I want you to take a moment and imagine Nintendo's famously beloved plumber, Mario, in your mind. Chances are that you're envisioning soft angles and gentle curves mixed with primary colors. A familiar red hat sporting the iconic M logo is probably in there somewhere along with a cheery smile, bright eyes, and a bushy 'stache. Mario has changed his style gradually over the years, but he mostly remains the same at heart. His general image never really changes. Well, except for that one time when it did. Let's step back a few years to 2005 when Mario and his Mushroom Kingdom associates decided to put down the baseball gloves, park the go-karts, and store the tennis rackets in order to kick around the ol' ball in an aggressive game of soccer ("football" to those of you outside of North America). Next Level Games somehow convinced Nintendo to present a new variation of Mario's world, trading the smiles and sunshine for harsh strokes and coloring outside of the lines. Super Mario Strikers for the Nintendo GameCube presents a much different take on Nintendo's most famous franchise cast and it's the subject of today's Artwork on Parade.
As a new 3D modern Bionic Commando adventure swings into stores this week in North America and Europe, it seems only appropriate to take a look back at the official artwork behind the original adventures of hero Nathan "Radd" Spencer and his amazing bionic arm. We all know the story by now: when the notorious Badds led by Generalissimo Killt put into action a plan to resurrect their slain leader and launch a fearsome airship weapon, the Federation's greatest soldier, Super Joe, is sent to destroy the threat. When he goes missing, it's up to Spencer to go behind enemy lines and finish Joe's mission. From Area 1 to the mighty Albatross airship and everywhere in between, there's a reason why Bionic Commando stands out as one of the most beloved video games of the late 1980s... but it's sure not because of the artwork. Let's take a walk back to the 1980s and do a little gawking.
Today's visit to the promotional artwork archive takes us to the original Star Fox for the Super NES. Released in 1993 to show off the power of the Super FX chip, the game's characters are mainly window dressing to justify the existence of the arwing fighter ships. Fittingly enough, the promotional artwork created for the game focuses on these characters instead of the arwing itself, as the game was released during the great character mascot invasion of the early to mid-1990s. Polygonal ships couldn't sell games or spark the imagination as effectively as quartet of animal/human hybrid heroes. Let's take a quick trip to the planet Corneria and revisit some vintage artwork from the original Star Fox adventure.
Last week I shared some really horrendously early off-model Super Mario artwork with you. This week I thought it was only appropriate to shift the other way and show you some of my favorite Nintendo-produced Super Mario artwork. Personally, my favorite era of Super Mario art comes from the images created for 1991's Super Mario World. Let's take a walk down memory lane to a time when 16-bits was a lot, games came in big boxes stuffed with plastic, and all one needed to fly was a cape (or a blue turtle shell and a Yoshi).
Capcom cranked out one last Mega Man game before the Super Famicom was completely replaced by the Nintendo 64, although it took several years for that game to make it to North America (and when it did, it arrived as a Game Boy Advance title). Mega Man and Bass included two returning Robot Masters from Mega Man 8, but the remaining six robots really didn't bring anything new to the series. Cold Man follows in the footsteps of characters such as Ice Man, Blizzard Man, Freeze Man, and Frost Man, for example. The original Mega Man series went into hibernation for a few years, returning with Mega Man 9 and eight new Robot Masters that try to break new ground. Splash Woman is the first female Robot Master in the series, proving that even rebelling robots can break through the glass ceiling. Bonus points to Capcom and developer Inti Creates for not giving into stereotypes by assigning the female role to Jewel Man. Still, some of the new designs are derivative of older creations. Tornado Man looks a heck of a lot like Gyro Man, while Magma Man has a lot in common with Needle Man and Napalm Man. Still, after all this time it's nice to have some new Robot Masters to observe, so in the end I say we go easy on the similarities and just enjoy the ride.
Capcom finally left the 8-bit Mega Man world behind in 1995, and with extra power at the heart of the Super NES, Sega Saturn, and Sony PlayStation, the Robot Master designers went a little overboard with adding new details and attempted realism. More colors, larger canvases, and less personality were hallmarks of this era, almost as if the developers were trying a little too hard to show off the latest iteration of "next generation graphics" at work. The character artwork created for Mega Man 7 and Mega Man 8 bring us to the penultimate part of Robot Masters On Parade.
The fantastic Robot Master character artwork created for the Mega Man 5 and Mega Man 6 portions of Rockman Complete Works are the focus in this installment of Robot Masters On Parade. As ideas for physical objects on which to base new Robot Masters starts to run short, the developers have started turning to abstract concepts such as gravity, acceleration, and yamato. There's even a tour guide robot built in the form of a centaur for some reason. These Robot Masters prove that there is no "off" position on the genius switch.
Continuing on with a look at character artwork from the Rockman Complete Works series, today's collection of Robot Masters come from Mega Man 3 and Mega Man 4. Some of the character designs are beginning to flare towards the unusual, as there are only so many ways one can reuse basic elements such as fire or sharp blades. This is the era that gave us Robot Masters based on things such as tops, toads, twins, and trash. Still, some of the concepts are inspired. Check out the way that Top Man's evil glare forms the rest of the top embedded in his head, for example.
After reading yesterday's Robot Master Roll Call article some of you out there asked about the origin of the character artwork and where the rest of the images from that series could be found. I've been collecting neat gaming artwork for a while now because I never really know when I'll need an image of, say, Metal Man throwing blades at the audience. Due to popular demand, over the next few days I'm going to post the impressive Robot Master character art that was created for the Japan-only Rockman Complete Works discs during the Sony PlayStation era. Today's focus is on the original Mega Man and its sequel, Mega Man 2.