No Showboating Here
Even as a kid I really should've known that video games couldn't outpace the systems they were built to play on. But game after game, I was deceived by box cover art. In the 1980s, my only source for video game value was Nintendo Power and box art. Some manufacturers had integrity. Kung Fu* said "I'm going to kick you below the belt*. Duck Hunt reminded us all that we had to be warry of blocky explosions of gun fire. The next 10 screens outline the less scrupulous manufacturers.
#10 | Friday the 13th
The cover is pretty clear here. Jason Vorhees is going to come and kill in in rage of 80's technicolor axe killing action. It also implies that at some point in the game you will presumably see Jason, and that he wants to kill you very badly. I rented this game from Erol's, shocked that as a minor I could rent a game that made for an R-rated movie. The joke was on me, you never see Jason. Instead you wander around Camp Crystal Lake aimlessly for hours on end. And in the event you're lucky enough to see Jason (above), Jason basically wants to techno dance with you in an empty room. Sweet.
#9 | Toobin'
WTF is this?! "Hey everybody! I'm cruising down the river with a beer in my hand, hitting some fish with my tube and people be cheering me on. As an indication of how much fun I'm having, the box designer let my foot violate the border. I'm a toobin' rebel!" This game was clearly so epic that they even made a Gameboy version. I can't even talk about this one anymore because it's actually making me angry.
#8 | Dragon Warrior
I spent some serious time with Dragon Warrior, but check out the mythical-y cover with the knight at the base of the dragon's lair. Sweeping cape, Captain America shield, Nintendo seal of quality. Now juxtapose that against the screenshot of the Slime balls. "Oh no a blue hershey's kiss draws near! Command?" Chew 'em computer, chew 'em.
#7 | Batman
The box art clearly shows the Tim Burton Batman movie logo. So color me surprised when I find out the actual game has some dude all decked in purple. Way to ignore any nexus to either the movie or comic book Batman. I can't even imagine the glorious conversation at Sunsoft. "But boss, it's so hard to get Batman's dark black outfit to read against dark city backgrounds." Boss retorts, "Well son, you try a contrasting color like purple?" Had I any commonsense, I would've noticed Sunsoft telegraphing the movie by randomly putting a purple rule at the top of the box art.
#6 | Wall $treet Kid
First, there's the Archie comics illustration, which is actually done some justice in the game. But I fully expected Stanley the "Crafty Consultatnt" to be macking on my girl Ruth. Wait. Why are they advertising that the game "features Ruth and Stanley"? This isn't like a cross-over event with Luigi and Link here. I just felt misled at the outset when I was promised that I needed to "use it... or LOSE IT!" But really any in-game play that has copy that reads "Company divides into shares of equal amounts" doesn't bode well for killer gameplay.
#5 | Megaman
Fortunately this game worked out to completely rule. But look at the box, it looks like I'll be playing on a "State-of-the-Art" Tron grid with "High Resolution Graphics". And I have this Colt .45 looking pistol should I need to Schwarzenegger a bro. Actual gameplay? You're Mario with a helmet and rocket-enabled arm... which is frankly very cool. But knowing that having a gun-integrated-arm may have helped the box designer.
#4 | Bayou Billy
Honestly, I could re-title this post "Ten Misleading Box Art Covers from Konami", because the Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A folks are NOTORIOUS for misleading covers. Bayou Billy came out a year after Crocodile Dundee, and suffice to say they were a little more than "inspired" by the character. And that'd be fine if the game came anywhere close to getting to a knife wielding backwoodsmen who is SO Springsteen he even has a bandana on his thigh. Kudos to the "bad guy" in the top screenshot roshambo'ing Bayou Billy for not being Crocodile Dundee.
#3 | Dr. Mario
Oh sweet! I'm Mario and I'm a doctor and get to inject pills into these crazy gremlin things, presumably un-gremlining them or more rad still, gremlinating them! Hardly. Tetris but with pills. It would be years before I trust another Mario game... or a plumber with a moustache telling me to trust him, as he was a "doctor".
#2 | Rambo
DUDE! On the cover, you're EXPLICITLY telling me there will be copious gun play brought on by me - ultra muscly Rambo. Actual gameplay: I look like the Karate Kid in hot pants. And what's this? No gun? So I just have to take out dudes with my bare hands? Well that'd be cool. No not that either?... You're telling me I spend the majority of the game stabbing jungle snakes. Jungle snakes.
#1 | Joust
"DESCEND NOW MYTHICAL HELLSPAWN OSTRICH!" Here's how dull Joust truly is. I just used the same screenshot for both views above, just flipped one horizontally. And did you notice? Of course not, because that's all you do in this game. Move left and aim to hit some stuff, now time to move right and hit some stuff. The fact this gem didn't even have a soundtrack didn't exactly help gameplay either. A neighborhood kid and I played this every day for a week. We got in a fight every day for that same week too. Not. a. coincidence.