Kemco's Phalanx may not be one of the greatest 16-bit shooters ever made - heck, it's not even close to being one of the best shooters on the SNES - but it has become famous for having one of the strangest western covers in gaming history.

Even at the time of release, people simply couldn't fathom what an old man playing a banjo had to do with a sci-fi shooter with spacecraft and aliens. It was completely nonsensical - but it turns out that was always the intention.

The two men responsible for this iconic cover are Matt Guss and Keith Campbell. Guss - who still works in advertising and his own agency - explains to Destructoid exactly what happened:

My ad agency had the Kemco account, and our task was to develop packaging and marketing materials for over 40 titles. Kemco would typically buy their games from 3rd party developers in Japan. Some were good, and some were not good. Weaker games needed more help graphically to get them to stand out on the retail shelf. We wanted people to pick up the package, get engaged with the story, and buy the damn game. The package was also used to help Kemco sell the game to retailers, so it had to make the buyers think the game would sell at their stores (i.e. Walmart, etc.). Most of the games back then were in a look-alike category: same genre, same kind of graphics. Nothing to differentiate them from each other. Keith was not a gamer, and, in fact, none of us were in our agency. But Keith was a brilliant idea guy and always was. We knew the game didn't have a lot to offer, but we wanted to make the package arresting. Keith called this kind of thing the "heavy huh factor." If we couldn't do anything else, we'd try and get the potential purchaser to stare at the package and try and figure out what just happened. Today it might be called a WTF moment.

So Keith could have done some predictable spaceship shooting bullshit that would have been like every other game out there. Or he could create a story that would make people stop and think about it. And I guess it's proof that was a good idea because people are still thinking about it. Phalanx was a very average game with an unexpected cover design. It needed a great/weird idea to stand out from the crowd.

As for the guy on the cover? His name is Bertil Valley, and he sadly passed away in 2004. Somehow, knowing all of this makes that odd cover art even more appealing.

[via destructoid.com]