head swap
A character with a design that uses the same graphics for the body as another character, but has different graphics for the head.

Not only does it save development time, it also saves precious temporary memory space (RAM) in games where tiles are used, since the game only has to load the extra head tiles (and probably another palette) to make another enemy. The amount of memory this technique can save is demonstrated in the Dramatic Battle mode in Street Fighter Alpha arcade games, because head swap pairs like Ryu & Ken and Juli & Juni share enough body tiles that there's enough room left over to load another whole sprite set into RAM. Beat 'em ups use this to add more variety to the characters loaded into RAM, since those games often have more attack frames that take up more space than other types of action games with multiple on-screen enemies. Brawl Brothers (Rushing Beat Ran) also takes advantage of this by turning all five playable characters into five head-swapped (and palette-swapped) bosses, allowing more room in the cartridge for that wide variety of lesser enemies, some of whom are also head swaps.

Other examples include The Lee Brothers and Jeff (the second boss in the arcade version) of Double Dragon, Andore/Abigail in Final Fight, the female ninja and karate fighters in The Punisher arcade game.
Related Terms: tile palette swap
Game list:
Brawl Brothers, Double Dragon (arcade), Final Fight, the Punisher

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