After nine years of reviewing game boxes, The Cover Critic is getting burned out. To help keep him sane, we've decided to give him a break from the box covers and instead look at famous magazine covers. For the next few months The Cover Critic is going to be taking a look at different eras and video game magazines. A few weeks ago we spent some time talking about the terrible artwork found in Video Games & Computer Entertainment magazine. This week we go one step further and show you what their covers looked like!
VG&CE: Space Shooters
[ March - 1992 - Final Rating: D+ ]
Quick, what game is this cover promoting? Look at the clues. There's a creepy alien with a tentacle eye, there's a futuristic bombed out city and you have a soldier two guns, a ripped shirt, toned chest and an 80s haircut. What game are they promoting? If
you said Contra then you're right! But of course you didn't say Contra, because NOTHING about this cover shouts Konami action game. This could be one of a thousand 8-bit action games, not one of the most successful action game franchises of all time. I don't recall aliens with long tentacles or that blue guy in the corner in my classic 8-bit Contra. Hey, wait a second, isn't that blue guy in the corner just a pallet swap of the Yellow Bastard from Sin City? I definitely don't remember seeing that guy in Contra!
Cheesy artwork aside, it doesn't bother me that this cover has very little to do with one of the greatest games of all time. What annoys me is how the artwork is covered by the least exciting screen shots of all time. You have a picture of a guy who just shot an eyeball off of some alien's limb, yet the pictures you pair with it are of SimCity and Phantasy Star III? Don't get me wrong, both of those are amazing games; I wouldn't complain about a cover celebrating both of these titles. But take a look at that SimCity screenshot; it's as if they purposely sought out the least exciting picture they could find. And what picture of Phantasy Star III do they use? A character select screen? Give me a break. Where are the explosions? Where is the dustruction? They would have been better off taking the pictures away and letting the cover art speak for itself.
VG&CE: Street Fighter II vs. Street Fighter II
[ June - 1992 - Final Rating: C ]
Much has been made about the abysmal artwork that accompanied the American home release of Street Fighter II. In Japan Capcom knew how to draw these memorable characters; they were exaggerated, but not goofy. Apparently somebody at Capcom disagreed, deciding instead to turn the Street Fighter characters into ugly, realistic figures doing laughably
stupid actions. Not content to let Capcom have all the glory, Video Games & Computer Entertainment decided to draw their own crappy Street Fighter II art and post it on the cover. It's debatable whether this cover is worse than the terrible Super NES artwork, but there's no doubt about it that the Street Fighter II characters deserve much, much better.
Instead of immediately launching into my hatred for this artwork, let's first start with words of encouragement. Whoever was forced to draw this horrific painting (by gunpoint, no doubt) did an excellent job recreating Blanka's famous background. Oh sure, it's not perfect (where are the people?), but any Street Fighter II fan will immediately recognize it. Blanka and Dhalsim, on the other hand, don't make out nearly as well. Blanka ends up looking more like a really concerned Hulk, while Dhalsim's jewelry is so freakishly big that I have to wonder how it stays in place. But what really bugs me about this artwork is how close it is to the official Capcom design. If you have the opportunity to redraw your favorite World Warriors in any style you want, at least give us something original. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in this case nobody should feel very good about the end result.
VG&CE: Prince of Persia on the Consoles
[ November - 1992 - Final Rating: B- ]
Now here's a scene you likely won't see in the upcoming big budget Jake Gyllenhaal movie. This cover is absolutely horrifying. What we have here is a picture taken mere moments before our poor Prince meets his doom at the bottom on a spiky pit. This is no laughing matter. Forget koopas, mushrooms and warp zones, video games just
got real serious! Suddenly I'm thinking about all of those times I accidentally sent a beloved video game character down what I thought was a never-ending pit. How could I be so stupid? Of course there's no such thing has a bottomless pit ... there's ALWAYS a bottom. How callas was I to not stop and think about the mangled, impaled body of Mario, Kid Icarus and Mega Man? Prince, you have not died in vain, from now on I will think of your lifeless corpse whenever I let a game character fall into a pit.
But wait ... maybe things aren't nearly as bad as they look. Our curiously Caucasian-looking hero isn't actually going to hit those spikes after all. Notice his eyes, they appear to be looking right at the floor spikes. But look closer, because it's easy to see that he's looking off to the side and not straight down. By my measuring he's going to fall right next to the spikes, suffering only from broken bones and a few bruises. He'll walk away from this pit with a limp, but that's a whole lot better than seeing a spike creep its way through your hand. I pray that he'll take this opportunity to see the error of his ways and be more cautious the next time he nears a spike pit. I also hope he'll get rid of those shoes. He's a prince, not a genie. Ironically, all this could be avoided if he was the Sands of Time prince, but alas, he's a decade too early for the time-altering sand.
VG&CE: Opening the Door to the Super NES
[ April - 1991 - Final Rating: D- ]
I always love seeing how magazines introduce a new video game console on their covers. A few weeks ago I took note of how Electronic Gaming Monthly introduced the Super NES, by PhotoShopping it against a space background. I believe
I used the word "underwhelming" when describing one of the greatest game systems of all time. Video Games & Computer Entertainment decided to go the opposite direction. In their April 1991 issue they had Nintendo's Super Famicom (the Japanese Super NES, also known as Nintendo's good looking 16-bit console) represent a draw bridge at a castle. And what's inside the castle? Super Mario World, of course.
Okay, look, I'm willing to accept a lot of horrible ideas for video game covers, but I'm at a loss when it comes to this VG&CE mash-up. So let me get this straight, the Super NES is the half-open bridge to Castle Mario World? But wouldn't the trees, grass, animals and foliage be OUTSIDE the castle? And who is that knight fellow? Doesn't he know that putting cartridges into the console will be tough when it's upside down? And how will you plug controls into the system when it's flush against the castle wall? This is a poorly conceived plan, something that will no doubt come back to haunt whoever designed this unworkable castle. The cover clearly states that "Nintendo opens the door to a Super NES," but how can that be when the Super NES appears to literally BE the door? I fear that if I spend too long questioning this cover's logic my head will explode.
VG&CE: It Came From the Desert!
[ January - 1992 - Final Rating: A- ]
So far on our journey we've experienced ugly Street Fighter II characters, realistic Contra art and a potentially blood end for the Prince of Persia. In each of those cases my issues stemmed with the art style, something that too often balanced on the side of realistic. It's
one thing to see a cartoon character battle it out on a video game screen, but it's something completely different to see their outlandish exaggerations recreated in a painting. I was starting to think that maybe there was no hope for Video Games & Computer Entertainment. And then I found the January 1992 issue, the one that bravely promotes the mediocre full-motion video game, It Came From the Desert.
Given the source material (real actors pretending to be in a 1950s B-movie), I'm a little surprised the artists didn't decide to go realistic. Instead they opted for a retro-style comic strip, complete with large-headed people, exaggerated features and a limited color pallet. It's funny without reaching for a joke. If it wasn't for the text and the pictures on the side, I might even think about displaying this cover art. However, what's unnecessary is the text that hypes this nearly-forgotten 16-bit game. "You'll cry uncle! You'll cry ant! You'll just cry!" Is that the best they could come up with? Get rid of the obvious joke and let the artwork speak for itself. You already have the name on the cover, there's no need to make people think twice about buying your stupid magazine. And speaking of unneeded text, what the hell does "Overviews of Hockey and Mystery Games" even mean?