2D: The dream team of sprite work

A few years back, I posted a piece on the fantastic sprite work in Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story. That post is pretty much useless now because all the server relocations broke the image links, but it still burns within my heart. Now I’m working on its sequel (which is available already in every region except the U.S.), and those previous statements hold doubly true.


I was a little leery of the game when I saw the backgrounds had moved into 3D, but no! Alpha Dream decided to harness the added storage space of 3DS cartridges to do us a solid and make bigger, more elaborate, more smoothly animated sprites. Bowser and Princess Peach are especially impressive — they’re some of the biggest sprites I’ve seen, and they don’t use cheats like Flash-style rotation or segmentation.

Thanks, Alpha Dream, for keeping the dream — the one that everyone else seems determined to smother with a pillow — alive.

16 thoughts on “2D: The dream team of sprite work

  1. So for 3DS they just use sprites but on different planes to give it depth so it looks 3D? I also thought they would be 3D models… although I don’t have much experience with the 3DS.

    • Backgrounds are 3D polygons. Sprites moving in a 3D world, except in the side-scrolling bits.

  2. The sprite work in Bowser’s Inside Story was great, but I’ve never been a fan of sprites encased in thick black outlines. I realise it’s a stylistic choice that is consistent throughout the game — I’m just not into it.

    The sprites in Dream Team look like they were traced from 3D renders. They look fantastic in motion; much better than in stills.

  3. Honestly after how story-lite and lacking in personality Sticker Star and its cast were, I was a tad worried about Dream Team.

    This one screenshot alone removes my fears that Bowser would be as … ‘flat’ as he was in Sticker Star.

    (also gorgeous spritework, wow)

      • He was probably concerned that Miyamoto would make the same requests to Alpha Dream, as he had to Intelligent Systems about Sticker Star. (No plot, no new characters, etc.)

  4. Sorry, but as a pixel artist this stuff is not “pixel art.” It is cleaned up renders from 3D models. I guess it depends on how you are using the term “sprite” here, but make no mistake that no one made this game’s 2D character art one lovingly placed pixel at a time.

    • I’m disappointed to see that sort of attitude. Have you seen M&L in motion? The animation looks nothing like CG art — it has the weight and rubberiness of hand-crafted animation, not the stiff, mechanical feel of prerendered sprites. Clearly careful human consideration happened at some point in the process. If the end results are warm and life-like, what difference does the process make? You can create art through a huge array of means. I saw too much of this sort “my medium is the only medium” elitism in art school, and it doesn’t do anyone any good.

      • I’m not one for semantics, but I actually like the definition of pixel art as “2D art created through manually placing/rearranging pixels”, because it’s accurate. There is a big difference between pixel art and other 2D techniques, which are generally less time-consuming. That doesn’t mean they’re less of an art form, but it wouldn’t be fair to label everything 2D as “pixel art” like a lot of people do on the internet (no one here, mind you).

      • The end result is always beautiful; it’s just not accurate to say they don’t take shortcuts.

Comments are closed.