Some countries just do things better
than other countries. America exports films and fast food; France is famous for its wine and snooty red berets; Cuba has cigars and dudes named Castro. And Japan, in addition to many other feats of geek-related awesomeness, can claim the coolest and most creative videogame box art in the world.
You've seen cover comparisons before, of course, but have you ever wondered exactly what makes the Japanese versions so preferable? Or why gamers are constantly complaining about the mangled translations? We did, and after scouring through hundreds of examples, we discovered these nine undeniable trends.
Game covers are usually pretty predictable. Is it a shooting game? Put a gun on the front! Is it a cartoon action game? Make sure to include a wacky animal with saucer-sized eyes! How about a kids' game? Eh, just throw together a bunch of shiny, candy colors.
In Japan, they take chances. Strange and wonderful chances. The kids' title is marketed with images of healthy food and kitchen utensils. The cartoon actioner gets a photo of a foot. Yes, a foot. The shooter is sold with nothing more than a naked man, curled into a decidedly un-badass position.
Ironically, these bizarre scenes are actually much more accurate to the game experience than their Western counterparts.
Guess what? Having fun is not necessarily a bad thing. Being happy is sometimes rather pleasant, really. Japanese developers understand this mysterious truth, but while they keep trying to export their eternally sunny characters to us, we just keep transforming them into gloomy, moody tough guys. And when we send over our own short-tempered mascots, they're forced to give them a makeover, lest our incessant misery rub off on any innocent Japanese children.
Hmm. In this case, we'll take the adorable Pikmin family, posing and waving, over the terrifying taxidermal lineup on the Japanese cover.
Ah, the disembodied head. So helpful. So necessary! Without those inexplicably hovering faces, how would we ever know whether the game has characters or not? Without that eye contact, how would we ever be convinced to buy?
Japanese box art assumes that things like lightsabers, spaceships, fighter planes and school girls will be enough. How naïve.
Eternal Sonata or Trusty Bell: Chopin's Dream? You have to admire that direct of a title, but points off for the lazy, probably last-minute addition of a drifting cloud head. Hey everyone, there's a girl in here!
Okay, you'd think this would be simple. If you've got a game about dragons, you put friggin' dragons on the cover. Zombies? Zombies! Superheroes? Superheroes!
If you've got a game featuring both fantasy adventure and knockoff Bejeweled gameplay, you highlight the former and not the latter. If you've got a game about sweaty, shirtless men wrestling in their backyards, you lie and put a picture of half naked women on the front. Simple, see?
Whatever the hell your game is about, do not emphasize two balding middle-aged men on the box. If you must, at least don't force us to stare into the depths of every scar and wrinkle. Yuck.