Mega Man (known as Rockman in Japan) got its start on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987. Upon the game’s release, it was a sleeper hit. It wasn’t until the release of Mega Man 2 that began the franchise; the game was a massive success, sprouting countless sequels and spinoffs. The series is known for its side-scrolling action, creative weapons and shooting, and the extreme difficulty. So why wasn’t the first game a huge success? Well, look at this.
…yeah. That’s another thing the series is known for: well, that. ^
Is this on purpose? Is this intentionally cheesy? Some say it is, some say it’s just terrible design, but I say…what?! How did this pass? No offense to the artist, well sort of, but I just cannot wrap my head around this. Keiji Inafune, the co-designer of the Mega Man character, blames this box art for the poor sales in North America (the Japanese box art is below on the left). Ignoring the hilarity of the artwork, the cover barely depicts anything that’s actually in the game. For one, Mega Man’s outfit is blue and yellow, (blue and yellow, blue and yellow) instead of just blue. The model is also drawn as a middle-aged man, though Mega Man looks like a kid in-game. The most offensive aspect, though, is that Mega Man is holding a pistol! Mega Man is known for his arm-cannon — that’s the whole point of the series! His arm is a cannon! And come on…palm trees? The European cover art was just as cheesy, but at least it depicted Mega Man as he actually looks. (Pictured below on the right.)
You’d think by the second game, they’d fix this mess. But nope, the second game came along, and created this. It’s not as bad as previous offenders (as Mega Man is drawn in a more cartoonish fashion) but it still doesn’t do much to promote the game very well. Mega Man looks slightly more like Mega Man, but he’s still holding a pistol! Come on, it’s the second game, learn from your mistakes. It’s MEGA MAN. Where is his arm-cannon! This depiction of the character makes him look like a generic ’80s action hero, which might have turned people away; instead of a cool, badass, robot character, it looks like customers are getting something they’ve seen in a movie theater a thousand times already.
Finally, by the third game, they figured it out. This is Mega Man. He still looks weird (just look at his face), but they finally got his arm-cannon, and he looks more like a kid and is no longer depicted as a 40-year-old man. It’s still very odd, though. First, why is Mega Man looking down? There’s a robot right in front of him, and sure, he’s shooting at it, but wouldn’t you look an enemy in the eye while you’re slowly taking the life from him? But the thing that really gets me is, why in the hell is he shooting at the robot’s crotch?! Wait…that’s what he’s looking at…oh, boy, Mega Man’s a perv.
So, that’s Mega Man for you. The very first cover is one of the most infamous, not just from the series alone, but in the whole universe of video game box art. As a throwback to the fans, Capcom released Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 (released 2008 and 2010) with the same corny art. Both games are retro 8-bit sequels, going back to the graphic design of the original NES games. Though these were both digital downloads, these two masterpieces were released alongside the games for shits and giggles. Mega Man has his arm-cannon, but he’s also holding regular guns as well (mocking the original art). In homage, Capcom gave us this: