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 – 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: 7/3/2012

Good – Advance Wars (GBA, Nintendo)

I do like the art style for the first three Wars games we saw in North America, although the gameplay isn’t my cup of tea. This box sums up the core of the game pretty well, I thought. The three leads on a big tank, some battling in the background, plus it’s colorful, well-drawn and eye-catching. Excellence all around.

Bad – Zero Wing (Arcade, Toaplan)

HOLY CRAP there’s so much going on

Zero Wing is infamous already for its delightfully awful Engrish translation rendered upon it when it came out on the Genesis:

…but this arcade flier isn’t much better. It’s loaded with gaudy colors, a frenzy of alien monsters and ships stuffed into practically every crevice, it too suffers from some odd English phrasing (“Catch, Shoot + Beat them Down”..?), and it even has potentially racist imagery in the top right corner. Freakish, overbearing and offensive all in one fell swoop. “Somebody set us up the bomb” indeed, with one big dud of promotional material.

Cultural Anxiety – Rygar/Argus no Senshi (NES/Famicom, Arcade)

Study 23: Rygar/Argus no Senshi (NES/Famicom, Arcade)

Has it really been three months since I last did one of these? Man. I’d like to do them more often. We’ll try to get back into the swing of things over the summer, okay?

Anyway, let’s get onto the topic at hand. Argus no Senshi was one of Tecmo’s earliest games, seeing release in 1986. The company had just recently changed its name, formerly doing business as Tehkan. The origins of Tehkan were pretty far from gaming, as they supplied cleaning equipment to Japanese businesses in 1967. Two years later, the company switched gears and got into amusement equipment, which was a bigger success. Their first game was 1981′s Pleiads.

Argus no Senshi was a fairly straightforward action arcade title, starring hero Senshi (aka “warrior” in Japanese, according to Video Game Den). His claim to fame was slinging around a rather cool weapon, the Diskarmor, which is a boomerang-esque shield. With this mighty weapon, Senshi must defeat the evil Raiga and save the kingdom of Arigoru from his tyranny. I have the flyers for the arcade original at the end of the post, mainly because the Japanese one is quite violent. XD In localization the hero became Rygar, the villain Ligar, and little else changed from what I can tell.

In 1987 Argus no Senshi was ported to the Famicom. The game saw a significant change in style and design during this process. The arcade style of gameplay was tossed aside for a more Metroid-like structure (the comparison isn’t as derivative as you may think, since Metroid came out around the same time). Senshi still wields the Diskarmor, but he can pad its abilities with further tools that boost his defense and mobility options. It’s a fairly solid game, although it’s been way too long since I played it.

When Tecmo brought it to the U.S., very little seemingly changed! Let’s start with the most drastic alteration, which, naturally, is the box art:

The Famicom box is rather adorable, despite Raiga’s malice. Senshi is chibi-ifed, and the enemies are fairly cute, too. It also utilizes the most memorable part of Rygar to me, the sunset. Rather nice work.

America as usual can’t handle the anime, so Tecmo commissioned this for us to experience the fantastic Rygar. A graceful manly man this Rygar is, with a Diskarmor MADE OF FIRE and the ability to bound over sinking muppet rejects that were cast into the stone pits of doom. Mullet power, too! Seems a bit inspired by He-Man. :p The randomly suspended tree behind him that just suddenly ceases existence before it reaches the ground is a blemish. I like how the logo uses the sunset, though. I’ve seen worse!

Some screen comparisons, with Japan on the left and America on the right:

Very little changed here. The logo for Argus no Sensei looks nicer, I think. I like the Diskarmor behind it quite a bit. A two year gap between releases is the other thing I notice.

Beyond some color differences and changes to the text, Sensei/Rygar and the Guru here look unaltered.

Surprisingly, the biggest change to Rygar was that some of its music was redone for the American release! Compare the two:

Argus no Sensei was minimally cut or transformed on its overseas travels to become Rygar, which is always nice to see. The box art and the music were the key alterations. So while Sensei’s original chibi look was lost for a more He-Man style of fighter, at least the visual look of Argus no Senshi’s gameplay was left alone.

Sources:

HG101 Article on Rygar: http://hardcoregaming101.net/rygar/rygar.htm

Box Vs. Box Spotlight on Rygar: http://boxvsbox.tumblr.com/post/23292003629/argus-no-senshi-vs-rygar-1986-this-was-my

Tiny Cartridge Article on Musical Differences between Rygar and Argus no Senshi: http://tinycartridge.com/post/947199653/argos-no-senshi-rygar-famicom-version-i-had-no

Video Game Den Article on Argus no Senshi: http://www.videogameden.com/fc.htm?arg

Join me after the jump for a bit more Argus no Sensei/Rygar comparisons! The Japanese arcade flyer art has some graphic violence, so if you’re not big on the decapitation of monsters, don’t march on! (more…)

Artistic Discussion – The Good and Bad of Gaming Box Art: 3/13/2012

Good – Dragon Buster (Arcade, Namco)

Wow, I say – this was done in the gaudy, over-neoned ’80′s?  This is an astoundingly beautiful gaming poster in an era where such words rarely combined together.  The colors, the mood, the cool details in the foreground and background…this person should have gotten more work.

