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5 Best and Worst Examples of Video Game Box Art

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One of my favorite parts about video games, collecting them, and playing them is looking at the art included with the whole package. Your first impression of a game is likely going to be the first part of the package you see, the box art. With thousands of games comes as many examples of box art, and it ranges from artistic genius to as bad as a five year old’s first photoshop. While everybody else is doing their Top Games of 2014 I wanted to do something different. Those that have read me since my earlier blogging days know that most of my lists are usually different from the rest. I want this holiday special to be no different. In no particular order here are five examples of the best, and worst examples of video game box art!

Worst

We’ll start with the worst first, since these are usually hilarious and you’ll get all your gut wrenching laughter out of your system before we get super serious with the great examples of good box art.

Black Belt

I think Sega was trying to convey minimalism with this game, but with such a poorly drawn foot it ends up looking like a toddler’s doodle of daddy’s crusty toes. A positive I have about this example is that you do in fact kick people with your foot in the game, so it gets a few points for being relatively accurate. Sega’s Master System is littered with pieces of awful box art, but there are plenty of great pieces in the libraries as well. Don’t let this one example sour your opinion of a great system.

Bomberman

This one is a double whammy. The Turbo-16 art is pretty awful, but so is the NES art as well! I love how the NES box claims that ‘Nearly 1 million sold in Japan.’ I know the gaming market was smaller back then, but nearly could make one think that its not good enough to be more than a million! Also, the actual word “Bomb!” is used as a sound effect. The Turbo art looks like it could be a buddy comedy about two older and out of shape terrorists trying to get back into the game of blowing stuff up. So they dress up in space outfits and start chucking old tyme bombs all over the city to let the young’uns know who’s still in charge!

Rival Turf

Nothing makes me more frightened than seeing a couple of suburban 90’s kids looking so tough. This is their turf, so you best back off!

Tongue of the Fatman

How many of you reading this could tell, just by looking at the cover of this game, that Tongue of the Fatman is a fighting game? Not only is it a fighting game, but it is a fighting game for various PC systems. Prepare for awful keyboard controls and disgusting character design. There’s no reason at all to play this.

Metro Cross

Remember when I mentioned a five year old’s first photoshop? I wasn’t joking, not entirely at least. Metro Cross is the punchline. For trying to be rad and extreme there is entirely too much safety equipment on this piece of art. Remove your knee and elbow pads chump, we can discuss the blue and orange turtleneck one piece suit afterwards.

Best

Now that you’ve gotten your laughter from these awful, but in some cases hilarious out of your system, check out these pieces and get ready for an awe inspiring tale of talent, vision, and good planning.

Time Soldiers

Consider this the Master System’s redemption. I love the art on this cover, and the game inside is quite fun if you dig Commando or Ikari Warriors. My favorite detail about this art is not just the tank and the dinosaur trying to get through the time portal at the same time, nor is it the guy firing his bazooka at the visible time portal. No, the best detail is the guy firing his bazooka towards the viewer, alluding to the fact that there is something just off to the side that is just as intimidating as a T-Rex and a tank that we can’t see. You have to play the game to find out!

Ys Book I & II

And here is the Turbo’s redemption. These Ys remakes are considered to be the killer apps of the Turbo CD here in North America. They were highly regarded critically upon release, and had some of the best CD quality audio in video games for its time. The soundtrack has held up well, so go give it a listen. This cover makes me think this is a long lost Dio era Rainbow album. I am not disappointed that its not.

Wasteland

There is no other box like Wasteland’s, well except for Wasteland 2’s. Wasteland is considered to be one of the all time classics of PC role playing games, and introduced the gamers for the platform to a post apocalyptic view of the American Southwest. The idea and the setting would be used as the groundwork for a spiritual successor almost a decade later in the more popular series Fallout. No other game at the time took the perspective of the game, in this case top down, and made such a wonderful piece of art for their product.

System Shock 2

Looking Glass Studios is one of my favorite developers of all time. It was loaded with talent that produces some of the most well loved games today, and when it came to quality they were almost unrivaled on their native PC platform. These green eyes and the circuit wiring on the face, with the wires protruding to each side, let alone the space ship on the bottom, just let the viewer know that they are in for a wild science fiction ride.

