Come one, come all – we’re about to begin the Box Art Brawl! Yes, welcome back to the weekly battle where we throw three versions of box art from the same game into a ring to determine which one wins the beauty pageant and which one(s) deserves to be boxed up forever.
Last week Super Mario took on his continental brothers in a hard-fought bout that eventually saw the yellow Famicom cover for Super Mario Bros. crowned mushroom king, with North America trailing close behind and Europe just behind again. It was close, but an undeniable Japanese victory. Congratulations all.
Staying in the realm of platformers, we’re jumping two console generations onwards to the Nintendo 64 and into the third dimension this week with Banjo-Tooie, Rare’s 2000 sequel to the only game on the console to truly give Mario a run for his money. When deciding on worthy contenders, we try to choose entrants with as much variety as possible, but it wasn’t until our recent interview with character artist Ed Bryan that we realised the North American and European versions of this game are actually different. Similar, yes, but distinct enough to make this a more interesting competition than if the only difference was a black border.
So, take a look below at the bear, breegull and bone-faced one in their regional guises…
The Bear & Bird are Back! reads the text at the bottom in a slightly insipid pink that could probably stand out a bit better. The North American version gets Banjo front-and-centre, with Mumbo on the left behind him and Kazooie on his back to the right. The breegull is looking uncharacteristically doe-eyed and docile but the three faces give the cover impact, that’s for sure. A blue sky background doesn’t distract from them in any way, although the cover arguably lacks subtlety – once you’ve taken in the three characters there’s nothing much left for your eye to follow.
It’s a bold, bread-and-butter cover and we admire it, even if it lacks a little class.
In our memories the EU and NA versions were the same, but as you can see they were different. Of course, they share most of the same elements, although they’re given a little more room to breathe on the European box. Both Banjo and Mumbo have been flipped to face the other way and Kazooie has been unleashed from her backpack prison (as she can be in the game itself). Her scrawny leg and claw could be mistaken for a strange hand rising from the bottom of the box (imagine her leg is the ‘thumb’), but we enjoy the steely look in her eyes here. Don’t mess with this breegull.
The standard black border of most EU N64 boxes is absent (which probably contributed to our mistakenly thinking this and the NA version were dupes). Zooming out from the three characters conveys a better sense of place, even if it’s just a cloudy blue sky and there’s plenty of room to fit not only the game’s logo, but also the ‘Nintendo 64’ at the top.
The Japanese version arguably manages to be more dynamic with its character poses, but perhaps blander overall. The same three characters appear, although in a different configuration with different art. The logo gets a wooden log background with a Jiggy under the ‘2’ and we very much like the Gold Feather and Eggs at the bottom, but the orange-y/white background feels a bit wishy-washy.
On the whole we like it, but we’d probably put a ‘could do better’ on its report card.
So, which one of these do you think wins in a bear-on-bird-on-bone battle? Take a long look below, tap your favourite and hit the ‘Vote’ button to bestow the power of your approval on your chosen combatant:
Ah, such poor souls. That’s all for this week – have a great one and we’ll see you next time for another beautiful Box Art Brawl.