NES Pixel Art

My tile engine is getting a facelift, I’m scrapping the Atari 2600 palette, and switching to the glorious 56 colors of the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Eventually I want to add NTSC artifacts using Pixel Bender. For now, I have to produce a small miracle of art assets, and use the tiny palette effectively. I never thought I’d study old Nintendo games, but that’s exactly how I spent my evening.

According to Tsugomo, the eye perceives brighter colors as being closer. Most games with decent art have solid blocks brighter than the background.

Mega Man 3 - Needle Man

Mega Man 3 - Shadow Man

Mega Man 3 - Shadow Man

Obviously, you can see what’s solid, and what’s not. But, there are other ways to make this distinction.

Mega Man 2 - Air Man

Mega Man 2 - Air Man

In this example, the noisy texture of the glass tiles sets them apart from the solid background.

Mega Man 2 - Bubble Man

Mega Man 2 - Bubble Man

The waterfall is a torrent of bright colors, so the solid platform has to be even brighter, mostly pure white. Mega Man is almost the same blue as the background, but stands out because in this case, he is darker.

Mega Man 2 - Flash Man

Mega Man 2 - Flash Man

Kinda pushing it here… Everything is blue. The platforms are bright enough to stand out, but Mega Man is almost lost in the background.

Mega Man 3 - Magnet Man

Mega Man 3 - Magnet Man

Interesting use of color. Lots of black pixels in this image, but the platforms have the brightest colors, and stand out.

Mega Man 3 - Needle Man

Mega Man 3 - Needle Man

Mega Man 3 - Needle Man

Mega Man 3 - Needle Man

These are tricky — orange blocks are solid (they have bright highlights), green are background. They introduce this concept earlier in the level, too.

My game uses an overhead perspective, so I’m hunting for similar games with nice art. This screenshot is from the “Mission Impossible” Nintendo cartridge:

Mission Impossible - Stage 1

Mission Impossible - Stage 1

I love the geometry and the crafty use of shadows. Almost every tile uses 4 shades of one particular hue, and the effect is striking. And again, the most significant objects have the brightest highlights (your character, the solid crates, the medical kit).

Mission Impossible - Stage 3

Mission Impossible - Stage 3

More shadows, with varying lengths (compare the bench to the statue). This image uses a mere 14 colors, which surprises me.

One more from Mission Impossible, then it’s bedtime:

Mission Impossible - Stage 3

Mission Impossible - Stage 3

3 thoughts on “NES Pixel Art

  1. I really like the technics, that used in NES games. They try to make possible the best. I really like these shading techs.

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