RetroVision – The Covers of Mega Man Part 2: North America

Oh dear, do we really have to do this?  Last time we looked at the glorious Japanese covers for the Rockman Famicom titles.  However, next up is the travesty that is the North American cover art, and we all know what that means.  Yes, the introduction and first sighting, of the infamous Bad Box Art Mega Man.

If the Japanese covers truly capture the spirit and feel of the Mega Man games, then the North American are quite honestly the exact opposite.  This is especially true of the first two, despite the covers ever so slightly improving after that.  Why are these two specifically especially bad?  Well, what better way to show you than by diving head first, into the hell that is the North American cover for the original Mega Man.

Mega Man NES
One of the most infamous box covers in all of gaming.

The worst of the worst.  The grandaddy in bad box art.  Infamous as one of the very worst examples of video game box art, it literally got everything wrong.  Looking at this monstrosity I bet you’re asking yourself whether they’d even played the game?  Well the short answer to that, is No.

Stare into the despair that is the Mega Man cover, and many questions come to mind?

  • Why is their an Aztec city in background?
  • Why has Mega Man gone from being a robot boy, to an overweight neckless middle aged man?
  • Why does he look like a poor Tron cosplay?
  • Why is he holding a gun and standing like he’s getting ready for a rave?
  • Why is their a grid in the background?

These are all good questions, but an even better one is why was this allowed to happen?  Well, as we looked at in our investigation into Bad Box Art Mega Man, one of the primary reasons for this monstrosity is the fact that the artist was given very little time to create it.  Even worse, he was given no access to the original art or even the game itself.

So, surely after this terrible mistake Mega Man 2 was going to make up for it?  Well sadly that wasn’t the case.  Just take a look.

Mega Man 2 NA
Mega Man 2

Sadly, lessons weren’t learnt from the shocking box art for the original Mega Man title.  However, believe it or not, this one hurts more, as it dares to insult one of the best games to ever grace the NES.  Even worse, once again it seems that no inspiration was taken from the amazing Rockman 2 cover in Japan, or the work of Keiji Inafune.

In fact, in interviews with the freelance designer who created the cover, it has later come to light that there was still confusion in Capcom USA regarding the Mega Blaster, with Capcom’s head of designing still thinking Mega Man had a gun.  So this explains why Mega Man still has a gun in this art.  Yet it doesn’t explain why they all look like the characters look like grown men in lycra, rather than robots.  Or why a character that appears to look more like Dr. Light than Dr. Wily is hiding behind Crash Man?

Mega Man 3 NA
Mega Man 3

Oh well, let’s just move on, as things do seem to improve as we get to Mega Man 3’s cover.  Here things are getting more along the lines of what’s actually in the game.  Hey, even Rush and Dr. Wily’s Castle are both present.  Mega Man is even using the Mega Blaster!

However, there is still some worrying elements within the cover.  Namely why Mega Man seems to have that sadistic look on his face.  One that really gives the impression as though his is just loving what he’s doing, rather than trying to save the world.

Mega Man 4 NA
Mega Man 4

We’re slowly getting there now, but there are still problems, even four games in.  I mean why is Pharaoh Man as big as Dr. Cossack’s entire fortress?  Which world is he saving, given that Jupiter and Saturn are on the cover?  And why is Mega Man jumping off a cliff shooting?  We all know how that ends in the game.  It just doesn’t make any sense!

Another problem with regard to all of these covers that needs to be addressed is simply why are they so sparse?  Of course, we know Capcom wanted to give a different feel for these covers in comparison to their Japanese counterparts.  Yet, it is curious as to why they seemingly decided to include as few Robot Masters as they possibly could.

Mega Man 5 NA

This one continues in the same spirit as 3 and 4, and also continues improving.  The art is more reminiscent of Mega Man, as is the futuristic setting.  However, why is Mega Man trying to hold hands with Gravity Man, whilst running away from him shooting?  Oh well if I’ve learnt one thing from looking at these covers, it’s just ignore the general premise of Mega Man.

Mega Man 6 NA
Mega Man 6

So after the misery of Mega Man 1 and 2, combined with the lingering problems in 3-5’s covers, I think it’s time we ended on a high point.  Here inspiration is clearly taken from the game in the form of Mega Man’s Jet Armor, and three of the Robot Masters are featured.  Namely Knight Man, Yamato Man and Wind Man.

The castle may not accurately represent Mr. X’s futuristic fortress, but that can all be forgiven.  Especially, as it’s clear from this cover how much Capcom and the artistic team tried to embody the spirit of the game.  Yes, it would have been easier to just use the masterful Japanese art, but given the earlier covers, this one deserves applause.

So there you have it, those were all the 8-bit North american covers for Mega Man.  In all honestly, I’m not sure what games the first two covers are referring to, and it’s a wonder anyone even picked up the boxes.  Terrible doesn’t even begin to describe most of what you’ve seen here.

“What did I do to deserve this mission?”

This really is a shame as Mega Man really is one of the greatest gaming series of all time, and a series that the American market took to its heart.  However, the covers actually in their own way say an awful lot about the quality of the series.  Namely because North America took Mega Man to their hearts regardless of Bad Box Art Mega Man, and the reckless use of what look like toy guns.

Next up is the European covers for Mega Man, and oh boy to we have mixed bag for you.  From the sublime to the terrible, Europe got it all.  Well actually it didn’t, but you’ll see what I mean next time.

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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