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There has got to be a better day of the week, of the year to publish a game called Air Traffic Chaos. Chaos! Of all words, of all days to bring over popular Japanese franchise Air Traffic Controller. Yes, they added “CHAOS” to an airport sim launched on 9/11/08.
Technically it arrived on 9/9/08, but with shipping and stocking and all that stuff, this wasn’t fully at retail until the single worst possible day. Even 9/9 is pushing it – again, you have the entire year to put this out. Couldn’t have waited another week or two? We’ll freely admit Chaos is a decent game, but come on.
On the lighter side, let’s make fun of the box art, which had to have been designed specifically for “Worst Box Art” stories.
1 – Chaos is the largest, most visible thing on the package. Again, airport chaos on or around 9/11 probably isn’t the smartest choice
2 – That airliner is doing a loop. Assume those people are dead
3 – The controller is announcing what he is, on the box, in case the huge title and plain image of an airport wasn’t enough
4 – Despite saying he’s an air traffic controller, his facial expression and nervous sweat drops indicate he’s faking it, which explains problem number 2 AND...
5 - ...the fact that this plane is SIDEWAYS
6 – And he has three fingers on each hand!
Semi-related fact: The first Advance Wars released in the US was on 9/11/01. Yes, the 9/11. Nintendo’s official release dates say 9/9, but that’s a Sunday. Shipping and stocking times (not to mention GR’s ex-retail employees who actually placed the game on store shelves) move that to Tuesday, September 11. Given the absolute hysteria the country was in for a month afterwards, we’re honestly surprised a war sim managed to survive; are we ever glad it did.
In any other environment, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy could have stood out as a prime example of third parties approaching the same level of fun and inventiveness usually reserved for Nintendo. Reviews from across the industry hailed the game as “brilliant,” “epic,” “intoxicating,” “incredible” and “exceptionally well made.” What happened?
Try Jak II (10/14), Prince of Persia (11/6), Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando (11/11), Beyond Good & Evil (11/11) and every other adventure game spilling onto shelves in the fall of 2003. This is the same fall that killed Prince of Persia and BG&E, which were granted extended life thanks to Ubi’s deep pockets and desire to see the Prince live on. Even BG&E attained cult status and is getting a sequel – no such love for Sphinx and his mummy sidekick.
An untested, unknown property already has an uphill struggle during the holiday rush. Put it up against super-heavyweights like Jak and Ratchet, plus the return of Prince of Persia and there’s no hope at all, doesn’t matter how good the game is. Just ask Okami and Psychonauts.
There’s also the possibility the game looked too generic and potentially crappy to unaware shoppers. Given Sphinx’s lackluster copycat design, can’t say we blame ‘em.