BOX=ART: Retrogamer and modern video game box art history.

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Video game box art and artist history database

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BOX=ART copyright © 2013-2019 Adam Gidney. All rights reserved. Hosted by Dathorn.

About BOX=ART

BOX=ART is a site dedicated to the history of video game box art/ cover art and the artists responsible for them.

Box arts are profiled using high quality scans and with the intention of acknowledging the men and women who have played such a major role in shaping our gaming experiences.

Not only for video game enthusiasts, BOX=ART is for all who enjoy quality artwork.


All information on this site is through my own findings and is believed to be correct.  Any corrections, errors or admissions that need to be made, or artists that would like to be involved in BOX=ART, please feel free to contact me.

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BOX=ART index

 >Ya

Yoichi Kotabe.  Japanese box artist from 1988-2002.





Donkey Kong ‘94 | Nintendo | 1994 | Game Boy. (4)

Game & Watch Gallery 4 | Nintendo | 2002 | with Yasuko Takahashi | Game Boy Color.

Legend of Zelda, The: A Link to the Past | Nintendo | 1991 | JPN ver. | Super Famicom.

Legend of Zelda, The: Link’s Awakening | Nintendo | 1993 | JPN ver. | Game Boy. (3)

Legend of Zelda, The: Link’s Awakening DX | Nintendo | 1998 | JPN ver. | Game Boy Color.

Super Mario Bros. 3 | Nintendo | 1988 | JPN ver. | Famicom.

Super Mario Bros. 3 | Nintendo | 1990 | with GIRVIN | EU/ NA ver. | NES. (7)

Super Mario Bros. Deluxe | Nintendo | 1999 | Game Boy Color. (5)

Super Mario Kart | Nintendo | 1992 | SNES, Super Famicom. (2)

Super Mario Land | Nintendo | 1989 | Game Boy. (1)

Super Mario Land 2 | Nintendo | 1992 | Game Boy.

Super Mario USA | Nintendo | 1992 | Famicom. (6)

Super Mario World | Nintendo | 1990 |JPN ver. | Super Famicom.

Super Mario World | Nintendo | 1991 | EU/ NA ver. | SNES. (8)

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Yoichi Kotabe was an active employee of Nintendo Company Limited from 1985 until 2010. Kotabe was one of the first animation legends from Toei Animation to crossover into video games by joining Nintendo.

Yoichi Kotabe became a fan of art during his early school years when his mother introduced him to flipbook animation (the act of flipping through pages, each page with an image that progressively changes, to make it look like it's moving). His father was an artist, though ironically the person who didn't draw much at all was the one who made him interested in animation (his mother). According to him, his mother drew a stick figure in a text book of his at the corner, and on each page the stick figure would be in a slightly different position. As he recalls the stick figure was exercising, but it made him interested enough to try himself.

Kotabe worked closely with the Entertainment Analysis & Development Division but also was involved with several other departments internally at the company. Despite Kotabe-san's retirement from Nintendo, he still acts as an advisor for the company. Via the Kyoto report.

The artist would be instrumental in redesigning the Super Mario characters from Miyamoto’s original designs, starting with Super Mario Bros. 3.


Super Mario Bros. 3 (スーパーマリオブラザーズ3)

JPN/ NA artwork. Published by Nintendo in 1990 for the European and North American NES markets.  





For gamers in 1990 this cover was hard to ignore with the heavy promotion Nintendo put behind it.  It is arguably, and much like its predecesor, an Iconic example of 90’s box art and characterisation.  

The Mario art would be lifted from the Japanese version - a cover too chaotic of western taste - and it would be design studio GIRVIN who brilliantly emblazened the plumber against bright yellow and applied the logo.

The cover would cap off Mario’s three NES efforts, all of which have stood the test of time.

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Super Mario Bros. Deluxe (スーパーマリオブラザーズデラックス)

Published by Nintendo in 1999 for the European and North American Game Boy Color markets.




