color is a standard for many dark skin palette swaps. Something about dark skin with a white outfit is appealing, and looks as good on R.Mika as on anyone.
These four have one thing in common: they all give the impression of a personality or presence that's very different from the standard R.Mika. On that note, I want to transition to another angle on palettes that SF characters tend to avoid. Unless we're talking about Blanka, Dhalsim, Oro, Necro, Urien, or some other character who's weird/ugly/not-white, characters more or less stick to their pigmentation, and they wholly avoid deviating to inhuman colors. Here are just two more mock palettes using R.Mika that don't shy away from unusual tones.
The first R.Mika I colored like a Strawberry. I really like it personally, and it's the only color I'd ever use in an actual game. The second color is almost startling to see on R.Mika, but it's a sort of Lotus flower/fish color. Both of these also reminds me of the fact that SF characters are almost never colored anything organic, even when they do get strange colors.
Whether or not you liked the fake palettes I drummed up is up to your personal preference, but that's partly my point. A wide variety of colors is necessary to appeal to players. When I play a game, I don't want to pick a color that just happens to be the least terrible. I want to pick an interesting color that I really like, that fits with me. Whether you agree with me or think that the colors are fine the way they are, as long as you can find at least one color to call your own then that's probably enough for you. So if you have a color that you love, more power to you.
At the end of the day, make sure you play what you love & love what you play.