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Cover Critic
Were Classic Mega Man Covers Better in the U.S. or Europe?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on September 11, 2014   |   Episode 81 (Show Archive)  


In Japan, Rockman never went through an awkward period.
There was always something a little rebellious about Mega Man. Instead of letting The Man tell him what to do, the Blue Bomber chose the path he wanted to take. He was also a thief, stealing his enemy's powers. In fact, his original name, Rockman, was derived from the musical genre that brought us David Bowie, John Lennon and Jim Morrison. And you would be hard pressed to find a bigger rebel than the Lizard King.

Unfortunately, Mega Man's rebellious ways were never captured on the box. This was true in both the United States and Europe, where Capcom tried a number of different art styles before settling on one that worked. To help celebrate Mega Man Week over at Review Crew, we've decided to compare the first five installments to see what country comes out on top. It's America vs. Europe in the Mega Maniest episode of Cover Critic yet.

Note: You can click on any of the pictures to see a larger version of the box art.


First released in 1987, Mega Man has the misfortune of being one of the most famous examples of bad box art. Instead of the cute robot we all know and love, this hero looks like he belongs on the cover of a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. What's more, his yellow suit is straight out of a bad 1970s sci-fi movie. He has an awkward stance and doesn't even look like he knows how to use that gun. Worse yet, the Aztec temple exploding in the background seems like it belongs in a completely different game. If you bought Mega Man back in 1987, it certainly wasn't because of the cover.

Capcom went a completely different direction when it came to the European market. They ditched the insecure Logan's Run extra and turned Mega Man into a kid with a bitchin' gun for an arm. Despite being no more than thirteen, the Blue Bomber (who is actually in blue, unlike the American design) appears to be in the middle of a dark battle for survival. An ominous castle looms in the distance and a ghoulish Dr. Wily keeps his evil eyes on the action below. The sinister tone is only underscored by Mega Man's robot foes climbing out of the mist like zombies. This cover is dark.


After being humiliated by the 1987 cover, Capcom returned with this much better design for Mega Man 2. Although our hero still looks more like a man than machine, this box art goes a long way to stop the bleeding. For starters, Mega Man is finally blue. Plus, this design shows off some of the villains (including Dr. Wily, who is cowering behind Crash Man), as well as a stage that looks like it could be straight out of the game. Mega Man still has an awkward stance, but this design is a marked improvement over the first game.

As America seemed to be getting their act together, Europe was getting further away. From the floating cat head to the skull box on the top of the mountain, this design is absolutely baffling. Even Mega Man has taken a big step backwards, this time decked in silver and not his typical blue. Instead of showing off the large cast of killer robots, this box features a beached fish and a dragon. Is this what you picture when thinking about Mega Man 2? I would love to be part of the focus group that made Capcom go with this confusing artwork.


It took Capcom a few tries, but they finally got Mega Man right. The Blue Bomber has gone from a gun-wielding man to a robot boy with a weaponized arm. He's fighting in a futuristic world where robots are everywhere and the threat of Dr. Wily's evil castle is very real. But even though all of this violence and despair should be frightening, this Mega Man 3 artwork never feels too dark. Our hero appears to be having a good time, and for good reason. With his trusty sidekick, Rush, waiting in the wings, Mega Man will be able to take on whatever challenge gets in his way.

Taking a cue from the American box art, Capcom went a slightly friendlier direction for the European release of Mega Man 3. Our hero is no longer a human, but rather a childish anime character. Gone is all of the dark imagery from the first two boxes, replaced instead with cute caricatures of the eight robot foes. And don't forget Rush, who stands by Mega Man through the worst of times. Unlike the American artwork, this design features a cameo by Mega Man's brother, Proto Man. We also get a glimpse of Dr. Wily, who looks almost exactly like Heihachi from Tekken.


After all the excitement of Mega Man 3, this design is a major letdown. Although I'm not a huge fan of the boring orange sky and cliff side location, the real problem with this box art is the troubling scale. Forget that the two neighboring planets appear to be mere seconds away from recreating the incredible final moments of Melancholia, I'm confused by how large Pharaoh Man is supposed to be. We see him standing in the distance atop a large castle, which would make him hundreds of feet tall. I don't know what Mega Man is shooting at, but it seems like the Godzilla-sized robot throwing fireballs would be a little more important.

At first glance, this European cover looks exactly the American box. But look closer, because you'll notice that Capcom opted for a slightly more anime look. The big change here is that Mega Man is no longer smirking. This is guy on a mission, and whatever it is he's shooting at off screen is not going to get in the way. Still, I can't help but feel like artwork goes against the futuristic themes of the series. Even Pharaoh Man's stage, a deadly mix of caverns and quicksand, features advanced technology. This cover suggests Mega Man becomes a time traveler, which simply isn't the case.


Mega Man returns to the future with yet another exciting cover featuring robots, electricity, satellite dishes and lots of metal. Our hero remains largely unchanged from Mega Man 4, but does seem to have picked up the ability to neutralize electricity by simply holding out his hand. Besides the Blue Bomber, this cover also features Proto Man in the distance and Gravity Man, the only one of Wily's bosses to make the box. Although a step up from the Mega Man 4 design, this artwork feels like it's simply going through the motions. At least in that sense, it's a lot like the game it's promoting.

Once again, the European box looks a lot like the American design at first glance. But don't be fooled, because there are subtle changes to all of the characters on the cover. In keeping with tradition, Mega Man has a slightly more anime look, with larger eyes and no nose. Gravity Man and Proto Man have also been altered ever so slightly. The odd change is the green orb in the sky, whose eyes have clearly been revised between versions. While not a bad design, I expected more from the continent that brought me a floating cat head and robot apocalypse.


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