They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. But since I've never heard that expression used against video games I figure that it's open season on the box art you see every day. This is The Cover Critic, your guide to what's good and bad in the world of video game boxes. In this episode of The Cover Critic we look at a strange adaptation of Beauty & the Beast, another crazy Ultraman game, frogs, Night Stalkers and stupid 3D glasses. Man I hate 3D glasses. I would like to meet the person who came up with the idea of using 3D glasses in video games! But enough ranting, it's time to see what terrible covers we have in store for you in the 61st episode of The Cover Critic!
When you think of Beauty & the Beast chances are your mind goes to the Academy Award winning Disney movie released in the early 1990s. Or maybe you think of that terrible TV show featuring T2's Linda Hamilton. Or maybe you think of the two dozen other movies based on the idea of an ugly dude falling in love with an attractive woman. But chances are you don't think of King Kong when you hear the name Beauty & the Beast. Clearly you aren't one of those people who worked for Imagic back in the 1980s, because this Intellivision version looks more like the classic 1933 King Kong than any version of Beauty & the Beast I've ever seen. Just take a look at this cover; it features a giant creature holding the "beauty" in one hand while climbing a tall building. If that doesn't scream "King Kong" then I don't know what does.
But this cover isn't only bad because it's ripping off one of the greatest monster movies of all time; it also fails to capture the real essence of the Beauty & the Beast story. This cover makes the game look like it's nothing more than an action game where you're pounding regular humans while kidnapping the girl you've fallen in love with. How else do you describe the fact that there's a guy dangling for his life on this cover, I thought the beauty of the beast was that underneath the rough exterior he was actually a really nice guy. But here it just looks like he's a real dick. It also kind of looks like he's a caveman, which doesn't make any sense to me. Speaking of things that don't make any sense, how can there be a giant rainbow when the skyline clearly shows that this is all taking place at night? And what is that guy hanging on to? And why on Earth is the beast taking the girl to the top of some apartment building? When you watch King Kong it's not hard to see the parallels between it and Beauty & the Beast, but Imagic seems to be taking those connections a bit too literal. It's the theme that is similar, not the actions in the story.
First and foremost, I don't actually know what the name of this game is. I know that it features Ultraman and I know that one of the words says "TV", but outside of that I'm at a loss to what this game is called. After spending some time looking over this box art I am almost 100% sure that this is some sort of crazy teaching tool that helps Japanese kids learn how to speak (or maybe just read) English. How else do you explain all of those letters floating in the background? Then again, maybe that's not where I should start, since there's very little about these covers that can be explained by anybody outside of the native country. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not sure I can even explain the appeal of Ultraman. I do know that this main Ultraman on this cover looks like he has the tattoos of a certain main character from God of War, but it was cooler on Kratos.
Actually, my favorite part of this cover has to be all of those Ultramen in the background (literally in a television set). I guess it's not good enough to have just one Ultraman, you have to have six more in the background looking like they're getting ready to break out into a medley of Backstreet Boy covers. With all of them just standing around like that it makes me think of Mexican Wrestling, The Lucha Libre. Maybe it's just me, but it's hard to look cool when you're wearing a big mask, it takes a certain kind of person to be able to pull that kind of look off. And while we're poking holes in the validity of this product, have you ever wondered how Ultraman was able to get that television set to work when he is in space? Let's play English? Let's not!
If there's one thing I've learned from all my years playing video games, it's hard to make a cool interactive product that stars a bunch of frogs. People may have fond memories of Konami's arcade classic Frogger, but how many Frogger sequels and updates do you remember being any good? And The Battletoads were the talk of the town on the NES (and the Super NES), but it's not like we've heard from them since. Face it; frogs don't make cool video game characters. People just can't relate to frogs, they have long tongues and eat flies, humans just can't relate to something that disgusting. About the most disturbing thing we do is dress up our animals, and even then we rarely see video games that focus on that embarrassing aspect of human nature.
But Mattel doesn't care how disgusting frog life is; they went full steam ahead and released this utterly forgettable frog simulator called Frog Bog. This box art features just about everything we despise about those slimy creatures, such as eating insects, living on a lilypad and diving head first into a freezing cold lake. This game also sports a really stupid name, who is the person that thought Frog Bog was an acceptable name for a video game? Thankfully not every company chose to pair an animal with a stupid rhyme; if they had we would probably have to suffer through Cat Chat, Horse Course, Sloth Troth, and the Albino Rhino. If this game had come out in the 21st century I can only assume that it would have been called Frog Blog and featured an opinionated character rattling off about subjects he knows nothing about.
Back in the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System I used to play this game all the time. Some may consider this to be nothing more than a rip off of Sega's Space Harrier game, but 3-D World Runner had a look and feel all its own. It was also one of the first games to use 3D glasses, one of the worst video game accessories we have ever seen (even worse than the Rock 'N Roller). But no matter how much I love 3-D World Runner, I just can't get into this terrible cover art. It's not that just that the art is bad, but the design makes very little sense. Then again, when you really think about what you're doing in 3-D World Runner you'll find that the whole product doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
My first issue with 3-D World Runner is that the bullets seem to be coming out of the man's chest. Forget about giving the dude a gun to hold, apparently in the future your weapons will come directly out of your chest. Also confusing is why he is wearing 3D glasses. There is absolutely no reason for this guy to be wearing the same glasses as you, the world he's running through already is 3D to him. It's not like he's watching it on a crappy 13 inch television set like you, he actually gets to experience it first-hand. If anything the 3D glasses are going to make it harder for him, since everything is in this weird red and blue tint. Perhaps that's the reason he's headed for a big opening in the checker board landscape.
Oh Night Stalker, the classic 1970s TV show that featured Darren McGavin as a reporter who hunts down vampires in Las Vegas, how cool it is to see a video game based on your exploits. Oh wait, this isn't about the show that influenced Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Okay, maybe it's based on the underappreciated (and cancelled) 2005 TV series of the same name. No? Well damn, I guess this Night Stalker is all on his own. Battling giant spiders, bats and ... robots? Oh, you've got to be kidding me. Why not just name this game Logan's Run or something, they shouldn't sully the name of a classic series like Night Stalker.
So here's what I gather from this game's cover art: everything bad seems to happen at night. When it's dark the robots come out, giant spiders attack and bats are on the prowl. If all these bad things come out at night, then maybe that's a sign you should take some Ambien and only go outside when the sun is out. Or better yet, move to a place where there's no risk of giant spiders and bats. On the other hand, if robots are going to attack then there's nothing you can do about it. Especially if they are those cheesy 1950s sci-fi robots that have lasers and speak in broken English. There's nothing scarier than being chased by Robby the Robot, take that from a man who has experience.