Artistic Discussion: The Good and Bad of Gaming Box Art – 12/22/2012

Artistic Discussion is not dead! No, it’s going to be more in-depth and cover more regions! It will now be a cultural look at box art, looking at North American, European and Japanese examples. I’ll still be determining what I personally like and don’t like each time. Expect this to pop up once a month now due to the expanded content.

Japan:

n64-ob64

Good – Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber (N64, Nintendo/Quest)

I’m not too keen on the overall art style for this game, but everything came together so beautifully for this gorgeous box art. The main cast looks fantastic, the coloring is splendid, and it really evokes a sense of awe out of me. I wish the rest of the art looked this great, I really do.

n64-uchhannanchan

Bad – ?

Um…what? This is one of those classic “WTF” covers Japan puts out from time to time, and I’m sure there’s a really good explanation for the “tracks that lead to golden breasts”, but hell if I know what it is. The modeling though is quite poor; the breasts aren’t even the same size or centered properly. XD Just a weird box that I wish I could comprehend.

North America:

ps1-ad

Good – Azure Dreams (PS1, Konami)

I really like the mood of this one. Sure, the hero has dorky hair. But the vista he’s ogling makes me want to go explore it! It’s a lovely view of a desert area that is well drawn and thought provoking. Quite lovely, despite the awkward hairdo.

n64-bigmountain2000

Bad – Big Mountain 2000 (N64, Southpeak Interactive)

This XTREME attempt at being badass is a trainwreck. Those two are some of the most obnoxiously cliched characters I’ve ever seen. The woman has a screwed up face, terrible hair and poorly drawn legs; the guy looks like a deranged nutjob who wants my soul. At least his proportions aren’t all wacked out like the poor lady’s. Trying too hard to be sick; making me physically so.

Europe:

md-bf

Good – Burning Force (Genesis/Mega Drive, Namco)

I really like the mood this piece creates. The heroine here is excellently drawn (although in a rather pro-fanservice pose), as is her bike. She looks like she’s on the warpath, blasting at that enormous floating fortress ahead of her. The dynamic between the two is tense and well-executed. I’m intrigued to know what she’s doing attacking this ship. I’m sure it’s a simple story, but it is well told through this box.

wiiu-jd4

Bad – Just Dance 4 (Wii U, UBI Soft)

Eww.

Seriously, this is unattractive. The poor woman in front looks like a clown/KISS fan/prom date. The background dancers look cheesy as hell. The white skin thing lost its appeal with the first bloody game. And how the fuck is this series still going? I played one of them briefly, and I felt like the biggest dumbass in history because I COULDN’T DANCE the way it wanted me to. It’s a broken series that needs to be retired, and its graphic style is atrocious. GO AWAY.

Artistic Discussion – The Good and Bad of Gaming Box Art: 10/2/2012

Good – Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (Genesis, Sega)

I’ve always liked Sonic 3′s box. It’s got a nice diversity of color, three of the four key characters prominently displayed (only Knuckles is missing, which was probably on purpose), and dammit, it’s attractively drawn. Good work, Sega.

Bad – In the Groove (PS2, ROXOR/redoctane)

Look, if you’re going to rip the shit off of something, do it a little more…covertly? It’s blatantly obvious that ROXOR swiped Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution premise for its own innovative take on the genre I’m sure, but this is the type of cover that I imagine would repulse most potential buyers away. It screams cheap knock-off. Maybe I put too much weight into individuality, but I would rather play DDR than an imitator that can’t do anything better than reusing the same symbolism DDR does as its key selling point. Uninspiring crap.

Artistic Discussion: The Good and Bad of Gaming Box Art (Dreamcast 13th Anniversary Special)

Our second bit of Dreamcast features for its 13th anniversary today will be a quick look at two covers.

Good – Maken X (DC, Atlus)

This in my opinion is one of the best pieces Shin Megami Tensei alum Kazuma Kaneko has done. This is striking stuff. The somewhat large logo takes away a little, but the dynamic action shot is splendidly drawn and really showcases Kaneko’s unique art style. A definite winner in my book!

Bad – Capcom Vs. SNK (DC, Capcom)

Here’s the problem with this art. It’s competent, sure. However, it is designed insanely poorly, and let me tell you why. One, the art used here isn’t the stuff Shinriko and Kinu Nishimura made EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE GAME. Hell, they didn’t even bother with the classy poster art they did with many of Capcom and SNK’s artists! Nope, let’s slap in some Street Fighter Alpha 3 Ryu and a Terry from somewhere, make the logo enormous and some lines in the background and we’ll call it a day! Lazy, uninspiring, and truly a wasted opportunity. Street Fighter and King of Fighters have incredible character designs, and you can barely see why with this insipid effort. *sigh* The sequel didn’t learn from its prequel’s mistakes, either!

Happy 13th, Dreamcast! :)

Artistic Discussion – The Good and Bad of Gaming Box Art: 8/29/2012

You know, I’ve mostly focused on American boxes with this feature. Let’s diversify a little and do some Japanese boxes today.

