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Video games, movies, and other media action can be fast paced and potentially confusing. Telling apart The Cavalry from the Elite Mooks they're engaging is complicated by the camera moving and lack of good lighting; this is why factions are Dress-Coded for Your Convenience and everyone on the Super Team is Color Coded for Your Convenience. If there's energy attacks, so are they. Ray Guns will have the color of the faction, and even normal guns' tracer rounds will be the same color.
Which works fine until the hero or a villain picks up the opponent's costume, weapons, or vehicles. Going a step further, what about characters who switch sides like the henchmen pulling a Mook Face Turn? What ends up happening is a Convenient Color Change. The clothing, weapon, vehicle, character, building, or even city will change their default color to the one they're now aligned with. In the case of an infiltrator, the "how" for this color change is usually glossed over, but if a reason is given, it's that the colored areas are kind of like a high tech/magical mood ring.
There's a lot of variations on this. Mecha-Mooks that get hacked will spontaneously change the color of any lights on their chassis, as if they were built with multiple colored bulbs just in case they were ever hacked. Characters under Mind Control or the effects of The Virus may have this happen to them as well.
This tends to be a staple of strategy games if different players have the same units and structures at their disposal, because you do need a way to tell your forces apart from your opponents', hence the use of Color-Coded Armies and Color-Coded Multiplayer. In this and other settings, a unit/character that can change color without changing alliances serves as an infiltrator.
Paint It Black is a subtrope of this.
Anime & Manga
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S, Subaru receives her sister's magical Device from her for the Final Battle. At first, it remains purple (her sister's signature color), but when she is preparing a powerful spell, it turns blue (Subaru's color), just like her own twin Device.
Films -- Live-Action
- In the Tron universe, vehicles change to the color of whatever program is piloting it. Also, programs that are reprogrammed (or deprogrammed) may change color. The page picture is Flynn invoking the trope in order to pass himself off as a Mook. Justified in that a Program's circuitry indicates its alignment and job within the system.
- We see this not only in the movies, but in the video games (Abarax turns an awful greenish color), and the Alternate Continuity of Tron 2.0 shows a hapless infected Program transforming from blue circuitry to Sickly Green Glow as well as an Evil Costume Switch for Ma3a when she compiles with some malicious code.
- In an early draft of Star Wars, lightsabers worked like this.
- In Erfworld, raiment has similar properties. It changes color and even symbol depending on who a unit serves. So when Wanda uncroacks or Decrypts a unit, its raiment immediately changes to her or Parson's symbol.
- Magic weapons in Goblins are explicitly said to glow with the aura color of their wielder and change depending on who is wielding them.
- In Paperboy, when a house cancels its subscription (because of your incompetence), its paint suddenly turns gray and metal skulls appear on its fenceposts.
- The security bots in Bioshock change from red-light to green-light when you hack them. Likewise, Big Daddies' helmet lights will turn green when hypnotized and red when aggro'd.
- When buildings are captured in Command and Conquer games (or when soldiers are mind-controlled), they change to the color of the team that captured them. Garrisonable Structures also get instant sandbags, flags, and color-coded paint jobs.
- In Dune II, when an Ordos Deviator tank hit an opposing unit and put it under Ordos control, the unit's color changed to Ordos green.
- Gears of War: The light on guns change to either blue or red depending upon which side picks them up.
- Starcraft has it for mind-controlled units in the Brood War extension, but averts it for "rescuable" units in missions (usually heroes).
- The sequel also does this, with the color of mind controlled units changing to the controller's side as long as they are being controlled.
- Though not universally true, Fire Emblem characters will often switch their outfits to blue instead of green (NPC) or red (enemy) upon joining the player's army.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, Phantoms being controlled by Zelda turn pink.
- El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron has the weapons change color from black to white as soon as you steal (and purify) them from enemies.
- In Star Wars Battlefront, any command posts you/the enemy captures will change colour.
- The laser guns of G.I. Joe act like this.
- In Code Lyoko, Ulrich's katana usually glows blue when striking or parrying, but in the hand of a XANA-controlled warrior (like a polymorphic clone, a brainwashed Aelita, or William), it glows red instead.
- In Transformers Animated, when Mixmaster and Scrapper change their allegiance to the Decepticons, their optics go from blue to red, as Autobots have blue eyes while Decepticons have red ones.