Monday, December 17, 2012

Mega Man 2 + Strider, NES, 1989.

As with the Willow ad and the design-related Bionic Commando ad, this one also follows a certain advertising convention of Capcom-published NES games circa 1988-89 even though it advertises two fundamentally unrelated games, Strider and Mega Man 2. "Here are two of the games we're selling, but we didn't want to buy them individual ads!" Just like Bandai!
These games actually do have a connection: beyond being futuristic SF Capcom NES games, they both feature cover artwork (which this scan does no favors to -- but skip to the bottom for better ones!) from the same artist, one Marc Ericksen, a commercial artist who was in the right place at the right time to enjoy a fabulous 20-year run drafting cover artwork for classic games from classic companies. Recently he's launched a portfolio website,, with a specific focus on his game cover artwork, with an eye toward making high-quality prints of them available for sale, for pretty much the first time ever, to nerdy nostalgic art connoisseurs. The blog at that portfolio site is gradually filling up with fantastic details, such as the story of how the pistol ended up in Mega Man's cannon-hand on that cover, or how the Kazakh guard on the cover of Strider was actually an artist he shared studio space with, paleofauna illustrator par excellence Carl Buell, and who turned up in all sorts of Marc's cover artwork whenever a macho model was called for -- often getting punched off of a motorbike, kicked in the face, or in this case, stabbing Strider with a bayonet. In Marc's gallery, you can find endless permutations of Carl suffering abuse, and plenty of beautiful images of game box artwork, including much better images of the art featured on these two games' boxes. If this field interests you at all (and let's face it, would you be here if it didn't?) it's well worth checking out.
Stand by, gamers! Capcom introduces two new thrilling games to its Nintendo series. And as always, the graphics are hot and the action intense.
First, experience the ultimate character adventure game! As MegaMan, you must conquer and control the eight empires of the evil Dr. Wily. But beware of his sinister robots that rule each empire. Their special powers present a unique challenge at every level.
Then, prepare for undercover action as the Strider. Your orders are to enter Russia and infiltrate the Red Army, returning enemy secrets to your superiors. But be extremely cautious. You know what the Russians do to spies!
So get set for radical action in these exciting additions to the Nintendo Entertainment System. From Capcom, U.S.A.
MegaMan 2 Screen Shot
Strider Screen Shot

Radical means going to the root of something, a kind of fundamentalism. (You can see these two words etymologically reunited in the ancient Greek punishment of the "radish up the fundament", but I digress.) I don't know that there's anything especially traditional or "back to the roots" about these games, so we must be talking '80s gnarly surfer-slang instead. As for the "hot"ness of the graphics, let's be fair here: the slightly earlier Strider arcade game was amazing eye candy, but this was just the NES. Now, if we were talking about Bubble Bath Babes... but I digress!So: MM2, the ultimate "character adventure" game. There's a genre designation that was DOA! Like when they called FPS games "ego-shooters." I gather it means a platform game with an iconic mascot?
Strider always confused me. A friend and I rented it overnight back in the day and were expecting something a little more LOTR-ish from the title. This box artwork, though well rendered, also muddled things a little bit -- why is he fighting a cowboy? (Wait, the Old West doesn't maintain a monopoly on floppy hats. You know, I have no idea what the fashion is in Kazakhstan, though the ad glosses over the very specific exoticism as "Russia".) The write-up here seems to frame it as a stealth/intrigue game of sorts, though anyone who has played it will tell you that putting it in those terms would be a big pile of hooey. Indeed, while the MegaMan 2 write-up describes some basic tenets of MegaMan gameplay, the Strider blurb focuses almost entirely on the plot -- plot which you don't even see much of in the game! (Don't get me wrong: I'm a big fan of video game story. I collect game novelizations in hopes of uncovering some supplementary context explaining specifically why I'm supposed to punch these anonymous mooks in the solar plexus over and over and over again. Admittedly I am generally disappointed in this quest, but I carry on idealistically regardless.)
It's a bit baffling why Willow got a whole ad to itself but MegaMan 2 didn't. But in any case -- Capcom didn't need to design a new ad look for these releases, it just got one more scrape out of the bottom of the barrel for this particular design. (There's no way those games could be so precariously balancing on that pedestal!)

Here's an update, straight from Marc's site -- better images of those boxes' cover artwork: