Welcome to Box Art Brawl, the weekly battle between box art variants to find out which lucky region got the best artwork with their retro games. Ready for a change of pace this week? That's right, we're getting an attitude, sticking it to the man and throwing out the rule book that's governed the previous thirty-one brawls. Yes, we're opening Box Art Brawl up to retro games that didn't originally launch on Nintendo systems. More on that in a moment.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves! First a recap of last week's bout between three groups of Ghosts 'n Goblins across NES and Famicom. Japan managed to mop up 20% of the vote while Europe bagged 32%, but North America was the clear winner. It's probably down to the plural spectres in its title compared to the singular European Ghost 'n Goblins. Congratulations to NA, commiserations to the rest.
So then! As you can see, our inaugural non-Nintendo entry brings Mario's erstwhile platforming rival to the brawl. With the hedgehog currently cleaning up in cinemas around the globe and with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 getting re-released on Switch, he seemed like the perfect choice to take us into the next phase of the series.
Don't worry, we're not going all SEGA Life on you! Our new rule is that eligible games must have appeared on a Nintendo platform at some point. So, 1991's Sonic the Hedgehog is safe territory seeing as Sonic's 16-bit debut has graced virtually every known platform since the millennium. 2006's Sonic the Hedgehog, on the other hand, would not be valid. In any way, ever.
Enough talk. Gotta go fast, and all that.
Before we begin, let's take a moment to digest these words of wisdom:
Don't just sit there and waste your precious time. When you want to do something, do it right away. Do it when you can. It's the only way to live a life without regrets.
Words to live by indeed, and it wasn't until looking closely at the front cover of Japanese Sonic 1 that we realised the small print at the bottom wasn't legalese or technical info. Nope, it's a philosophy that focuses less on going fast and more on seizing the day; not letting opportunities slip through your fingers. It's a shame the cute little guy was forced to switch gears and turn bratty, but we've always preferred silent Sonic. Suppose we're what you might call... wait for it... Sonic Boom-ers.
Eh?! EH?! Thanks very much, we're here all week - don't forget to tip your waitress.
Ahem. Back to the cover, it may have been cheeky for SEGA to claim he was 'THE MOST FAMOUS HEDGEHOG IN THE WORLD', but even before his popularity hit the stratosphere, we weren't exactly overrun with other well-known 'hogs. As for the rest of the cover, it's colourful, '90s and charming. It arguably lacks focus, but it's hard to divorce nostalgia and familiarity from iconic covers like this. It's Sonic!
Ah, here we see where the rebellious personality started to develop. While proportionally he's still very much the recognisable blue hedgehog from the Japanese cover, the North American version for the Genesis adds more 'tude' with his raised eyebrow and slightly tapered ear tips. His entire body is more aggressively shaded and he's got a glint in his eye. Gone is the odd inspirational message, replaced with a simple logo and the shiny gold SEGA Seal of Quality.
Again, it's a classic and we love the faded art of Green Hill Zone in the background, although the black border has always felt a bit empty. Just us?
The European version is the one we played as kids, but even if we remove our nostalgia hats for a moment, we personally still think this one is best. The Japanese key art sits slightly off-centre with the background evoking the shapes and energy of the Japanese version, but it also throws in a couple of Sonic's animal buddies fleeing from Robotnik on the left. It's subtle, though, and you could easily miss it just by glancing at the game on a store shelf. The star of the game is never in question, but the abstract shapes of the Japanese version is made more interesting here. There's a bit more context for the eye to explore, though it stops well short of trees and loops.
At the risk of irritating North American readers, the shiny PAL Mega Drive logo is so much sexier than the Genesis equivalent. It looks like it should adorn a beautiful car grille or something. Put it on the Out Run Ferrari in place of the prancing horse! The standard black-grey grid lines occupy the bottom of the box but don't overwhelm the main image up the sides like the North American variant.
It's tough! We're obviously biased, but the list of things we like about this one is simply longer than the others. It's not up to us, though, is it!
Three quite different yet equally iconic covers to pick from, then. Give your favourite one a click below and then hit the 'Vote' button to register your vote. You haven't got to go fast, although we encourage you not to waste your precious time. It's the only way to live a life without regrets, you know.
It's okay, you can slow down now. That's all for this week, but we'll be back for another Box Art Brawl; same time, same place.