Possibly the final Super Mario box art to date by the artist. The game would not see a physical release in Japan making it the only game in the series to miss out on a Japanese box art.

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Super Mario USA (スーパーマリオUS)

Published by Nintendo in 1992 for the Japanese Famicom market.  





The well-documented history of Super Mario Bros 2 had Nintendo of Japan (NOJ) take its abandoned attempt for Mario’s first sequel and fashion Fuji TV’s then mascots into it calling it Yume Kōjō: Dokidoki Panic (1987).

These changes were made only for Nintendo of America to request it be made into Super Mario Bros 2 (1988) after the Japanese release of that game (The Lost Levels) was deemed too challenging. Subsequently, after the game’s success in the West, it was brought back to Japan as Super Mario USA (1992).

Interestingly, NOJ would take Dokidoki Panic’s original box art, with character art by Tadashi Sugiyama and an unknown Fuji designer, redraw the piece, so it would be more in line with Mario’s previous box arts, and replace Fuji’s characters with Yoichi Kotabe’s Mario designs.  

Being of Mario heritage Dokidoki Panic and Mario USA share obvious design traits with other Famicom Mario cover arts such as bold colouring, distinctive line work and chaotic characterisation (see Super Mario Bros 1 and 3 on the Famicom) while the box layout is vertically designed instead of horizontally, as found on the vast majority of Famicom releases. To finish, its pink border (which also extends to the game’s cart) is a stark reminder of how daringly colourful Japanese box art can be.

>Pictured from left to right - Original box art and Doki Doki Panic box art.

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>Artist profile

>Box art catalogue

>Box art review

Yoshihiro Hashizume.  Japanese box artist in 1997.

Gradius Gaiden | Konami | 1997 | PS1. (1)






>Box art catalogue

Yoshitaka Amano.  Japanese box artist from 1987-2018.


Duel | Kure Software Koubou | 1989 | PC-88, PC-98.

Duel II/ 98 | Kure Software Koubou | 1989 | PC-88, PC-98.

Eldorado Gate vol 1 - 2 | Capcom | 2000 | Dreamcast. (8)

Eldorado Gate vol 3 - 7 | Capcom | 2001 | Dreamcast.

Final Fantasy | Square | 1987 | Famicom, MSX, PS1. (9)

Final Fantasy | Square Enix | 2007 | PSP.

Final Fantasy II | Square | 1988 | Famicom. (5)

Final Fantasy III | Square | 1990 | Famicom. (3)

Final Fantasy III DS | Square Enix | 2006 | Nintendo DS.

Final Fantasy IV | Square | 1994 | Super Famicom. (2)

Final Fantasy IV | Square | 1997 | PS1.

Final Fantasy IV Advance | Square Enix | 2005 | EU/ NA ver. | Game Boy Advance. (1)

Final Fantasy IV Advance | Square Enix | 2005 | JPN ver. | Game Boy Advance.

Final Fantasy IV DS | Square Enix | 2007 | Nintendo DS.

Final Fantasy V Advance | Square Enix | 2006 | Game Boy Advance.

Final Fantasy VI Advance | Square Enix | 2006 | Game Boy Advance.

Final Fantasy VII | Square | 1997 | PS1. (11)

Final Fantasy XI Online | Square Enix | 2003 | JPN ver. | PS2, Windows.

Final Fantasy XI Online | Square Enix | 2004 | EU/ NA ver. | PS2, Windows.

Final Fantasy XI Online | Square Enix | 2006.

Final Fantasy XI Online: Seekers of Adoulin | Square Enix | 2013 | PS2, Windows, Xbox 360.

Final Fantasy XI Online: Wings of the Goddess | Square Enix | 2007 | PS2, Windows, Xbox 360.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 (Nordic Edition) | Square Enix | 2012 | PS3, Xbox 360.

Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn (Collectors Edition) | Square Enix | 2013 | PS3, PS4, Windows. (6)

Final Fantasy XIV Online (Collectors Edition) | Square Enix | 2010 | Windows.

