RetroVision – Bad Box Art Mega Man

Anyone who grew up outside of Japan in the 80s will remember how unfaithful and inaccurate to the source material Mega Man’s box art was.  Rather than the anime infused character that you see within the game, and on the Japanese covers, what did we get?  Well we got a fat middle-aged man who looks like he’s dressed in Tron cosplay, all whilst holding a water pistol.  Yep, he doesn’t even have the Mega Blaster.

Quite honestly it’s surprising anyone even bought Mega Man based on the cover, and the cover of a game was vitally important back in the days before we had the internet.  All in all, Mega Man’s retro box art has become something of legend now, being infamous as quite possibly the worst box art ever to have graced video gaming.  An opinion we here at Rings & Coins share.

Rockman Cover
The original Japanese cover for Mega Man, or Rockman as it is known in Japan.

Even worse, Bad Box Art Mega Man somehow managed to worm himself onto Mega Man 2’s cover as well.  In turn insulting the cover of what is arguably one of the greatest games ever made.  So why was this ever allowed to happen?  Surely it shouldn’t have been too hard to just use the Japanese cover as a basis eh?

Well back in those days, companies were very keen to localise content for the American market, as such making a conscious effort to make marketing materials nothing like their Japanese origins.  Additionally, sources close to the localisation of Mega Man have stated that the reason for the game’s cover turning out so bad, was because the cover artist was given very little time before the game’s release to create it.  Moreover, the artist was also given no access to the game, or its source material before having to create the cover.

Mega Man NES
The start of it all, the infamous Mega Man NES cover.

Given all of this, it shouldn’t really be a shock to anyone as to how we ended up with such a travesty of a cover.  However, if we could forgive this, then it’s anyone’s guess how we ended up with another terrible game cover for Mega Man 2.  On top of this, something that’s even more insulting is the art that was used for us Europeans.

Now you’ll have to forgive me for this one.  Of course, Europe’s art was no way near as bad as the American Bad Box Art Mega Man that graced the original title and its sequel.  However, given that we in Europe had to wait three years for the first Mega Man game, you’d have thought Capcom would have been able to learn from their mistakes and get it right.  Unfortunately though, we got this.

Mega Man EU Art
Ok maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but it still doesn’t capture the spirit of Mega Man.

Thankfully, though Capcom listened to its fans, and eventually over time Mega Man’s international artwork slowly started to resemble the original Japanese designs.  In fact, upon releasing the incredible Mega Man Legacy Collection for current platforms earlier in the year, Bad Box Art Mega Man was completely gone, and in its place was the original Japanese covers.  A true tribute to one of gaming’s greatest masterpieces.

However, if you thought that meant the last of Bad Box Art Mega Man, well you’d be sorely mistaken.  Oh no, in a spark of genius, or insanity depending on how you see it, Capcom decided to poke fun at themselves within the release of Street Fighter X Tekken, by including none other than Mega Man in the game.  Unfortunately for fans of the blue bomber, the Mega Man that Yoshinori Ono had chosen to include, was none other than the scourge of 8-bit gaming, Bad Box Art himself.

Bad Box Art
Bad Box Art Mega Man in Street Fighter X Tekken.

Now before anyone annoyed by this decision goes and blames Street Fighter series director Yoshinori Ono, it may come as a surprise to learn that is was Mega Man series creator Keiji Inafune himself who pushed Ono to this decision.  Originally, Yoshinori Ono had wanted to include Mega Man as we know him in the crossover fighting game.  However, when Ono went to Inafune with this request, he was told:

that’s not interesting, we have seen Mega Man in fighting games before

before being told to give him:

something original

So, Ono went back and found something he certainly found interesting, pitching Inafune the idea of using the Mega Man from the American box art, something he described as “awful”.  Not content with simply using Bad Box Art Mega Man as you see him on the cover, Ono wanted to make him even crazier, adding a back story and a range of over-the-top moves.  Inafune loved the idea, and Bad Box Art Mega Man was truly brought to life in Street Fighter X Tekken.

Mega Man & Ryu
Bad Box Art Mega Man & Ryu side by side.

As I said though, by this point Capcom had become very self-aware of the mistakes made when creating Bad Box Art Mega Man back in the 80s, and had even grown to the point where they could poke fun at themselves.  As such, Bad Box Art Mega Man had now become an angry, overweight, middle-aged man.  One who runs around wearing a ludicrously tight yellow and blue jumpsuit with helmet, alongside his trusty futuristic pistol rather than Mega Man’s Mega Buster.  All obviously in parody of that infamous cover.

Nevertheless, despite being made to parody their own creation, he did have to be somewhat competitive given that he would be up against the likes of Ryu and Kazuya Mishima.  So in return, he found himself with surprising degree of agility, given his general overweight and aged appearance.  Trust me, watching Ryu fight Bad Box Art Mega Man really is a sight to behold, even if fans would have rather had the original Blue Bomber.

Street Fighter X Tekken Mega Man
Would you like to see Bad Box Art Mega Man return?

Ultimately over time, what was once, and quite honestly still is, one of the worst pieces of box art ever made, has now taken on a life of its own.  Bad Box Art Mega Man has somehow shaken not only the shackles of his own origins, but quite possibly even that of the great gaming series he was meant to represent.  Eventually, over time evolving from what was simply a terrible inaccurate piece of art, into a character in his own right.  A character we may not have seen the last of.  Although for some this may be a very chilling thought.

Simon Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that I've written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DudeXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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