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Cover Critic
Cover Critic Battles January 2012 Games
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on January 17, 2012   |   Episode 78 (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. In this episode we take a look at the big releases of January 2011. We'll take a trip back to Silent Hill, get CHALLENGED by National Geographic, go on a date with Final Fantasy XIII-2, ever die in Never Dead and say something clever about SoulCalibur V. With so many big releases on the way, let's jump right in and see what I have to say about January 2011.
Silent Hill Collection
[ System: PS3/X360 | Company: Konami | Final Rating: C ]
Hey Cole Phelps, I think we have another investigation on our hands. It's a woman in her twenties; found dead with her eyes shut and her mouth wide open. With the exception of this ugly necklace, she's completely naked; found by a couple hikers on their way home. There are marks all along her body and her mascara has started to run, suggesting that she's been crying. Here, let me turn on this overpowering, professional-grade floodlight so you can get a better look. See what I mean? Now let me take a picture and send this to Konami, because they're definitely going to want to use this as the cover of the Silent Hill HD Collection!

Now this is the way to start out a new year, with a washed-out picture of a dead girl. Welcome to 2012, fellas! This is the cover for Silent Hill HD Collection, a disc that packages the two PlayStation 2 era entries into one $40 product. I know that information because this cover shows us the box art of both Silent Hill 2 and 3. It's there just to remind us that this crazy dead girl motif is part and parcel for Konami's survival horror franchise. See, you shouldn't be creeped out by that dead girl's gaping mouth. Instead you should be appalled by Silent Hill 3's even more disturbing artwork. Apparently the Uncanny Valley is on the way to Silent Hill.

National Geographic CHALLENGE!
[ System: PlayStation 3 | Company: Ignition | Final Rating: D+ ]
Ever since its release in 1986, game companies have been trying to recreate the educational success of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Unfortunately, more times than naught, we stuck with Mario is Missing or Elmo's Number Journey. Out of Ms. Sandiego's rotting corpse comes National Geographic CHALLENGE!, the frightening new game starring four crazy Gods as they hover over an unsuspecting world smiting anybody who doesn't know that Gweru is the capital of Zimbabwe. Wait ... no, it's Harare. SHIT!! Don't kill me Indiana Jones lookalike, I promise to never get another useless geographical question wrong. I'll do what you want, just spare me and my family!

Phew ... looks like I dodged a bullet there. If this was the set-up for the next God of War game, then you can count me in. There is nothing I want to do more than smack that grin off of the Underwater God. But alas, this is an E-rated kid's game, so you won't be able to go mano-a-mano against Young Indiana Jones. Even if you can forget the four giant Gods standing over the world, this is still one of the scariest covers I've ever seen on an educational product. Not only is there a missile headed directly at a pyramid, but that zeppelin looks like it could explode at any moment. Take cover, kids, because these four sky Gods aren't going to help you when the mighty blimp kills us all.

Final Fantasy XIII-2
[ System: PS3/X360 | Company: Square Enix | Final Rating: B+ ]
Here's what Square Enix hopes I see in this box art: This is Final Fantasy XIII-2, the sequel nobody asked for to the game most people only kind of liked. We listened to the criticism and have improved this game in every way. It's going to be less linear and offer a more compelling story. Plus we've made everything look a lot better. Just like this simple cover art, which shows a warrior, feathers and the most exciting Final Fantasy logo we've ever come up with. Trust me, this game is going to be classy.

What the box art actually says to me: Hey look, that chick from that Final Fantasy game is going to a formal dance and we're all invited. She brought her armor, so she must expect things to get hairy. But those feathers suggest that she still wants to look feminine, which is really important to your average video game player. I hope this isn't that Final Fantasy rhythm game I've been hearing so much about. Square Enix, you have officially lost your minds!

Never Dead
[ System: PS3/X360 | Company: Konami | Final Rating: F ]
Has anybody ever heard of the game Never Dead? Despite Amazon listing the game's release, I'm not completely sold that this is a real product. Even the girl on the cover seems to be calling to verify that she's actually starring in a real product. I don't blame her; every inch of this box looks sketchy at best. The man she's with looks like he has survived being burned alive five different times, the most recent time being about five minutes ago. Behind her is a large yellow screen and an emaciated character chasing the action. And you better not look down, honey, because those steely mouths are ready to bite.

The name, Never Dead, sounds more like a Greatest Hits album for some 1980s heavy metal band. The yellow background suggests we're either fighting on the sun or in an extremely large SpongeBob Squarepants. Why does he look so torn apart, while she doesn't have a single scratch? Wouldn't it have made more sense to not obscure the hero's gun? And seriously, can't somebody get that emaciated dude in the background a burger? He's not looking to kill you; he just wants to eat something. Suddenly I'm hungry for a banana.

SoulCalibur V
[ System: PS3/X360 | Company: Namco | Final Rating: B ]
After six different "Soul" games (somebody might as well remember Soul Edge/Blade), Namco has finally done the impossible -- they made a weapons-based fighting game look compelling. It's a tough sell; the idea of having two sword-wielding foes battling it out to the death just isn't very interesting, so you can only imagine the problem Namco had with designing cover art. Who knew that all they needed to do was draw an action shot of two warriors about to hit one another? Yet here we are, a fighting game that actually dares to show people going at it.

As exciting as this cover art is (and it's plenty exciting), I can't help but notice Ezio up there in the corner. That's the guy from Assassin's Creed II, which isn't even a Namco property. Much like Darth Vader and Yoda in SoulCalibur IV, Ezio hovers above the action as if to suggest that he's the main character. He's a cameo. That's like putting Bill Murray on the Zombieland poster. If Namco had more faith in their SoulCalibur franchise they wouldn't have to resort to stunt casting to sell their games.


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