Final Fantasy XV: Deluxe Edition | Square Enix | 2016 | PS4.

Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition | Square Enix | 2018 | PS4, Xbox One.

Final Fantasy Anthology | Square Enix | 1999 | PS1.

Final Fantasy Anthology: European Edition | Square Enix | 2002 | PS1. (14)

Final Fantasy Type-0 | Square Enix | 2011 | Sony PSP. (13)

First Queen | Kure Software Koubou | 1988 | MS-DOS, PC-98, X68000.  (7)

First Queen II | Kure Software Koubou | 1990 | PC-98, X68000.

First Queen III | Kure Software Koubou | 1993 | PC-98.

Front Mission | Square | 1995 | Super Famicom, WonderSwan Color.

Front Mission 1st | Square Enix | 2003 | PS1.

Front Mission: Gun Hazard | Square | 1996 | Super Famicom. (10)

Front Mission Online | Square Enix | 2005 | PS2, Windows.

Kartia: The Word of Fate | Atlus Software Inc. | 1998 | PS1. (12)

Kawanakajima Ibunroku | Kure Software Koubou | 1992 | PC-98.

Silver Ghost | Kure Software Koubou | 1988 | PC-88, Sharp X1.

Ys | Nihon Falcom | 1991 | JPN ver. | X68000. (4)







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Final Fantasy (ファイナルファンタジー)

First published by Square in 1987 for the Japanese Famicom market.  

Famicom ver. pictured.




The box art that debuted the enduring Final Fantasy (FF) series , would also be the start of Illustrator Yoshitaka Amano’s career in video games. Yoshitaka would bring the cover  to life through its wispy lines and vibrant colours, and flavour it with eastern romanticism.  It was a cover art seeped in sorrow and anguish, setting the tone for one of gaming’s epic adventures.

FF’s artistry would speak volumes and be a central part of the game’s - and series’ - success’.  Amano would complement Square’s vision of explaining how video games could emotionally appeal to their audience through story and art, and helped promote the Famicom to enormous levels of success.  

Amano’s style of fine art was interestingly at odds with a great deal of Manga/ anime inspired Japanese box art of the day.  This is especially apparent when you compare the cover art to FF’s main competitor Dragon Quest.

Unfortunately as with much Japanese artwork from the late 80’s, FF’s cover art would be replaced, deemed too unsuitable for the American market in 1990, and not see a western release until over a decade later.

>Pictures from left to right - Original box art, sketch and alternative colour version.

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Eldorado Gate Vol 1. (エルドラドゲート 第1巻)

Published by Capcom in 2000 for the Japanese Dreamcast market.  





This box art would be the first of seven that Capcom released for it’s Eldorado series. All seven covers would be Amano designs and would be decidedly more anime inspired than his usual efforts and arguably styalistically stand out from the rest of his catalogue.

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Moving to Tokyo as a teenager, Yoshitaka would take up his first artistic position with famed animation studio Tatsunoko in 1967.  His fifteen-year tenure with them saw him develop into the then unheard role of character designer, pencilling such characters as Gatchaman and Cashaan. It would be a time spent developing his trademark style of delicate wispy lines, bold comic book inspired colouring and effeminate looking characters. After Tatsunoko, Amano would freelance providing fantasy novel cover arts and would create one of his most enduring designs in heroic vampeel, D, finding worldwide recognition with the titular character’s debut anime: Vampire Hunter D (1985).

In 1987 he joined fledgling video game developer Square as a promotional illustrator and character designer for its latest game, Final Fantasy (1987).  His delicate painting on Fantasy’s debut box art would not only become symphonious with the beloved series in the East but also, for that time, raise the standard of Japanese cover art artistry. The following year would see him work with Japanese studio KSK where he applied a similar fantasy look to flag ship title First Queen and its two following sequels (the reigns were then taken by artist Jun Suemi). He would be enlisted for further KSK box arts such as Kawanakajima Ibunroku (1992), Duel (1989) and Silver Ghost (1988) adding what could be argued is one of the few highlights of the company’s gaming catalogue.  

