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Cover Critic
The Cover Critic, 3DS and the Headache
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on March 28, 2011   |   Episode 76 (Show Archive)  

   
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 we help celebrate the Nintendo 3DS's launch by looking at five of its biggest releases. Does Ridge Racer or Pilotwings have what it takes to impress the Cover Critic?
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition (Capcom)
[ Nintendo 3DS - 2011 - Final Rating: B+ ]
So let's start with the obvious: There's nothing to buy on the Nintendo 3DS. Oh sure, Nintendo promises a bunch of hot softs by year's end, but that isn't going to help you when buying a launch unit. Critics and consumers seem to agree, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition is the game to get. It's a competent port of one of my favorite fighting games. Then again, it's also the THIRD version of Street Fighter IV in as many years. I own an arcade stick and two versions of the game at home; do I really need a $40 port I can take on the go? When a three year old port is the must-have game, then you know your launch is troubled.

But we're not here to talk about the disappointing list of launch titles. Instead we're taking a look at all important cover art. After all, it's the thing that catches your eye in the store. And let me tell you, this Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition box is an eye catcher. I was expecting a reworking of the console box art, but Capcom impressed with a cover that manages to include most of the familiar faces found in the game. I'm not a fan of the three god-like figures hovering over the rest of the cast; it reminds me of a poorly Photoshopped movie poster. That minor complaint aside, this is my favorite Street Fighter IV box art.

Pilotwings Resort (Nintendo)
[ Nintendo 3DS - 2011 - Final Rating: B- ]
It's too early to tell if this Pilotwings Resort box art is indicative of Nintendo's 3DS releases, but I'm hoping that it's not. On one hand, I do like how simple and clean everything is. However, I can't get over that this is nothing more than a huge rip-off of Capcom's early line of PSP games. Titles like Mega Man Powered Up and the Capcom Classics Collection both feature the same style. Both Nintendo and Capcom employ the technique in which the game's action is literally bursting out of the circular window. What's more, both feature the same white background and familiar faces. If it wasn't for the group of Mii characters, I would swear this is Capcom re-releasing their greatest hits.

The idea of flying an airplane or strapping on a jetpack seems like an incredibly fun way to pass some time. So why is it that this cover is so boring? I know this is a casual release (you can beat the game in under two hours), but why does everything look so boring? The Mii characters don't help anything. Gone are the days when developers had to come up with compelling characters (something Nintendo was exceptionally good at), this has been replaced by a cast of do-it-yourself people who lack any real emotion or personality. Then again, the original Pilotwings was never about excitement or fully developed characters, so why start now?

Ridge Racer 3D (Namco)
[ Nintendo 3DS - 2011 - Final Rating: D ]
It wouldn't be a system launch without Ridge Racer. While critics are split on whether this Namco racer is completely necessary, there's one thing nobody is defending: The unacceptably awful cover art! In Namco's defense (and believe me, they need one), it's not easy conveying how cool your 3D technology is on a flat 2D image. Instead of seeing lush backgrounds or an intense race, we're given a single car, neon lights and the smoke of the exhaust. That's it. Imagine how crushed gamers will feel when they tear open the box and discover that you aren't racing in Tron's computer world.

Namco used to be really good at this packaging thing. Do you remember all of those covers with the attractive Ridge Racer girl? Where did she go? Instead we're given a close-up look at one of the many ugly fake cars Namco has come up with. I don't buy Ridge Racer for the fake muscle cars, I liked how sleek and attractive Namco's inventions have been in the past. Yet here we are with a monster that makes me want to divert my eyes. To make matter worse, the cover throws in J.J. Abrams-style lens flair. At least the box art references Phozon, a Namco release I would much rather play right now.

Dead or Alive Dimensions (Tecmo)
[ Nintendo 3DS - 2011 - Final Rating: D- ]
Dead or Alive is the game you bring when there isn't any competition. No offense to the DOA defenders (all dozen of you), but this is not a series that stacks up well against Tekken, Soul Calibur or, in this case, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition. That's not to say it's a bad series, it's not the first choice for amazing 3D fighting. Apparently that also applies to the cover art. Dead or Alive Dimensions has some incredibly cheesy box art ... which is really saying something when you look at the other 3DS boxes. And worst of all, this American cover has been censored! Oh, this isn't going to end well.

So here we have a picture of Kasumi, the golden haired heroine of the Dead or Alive franchise. Not only is Kasumi the favorite character of Team Ninja's founder, Tomonobu Itagaki, but she also acted as the lead character in several games. Here she is strutting her stuff; staying ready for the next time somebody tries to fight her. Despite being having all of the right elements (a high kick and Ninja Gaiden star Ryu Hayabusa) there's nothing exciting about this artwork. It looks like somebody quickly tossed together two pieces of Dead or Alive 3 artwork and called it a day. What's worse is the fact that our American cover is edited. The original Japanese cover proves that America isn't ready to see a woman's inner thigh. You can beat the stuffing out of a bunch of surgically enhanced women, but don't you dare show a little leg on your cover!

Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D
[ Nintendo 3DS - 2011 - Final Rating: D+ ]
This Combat of Giants cover art singlehandedly confirms every worry I had about the Nintendo 3DS. Look, I don't care much for this push for 3D. As far as I'm concerned it's a gimmick that doesn't improve a single thing. Worst of all, half the time it gives me a headache. And I'm not alone; millions of other people are reporting discomfort while watching their movies, TV and games in 3D. Believe it or not, there's actual science to back up why this happens. I'm not going to say that this proves that 3D will never work (and thus we should just stop), but it certainly feels like a major blow to the cause.

Here we have a picture of a T-Rex rushing directly at your face. It's the kind of eye-popping effect you would expect people to be impressed with ... in the 1950s. Yes, this is the kind of gimmicky use of 3D that makes me roll my eyes in disgust. I can see it now: Instead of giving players a fully realized prehistoric world to explore, Dinosaur 3D is going to throw stuff at your face. Ubisoft isn't hoping you'll notice the great gameplay; they want you to be impressed by the T-Rex sticking his head out of Nintendo's brand new portable. Color me unimpressed.
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