Good – Guardic Gaiden (Famicom, Irem/Compile)

Naoyuki Kato went all out on this box, didn’t he? Amazing artwork that tops so much of the Famicom library artistically it’s not even funny. Incredible detail, engaging premise, awesome linework…everything clicks together so beautifully here.

Bad – Fighting Golf (Arcade, SNK)

Hm. This is a rather XTREME! attempt of hyping the hell out of golf, eh? Its badazz (sorry, but there’s a sign at my university that says Sick Azz Burgers, which sounds like the type of burger you don’t want to eat, personally) hero of a golfer has a stern face, but he can’t hold a golf club all that well.One could argue that he’s pretending to hold a club, and the artist added it in later to make it golf-ish. XD Is he in a sand trap? That’s truly fighting golf, friends, but not the best way of establishing this guy as an awesome golfer. The background is pretty lazy, and the whole work just has a sense of “we need a flyer for this game, so we’ll ask the art department for some scraps” vibe. Not SNK’s best effort.

Artistic Discussion: Gloriously Bad Box Arts Anniversary Special – 8/6/2012

It’s been a bit since I’ve slammed some poor box arts as a collective. Let’s do that!

Last Ninja 2 – Back with a Vengeance (C64, System 3)

When half your box is a needlessly large logo, particularly that nastily drawn “2″, there may be a problem. When you have a creepy set of eyes overlooking the city, I think serial murderer or sick pedophile or something from a movie about those types of people. Not so much do-gooding ninjas. The yellow and blue tones for the skin aren’t helping. The cityscape isn’t bad, but the rest of the piece is just appalling to me.

Anticipation (NES, Nintendo)

BEFORE THE WII OVERTOOK AMERICA, NINTENDO TRIED TO WIN OVER THE STATES IN THE 1980′s WITH THE NES HIT ANTICIPATION…

Not only is Anticipation a lousy game (honestly, you have to type out words with the NES pad!), but this “family fun” box is sort of embarrassing. It’s the ’80′s casual fashion personified, which makes it scary in itself, but who in their right mind would get this excited over Anticipation? Super Mario Bros. I could see, but this is false advertising at its sleaziest. Cheesy, obnoxious and a blatant lie.

Tecmo World Wrestling (NES, Tecmo)

Ah, muscle-bound dudes drawn funnily. I seem to run into that problem more often than not. Remember Power Instinct or Lone Soldier? Tecmo throws their hat into the awkward anatomy ring, and do a pretty good job! The unmasked man has odd shoulders, stranger abs, a broken right wrist and his stance doesn’t look all that macho. His masked adversary has a left hand disattached from his arm gauging by the perspective, and his head may be decapitated from the rest of him, too, not sure. Yuck.

Spear of Destiny (PC, id Software)

This is a good game from what I understand, but it doesn’t try very hard to sell itself on its box art. XD This is incredibly amateurish. The glass shattering is the best part, but everything else is a mess. The hero here has anatomy issues as well as our wrestling friends above, and his face doesn’t really scream out manliness (I’m presuming that it’s trying to). The gun appears to be an afterthought, and I hope for his sake some glass doesn’t set off that trigger! The background has an abstract approach that clashes with the foreground. The logo is trying to look neat, but the stained glass-esque effect makes it look sloppy. All and all, a rather lackluster effort. Good thing Brom was recruited later for Doom.

Artistic Discussion – The Good and Bad of Gaming Box Art: 7/20/2012

Good – The Last Story (Wii, XSEED/Mistwalker)

I think it may be clear by now that I adore the art for The Last Story. XSEED kept the classy Japanese box for American audiences, with Calista (Kanan) front and center, drawn beautifully by Kimihiko Fujisaka. The white background makes this art and the logo pop quite nicely. Sometimes white can be an effective trait to make your box art shine, and I think Mistwalker nailed it perfectly. Great choice.

Bad – Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge (Arcade, Capcom)

What the hell is this?!?!? Darkstalkers has some of the coolest artwork and character designs in gaming. So, why did Capcom Coin-Op take a massive crap all over them when they tried to market it in America? This, my friends, is a travesty of epic proportions. These characters are shadows, nay, whispers of their actual designs. Morrigan looks like a whore (well, a real one, not a succubus :p ), Talbain lacks any sense of his martial artist training, merely playing up the werewolf trope, Donovan is laughably atrocious, and Anita’s face is all kinds of screwed up. She is supposed to show no emotion, and terror is an emotion, fools! Pyron looks like a shitty Satan, and all of them together just mock the hard work Capcom’s Japanese design team put into them. For comparison, take a look at this:

Honestly, was this not good enough? This is incredible art done by one of Capcom’s legendary artists, CRMK (Bengus), which was DONE FOR THE PURPOSE OF MARKETING THIS GOD DAMN GAME. Hell, I could go for days showcasing Capcom’s other artwork for Night Warriors, all far better than what they commissioned for America! That wouldn’t erase the inexplicable and ludicrous re-imagining some lousy artist did to these icons, though. Just terrible, terrible work. Maybe this is why I’ve never seen the damn game…

Artistic Discussion: The Good and Bad of Gaming Box Art – 6/14/2012

Good – NeoGeo Battle Coliseum (PS2, SNK Playmore)

Eisuke Ogura is talented, and this may be one of the finest works he did while at SNK. The logo does block out Kisarah and Akari, but otherwise the artwork is allowed to shine all so brightly. Great colors, a nice mixed selection of faces from the roster…a grand effort.