With the success of Final Fantasy, Square set about turning the game into a series and Yoshitaka’s artwork would be used on the Famicom releases of Final Fantasy II and III (1988 and 1990).  Strangely, IV and V’s box arts on the Super Famicom (1991 and 1992) eschewed his illustrations in favour of character art reminiscing their equivalent in-game sprites. Final Fantasy IV would though start the artist’s long running tradition of title and logo design that has proliferated in all main series box arts to this day.

Final Fantasy VI’s (1994) box art saw Amano’s art return and in fine form, but it would be the last time until the plethora of compilations and remakes, from the PlayStation era onwards, started using his works. They would amazingly be the first time western gamers accessed Yoshitaka’s original cover arts, with North America’s Final Fantasy 1-3’s box arts (Europe never received the NES and SNES games) having little to no connection with his artistic vision.  

Amano would turn his hand to another Square series in 1995: Front Mission.  The debut box art and sequel, Front Mission: Gun Hazard (1996), saw a grittier characterisation compared to Fantasy’s heroes and heroines, but would still unmistakably be a part of “Amano’s World” *, with their fragile and slight demeanours, petite facial features and pale skin tones.

Outside of Square, Yoshitaka teamed up with Capcom on its Japanese only episodic game Eldorado Gate in 2000. His characterisation, while again displaying many familiar traits, would be executed in contrast to previous box arts with a distinct anime inspired look of heavier line work and shading which also complimented the cel-shading found in-game.

Post Eld orado Gate his box art catalogue has been exclusively Final Fantasy based, however it would return to the traditional painted style of the debut’s cover art, using watercolour and ink. Interestingly the artist has stated how he is unsure the medium of computer art can realise his artistic ambitions.

With his open appreciation for western art from 1960’s comic books to art nouveau inspiring his works, Yoshitaka has rightly pointed out that his trans-Atlantic success over the past twenty years has been down to the blurring of both eastern and western art styles; a style that has helped creatively distinguish one of video games most enduring and iconic series’ and bring attention to a classic box artist.

* A fan’s description of his corpus of work being part of a created fictional world, something the artist attests to.




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>Artist profile

>Box art catalogue

>Box art review

Yoshiyuki Takani.  Japanese box artist from 1988-2007.


Advanced Power Dolls 2 | Kogado Studio | 1996 | PC-98.

Edo no Kiba | Micro World | 1993 | Super Famicom.

Genocide 2: Master of the Dark Communion | Zoom Inc | 1991 | Super Famicom, X68000. (1)

Gundam Side Story 0079: Rise from the Ashes | Bandai | 1999 | JPN ver. | Dreamcast.

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake | Konami | 1990 | MSX. (3)

Metal Slug Complete | SNK Playmore | 2007 | JPN ver. | Sony PSP.

Omega Boost | Sony | 1999 | JPN ver. | PS1.

Phalanx | Zoom Inc | 1991 | X68000. (2)

Power DoLLS | Kogado Studio | 1994 | JPN ver. | FM Towns, PC-98.

Power DoLLS 2 | Kogado Studio | 1994 | FM Towns, PC-98.

Power DoLLS 2 Dash | Kogado Studio | 1995 | PC-98.

Power DoLLS 3 | Kogado Studio | 1999 | Windows.

Power DoLLS 4 | Kogado Studio | 2000 | Windows.

Power DoLLS 5 | Kogado Studio | 2002 | Windows. (4)

Power DoLLS 6 | Kogado Studio | 2004 | Windows.

Sōkō Kihei Votoms | Family Soft | 1988 | PC-98.

Strikers 1945 | Atlus | 1996 | JPN ver. | PS1, Saturn.

Strikers 1945 II | Psiyko | 1998 | JPN/ NA ver. | PS1, Saturn.

Verne World | Banpresto | 1995 | Super Famicom.




