Game covers - Translating east to west

Why do the yanks have to mess with everything...

Nick (Indica)

23 Jun 2016

Cultural Differences? 

 It’s a well known fact that America loves to take Japanese content and twist it into a western mess usually bereft of the shining jewel that the original source material was well known for. Well, as a case study Awkward Machine would like to document this within our favourite medium, Vidya, specifically, some of gamings jacket covers that were changed dramatically when translating to their western audience.

clock tower

Clock Tower’s evocative Japanese cover

Let's start at an AM favourite. The original Clock Tower was released in Japan 1995 for the Super Famicom, this was the game cover and one thing we can infer from its subtlety is some sort of ghostly tone, we don’t know anything about the game from this and it gives the player a real sense of discovery, rather than the American reissue that will just have you *Wait* untill you see the villain you saw on the cover.

clock tower us

And now for America's 'attempt'

So rule #1 when advertising a horror game, as exciting as it is to put the main antagonist on the front cover, brandishing an impractically large pair of scissors, just don’t do it. What this does is take away something that the game had going for it - suspense, that anticipation of seeing the villain burst through the door like the fucking kool aid man with murderous intent is something both the film and video game horror genre hold dear, and in this instance it’s ruined before you’ve even put the disk in the tray. Still a great game though, but scissorman, have some self restraint.

resident evil 4 pal

Resident Evil 4's European boxart

Moving on swiftly to the world of Resident Evil we have this, the cover for the highly lauded Resident Evil 4. Apart from being the best in the series, RE4 was a massive departure from the series' norm, new gameplay, new setting, new(ish) plot. It was a reboot in the correct sense that it pushed the series into a new era, rather than retreading the same old shit for nostalgia dollars. So naturally a striking new game had a rather striking cover. A solitary silhouetted figure standing in the woods, eerily staring into the camera, it gives the viewer a slim sense of mystery, who is he, what is he doing, is he a monster or just some loon cutting people up?

resident evil 4 us

Annnnd here's the American one

Nahh fuck that, mysterys are for suckers! Once again the tone deaf yanks decide to slam down all intrigue and slap the hero right on the cover, how do we know he's the hero? Well lets give him a gun and a stern look... Not enough? fine we'll slap all the enemies behind him trying their damdist to look mean, put chainsaw man in front because chainsaws are cool remember? Finally lets slip a screenshot behind the whole thing just to tie the cover together, I mean sure we COULD have an artist do one, but art is for suckers!

ICO japan

ICO's Japanese art

Lets get out of the horror genre and something a little more chill. ICO was fun puzzle platformer by the folks who would bring us Shadow of the Colossus. With little to no emphasis on combat ICO was the tale of a young boy with horns, trapped within a mysterious citadel. The game is an elaborate puzzle wrapped in thick fabric of plot and mystery, the setting was as much a character as the protagonists. The boxart reflects this, the player is just a tiny figure on a dusty canvas, and as with the previous good examples, it intrigues; it puzzles; it makes you WANT to play it!

ico US

Oh christ...

Mystery, intrigue, art! That's about as un-american as universal health care! Lets have a go at fixin' this mess shall we? Firstly who the hell are those stick dudes supposed to be? Lets slap em' up nice n' big on the cover there, don't forget to make em' look all computery too, it's a game after all. Now about the hero, what guns does he have? No guns? Oh I guess it's one of em' faggy medieval games then, give em a sword. WHAT!? No swords, what does he kill with? A stick.. a fuckin' stick!? Ok give him the stick but make him kinda look mean while he holds it. Put another screenshot in the back and brighten it up a lil' will ya children like bright colours colors ya' know!


puzzle bobble sane

'left' Japanese, 'right' European

Bust a Move 2, AKA Puzzle Bobble 2. An addictive arcade hit form Tatio, it's essentially a tile matching game except you fire the tiles from the bottom of the screen and try to bounce them into place. It's great fun, and the boxart reflects this. For the Japanese cover we have the mascots (originally from Bubble Bobble) being all cute and telling players about the new gameplay modes and just being fun! In the European boxart we get a more serious version, but it's colourful balls and arrows at least make an attempt to show off the gameplay, not sure about the title change though?

puzzle bobble what


Now for the yanks, no funny commentary here other than a guess that they had someone describe the game to them down a phone then went off to do all the cocaine in the world. What is even happening here? its like a cross between some early 2000's gameshow and A Clockwork Orange. Were they trying to scare people!? Because it's honestly freakier than their attempts with Clock Tower and RE4!?! It's a chilling thought thinking of what went on to produce this.

Now our little list is by by no means exhaustive, hell we've only just scratched the surface. But the general trend is that Americans (or the fools they put in charge) haven't a fucking clue what they're doing when it comes to re-designing box art. Here's AM's 2¢, leave it the fuck alone, they know what they're doing... Unlike yourselves.

What's even more puzzling is that boxart for American games is just as fantastic as the rest of the worlds, why do they screw the pooch with overseas games!?!