The typical differences and surprising similarities in this one random box cover

First off, I’m not here to trot out a bunch of images as if comparing video game box art from different regions isn’t one of the oldest trends on the internet. At this point I think everyone is well aware that the Japanese box art is almost always the winner — like 99.something percent of the time — and that the disparity between them was never as wide as in the 80’s and 90’s. But what I am here to trot out is this one specific example that jumped out at me recently.

Fortified Zone, or Ikari no Yōsai, is another Jaleco release for the Game By from 1991 that seems like it mostly came and went. There are definitely fans but it’s not a game that’s ever stood out to me until I spotted the atrocious North American box art in passing one day. I just had to see what the Japanese original looked like and I was honestly surprised to see that the layout is almost identical between the two.

Partially mirrored and tightly cropped it’s strikingly similar in side-by-side comparison with only a few egregious differences. Our hero has taken on the bronze skin and brown hair of any Rambo-like of the era. His belt-fed bullets hilariously and perfectly cover both of his nipples while the Japanese version simply omits them. His feminine ally, Mizuki, has become blonde and busty with ripped jean shorts. The opposing forces in the background are much more detailed.

On the other hand, the things that haven’t been changed also stand out in this case. The M16 machine gun with underslung grenade launcher. The flowing belt of bullets and utility belt pouches. Mizuki is in almost the same position and wearing similar blue-toned clothes despite the sultry “enhancements”. The mountain, forest, and battlefield filled with a tank and enemy soldiers all look really similar too. It’s really just a repaint, from the flatter and colorful manga/anime style to the gross, sub-standard comic book illustration that we’re too painfully familiar with in North America.

Maybe I just haven’t put enough boxes side by side in the last decade or two but Fortified Zone did stand out for all of the typical differences as well as a surprising amount of similarities. On a personal note, it takes a bit of work to set up but I really love having my screen saver set to randomly cycle box art. Walking back into the room after several minutes I am usually discovering some previously unseen or long-forgotten-about game and jotting it down on a list to look up later.

From the Archives