Takani would find fame through his box arts for Gundam and military hardware inspired model kit packaging by TAMIYA. The artist is perhaps best known internationally in gaming circles for his work on Konami’s Metal Gear Solid series where he provided mecha and character artworks.  In his native Japan he is also well known for his cover arts on the long running Power DoLLs series.    

The artist appears to have always used traditional paints for his box arts.

Phalanx

Published by Kemco in 1991 for the Japanese X68000 market.  





The veteran illustrator of TAMIYA military model-kit box arts would beautifully depict Phalanx’s star-fighter in an uncommonly calm setting for a shoot ‘em up cover art. Very much in line with the style of illustartor Shigeru Komatsuzaki, Yoshiyuki’s delicate brush strokes, soft pallet and detailed realism would be a welcome artistic change to the more common anime style seen in the Super Famicom’s equivalent release.

In the US, publisher Kemco would infamously create the equivalent SNES box art. Bereft of any quality, it depicted a banjo-playing hick. Whilst certainly achieving the tongue-in-cheek recognition, and notoriety, the publisher set out to garner, it was a depressing alternative when Takani’s artwork was available.

A hidden gem of a box art, Phalanx is another classic work from one of Japan’s old guards in the art of painted war.


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>Artist profile

>Box art catalogue

>Box art review

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Artist index: Ya - Yo

Yasushi Suzuki.  Japanese box artist from 2000-2009.

Ikaruga | Atari | 2003 | EU/ JPN ver. | GameCube.

Ikaruga | ESP | 2002 | JPN ver. | Dreamcast. (3)

Ikaruga | Infogrames | 2003 | NA  ver. | GameCube.

Sin & Punishment | Treasure | 2000 | Nintendo 64. (1)

Sin & Punishment: Star Successors | Nintendo | 2009 | JPN ver.| Nintendo Wii. (2)

Sin & Punishment: Star Successors | Nintendo | 2010 | EU/ NA ver. | Nintendo Wii.






>Box art catalogue

Yasushi Nirasawa.  Japanese box artist from 1991-1993.

A-Rank Thunder Tanjouhen | Telenet | 1993 | Mega CD.

Beast Warriors | Renovation Products | 1991 | Genesis, Mega Drive. (1)




Beast Warriors (ビースト・ウォリアーズ)

First published by Renovation Products in 1991. For the Japanese and North American Mega Drive/ Genesis markets.




Designed by model maker Nirasawa of Hobby Japan Magazine, the character act would exude the artists usual perchant for ghastly, hellbound looking creatures.

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>Box art catalogue

>Box art review

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Yasushi Torisawa.  Japanese box artist from 1987-1992.

Barbarossa | Sammy | 1992 | Super Famicom.

Battle Blaze | Sammy | 1992 | JPN ver. | Super Famicom.

Death Bringer | Telenet Japan | 1988 | JPN ver. | PC-98.

Fighting Masters | Treco | 1991 | JPN ver. | Mega Drive.

Golden Axe | Telenet Japan | 1990 | PC Engine. (1)

Gun-Dec | Sammy | 1991 | JPN ver. | Famicom.

Han-Seimei Senki Andorogynus | Telenet Japan | 1987 | MSX, PC-88. (2)

Magic Candle: Volume 1, The | Sammy | 1992 | Famicom.

Mugen Senshi Valis II | Telenet Japan | 1989 | logo design only. | MSX, PC-88, PC-98, X68000.

Task Force Harrier EX | Treco | 1991 | JPN ver. | Mega Drive.

Twin Cobra | Treco | 1991 | JPN ver. | Mega Drive.

XZR | Telenet Japan | 1988 | MSX, PC-88, PC-98, Sharp X1.

XZR II | Telenet Japan | 1988 | MSX.




>Box art catalogue

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Yoji Shinkawa.  Japanese box artist from 1998-2019.


  

Fu-un Shinsengumi | Genki | 2004 | blue cover. | PS2. (9)

Fu-un Shinsengumi | Genki | 2004 | red cover. | PS2.