Awesome

Just look at everything Psygnosis. That’s my advice. I don’t know what to say other than the word that’s already the title of the game.

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Spooky Plays: Fatal Frame

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Before I get started I just want to say that Fatal Frame is absolutely NOT based on a true story. The producer of the series has gone on record to say that the story is based on two Japanese urban legends and ghost stories, so it is certainly not true at all. This was a marketing slogan that was slapped on the cover for Western Markets. In Japan it was released as Zero, with Project Zero being the European title. The game was developed and published by Tecmo in Japan and the USA, with Europe being quite a mess with system exclusive publishers.

You start the game controlling Mafuyu Hinasaki, who is investigating the disappearance of his mentor, author Junsei Takamine. Junsei went to the Himuro Mansion to do research for his latest project with a couple of assistants. Not all is as it seems in the Himuro Mansion, and it soon becomes clear that the dark rituals performed here are more than mere rumors. Its not long before Mafuyu ends up getting entangled in the strange happenings around this ancient mansion that seems to pay heed to much darker Shinto rituals than most would want the outside world to know.

Mafuyu’s sister Miku then enters the game as the main character. She’s out to find her brother, but soon discovers the story and fate of the author’s team, and even a family that moved in after the Himuro clan suddenly died out. Mafuyu discovers that an antique camera, called the Camera Obscura, given to him by his mother has the power to exorcise ghosts, and Miku soon takes it up to use as her only weapon against the ghosts inhabiting Himuro Mansion.

This opens up a unique style of combat that is thrilling and pretty much shoves the chilling and in some cases nightmarish ghost design. Some of these images will stick with you for quite some time, don’t be surprised if they pop up in your dreams after a long night at work. Miku looks through the camera, and the game shifts from the normal fixed and panning camera angles straight into first person mode. Miku must then focus the camera on the ghost and take pictures to damage it. There is a bar that charges up with energy the longer you look at the ghost, attacking when this is fully charged deals more damage. Attacking while the ghost is charging you and with full energy deals even more damage and gives a huge bonus!

The Camera Obscura can be upgraded from the Spirit Points you gain by fighting ghosts. The ghosts get harder and harder to fight as you move through the game, so these upgrades and extra skills you can unlock can become wonderfully helpful. You can upgrade the damage radius, speed of energy charging, and damage output. The Camera also runs on film that is its ammunition. There are four levels of film, with each stronger one having a more limited supply, and there’s no shop in this game. Determining when to use what type of film is a good idea, blowing through all your powerful film early can kill you when you need it the most.

The ghosts never seem to be too overwhelming. Many of them are fought at specific points in the game, and are impossible or extremely difficult to escape normally. Random ghosts pop up in some locations if you spend too long wandering aimlessly trying to find your next goal. Unlike some other horror games like Clock Tower and Haunting Ground, these random ghosts are useful to hoard some points for upgrading, and most of them are rather harmless once you figure out their patterns.

The game is separated into four different chapters. Each chapter is one night. These nights all have their own self contained stories, but these work to build up the overarching story about the rituals and people involved in the old ways. Each night also introduces new enemies and unlocks more of the mansion to explore. Some old areas will have new items and events in them as well, so there is some backtracking, but you are rewarded for it so it never feels like wasted time.

In my experience its rare for a horror game to really grab you by its story. Most seem to run on atmosphere, tension, quick scares, puzzles, or just good mechanics, but the story is usually lackluster. Fatal Frame has everything that a great horror title needs. There is a reason for the main characters Mafuyu and Miku to be in Himuro Mansion, they have a purpose! They’re not just dropped into this environment against their will and forced to deal with it. The story unfolds slowly but keeps you eager to move forward, and each night has a defined ending, with the next night starting Miku in a new or old room with more to discover and explore, and new ghosts to exorcise!

Spooky Plays: D

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Welcome back to a world of horror and fright. You may remember last year when I did a review of a game that not many would think of when pondering the options to step into a good atmosphere that sends chills down spines and squeals up throats. Thief: The Dark Project was that game, and the horror came from the masterpiece’s years spent in development hell when its focus was changed about a half dozen times. Well, if you want to read more about that game check it out right here: https://whydidiplaythis.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/unexpectedly-spooky-thief-the-dark-project/ . In contrast to a jumbled mess of juxtaposed design and experimentation that somehow worked brilliantly, this year I bring you D. Just D. The letter D. No more. No less. D.

