Welcome back for round two of the series where we throw the regional box art variants of a particular retro game into a pit and see which one scrambles out victorious. Last time we kicked things off with Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo. After a week of voting, the Japanese art has emerged with a very comfortable win, followed by North America a very distant second with the similar European version just behind. Congratulations Japan!
This week we're heading back further to the Nintendo Entertainment System and Konami's seminal run 'n' gunner Contra, and we've got a feeling things may not be so clear-cut this round. In PAL regions the game got renamed Gryzor on most systems, but the NES port was completely rebranded in Europe (in order to comply with German laws at the time). The game is otherwise identical and us Europeans have a huge affection for Probotector, but a shift to robots in 2633 A.D. means the box art is radically different - it'll be very interesting to see whether muscles or metal win out this week.
So, let's take a look at this round's brawlers!...
The US box art for Contra famously 'borrows' some huge icons of the 1980s. Bill (left) is clearly a paint over of Arnold Schwarzenegger from Predator, and Lance is evoking his box office rival, Rambo-era Sly Stallone. That said, we always assumed the guy on the cover was probably modelled after Sonny Landham (Billy from Predator). The alien in the background is blatantly an Alien, but the classic logo coupled with the classy Konami grey/silver border somehow elevates this above a mere clone cover. As they say, if you're gonna steal, steal from the best.
In an effort to get around German censorship laws aimed at protecting kids from violent video games, Bill and Lance were replaced in Europe by the snappily named RD008 and RC011 and the game was localised as Probotector. This change would only continue until the PlayStation era, but for many European fans, this was how we first played Contra. Don't feel sorry for us - the game itself is practically identical save for the sprite swap and we got a couple of awesome Gundam-style robots on the cover in lieu of Arnold and Sly/Sonny.
As a little bonus, here's the Game Boy cover (it's not in the poll, mind):
Last but not least, we have the Japanese original. Once again, it's evoking the '80s action movie classics with the rippling Bill and Lance in the foreground. Behind them is the Alien egg and below that is a vehicle that's been lifted straight out of Blade Runner or Total Recall. Throw in an alien tentacle thing, an eye-catching pink border and a glint of light on the barrel of Bill's gun reminiscent of the original Star Wars poster and that's more than enough Hollywood boxes ticked.
Those are your choices this week - a varied bunch, that's for sure! Take a good look below, decide your favourite and vote by clicking on your preferred cover and hitting the 'Vote' button:
Which region got the best Contra box art? (508 votes)
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That's it for round 2 of Box Art Brawl. Share your impressions of the variants below and feel free to engage in civilised debate as to the whether gun-toting robots or gun-toting dudes are better. We'll catch you next time for round 3...