Whenever screenshots of an anticipated game currently in development are released, fans excitedly rush to see what famous characters such as Mario are up to this time. We gawk over images of early game prototypes, but all too often we overlook how a game's logo can change during the development process. In this installment of Artwork On Parade we'll examine several early concept logos from the Nintendo archives and compare them to the eventual finished product. Sometimes a game's name may change, resulting in a slight tweak to some of the artwork. Other times entire names and properties are altered, resulting in more sweeping revisions. Then there's the little changes to fonts, colors, and all of the other aspects that make up a design. Let's have a look at the major, the minor, and the downright unrecognizable alterations of the logos you thought you knew.
When Mario Superstar Baseball was first revealed for the GameCube back in 2005, it went by the more mundane title of Mario Baseball and featured this logo inspired by a traditional baseball diamond and a font for the word "Baseball" that would be at home on an actual jersey.
By the time the game reached stores, however, it had picked up a "Superstar", dropped the diamond, and gained some color. This logo fits more into the family of Mario logos with the rainbow lettering, but losing the diamond and the jersey font turned the overall design into something painfully generic. Note the slight alteration to the font used for "Mario" as well.
When the Advance Wars series left its North American debut platform, it was originally slated to retain the "Advance" portion of its title. After all, why mess with success and change the name of a budding franchise just as people are starting to recognize it?
Someone had cold feet about making an "Advance" game for the GameCube, so Advance Wars became Battalion Wars (the Japanese version reverted to its original franchise name, oddly enough — Famicom Wars — after having molted into Game Boy Wars and Super Famicom Wars over the years). Changing the name isn't the only alteration inflicted on the original Under Fire logo, however. The lettering turned wider, while the star-and-gear part of the logo lost its orange background and gained a silver outline. The wider lettering implies a more cartoony experience than traditional Advance Wars games, appropriately enough.
This early Mario Party Advance logo is an odd combination of existing elements that, surprisingly, gets the point across. The Mario Party logo from the other games in the series turns up here with stars in its eyes, while the "Advance" branding makes use of the same take on the word found on the Game Boy Advance itself. Simple, but it works. Even that shade of purple in the background is reminiscent of the original Game Boy Advance hardware color scheme What could they possibly change about this?
Answer: just about everything. Fonts, colors, and background shading all went under the knife here, becoming this eyesore of a logo. Only the title and the concept of filling the "Mario Party" letteringwith stars remained. Note that future Mario Party titles retained the classic series logo, so what happened here? Unsuccessful test of a new logo? Focus group have second thoughts? Someone lose a bet?
I've always wondered if the "2" aspect of the title worried someone at Nintendo, as though this sequel to a game more than a decade old may confuse newer players as to why they never heard about the original title (though it was re-released for Game Boy Advance in 2002, of course). For whatever reason, the "2" had to go, replaced with a gaudy "DS" that matches nothing about the original logo. Sure, the "2" font wasn't perfect, but it's obvious that neither the "D" nor the "S" match similar letters in the root of the logo. Moreover, the slight white shading effect has been removed from "Island", while the shadow has changed to a darker color.
Now armed with a proper subtitle and the lack of a needless "2", I believe we are good to go. This is one of the few logos that managed to improve during development, although that's because there wasn't much to work with in the concept logo compared to some of the other games seen here. Anyone else get a Twilight Zone vibe off of the "Partners In Time" text?
Rounding out our tour is this early concept for the game that would become Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. At this stage, the design reuses the Nintendo 64 Paper Mario logo, sticks a "2" on it as most of early concepts tend to do, and sports a neat crumpled paper background that carried over into the typeface itself. It's very visually distinctive in a world of perfect bright fonts.
Just about everything about the concept logo changed on the way to the final design. The crumpled paper is gone, as is the original color scheme and the "2". A proper subtitle with its own font is in the mix now as well, and a color gradient replaces the rainbow of shades. The lettering now includes an outline, while the subtitle seems to be set against index cards (not printed on index cards, mind you, as the subtitle is casting a shadow). It's a hodge-podge of elements that provide an interesting style, but little substance. Nintendo employs creative artists, but having seen the before and after concepts for some of their logo designs, I find myself wondering how many other distinctive logos have been revised and focus-grouped away in favor of color gradients and drop shadows. After all, there's more to being a designer than having a moderate command of Photoshop's toolbar.