D is a horror puzzle game developed by WARP and published by Acclaim. It was originally created and released on the 3DO, but given the system’s less than stellar sales records, the game was ported over to Sega’s Saturn and Sony’s Playstation, as well as DOS in the Western markets. In Japan, the Saturn release was a smash hit, debuting at the top of the sales chart. Acclaim insisted on porting it over to the other consoles themselves, and localizing it for the international market. The Saturn port was also successful on the sales charts in the West despite that console’s lukewarm reception. Sadly, Sony did not manufacture enough copies to even dream of satisfing pre-order demands for the Playstation release, and few more were ever produced. This leads to the oddity of the Saturn version being the easiest to find in the US. There’s not too much difference in price between the two though, Saturn averages out to be cheaper. The 3DO version stands up as the hardest to find and most expensive release. I blame this on the fact that searching for just “D” leads to so many other results that its annoying to find this specific game for any of its systems.

The game’s development is a wonderful tale in and of itself, with Kenji Eno going to extreme lengths to keep the real story of the game hidden, even from his coworkers, in an attempt to sort of cheat his way into a publishing deal. He made the game appear more like it was a clean cut adventure game with high quality graphics, not unlike Myst before it. Since Kenji Eno personally visited manufacturers in the USA to switch out his clean version from the real version he also bypassed any possibility of censorship.

Even today the horror imagery and well detailed (for the time) art design and environments stand out among its peers in the genre. Where Resident Evil would release after this game and rely on bad voice acting and jump scares, D does an excellent job of instilling a creepy atmosphere around the player and the young woman you control, WARP’s digital actress Laura Harris.

One interesting way that this atmosphere was achieved is a design choice that forces the player to sit and play the game. There is no saving or pausing. You have two hours of real time to finish the game from start to ending. That may seem like a short time, but I ended up being about ten minutes shy of beating it when I first played it. The second time was the charm for me.

One of the reasons you might get stopped and take a bit longer to finish the game is the puzzle design. Its quite reminiscent of point and click adventure games, but given its short length, most of these puzzles lack the depth or insane difficulty of some PC adventure games that are similar to D’s presentation. The exploration and movement works well for being limited to a controller. The odd part about the game’s movement design is that some rooms have paths that go all over the place. One example of this is in one of the bedrooms. You’ll step inside and be looking at a painting, and you can only walk towards this painting at first. Later you’ll need to get into a table to the right of the painting, but to get to the table from the painting you have to turn left, walk to the other door, then turn and step to the bed, turn to the left again, and then step forward to the table. You can’t just turn right when you’re already standing next to the table.

The game certainly feels aged though. Compared to other horror games its quite tame. As you play you’ll find the atmosphere is where the real tension is, and there are some creepy images and unexplained phenomena throughout this mansion Laura finds herself in. The occasional dessicated corpse catches her by surprise, and a wall of spikes early in the game might be only real jump scares in the game, but none of them are harmful. This game did influence later titles when it comes to presentation though. D’s unexpected success in all markets is simultaneously a beginning and an ending, as slower FMV puzzle games were nearing their twilight. D’s future influence lies in its tight artistic designs, well produced visuals, and its use of sound to create a setting and experience that will stick to the player. Its length actually helps it in this case. Since the game is so short everything that happens gets stuck in your mind, and you’ll rarely find yourself scratching your chin trying to remember something like you might with a long winded RPG or even other horror games!

If you have about $20-40 burning up your pocket or paypal balance, and you want a good, creepy experience that doesn’t require a long term commitment, then D is a fantastic purchase.

Unexpectedly Spooky! Thief: The Dark Project

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[Originally posted: October 30th, 2013]

Greetings Ghouls ‘n Ghosts! I am back and bringing you a spooktacular with a game that at first glance, should not be an experience that delivers goosebumps and stiff hairs. So, why does a game remembered as a stealth/action game have such a creepy atmosphere?

Thief: The Dark Project is a game that spent such a long time in development that it is rather surprising it came out to be such a great game and experience. Other games which spent so long in development include such well remembered classics like Daikatana, Duke Nukem Forever, and Aliens: Colonial Marines.

