I have followed Binary Domain closely since first being impressed by a demo and extended trailer at Tokyo Game Show 2011. My take-away-gift, Binary Domain biro has sat at the base of my PC monitor ever since, serving as a constant reminder of the imminent arrival of Toshihiro Nagoshi’s latest and my love of themed pens. Subsequent trailers and a re-run of the TGS demo on PSN and Live have further fuelled my desire to play BD. Unfortunately, my excitement has been tempered by one of the worst front covers in recent memory.
Never in a million years would the uninitiated pick up a copy in a bricks and mortar store and think to themselves: “This looks like a quality game. I’ll buy it!” The cover art gives the distinct impression of bargain bin fodder, even if the game inside still looks very promising.
When it comes to atrocious cover art, Binary Domain need not stand alone. A quick search through my collection and a spot of Googling turned up the following blots on the gaming landscape.
1. Mega Man
In his first outing, Mega Man didn’t look much like your typical superhero. He has Chun Li’s thighs, but unlike the Chinese brawler he also has the misfortune of being bow-legged, forced to scuttle around like a hideous blue and yellow crab. He has no neck to speak of and is cursed with permanent 80’s shoulder pads. To make matters worse, he appears to be stuck on a futuristic beach holiday, complete with floating yellow Smarties. I’d also wager that, going by his facial expression, he has managed to shit himself. Worst holiday ever.
2. ICO (US Box Art)
The poster child of unfortunate cover art looks even worse when held against the artwork that graced the Europe and Japanese release. The iconic PAL/NTSCJ cover drew inspiration from the works of Giorgio de Chirico, celebrated painter and founder of the scuola metafisica art movement, whereas the US artwork closely resembles something someone in IT might cobble together in MS Paint. It also makes a prominent feature of that bloody stick. Ughhh.
3. Ai - Cho Aniki
Believe it or not, this is one of the more conservative covers for everyone’s favourite homoerotic and surreal side-scrolling shooter series, but was one of the few examples I could find a decent sized picture of. I have no idea what kind of creature is bungeeing in from top right, but he looks well up for joining in the horseplay. We can at least be thankful that the brothers’ head orifices are clear, instead of being filled with flower arrangements, bright red lasers and other decorative items they love to shove in there.
4. Imagine: Party Babyz
This reminds me of university house parties that I’d attend on the off chance they'd be fun. You are invited by an acquaintance, but are worried that you won’t know anyone else and agonize over whether or not to attend. Eventually you decide to join the party, as it will probably be more fun than writing an essay on medieval agriculture. It seems like a relatively good idea until you get through the front door, spot a couple of giant babies and realise your mistake. Party Babyz captures that uncomfortable moment that proceeds planning your escape, avoiding prolonged eye contact and wondering what kind of imbecile would give a toddler a plate of steaming hot paella. You also can’t help but notice that the head baby has the same legs as Mega Man.
5. Tecmo Super NBA Basketball (Japan version)
The following conversation may or may not have occurred at Tecmo HQ, circa 1992.
Executive A: We need a cover that captures the excitement of the NBA game. Something that convinces the consumer that the most exciting US sport has finally and successfully been brought to home consoles.
Executive B: Ok. How about we have one the league’s premier superstars, the Clipper’s Loy Vaught, front and centre? Also, let’s make a feature of Clyde Drexler’s bald spot.
Executive A: That sounds great. And let’s have Mr Vaught short-arming the most exciting shot in basketball: the lay-up.
Executive B: The NBA is fantastic.