Bad – Bust-A-Move 2 (Saturn, Acclaim/Taito)

Oh my god EYEBALLS

Gah, I can barely even look at this monstrosity without feeling a bit queasy.  And that does NOT sell video games!

(honestly, I can’t analyze it.  I am afraid I may spew.)

Virtual Console No-Shows: Contra (Arcade)

Due to school studying, I may need to limit myself back down to one game per week again.  That’s the case this week, alas.

94. Contra (Arcade, Konami)

Brief Synopsis – A run-n’-gun legend, where two marines armed with a multitude of weaponry (yet no body armor?!?) take on a massive alien horde.  The origin of the classic franchise.

Why is it Missing? – Konami, as mentioned often as of late, have seemingly backed completely away from Nintendo’s Virtual Console services.  The last one we saw in America was Castlevania: Rondo of Blood in early 2010 – before that, it was Life Force in early 2009.  Why they’ve decided to cease support is unknown, but it’s a huge detriment to Nintendo’s services, that’s for sure, as Konami’s output in the 80s and 90s was phenomenal.

Other (Legal) Options – For the arcade Contra, the game is on Xbox Live and the DS comp Konami Arcade Hits.  The NES one, arguably the best version, has its options detailed out here.

Konami’s Early Programming History, as told by two of their developers

Siliconera brought to light a fascinating glimpse into the past, and into a fine piece of history at that, since Konami was a wondrous developer in the 1980′s, and being able to gleam some of that intrigue from two of its staff at that time, Kazuhisa Hashimoto and Shigeharu Umezaki, is a treat.  While this is an older piece (done in 2003), it loses none of its impact.  The Konami Code is discussed, as well as the creation of several classics of the Konami canon.  Worth a look!

Enemy Encounters Halloween Special 2011

Continuing the tradition begun last year, let’s focus on some of the best (and worst) examples of the supernatural foes I’ve dealt with in games.  Spoilers are aplenty, so beware! (more…)

Nester’s Favorite Games – Street Fighter Alpha 3 (1998)

Street Fighter Alpha 3

Developer: Capcom
Platforms: Arcade, multiple

The Game: 2D one-on-one fighting game with tons of characters and modes.

Why it’s a Favorite: With regard to the Street Fighter series (as well as some of their other franchises), Capcom was often criticized for taking small incremental steps rather than making radical changes to a successful formula. While the fighting mechanics remain typically solid, Street Fighter Alpha 3 was the first time Capcom really went all out and threw in everything but the kitchen sink. Not only was every character that ever appeared in Street Fighter II or the previous Alpha games present here, but you could also choose different modes that would mimic the various super bars and fighting styles of previous games. Brand new characters and modes were added on top of that, and Capcom has continued to build on it with nearly every subsequent re-release of the game, turning it into an insane dream match.

Street Fighter Alpha 3

The action is still as fun as ever.

Beyond the standard Arcade mode, home console ports added several other ways to play the game, including various Survival modes, as well as the chaotic two-on-one Dramatic Battle. Most notable, perhaps, is the World Tour mode, in which you choose a character, and take him or her through a series of stages while earning experience points to level up your fighter and acquire new abilities. You can then import your customized character into any other mode in the game.

As a dream match, the storyline disregards any solid continuity, but the mere fact that every character actually has a story, as well has his/her own stage and music, just shows how much effort Capcom put into the game. The attention to detail is quite impressive given the scope, and “conservative” or “lazy” are not words that come to mind when thinking of Street Fighter Alpha 3.

Memorable Moments: Teaming up Guile and Charlie against M. Bison in the Dramatic Battle.

Nester’s Favorite Games – The King of Fighters ’97 (1997)

The King of Fighters '97

Developer: SNK
Platforms: Arcade, multiple

The Game: The fourth installment of SNK’s premier crossover fighting game series, featuring team-based one-on-one combat.

Why it’s a Favorite: My personal experience with the King of Fighters series is limited to the installments from the 90s, and of those games, ’97 is the only one I actually spent a substantial amount of time with in the arcade. (The rest were on home consoles.)

King of Fighters '97

An excellent presentation is one of the game's highlights.

But it’s not just nostalgia that gains my favor. The King of Fighters ’97 has a unique and excellent presentation, even compared to other fighting game series. As per the concept of an actual tournament, the stages are presented as if being broadcast on television, complete with camera men, lighting, logos, and live audiences. While other fighting games refer to tournaments only in their stories, the actual presentation is often little more than two characters fighting in some random place. But KoF97 took the idea and ran with it.

It also made the brave choice of relying more on background ambiance than music, making the atmosphere feel even more authentic. In my opinion, it’s a very overlooked tactic in video game presentation. There is still some music in the game, however, with certain characters having their own themes, and what’s there is pretty good. Overall, it balances out wonderfully.

Of course, it has the typically solid SNK fighting game mechanics, and a good selection of characters. It also has a good story that’s unusually well conveyed, and brings the “Orochi Saga” to a suitably epic conclusion.

Some people may prefer the Dream Match variety and minimalist presentation of ’98 more, but for me, it’s ’97 all the way!

Memorable Moments: The epic final stage, which starts off foreboding, and progressively becomes more violent and unstable with each subsequent round.

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