Modern Style Pixel Art

Lately I have been playing a lot of One Step From Eden. One Step From Eden also has just the right amount of depth and mechanics to be fun for hours of game-play. The graphics however, are just mediocre. Take a look at this sprite:

Saffron (One Step From Eden), scaled by 4 nearest neighbor

Compare the sprite shown above, with this sprite I edited:

Enhanced sprite, scaled by 4 nearest neighbor

The difference is clear as day, and it may come to a surprise that the latter uses 1 less color than the former — a total of 15 different colors in the palette not counting the background color.

Lets go back to 2001, a time where video game consoles had limitations. It was up to the developer to come up with a clever solution to hide these limitations, or rather make the best with what they’ve got. Take the Game Boy Advance (GBA) as an example. The GBA could only display up to 256 different colors on screen at once, and only 16 different colors per sprite of a size between 8×8 to 64×64. Despite these graphical limitations, developers came up with stunning, eye catching graphics:

Metal Slug Advance (SNK Playmore 2004)
Castlevania Aria of Sorrow (Konami 2003)
Megaman Battle Network 3 (Capcom 2002)

I scaled these images by 4 nearest neighbor so the detail is easier to notice. As you can see, the level of detail on some of these sprites is out of this world. And this level of detail with such limitations demands a thorough understanding of how colors interact with each other and how they can be used to create illusions.

Okay enough talk about GBA, lets fast-forward back to 2020. The developers of One Step From Eden made the choice to use pixel-style graphics. But why? Its possible they wanted to create a “retro” or “old-school” feeling. However, the rest of the game: cards, menus, text, interface all looks modern and beautiful. Even the music sounds modern and beautiful. These wonderfully crafted assets in conjunction with the pixel-style graphics creates a sad contrast, making the sprites look horrible (despite the pretty animations).

So yeah, that’s One Step From Eden for you. Amazing game-play, beautiful animations, and excellent musical composition. But the pixel-style sprites? Those can be replaced with something more modern. Here is some inspiration on modern looking 2D graphics:

Hollow Knight (Team Cherry 2017)