Left Alive | Square Enix | 2019 | PS4, Windows. (2)

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance - Special Edition | Konami | 2013 | PS3. (1)

Metal Gear Solid | Konami | 1999 | EU ver. | PS1. (8)

Metal Gear Solid | Konami | 2000 | EU/ JPN ver. | Game Boy Color. (5)

Metal Gear Solid | Konami | 2000 | NA ver. | Game Boy Color.

Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes  | Konami | 2004 | EU/ JPN ver. | GameCube. (3)

Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions | Konami | 1999 | NA ver. | PS1. (6)

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty | Konami | 2001 | EU/ NA ver. | PS2. (7)

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty | Konami | 2001 | JPN ver. | PS2.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance | Konami | 2002 | PS2, Xbox (EU ver), Windows.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance | Konami | 2002 | NA ver. | Xbox.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater | Konami | 2004 | JPN ver. | PS2.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater | Konami | 2004 | NA ver. | PS2.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater | Konami | 2005 | EU ver. | PS2.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistance | Konami | 2005 | PS2

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots | Konami | 2008 | EU ver. | PS4.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots - Special Edition | Konami | 2008 | PS4.

Zone of the Enders HD Edition | Konami | 2012 | JPN ver. | PS3, Xbox 360.

Zone of the Enders HD Edition: Premium Package | Konami | 2012 | PS3, Xbox 360.

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS | Konami | 2018 | PS4, Windows. (4)







The artist would start his video game career by joining Konami and working on Policenauts in 1994. After that project he would art direct Metal Gear’s resurrection to the Solid series in 1998 and worked on every game in the series up until 2015’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. His art would adorn the mainline game’s box arts, whilst off shoot games such as in the Ac!d series would be artistically directed by him but use other artist’s designs.  

His distinctive organic, free-flowing brush work is created use ink pens and Pentel Brush Pens on canvas before being transferred to an art package and digitally finished.  He first and foremost sees himself as a character designer over an illustrator or painter and has been influenced by such pedigree as Amano, Moebius and Pogany.

After leaving Konami in 2015 he would follow designer Hideo Kojima to his new studio, again taking up the role of art director.    








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Metal Gear Solid (Metal Gear: Ghost Babel)

Published by Konami in 2000 for the European and Japanese Game Boy Color markets.




Character designer Yoji would take a more anime/ cartooned approch to the Game Boy Color’s ‘Solid’ game, arguably targetng Nintendo’s younger gamers (as was often the case when more mature games received Game Boy versions).

North America would receive a more traditional take on Yoji’s Solid Snake.

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>Artist profile

>Box art catalogue

>Box art review

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Yoshiaki Yoneshima.  Japanese box artist from 1988-1993.

Alien Storm | Sega | 1991 | JPN ver. | Mega Drive. (1)

G-Loc: Air Battle | Sega | 1990 | JPN ver. | Game Gear.

Golden Axe | Sega | 1989 | JPN ver. | Mega Drive. (2)

Streets of Rage | Sega | 1991 | JPN ver. | Mega Drive. (4)

Streets of Rage II | Sega | 1993 | JPN ver. | Mega Drive.

Super Monaco GP | Sega | 1990 | Game Gear, Genesis, Master System, Mega Drive.

Super Real Basketball | Sega | 1990 | JPN ver. | Mega Drive.

Super Thunderblade | Sega | 1988 | Genesis, Mega Drive. (3)

Truxton | Sega | 1989 | Genesis, Mega Drive.




Golden Axe (戦斧)

First published by Sega in 1989 for the Japanese Mega Drive market.




Debut box art for the series. The box art would be heavily influenced by the ‘swords and sorcery’ genre made popular by Hollywood in the 1980’s, blending both western characters with eastern dragon designs.

The North American version (by an, at present, unknown artist) would be a weaker effort both styalistically and artistically.

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>Box art catalogue

>Box art review

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Directory: Y