Sunday, 15 January 2012

Cover Art: Master System - Part 3

I was supposed to be taking a look at the cover art of some games for a different system next but the first and second parts of this series were pretty popular and I'm quite keen on doing a few more Master System cover comparisons too, partly because it enables me to see some more lovely (and previously-unseen) Japanese cover art but also because those non-Japanese ones are often so amusing! So, here is another selection for your viewing pleasure...

The Ninja (1986)
I guess the name pretty tells you all you need to know about what kind of game this is. Few games involving ninjas are anything but combat games but even so, clearly very little effort was put into the UK/US cover. If it wasn't for the shuriken (and its giant companion in mid-flight), this guy would look more like a medieval executioner than a ninja. The Japanese cover is far more appealing, featuring a good indication of the kind of peril and intrigue our hero can expect as well as an example of the kind of locale in which he can expect to receive it. The main character doesn't look much like the one in the game though...

Double Dragon (1988)
This splendid brawler featured one of the best UK/US covers in my opinion. The logo/title takes up too much space, admittedly, but the image clearly indicates that not only is a street-fighting game, but also makes is fairly obvious that it's a two-player one too. I suppose most scrolling fighting games are two-player but even so - even the characters are good likenesses! The guy on the cover of the Japanese effort, however, looks like someone just yanked his junk! I suppose you would guess from the image that it's a fighting game but it's still perhaps the weakest Japanese Mark III cover I've seen and a rare example of a superior overseas cover.

Enduro Racer (1987)
I suppose neither of these covers are much cop really. Both feature motorbikes as indeed the game itself does, but neither really gives any more clues. You might assume from the Japanese cover that the game is a motocross game - I guess it is in a way - and using a photograph is pretty lazy but you can't get much lazier than the amusingly-bad cover on the left either!

Astro Warrior (1986)
I've always been rather keen on this fine little blaster but my affection for its cover is less enthusiastic! The blue triangular contraption could be an aircraft or a spaceship and it's shooting what could be a pizza or a car steering-wheel. I suppose it does at least tell you that there's shooting involved but just take a look at that fantastic Japanese cover! It clearly features a spaceship (although mainly by virtue of the fact that it's in space than anything else) but it does a superb job of indicating the kind of game that awaits. The long, flat alien base is similar to that in the game and shows that the game is almost certainly going to be a vertical-scroller too. Great stuff!

Spellcaster (1988)
I'm not actually sure which I prefer out of these two - they're both pretty good but obviously feature the kind of artwork most common in their part of the world. So, the overseas version features a fairly serious image of Kane battling some sort of fiery magician dude whilst the Japanese cover predictably uses an anime/manga-style image. I'm not sure how many small naked girls I can recall seeing in the game though. Both covers look pretty nice but I think the UK/US cover actually does a better job of depicting the style of game (although I'm not sure why Kane has a sword - he casts spells in the game, hence Spellcaster!)...

I hope you liked the latest selection! I have a few more MS covers lined up for praise/ridicule but after the next post I really will be moving on to another system... :)


  1. Love Astro Warrior - that name had slipped my mind for years until I saw the cover and write-up. The US covers for Master System games left a lot to be desired. Wonder who came up with the "graph paper" theme?

  2. Good question but they obviously thought it was a good idea - the MegaDrive and Game Gear had similar designs after all! Least these days we get some pretty good covers :)

  3. i like the simple "The Ninja" box art, as well as enduro racer and astro warrior. they are simple and clean designs. i think the colorful stuff makes for great arcade flyers or promo art/magazine ads. that japanese The Ninja game art looks exactly like a hilarious mockup of Archie comics and Jughead. hilarious

  4. Ha! I agree with you completely RE: the guy on the Japanese Double Dragon box, Simon. He looks like someone kicked him wear it counts, as we used to say as kids. Also, pizza is the first thing that came to mind when I glanced at the UK/US Astro Warrior box art. What's up with that??

  5. I've always disliked the PAL MS covers and their graph paper/simplistic designs. I know some people like them but I really prefer my detailed artwork. The Japanese Double Dragon cover does indeed look a bit suspect but I really like the two dragons in the background.

  6. Very nice, I remember the cover of Game Gear games (the white background was gray)

  7. Hi scir91, thanks for your comment :) Someone mentioned about Archie comics on my Facebook page regarding this post but I didn't know what they were talking about, I've never seen the comics in question. Thanks for clearing it up! I guess you're right too - the simple designs do have a certain appeal but they could still be a little better quality :P

    Glad to hear it's not just me, Bryan! :) I think the 'explosion' doesn't help with the design of the Astro Warrior cover - it looks like cheese and pepperoni flying off!

    Hi Mr. Darkstalker :) I know what you mean, I quite like the PAL covers for nostalgic reasons but artistically they're awful. Japanese box art is still fantastic to this day :)

    I remember those too, Marco. The MegaDrive ones were the same but black. I half-expected Saturn games to have another colour of the same design! :|

  8. Nice one. I have never played the game but I do like the look of the cover art on the Japanese version of Astro Warrior.

    Incidentally I am now officially capable of playing Sega Master System Games. I didn`t get a Master System but did get that attachment for the Mega Drive that allows you to play Master System games on it. Can`t wait to start (assuming I can find some games for it!)

  9. Hi Sean, that's great to hear! Does this mean you have to try and track down Japanese Mark III games or can you play 'foreign' MS games on it too? I hope the latter for your sake! :)

  10. I enjoyed reading that and I look forward to future posts in the series!

    scir91 has a point about effective simple designs being striking, but the inescapable truth about these Master System covers is that they are poorly drawn, poorly composed, uninformative and completely fail to achieve their primary goal: to grab the attention of a possible customer; to stand out from the crowd and appeal to the target market.

  11. Cheers Marc :) Yeah, the non-Japan covers are very distinctive and probably stir lots of childhood memories, but artistically they're very poor. You're right, too, that they must've provided little inspiration to pick the game up in a shop and potentially buy it...

  12. Going off subject slightly (but still related), there's a mega-rare 1st edition Sega SG1000 on ebay at the moment! Auction runs for 3 more days and bidding started at £100. A stunning addition to anyone's collection! So how fat is your wallet after xmas and new years sales? :D

  13. That would be a most outstanding addition to any collection :) By the way, you should've made this comment in the 'Exploring the SG-1000' post - it would've been totally on subject then! ;)