Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Cover Art: PC Engine - Part 2

Despite my promise in the last post of this nature that more instalments would soon be forthcoming, it's actually taken me over a year to get around to doing it. Oops! Nonetheless, retro game cover art remains a subject in which I have much interest and the PC Engine and TurboGrafx-16 feature some of the very best and very worst examples, usually respectively! Here's another selection of both types:

Legendary Axe (1988)
This classic hack 'n' slasher was among the PC Engine's very first releases back in the late 80's and its Rastan-inspired platform/combat action went down a treat with curious gamers of the time. The covers of both versions are actually fairly similar for a change, featuring a brave barbarian-like hero facing a giant spider (which does feature in the game), but ironically, in a reversal of the usual trend, it's the Japanese cover which is more serious while the US version is a little more cartoonish (though still slightly scary, even though the spider's head looks more like an ant's). They're pretty good though, and both must've piqued the interest of potential buyers.

Chan & Chan (1987)
Good old Kato-chan and Ken-chan. Their otherwise fairly generic and uninspiring platformer was raised to 'must-have' status in the day, thanks almost exclusively to its unusual characters and lashings of toilet humour. The eye-catching Japanese cover features two suitably goofy-looking main characters but for some reason dresses them like detectives while adding some sinister characters around them. The American version of the game was unsurprisingly censored, with much of the fart and pee jokes gone, and the characters were replaced with 'JJ & Jeff' as well - two 'cool' looking game-show hosts types. Mock as I might though, but the US cover, while more unpleasant to the eye, does paint a more realistic picture of the actual game. Still play the Japanese version if you have a choice...

Splatterhouse (1990)
Lord have mercy, what do we have here? Namco's gruesome scrolling beat 'em up has never been far from controversy and even here it stands out from the crowd by being one of the only PC Engine/TurboGrafx games to have a superior cover for its US release! The Japanese game features our hero, as expected, but the background, or at least the part that's not taken up by the yellow panel, is quite poor, and the artwork in general is not of the high standard we've come to expect from Japanese games on... well, pretty much any system really. The US cover is darker, more serious, and much more forboding - appropriate for a game like this - and is even devoid of the trademark border that most US covers have. A rare point to the TurboGrafx owners this time then...

PC Kid (1989)
Whether intentional or not, PC Kid (as he was known here in the UK) was quickly adopted as the Engine's mascot and his first game was superb. His distinctive noggin features prominently on both covers but, after Legendary Axe's brief deviation, we're back to the Japanese version being the more jovial and cartoony of the two, and it's also by far the most appealing, managing to squeeze in some primeval landscapes and even an amusing dinosaur. The US cover is composed almost entirely of rock, which is appropriate I guess, but also doesn't really leave room for much else. Plus, his US incarnation looks like that Last Airbender fartknocker and is thus automatically worse. No contest this time!

R-Type (1988)
Okay, I know the Japanese version of this Irem classic was released on two separate HuCards while the US version wasn't, so the latter should surely be the superior release, but based purely on the covers the US game is an embarrassment to the great name! Whilst featuring a fairly realistic version of those metal arm things from the first stage, it also looks very amateurish to me, especially the awful-looking R9 fighter. The two Japanese covers use the correct font and both feature superb illustrations taken directly from the game and are therefore awesome. I personally prefer the R-Type II cover though, even if the first one does feature the iconic Dobkeratops!

Look out for some more fantastic/dull/scary/horrifying PC Engine and TurboGrafx-16 covers soon!


  1. Well, I can't disagree with anything you've said here, Simon--other than 'thanks for making me appreciate Splatterhouse's North American box art,' I mean. Seriously, I'd never given it much thought before, but upon closer consideration I have to say you're right that it's not only superior to its Japanese counterpart but also pretty darn nice on its own.

  2. Cheers Bryan :) It's actually a little chilling - just what a game like that should be!

  3. What about 'Gods' from the Bitmap Bros :)
    pic of that up on my Twitter: https://twitter.com/P_Hubbs
    Awesome cover.

    I love R-Type, Speedball 2, Chaos Engine.

  4. R-Type is indeed amazing Marco! :)

    Phil, you're right - the gaming world is full of splendid cover art, as well as some less splendid examples of course. I remember the Gods cover well but it would need a PC Engine and TurboGrafx version to fit into this post :P