GameSpite Quarterly 8 | Suikoden: Shame, American Style

Suikoden arrived in the U.S. before the role-playing genre really took off on consoles -- that wouldn’t happen for another year or so -- which means that in many sense, we were lucky to have seen a localized version at all. Still, one can’t help but wonder if maybe the cause of promoting the RPG in America might not have been helped along had Konami gone with the game’s original Japanese box art rather than the hideous abomination we ended up with.

While vaguely anime-flavored, the cover to Japan’s Genso Suikoden was fairly restrained and not particularly cartoonish; on the contrary, it had a wonderful painterly quality that made it look more like a watercolor or light oil piece on canvas than a cel of animation. Yet for god knows what reason, Konami felt compelled to grace its American release with an airbrushed mess that looked like the cover of a particularly cheap brand of fantasy novel. The young hero was rendered as a thick-jawed 30-year-old, and the game’s ultimate villain, Barabarossa, was depicted as a sleazy-looking Ming the Merciless type hungry for conquest—a far cry from the noble, wistful reality of the misguided ruler.

Characterization aside, the U.S. and Japanese covers couldn’t be more diametrically opposed in terms of composition and tone. The Japanese box collects the hero’s army into a central, mandala-like formation, bursting from their bounding box yet nevertheless contained, giving emphasis to the warm, airy sky. The American art features a ring of characters around an indistinct structure -- Toran Castle, one assumes -- rising out of a cold, cluttered sea. It’s as though Konami actively tried to make the two works as different as possible.

A real eyesore. But on the plus side, it provided fuel for “worst box covers” features for years to come.

By Jeremy Parish? | May 11, 2011 | Last: Suikoden | Next: Rise of the Retro Game?