Friday, 15 March 2013

Video Game Box Art From Hell - 01 : Wonder Boy (Master System)

As I have just finished writing about the classic arcade game Wonder Boy, as well as its many home console ports, I was unfortunately exposed to something that has haunted me since I first laid eyes on it back in 1990. I am, of course, talking about the European box art for Wonder Boy.

I intended to include the following discussion (or rant) in the Wonder Boy article, but I felt it deserved its own page. Plus it is a theme I wish to return to in a recurring series. So, before I start frothing at the mouth and tearing into the artwork in question, let's take a look at what other countries were given instead.

The original arcade artwork featured on the cabinet itself is colourful, if a little crudely drawn. But it gives a good indication of what to expect from the game. Nothing to complain about here. The SG-1000 box is not too bad. Even though Wonder Boy looks like the feral boomerang wielding child from the Mad Max movie. His legs are also at a weird angle, making it seem as though he has no junk under his skirt. Maybe he is a eunuch, who knows. He is also bouncing off the head of an enemy, something that he cannot do in the game. But that is nit picking really, the box art is pretty reasonable.

The Sega Mark 3 (the Japanese Master System) has wonderful artwork, with a colourful and cartoony image of Tom Tom and his girlfriend standing in the beautiful forest of the first stage. Tomahawk resting on his shoulder, Tom Tom looks ready for action, even though he seems oblivious to the angry critters approaching in the background. It is exactly what box art should be; Visually appealing, striking and accurately representing the content of the actual game inside.

The 8-bit home computer ports – The Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC – all used the same artwork on the cover. It is a rather strange take on the game, with a scrawny Mowgli like character riding an enormous skateboard escaping from a horde of game monsters. Again, it is a fair representation of the game and is a bit different from the Japanese cutesy look.

The Sega Game Gear version (Revenge of Drancon – urgh, that title is so bad) has an awful cover which seemingly depicts a noxious cloud of volcanic guff with a face, erupting from a fiery volcano. It is extremely poor as it gives no indication of what Wonder Boy is about to a casual onlooker, but also fails to do justice to the game itself. But this crap is nothing compared to what awaited European Master System owners... Oh, no!

Now, as European Sega owners in the late 80's and early 90's we got absolutely screwed when it came to packaging. 99% of Master System boxes displayed the weird graph paper squares all over it, giving it the impression of being a child’s school text book. This was further proven by the fact the images that adorned these boxes looked as if they had been scribbled by a bored 6 year old. When people talk about terrible game covers the same titles often crop up; Mega Man on NES for example. But I put forward pretty much the entire European Master System collection for the coveted title of shittest box art. Wonder Boy's box is especially galling as I love the game so much.

Just what in the name of fuck where they thinking? Seriously?

Truly a work of Satan himself, the cover is a hideous abomination which is an insult to the wonderful game contained within the box, as well as an affront to both gaming and art in general. It depicts a pathetic looking main character leaping over an over-sized comedy snail (complete with rubbish 'movement trails') that appear to have been sketched in felt-tip pens by someone lacking even the most rudimentary of drawing abilities. Worst of all is the complete lack of any background whatsoever. In a game as rich in colour and charm as Wonder Boy, you would think they could have drawn in some bright trees, a blue sky with clouds or some cute critters from the game's enemy roster. 

I cannot even begin to imagine a scenario involving people with all their mental faculties intact, where this horrible shit-fest was given the go ahead for mass production. Professional people actually looked at this and decided it was an acceptable representation of their product. It beggars belief. Looking at this cover makes me want to weep, before ripping out my own eyes. Even a close up photograph of an infected sphincter would have made for more appealing packaging. All those responsible for bringing this to retail should be hunted down like Nazi war criminals and be made to answer for their crimes against art and design, as well as issuing a full and frank apology to the creators and fans of this great game – in their underwear... while being pelted with rotten eggs.

So in summary. It isn't very good.

I'm off to kick the asses
of those responsible

Stay tuned for more box art from hell, coming soon!