Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gaming's Most Misleading Cover Art

My pappy used to say, "You don't judge a book by its cover and get me another beer." I'm not sure why he always thought reading and drinking went hand-in-hand but I got the point. Not that it stopped me from drinking or book cover judging. 
In fact, not only have I been suckered into checking out a book just because of its cover, but I've also been fooled by cleverly designed movie posters, album covers, and of course, videogame box art.
While all packaging is meant to entice a consumer to purchase a product, videogames are the biggest offenders when it comes to misleading people because they tell the biggest lies. When I see an Asia album cover I understand that I'm not going to be hearing songs about giant sea monsters (although that would be cool), but when I see a well designed game cover I expect the graphics to be a little bit more like what I see on the box.  
Gaming is full of misrepresented covers, but the list of the most egregious deceivers has been pared down to the following five games. 

Tomb Raider (Sega Saturn, PlayStation) - Gaming fans have had a crush on Lara Croft ever since Tomb Raider first came out way back in 1996. Sadly her voluptuous figure on the series' first cover (left pic) didn't translate as well in the game. Instead of seeing a brunette Pamela Anderson, gamers were given a woman who looked like she was getting dressed for a guest appearance on Mad Men. Advances in graphics have made Lara much more curvy today, but it took awhile to get the in-game version to look like the box art model.

Combat (Atari 2600) - I like to call chocolate that comes in those heart shaped boxes you get on Valentine's Day "gamble chocolate". You just never know what kind of disgusting flavor you're biting into. Gaming has its own version of thisBack in the 80s stylized box art (like the kind above for the Atari 2600 game Combat) were the norm and misleading as hell, making buying a videogame a crapshoot. Sometimes you'd get lucky and find something fun, other times you'd end up with Combat or E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Grand Theft Auto series (Multiple Platforms) - One of the greatest franchises ever has had a hard time getting its in-game graphics to look even half as good as its artistic box covers and load screens. From CJ's bear claw hands in San Andreas to Claude's boxy silhouette in GTA III, gamers have been left wondering why the outside of the game looks so much different than what they're playing. Thankfully the gameplay in GTA titles is so excellent, nobody seems to mind too much. 

EverQuest (PC) - Think consoles are the only platform that can't deliver on the promise of a sexy box art cover? Oh no, PC gamers have to deal with this problem too. I've always had a fascination with EQ covers, they remind me of the Dungeons & Dragons module books I'd see at comic book stores when I was a kid. Sadly back in 1999 when EverQuest first came out, the mental images created by its box art couldn't match the actual game. 

Final Fantasy series (multiple platforms) - Gaming's biggest deceiver. There's nothing on any Final Fantasy cover, from FF1 to FF 59, that gives gamers a clue as to what they're getting themselves into. Throw in the misleading launch window commercials and its non-sensical (though very pretty) 2001 animated film and no franchise has done more to make gamers think it's one thing while delivering another. 

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