A lot has changed since the last time we featured an episode of the Cover Critic. Both Sony and Nintendo have released new portable game systems, long time companies have shut their doors forever, and the world has been reintroduced to a certain lawyer named Jack Thompson. Heck, even this site you're looking at has changed in many ways. So maybe it's time we take another serious look at video game covers, letting you know which ones we like and which we hate. After two years I invite you to embrace a brand new Cover Critic, one that isn't afraidto tell you what we really think. So enjoy five new covers and one new look!
Star Fox Adventures
It's been a couple of months since we last visited the Defunct Games Cover Critic, and in that time a fountain of covers have come and gone. We could spend episode after episode talking about the past covers, but I figured we should look at the current ... and in this case, the future. Star Fox Adventures is Rare's one game shown at E3, and it's their big Christmas title. With the game coming out in a few months here, I thought I'd review the upcoming Japanese version's cover. As you can tell by looking at it, it's packed with interesting creatures and even a few familiar faces. Problem is, this cover just isn't attractive at all. Not at all. The purple just clashes with the rest of the design, and to be honest, this looks a little too similar to the much better Super Mario Sunshine cover (see below). This is just one of those covers that has far too much detail for it's own good. Hopefully the U.S. version will sport something much more attractive, but I have a feeling it won't.
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs
It may not be the first Online PS2 title (Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 takes that honor), but it's the best looking one ... so far. But that's not really saying all that much. I mean, both Madden and Sega's NFL 2K3 offer dull covers, and Auto Modellista isn't out yet! SOCOM doesn't have a terrible cover, it does fit with theme of the game, after all. The problem is that if you're one of those people who isn't a HUGE fan of the armed forces (like myself), you may end up looking right past this game (even though it's well worth owning). I can't help but think about what the Japanese cover would look like, if there were plans of releasing it in Japan. I have a feeling it would involve a lot more art, and maybe something more subtle. Regardless, this isn't a bad cover, it's just a little misleading, and something you'll likely skip right over.
.Hack Vol. 2
There's a lot to love about the .Hack series (pronounced "dot hack"), but as the franchise moves on holes are starting to be poked in this title. For example, in Japan these games are fairly inexpensive, since they are, in effect, in mini series form. Instead of getting a huge long adventure on one disc, .Hack is splitting a HUGE adventure into serveral different volumes. When these games are released in the U.S. they will no longer be cheap, but regular priced short games!! Besides that, my other problem is this cover. While it's heavily detailed, it's also extremely ugly. Unlike the absolutely beautiful first cover (seen here), this cover assaults you with more detail than it should have. Frankly when you look at the two covers together it does more than clash, it makes you wonder if you even want to play the second volume. I don't know about you, but this is one of my least favorite covers of the year. It takes a lot more than an anime cover to impress the Cover Critic, that's for DAMN sure.
Super Mario Sunshine
When we last visited Super Mario it was at a time when Nintendo figured they'd always have first place. The Nintendo 64 was a fresh beast, and Next Generation had (rather foolishly) named it the best game of all time. How have things changed? Nintendo no longer has that magic touch, they are fighting Microsoft for second place in a system war that has long been over. Sonic the Hedgehog is on the GameCube. And Square's back to making Nintendo games, and Rare is off to make PS2/Xbox titles. Life, in the land of Mario, has changed. But one thing that hasn't been altered, the Super Mario covers. Go back, if you will, and look at the Super Mario Brothers 3 cover, or even the original Super Mario Brothers. Both of these games offered up a simple look at Mario doing what he does best. While Mario isn't doing anything special here, he does manage to show off his water backpack. A Mario game doesn't need much to get you to buy it, after all, it's a Mario game. But this cover just screams "BUY ME". I really like the lines surrounding Mario here, and I feel this is one of those few covers that actually looks better here than in Japan (check out the Japanese cover here). Nintendo didn't have to make this a great cover, but thank Christ they did.
Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II
Oh good God, what the hell is this?? This looks like a terrible cross between the first Dreamcast game and the pay-per-play sequel, Phantasy Star Online Episode II. Problem is, this cover pales in comparison of BOTH of those covers, which weren't all that great from the get-go!! This is one of the best Dreamcast games, and will surely be the best online game for the GameCube (also the only one), but Sega could have done something with this cover. Actually, you know what? I'm done complaining. This month is a great month for games, and next month will be even better (can you say Kingdom Hearts??) So maybe I'll stop complaining, and get back to what really matters, the gameplay. All of these games this week rock, even if the covers don't. Oh well, there's always next week, I guess.