After spending dozens of hours on a game, isn’t it a little annoying when the characters all look the same as when they started? It can make players disinterested in the characters, because they don’t appear to have changed at all. Not to mention that if I wore the same shirt and pants the entire time while fighting off an alien invasion, by the end of it I would be, well, let’s just say unpleasant to be around. This is where unlockable costumes can really come into play. They give players something new to focus on, or allow them to express themselves through their on-screen avatars. Either way, they can really help to make games more exciting and engaging. Now, before we get started, I’m going to lay a few ground rules: First, I’m ignoring games that just give players different armor sets that have widely different stats, like in Skyrim or Dark Souls. While these do offer character customization, it often becomes meaningless, as you’ll never put on weaker armor when given a stronger alternative. Also, I’m not talking about games that only offer extra costumes as paid DLC, because seriously, f*@$ that. Now that we’ve established that, lets examine some games that excel at offering players alternate costumes.
God of War
The adventures of the perpetually-grumpy Kratos are always epic affairs – orchestras and choirs thunder in the background while our tortured hero confronts massive enemies and impossible odds. The God of War games are always played completely straight, with Kratos never once cracking a smile (or doing anything that isn’t brooding or murdering, for that matter). This makes the unlockable costumes in the franchise all the more hysterical. Its hard not to crack a smile when watching Kratos rip a harpy in half while wearing a cow suit. In fact, in some cases, these costumes actually make for more interesting stories than the original. Who wouldn’t want to play a game in which a poor sous chef, punished by the gods for his impudent spice choices, vows revenge? That’s what I thought.
No More Heroes
Coming from the bizarre mind of Suda 51, No More Heroes follows the awesomely-named Travis Touchdown, who decides to become an assassin in order to get laid, and because hey, what else was he going to do with his mail-order lightsaber? The game has a unique sense of style, allowing players to play with their pet cat, perform odd jobs such as catching scorpions, and go to the bathroom in what have to be the most tasteful save screens of all time. This sense of style is also extends to Travis’ wardrobe, which can be customized to the player’s liking. Jackets, t-shirts, pants, shoes, heck, even sunglasses and belts can be equipped, with absolutely no benefits whatsoever. Interestingly, this makes the system that much more fun, as it allows for playful experimentation and expression. Do you want to go up against the stage magician while wearing a t-shirt with anime girls on it? Well, go right ahead. It’s this type of fun for the sake of fun that I wish other games would incorporate.
Lego Star Wars/Harry Potter/Batman/everything
By now, chances are that everyone has had at least one of their favorite franchises Legoized; the Lego video games allow people to relive the joys of making things out of blocks without the foot-related dangers that comes from actual Legos. Running around, disassembling and reassembling the little plastic pieces can be immensely satisfying. However, one of the biggest draws of these games comes from the massive number of characters each title has, helped along by the fact that, just like in real life, Lego people are just a random collection of body, head, and hair types. Often times the main characters in each game will have a half dozen different versions, whether it be Ron Weasley in his pajamas or Indiana Jones in a dinner suit. While some of these do offer different abilities, most of them are pointless, other than to be amusing and offer up unique situations. For example, while Harry Potter can banish He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named any day of the week, its much more satisfying to see the heroic “Gryffindor Girl” triumph over the dark lord before once again vanishing into obscurity.
Persona 4: The Golden
There are plenty of JRPG’s that could have been included on this list. The Tales franchise, in particular, enjoys giving players amusing alternate costumes (Genis’ Katz Katz Katz costume is adorable). However, the Vita remake of Persona 4 wins out due to the sheer volume of outfits available to players; each character has dozens of alternate costumes, running the gambit from serious to silly. The best part is that Atlus, in their infinite wisdom, made several changes to the standard formula for alternate costumes. Whereas most games save their unlockables for the end, or for multiple playthroughs, Persona 4 gives players access to them at a regular pace during the game itself. Some of the costumes must be bought or unlocked through side quests, but others are just given out at certain points in the story. Even better, they have separated the costume mechanic from the equipment, so players don’t have to remove their favorite outfits just because they obtain stronger armor. Any game thinking about adding in extra costumes should definitely keep those ideas in mind.
Team Fortress 2
Now, before anyone points this out: yes, I know that the hats and other costume items in Team Fortress 2 can be purchased through the Mann Co. Store. However, they are also obtainable without using real money; by putting in enough playtime, players will either randomly find hats or be able to craft them by using other weapons. Either way, obtaining and displaying these costume pieces becomes a powerful driving force for long-time players. It offers a ridiculous amount of replayability by always giving players something to strive for. Whether its a holiday elf costume for your scout, a jaunty pirate hat for your demoman, or simply a balloonicorn pal to keep your pyro company, there are a million and one ways to make sure that your team stands out from the crowd. The creators even poke fun at themselves with items like the towering pillar of hats, which consists of three hats stacked on top of each other (when one hat simply won’t do). In addition, Valve has harnessed the creative powers of their very passionate fanbase by allowing community-designed items to occasionally be brought into the game as official additions. This means that, as long as Valve is willing to update the game, Team Fortress 2 will always offer something new for it’s players to attain.
Now that I’ve mentioned some of the best examples of games that offer unlockable costumes, lets take a look at some of the games that could really benefit from them.
Call of Duty
Now don’t get me wrong; I know that the CoD games already offer some mild forms of customization, like emblem creators. Also, I’m not suggesting that every match of Sticks and Stones should look like Team Fortress 2. However, it seems like offering players more options for character customization would just be more fun. Imagine getting knifed from behind by a player wearing a horse head, or taking someone out with an assault rifle while dressed as a pirate. While some players would complain about the lack of realism, I would counter that they’re playing a game in which taking a short breather is enough to bring you back from multiple gunshot wounds. Not to mention the extra layer of humiliation this would offer; getting killed by a guy dressed in a bear costume just adds a little extra salt into the wound.
Final Fantasy XIII
You know, maybe I should just change these article to “Things that Final Fantasy XIII should have done.” Similar to its mention in the End Credits Dance Numbers article, the main reason I bring this game up is that it was simply too serious. The constant angst, soul searching, and whining just started to grate on my nerves after a while. Now, if we could have dressed Sazh as a chocobo, that would have made for a much more entertaining experience, as well as explained why that baby chocobo was always living in his hair. A bit of light-hearted fun would help to break up the pace of the game, and would also make the story and characters that much more engaging. I’m sure that there is a costume somewhere out there that would have made Hope more tolerable; one that replaced him with Auron would do it for me.
Readers, drop us a line in the comments and tell us what games you’d like to see some costume customization in!