Welcome back to Box Art Brawl, the series where we pit regional variations of video game box covers from back in the day against each other in a savage fight to the death. Okay, it isn’t that dramatic – it’s just a poll – but let’s get into the spirit and pretend that the stakes are incredibly high this lovely Sunday afternoon, hmm?
Last week the North American version of Contra III: The Alien Wars run-and-gunned its way all over its Schwarzenegger-stealing Japanese counterpart and its robotic European cousin by winning over 80% of the vote. Congratulations to Jimbo and Sully; commiserations to Arnie, duckface child soldier, RD008 and RC011.
If you thought last week was an all-out guns-blazing brawl, you’re in for a real treat today because bout #20 features the original superstar video game brawler, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 64. Each regional cover contender brings a special something this week, and although they’re obviously related, they’re all unique and special snowflakes, too.
Yes, it’s more than a simple border swap between the North American and European ones today! But which region has what it takes to give the competition a good thrashing, six-o’-the-best, trousers down? Let’s take a look at how they measure up…
After clocking Mario on the left, your eye tends to hover around the middle of the image for a while until it rests on the title and you try to parse the scrawled yellow over the ‘SMASH’ logo. Presumably this was done to reinforce the idea that all these characters are part of a child’s toybox and it’s actually the child who’s responsible for having them beat the living daylights out of each other.
Australia got a PAL cover almost identical to this one. The background is a swirling vortex into which Samus is falling comically after getting ‘BIFFED’ by Fox McCloud. Curiously, both Fox and Pikachu are facing away, and poor old Kirby and Link are hidden behind the red strip on the right. ‘DUKE IT OUT as your favourite Nintendo characters‘ kinda gets lost at the bottom and Yoshi and DK are AWOL.
Overall, despite being playful and colourful, we’re left thinking that more could have been made of this most seminal of gaming crossovers.
Again, the hand-drawn cartoon stylings of the main eight fighters suggests this is something new and exciting, and as with most of the Japanese covers, there’s a novelty for westerners to seeing the portrait perspective. The comic book cells isolate all the main characters, with each one also presenting their names, although they’re obscured here, too. Only Kirby sits on top of everything, waving genially and totally indifferent to the punch from Mario in the cell behind him.
Our instant reaction to this was Yeah, that’s all right!, but the more we look at it, the more of a mess it seems. We like that it isn’t just the eight characters standing and staring at you grimly as they prepare to fight but, again, it seems like a missed opportunity to showcase a pretty momentous moment in gaming. Compare this to something like the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate mural and we’re glad Nintendo relaxed a bit on the comic book/cartoon approach.
Taking similar elements to the North American version and reconfiguring them, we reckon the European version probably showcases the fighters the best. Samus and Fox don’t feature, but the other six fighters are clearly visible. Kirby once again stands apart, seemingly oblivious to the scrap occurring to his right. Yoshi looks to have fired an egg from the very tip of his tail, although DK seems to preoccupied grinning at the camera to be bothered by it, regardless of where it exited the dino.
As usual, the main art is contained by a strict black border, but it’s arguable that the contrast really sets off the action of the brawl with its various ‘SMASH’, ‘BANG’ and ‘BOOM’s. It might have been nie if a few of those had broken the border.
It’s always tough to take nostalgia out of the equation when looking at these covers, but after looking at the others we reckon this does the best job of capturing the spirit of the game, despite its flaws. Still, what we think matters not a jot – the winner of this bout is entirely down to you lovely people.
So, which one do you think works best? Click on the one you like best below and hit the ‘Vote’ button:
And with that Round #20 of Box Art Brawl draws to a close. Thanks for voting – may the best fighter win. Until next time, be excellent to each other.