Thief stars who else than a master thief by the name of Garrett in an unnamed medieval/magical/steampunk metropolis simply called ‘The City.’ Garrett is a former Keeper, masters of stealth and the keepers of ancient tomes and knowledge. But, now he’s a freelance thief who finds himself caught up in a supernatural plot.

So, what makes this game spooky? As a result of its long development it went through many early builds and re-writes before the game was really built. The Dark Project was its final working title, and at times could have become a first person swords and sorcery action RPG involving communist zombies. The developers added stealth elements and realized that sneaking by the enemies was more fun than trying to fight everybody.

True story: the design team was inspired towards the stealth model by everybody’s favorite submarine simulation, Silent Service. In the final game Garrett is an unstoppable force of sticky fingers while hidden or in the shadows, when exposed you must be a master of the combat system or face certain death.

Some of the inspiration from the early zombie idea was left in the final product, these are known as the Monster Levels. The game goes through a cycle every two or three levels, one type of level being a human based level, the other being one of the monster levels. The monster levels include useless zombies and quite a few more original monster designs.

Most of the creepy feelings and moments come not from the actual encounter of the monsters though, but the suspense built up by Eric Brosius’ sound design and music compositions.

Sadly, Thief’s sequels broke away from the horror inspired monster levels, being all but non-existent in Thief II: The Metal Age. There is a throwback towards The Dark Project’s horror levels in the third Thief game, Deadly Shadows. It may just be one of the single greatest levels in the history of level based gaming. The Shalebridge Cradle…

So, the next time you’re itching for a midnight gaming experience to enjoy in the dark, fire up Thief Gold, the total expanded version of the main game, turn out the lights, put your headphones on and immerse yourself in The City.

Retro Video Game Christmas Commercials: The 90’s

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I am a child of the 90’s, a love child. This was the age of Mode-7, Blast Processing, 3D, Playstation, and encompasses the rise and fall of Sega. So let’s take a look at as many Christmas commercials from the 90’s as we can possibly fit on our monitor.

Nintendo

What exemplifies the early 90’s more than the constant playground war of Nintendo vs. Sega? So it makes perfect sense for retailers to pick one side of the other in this argument or face everybody’s wrath!


Gee, would you look at the time? I missed the memo that I must write in rhyme! When it comes to your games, Sears has them all days. In the front or the back, come buy your new cartridge pack, and play the kiosk in store to curb your hunger for more.

Seriously, Sears kicked ass in the 90’s for gamers. What the hell happened?


This is just amazing, if there is one piece of media that makes me remember what it was like being a kid in the 90’s it is this right here. Entitlement of youth, grungy attitudes, snarky remarks, and a desire to sit down and play video games. I like how the rhyme goes, “South Park will be fine,” as if they’re just settling for it. “Yeah I’ll take it, but I really wanted Mystical Ninja you dumbass parents!”


A nice, generational war, of course. Then as soon as the douchey 90’s teens find out that grandpa likes to roll with some Tetris they decide that old folk aren’t bad. If grandpa’s hearing aid worked he might learn that Tetris was made by a dirty Communist!

Sega

So those were some pretty entertaining commercials from Nintendo’s side of the ring. But does Sega always do what Nintendon’t? Can they top the Big N and encourage people to buy any of the 3 systems they released in the 90’s? How about the add-ons?


Sega advertising at its finest, if you want your kid to be the cool kid on the block then go out and buy him a Sega Genesis for Christmas, then every kid in the city will want a piece of that Blast Processing action.


As a constant follower of Midget Wrestling this is one of the quickest ways to grab my attention, and they have good taste in video games since they just made a ton of money selling the game to Sega, somehow.

Ok, now let’s move away from North America for a moment and take a look at what Sega brought out for their Japanese commercials.


This may very well be the greatest thing I have ever laid eyes on. I am going to perpetuate the story of Segata Sanshiro as Santa Claus to my children, citing this commercial as definitive proof. If you’re unfamiliar with Segata Sanshiro and why he helped the Saturn dominate the Japanese sales charts then just check out this playlist.

Word of warning, the American Saturn commercials are weird as all hell, and incredibly frightening in some cases. Search at your own risk.

Sony
A newcomer on the scene of home video game hardware in the mid 90’s, Sony and their Playstation quickly rose to global dominance and kept its grip firm for over a decade. Is it because their commercials were great?


