Saturday, September 04, 2010

Box Art - Panzer Dragoon in USA and Japan

One of the key reasons - out of many - the Sega Saturn failed in the West was because of the hideous box designs and illustrations.  In America, Sega used their hideously large plastic Sega CD boxes
, which must have been a serious challenge for the designers and illustrators.  Legend has it that this decision was made because the company manufactured so many Sega CD cases, expecting that peripheral to become a smashing success.  Obviously, that didn't happen.

The cover designs for the early Saturn games followed the aesthetic of Sega's other consoles at the time, with the system named in large letters on the side.  This was never a good decision, and I was never a fan of the red Genesis boxes.  I much prefer the older design, with the black grid and Genesis logo, laid over a VHS box.  At least those games could fit into your media library comfortably.  The Sega CD and Saturn cases just stood out.

Do I really need to say anything about the cover illustration for Panzer Dragoon?  Of course not.  It was terrible in 1995 and it's terrible today.  To me, this says, "rush job," and that probably was the truth.  Remember that Sega of America rushed Saturn to market several months early, in a desperate bid to stop the building momentum for Sony's Playstation, which at the time had ALL the buzz.  Playstation was the hot new thing and all game players knew it.  And Sega was burning its reputation into the ground with all those crummy machines.  32X felt like a mugging.  Yuck.

 Now let's look at the Japanese cover for Panzer Dragoon, and it's wonderful.  Notice that Sega Japan used CD cases, which would soon become the industry standard.  It's far more economical and compact, it fits on your shelf perfectly, and allows illustrators more freedom to create.

This cover was drawn by famed French artist Moebius, whose work was a great influence on Panzer Dragoon.  You can see his influence on all three PD games on the Saturn.  This is a rich world, full of mysteries and secrets that the games themselves only reveal in small pieces.  You can see the vast potential for future games without ever running out of ideas.  It's a shame that Team Andromeda is no longer around.  Sega gave the series to their Smilebit studio for Panzer Dragoon Orta on Xbox, but it really wasn't the same experience.  I know I'd rather play the older, chunkier Saturn titles instead.

The Japanese PD cover is brilliant.  I want to explore this world.  Even if I know nothing about the game itself, I'm interested.  A skillful cover design can be a hook in itself.  Too many publishers don't seem to understand this, and the result are many video games that fail miserably at retail.  Who in their right mind doesn't want a kick-ass album cover?

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