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!
I've always stressed that when i t comes to cover art, simplicity works. You've seen it with the Final Fantasy series, you saw it last year with Grand Theft Auto Vice City, and you see it here with Rockstar North's newest violent epic, Manhunt! That face will haunt you until you've played the game, and likely will continue long after that. It's only after you've studied the picture for good ten minutes that you start to enjoy the whole "Way too close to the TV" thing. I found myself watching everything, from Regis and Kelly to Passions to the Deomocratic Presidential Debates while sitting my head no more than three inchese away from the TV. Oh sure, it started to hurt my eyes after about 12 hours of it, but I think it's getting better now. Those dreams, they don't go away, though. If any of you out there know a good doctor for that, you should let me know ...
Star Trek: Shattered Universe (PS2)
Hey, I'm all for Star Trek, no matter if it's the Next Generation, original series or whatever ... but had the name not been on the package, I would never have known that this was part of the starfleet. This picture doesn't work for a number of reasons, the most noticable is that it's just so close to the action. It was obviously done to show urgency, but only makes the picture look cramped and unappealing. Plus, there's just too much going on. Between the explosion in the background, various ships, and weapon fire, this cover gives me a full on headache. And one you can get rid of with a Vulcan neck pinch. In the end, this cover doesn't really give you a grasp of the type of game you're about to play, and worse yet, can't seem to find a the look it needs to be a proper tie-in product.
Mario Party 5 (GCN)
When it comes to Mario covers, I'm usually pretty tough. I wasn't all that impressed with the Super Mario Sunshine cover, and you might as well just forget about it when it comes to the silly Super Smash Bros. Melee cover. So what am I doing liking a cover like Mario Party 5? After all, I didn't care much for the fourth cover, however interesting it was. But Mario Party 5 actually gets it right, it has a lot of detail, a clear vision, and doesn't overload your senses. This just may be one of the best Mario covers since the original release of Super Mario Bros. 3 on the N.E.S. If this cover doesn't make you want to play Mario Party, then nothing will. This cover came awfully close to an "A" rating, but ultimately with Waliugi in the picture, Nintendo's long running board game series will have to settle for a "B".
Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PS2)
If you're going to rebirth a series, you might as well take it as seriously as you can. At least, that's the way Konami seems to be handling their long running, and always entertaining, Castlevania series. This new version, a 3D take on the series, promises to offer a much darker experience, with a lot more depth than we have been used to. And if we were judging it by it's cover (something our moms told us not to do), Lament of Innocence would be a success. This cover looks like a movie poster, or something you'd see associated with a long running book series. It's hard to resit the artwork, which offers a simple premise, yet far more detail than meets the eye. It may not sway the skeptics, but at least it will catch your eye, and perhaps even get you to play it, and then your mom wouldn't be able to complain about your pre-judging things.
Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN)
Oh my ... what's this? Is this Mario Kart? Oh goodness. Did you read all those nice things I said about Mario Party 5? Do you remember how I commented that it was a nice looking picture, with enough detail to keep you busy, but not overwhelm you?? Well, Mario Kart is pretty much the opposite. It's ugly, loud, and even has words covering up some of the action (and taking your eyes away from the picture). But on an even more serious note, this cover is a little like Nintendo's 2003 line up. It seems like with Mario Kart, Nintendo has all but given up this year. No matter how fun Mario Kart is, it's not the AAA title that Nintendo needed to stay afloat next to the Xbox and PlayStation 2. And compared to last year, which had both Metroid Prime AND Super Mario Sunshine, Nintendo might as well be on auto pilot this year. Nobody doubts that Nintendo can make a great game, but if Mario Kart is the best you have this year, then it's time to stick a fork in it, because you're done!