Bad – Castle of Dragon (NES, Seta)

If I didn’t have such animosity for the NES M.U.L.E. box or such disgust for the awkward Code Name: Viper box, this would have handily won the Worst Box of 1990. What good is there on this box? The dragon is not all that imposing, really, what with its malformed limbs and tiny size. The background is a masterwork of lazy fog and minimalist detail. The atrocity of the knight and damsel top everything else, though. The human body should not have been given to this artist to render. They couldn’t do it. The knight is in one hell of a bizarre pose, and that woman is appalling. Both lack clarity and solid proportions. And mixed in with everything else, it’s an absolute disaster of a box.

Artistic Discussion – The Good and Bad of Gaming Box Art: 5/24/2012

Good – Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis (GBA, Atlus/Quest)

I love this box. It’s a delightful scene, with two knights contemplating while at a beach, with a castle looming in the background. The colors are perfect, and the logo doesn’t take away from the overall beauty of the art. Well done, Atlus.

Bad – Rock Star Ate My Hamster (Amiga, Codemasters)

O_x

Yes, I just crowned this the worst box art in 1988, but it deserves a second drubbing. This art is atrocious. My god. I wonder if Michael Jackson ever saw this one, because he should have sued Codemasters into oblivion for commissioning this unflattering caricature. The newspaper format of the box isn’t terrible, but the art promoting it is, and I don’t want to stare at a quasi-Michael Jackson making a difficult poo. This is gross. *runs off yet again*

Artistic Discussion – The Good and Bad of Gaming Box Art: 4/25/2012

Good – Shin Megami Tenshi: Persona 3 Portable (PSP, Atlus)

Despite my dislike of the game’s conclusion (see here if you don’t mind spoilers), I still adore Shigenori Soejima’s spin on the franchise, and this is an eye-catching cover. It puts the focus on the choice of a male or female protagonist, one of the game’s selling points, and it’s effectively using blues and blacks to give it an excellent sense of mood.

Bad – Batman: Arkham City Game of the Year (Xbox 360, Warner Bros./Rocksteady)

Wha…?

This is how to take your box art in the wrong direction. First off, this looks like an magazine advertisement, not a box. This kind of over-saturated blurbage quickly makes my eye wander off to somewhere else. It’s okay to maybe squeeze one blurb on there normally, but to have four wedged into nearly every tiny bit of space is overkill. Second, the render of Batman is rather poor. What exactly made Warner Bros. decide to go with “Batman wiping blood off of his face in an extreme closeup” for their GOTY box? That’s rather unattractive. And then there’s the double logo, one shoved into the top right corner and the other lurking in the background. Plus the bonus content! Can’t forget to throw that in there.

In short, there’s too damn much going on on this box, and there’s nothing appealing about it whatsoever.

Artistic Discussion – The Good and Bad of Gaming Box Art: 4/9/2012

Good – Ecco the Dolphin (Genesis, Sega)

Unlike our last visit with Boris Vallejo, this one is quite spectacular!  I’m curious about the oceanic world Ecco inhabits, why he has stars on his forehead, and am overall impressed with the ambiance of the piece.  This looks like a fun game (which it is, for the most part) from the cover, and I definitely would consider it as a purchase.  Well done, Sega!

Bad – Magic Sword (Super NES, Capcom)

And then there’s this.  The woman at the left is probably the best thing about this piece.  She looks appropriate and she isn’t marred by some hideous problem (her left thigh is a little odd, but not super noticeable).  The hero, however…what exactly is he staring at?  It’s not the villain!  His pecs are also a little lopsided, his arms don’t look like they were originally attached to him, and I don’t think most people would be successfully defending attacks holding a shield like that.  That and he just looks too…prissy to be out in the battlefield (well, our heroine as well looks a little too dolled up, considering the game’s context of her being locked up in a wizard’s tower for a few days minimum).  The antagonist looks like he’s laughing, is doing some great jazz hands magic, has a dorky costume, and his horns aren’t even.  And why is that dark gem randomly floating around?  I don’t recall any purple, cloudy sky in the game, either.  Nor mountains.  Doesn’t it take place in a TOWER? And the space to the right of the villain seems like a rather sudden shift of colors, from pink to dark purple with no transition whatsoever.  I’ve seen worse boxes, but this one has quite a few thorns, that it does.

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