Yes, yes they were. Oh that sound and the PS logo really take me back, excuse me while I nostalgia-gasm all over my room. Again, this commercial shows what the 90’s was all about, trying to find your own voice, going against the grain, and supporting Bill Clinton.


What’s awesome about this commercial is that everything the singers say about Crash Bandicoot: Warped is 100% factual. This is one of the greatest parodies of a Christmas carol I’ve ever heard, I might start singing it this year. I feel bad for Canadians though, $50 for a new PS1 game and its already $10 off? Man, you guys will hate when I say brand new PS1 games in the States were $40. What was the exchange rate in 1998? Tell me Crabby!

Let’s head back to the Land of the Rising Sun.


Crash Bandicoot and PaRappa walk up to a random guy bearing Christmas gifts, just another thing to add to my list of things to experience before I die. Cosplayers, make this happen!


Kick! Punch! its all in the mind.

Well that about does it for the nostalgic video game Christmas commercials. I will be going on a small hiatus until 2013 rolls around. Until then, please share if you’ve enjoyed this post and my others, comment with feedback, and hit that follow button on the sidebar. SirPsycho out!

Retro Video Game Christmas Commercials: The 80’s

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The 80’s were a much simpler time for video gaming, especially the earlier you go. The same can be said for the advertisements for said video games and their consoles. Since we’re getting so close the holiday that most exemplifies consumerism and capitalism, let’s take a look at what some video game manufacturers and/or retailers aired during commercial breaks and give them a quick analysis.

Atari
These early commercials were just as cliched as other commercials at the time, and as simple as the games they were advertising, maybe a sign of American advertisers and their constant safe bet of mass market appeal.


Oh man, I’m so sorry. I fell asleep watching this because of BOREDOM.


These Atari commercials would be so much more entertaining with Billy Mays. “HI BILLY MAYS HERE AND YOU SHOULD BUY ATARI 2600 VIDEO GAMES! CHECK OUT STAR RAIDERS, SWORDQUEST, MS. PAC-MAN AND OTHERS AT PAY N’SAVE TO GET CRAZY CHRISTMAS DEALS! IF YOU GO SHOPPING TODAY YOU’LL RECEIVE A BOTTLE OF ORANGE GLO FOR FREE!

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!”


We agreed to never speak of this incident again! No seriously I am contractually obligated to never mention ET for the Atari 2600 ever. Screw the contract, this is the most hellish, torturing commercial for any Atari fan that could possibly exist. They should have buried the commercials in the desert with the games! That said its still a boring as hell advert.

Colecovision

Come buy a Colecovision and a bunch of random games from Hills for your lovely Christmas. Also buy Atari and Intellivision games because we love to namedrop and we need to LIQUIDATE EVERYTHING FOR THE HOLIDAYS WHOOOO!

Nintendo
When Nintendo was on the scene the Wild West days of the 70’s and early 80’s was over. There was a new sheriff in town and they weren’t going to let anybody rustle their cattle.


Hi, I’m Target and I paid Aretha Franklin a lot of money to sing a little jingle and appear in this Nintendo commercial. SHOP HERE PLEASE! That said this is much better than the early 80’s fare, Aretha Franklin and her amazing voice keeps my attention and really puts me in the Christmas spirit. I like this one a lot.


Oh man if I was a kid in the late 80’s, instead of being an infant when this commercial came out, I would have made my parents buy so much Pepsi. In fact I should have a new endorsement contract coming out since I ended the other one.

Pepsi can template Crystal Pepsi

Stay tuned later this week to see what happened when the 90’s came into being.

Why Did I Play This? Going Biblical

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A nice way to end the year would be sitting down, watch Die Hard once or twice, play some good games, visit friends and family, and enjoy the time off from work. So I decide to do none of that for now and instead do everything in my power to cause myself pain.

Today we look at The Bible Game, a late life Xbox and PS2 budget title that is a game about the Holy Bible. I am joined by a close friend, but only sharp eyes will be able to notice his appearance!

If, like me, you crave for a longer experience then have no fear! Episode 10 will hopefully be out a month from now, and will be a full review of an ancient RPG. Until then keep your eyes posted on my blog, Twitter, and Facebook, and don’t forget to like and subscribe!

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