RetroVision – The Covers of Mega Man Part 1: Japan

The box art of the 8-bit Mega Man games has some incredible highs, and some absolutely desperate lows.  It’s a topic that comes up time and time again when demonstrating the different ways in which games were promoted in different regions in the 80s and early 90s.  So, here at Rings & Coins we thought we’d continue on from our investigation into Bad Box Art Mega Man, by taking a look at the all of the different covers for the classic Famicom / NES Mega Man titles.  That means the original Japanese, North American, European, and one extra set of covers for Mega Man 1-6 that you may not know of.

So, let’s start this look back at Mega Man in the best way possible.  Yes, first up is the best of them all, the Japanese Famicom covers.  Rockman, as the game is known in Japan, featured Anime inspired covers which featured the entire cast of Robot Masters for each game.  These covers truly showcase the feel and spirit of Mega Man, and really are works of art in their own right.  Oh why couldn’t we have had these covers in North America and Europe?

Rockman Cover
Rockman (ロックマン)

The game that started it all, Rockman.  These covers really hit the ground running in Japan, and set the style not only for the game, but the entire series.  In fact, the covers from Japan generally all follow the same format, with Rockman and all of the Robot Masters featured.  Something you can clearly see as we move forward.

Rockman 2
Rockman 2: The Mystery of Dr. Wily (ロックマン2 Dr.ワイリーの謎)

What is arguably the greatest game in the series, also gets what is again arguably the greatest cover of them all.  Featuring not only Rockman and the Robot Masters, but also Dr Wily’s castle in the background, the cover says everything it needs to about the title perfectly.  An essential piece of gaming art, for an essential game.

Rockman 3
Rockman 3: The End of Dr. Wily!? (ロックマン3 Dr.ワイリーの最期!?)

Onto Rockman 3, and we finally get our first look at Rush.  Proto Man may be missing from the cover, but why would Capcom have wanted to ruin the surprise?  All in all, the trend of excellent covers continues.

Rockman 4
Rockman 4: A New Ambition!! (ロックマン4 新たなる野望!!)

As it does with Rockman 4.  Cossack’s Castle stands in the background, and you really get the feeling of the threat being different, albeit with a reassuring presentation.  This blend of new and old also fits the game quite perfectly, though I won’t ruin the twist for anyone that might not have played the game.

Rockman 5
Rockman 5: Blues’ Trap!? (ロックマン5 ブルースの罠!?)

I think you’re seeing the trend now as we move into the last two covers.  As I said before, they all keep the same presentation, whilst simply altering the characters and background to fit the relevant game.  Rockman 5 also goes as far as to add a green border, the first we’d really seen since the original cover.

Rockman 6
Rockman 6: The Greatest Battle Ever!! (ロックマン6 史上最大の戦い!!)

The first annual “Robot Masters Tournament” has begun, and Rockman 6’s cover really grabs the feel of the global event that is occurring.  Well, that is at least until Mr. X hijacks it.  At this point I really feel like broken record, but if the song is good enough, why not listen to it over and over again eh?

Yes, the covers that Capcom created for the Rockman games on the Nintendo Famicom all follow a similar set-up, but why change perfection?  Not only are all of these covers excellent in their own right, but they’re arguably some of the greatest video game covers ever made.  So much so, that we here at Rings & Coins would happily hang any of these images in a museum, if not all six 0f them.

In fact, that’s exactly what Capcom did when releasing the recent Mega Man Legacy collection.  As here they celebrated all six of these covers by using these alone to represent each of the games.  A true testament to their quality.

Original art in the style of the covers for the series villain Dr. Wily. Interestingly, Dr. Wily doesn’t actually appear on the cover of any of the Rockman Japanese covers.

So, if these were so amazing, which they clearly are, then the American ones must be just as good right?  Or hey they must just be exactly the same, as why change perfection right?  Wrong!

Unfortunately, the American covers not only leave a lot to be desired, but quite honestly are the yin to this yang.  If the Japanese covers are perfection, then the American covers are devastation, and we’ll be looking at these in depth next time.  So look forward to some of the worst covers to ever grace the face of gaming, in: The Covers of Mega Man Part 2: America.

Sophia Aubrey Drake

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

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