Character design in today's "AAA hardcore" games seems to continually move away from the cartoon surrealism sensibility that was once the norm. Back then, Earthworm Jim was our Gears of War, Q-Bert was our Catherine, and Dragon's Lair was our Heavy Rain.
One of the few successful "AAA" games to keep that style of design going is last year's The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. It's not just that they continued the traditional "cartoon" visuals that the series has already utilized. That would be the easy way, the Mario way.
No, Skyward Sword went a step further. It actually took the series back from the increasingly "dark" and "for seriously not just for kids" look that it was moving towards with Twilight Princess and gave us some of the most delightfully strange, expressive, and original looking characters in the series' history. This gallery of Skyward Sword production art shows how that process came together, giving us a look at (among many others) a sassier, more carefree Fi, a way more impressive and charming version of the Mogma, and of course, your favorite and mine, the little chubby man with the enormous eyes and the tiny mustache.
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destructoid's previous coverage: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword