You Had One Job! - European Dreamcast Game Box Screw-ups

Since the beginning of time - well, gaming - video games have come in boxes with artwork. The artwork was put there to sell the experience to you, to convince you why the game inside that box was the game you needed to leave the shop with that day more so than any of the others. By the time our beloved little white SEGA box came onto the market, it was the sixth generation of gaming. Even games released for the microcomputers of the 80s had box art, so, by the late '90s, it was very much an established norm.

On the Dreamcast, there was a clear template for each region of how the box artwork should look. In Europe, you had the nice blue base template and logos; a front cover, a spine, and the back cover. So simple and elegant, everything looking uniform on a shelf... what could possibly go wrong?

Well, quite a lot it turns out...

Tokyo Highway Challenge

Right from day one, Dreamcast game publishers found sticking to simple templates difficult. Tokyo Highway Challenge (known as Tokyo Xtreme Racer in the USA) is actually one of the Dreamcast’s more under-appreciated titles. Leaning heavily into an Initial D vibe, the game places you onto Tokyo’s C-1 “highway” and tasks you with challenging and beating all the other illegal street racers in a quest to become the ultimate import racer. Quite how you do that in what are domestic cars in Japan I never did figure out, but that’s not what we’re here to discuss! So, how exactly did Crave fail on the console's European launch day with their game packaging?

Clearly using the white arc of the US theme.

Mistake: Using the US Dreamcast template on the front cover. Although it does at least look like they tried, seeing as they went to the effort of removing the little orange triangle that represents the console's power LED...

NFL Blitz 2000

Also on day one, it wasn’t just Crave who were struggling with the idea of box art. Step forward, Midway! In their defence (“DEFENSE!!!”), they did have more boxes to get right at launch with Hydro Thunder, Ready 2 Rumble and Mortal Kombat Gold all releasing alongside NFL Blitz 2000.

NFL Blitz 2000 is an arcade sportsball game. I hear it's good fun, but I won’t lie, I’ve never understood a sport called football where most of the game has the players holding the ball and running. Anyway, having graced us with multiple launch titles, I can confirm that Midway got the front and back of the game perfect. So far, so good. So what on earth could possibly go wrong from here?

Just the Dreamcast logo and the code on the spine.

Putting the game on a shelf only emphasises the issue even more... 

Mistake: Forgot to put the game's name on the spine.

F1 Racing Championship

Moving away from the launch, Ubisoft were arguably one of the system’s greatest supporters in the West, putting some of the system's greatest and best out, like Rayman 2. With this, you’d think they had plenty of experience doing Dreamcast box art, especially in the Formula 1 genre, seeing as they'd already graced the system on launch day with Monaco Grand Prix... No, wait... it was Racing Simulation Monaco Grand... Monaco Grand Prix Racing Simu… Racing Simulation 2: Monaco Grand Prix! A.K.A Racing Simulation: Monaco Grand Prix (it says so right on the manual!)

These are all the same game.

Anyway, as well as that Monaco game and its later online release: Racing Simulation 2: Monaco Grand Prix Online & Knuckles, Ubisoft also put another F1 racer onto the system, this time officially licensed by the FIA with real drivers thanks to a publishing deal with Video System. With all this experience of releasing F1 games, of course Ubisoft would have been familiar how the game's logo on the spine should be orientated by that point. But alas...

Upside-down logo.

Mistake: Put the game name upside down on the spine.

Eidos getting confused about disc formats

It's not just box art that can go wrong. There's also room for error on the discs themselves! Everybody knows that the Dreamcast was 100% secure from piracy thanks to a proprietary disc known as GD-ROM. These discs held up to a Gigabyte of data rather than the meagre 650-700 Megabytes that a typical CD held.

Seems that somebody forgot to tell Eidos, another fairly prolific supporter of our favourite system, who kept saying their games were on "Compact Disc". Strange, because when I put them in my CD player I get that nice lady telling me I'm about to blow my speakers up. Whoever did this clearly didn't learn their lesson, as many months later Chicken Run also contained the "Compact Disc" logo on the disc art.

At least they fixed it for Tomb Raider Chronicles.

Update (1st June): Thanks to SegaOnline and Dreamcast Today for pointing out that it wasn't just Eidos who were guilty of making this mistake, but also Virgin Interactive - as shown by Resident Evil 2 and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure below. With the exception of Sword of the Berserk, all of the games featured here with this mistake were also on PlayStation, so possibly that explains the mix up?

Mistake: Putting the wrong media format on the disc label.

Deep Fighter

Getting the media wrong is one thing, but Ubisoft asked Eidos to hold their beer with this other disc-repency. I'll get me coat!

Criterion are well known now for the meteoric success of the Burnout Franchise and later taking over Need for Speed duties. Before that, however, they graced SEGA's last act with a couple of titles including the technically impressive - but difficult - Trickstyle, the fun motorcycle racer Suzuki Alstare Racing (aka Redline Racer) and the lesser known Deep Fighter, an underwater Wing Commander-style Submarine-em-up with live-action cutscenes.

So, what pray went wrong here? I may be completely wrong, and if anyone can confirm otherwise I'll gladly hold my hands up, but it seems that rather than putting the PADI diving association logo on the game’s disc, someone instead put the logo for developer Player 1 (of Roadsters and Exhibition of Speed fame). I can find no source that credits Player 1 with having anything at all to do with this release, while PADI were not only referenced on the game's front cover, but were also offering a 2 for 1 deal on Discover Scuba Diving experiences to anyone referencing the "Deep Fighter promotion" when booking. Either way, the Player 1 logo probably shouldn't be on the disc.

Player 1, PADI, pretty close I guess.

Mistake: Wrong company logo on the disc.

Sno-Cross Championship Racing

From here on out, we still have the odd hiccup, but nothing quite as overt. So here are a few more little whoopsies that would never have got the Official Nintendo Seal of Quality.

Ubisoft at this point were serial offenders and should probably have had their publishing privileges revoked. This is nowhere near the level of some previous infractions, but somehow they managed to use a white font for the Dreamcast logo on the game's cover, rather than the correct colour of black, even though they got it right on the manual.

Where on earth did that logo even come from?

Mistake: Just trolling at this point.

Big Ben Interactive

In the final dying days of the Dreamcast, even SEGA themselves abandoned the console. Luckily for us PAL gamers, Big Ben Interactive took over the remaining inventory, and were even kind enough to give us some extra software to play. Unlike in the US, where games just stopped abruptly with NHL 2K2, thanks to Big Ben agreeing to step in, Europe continued to get some high-quality releases, including Shenmue II and Headhunter, along with some not so high-quality ones like Dragon Riders: Chronicles of Pern.

Although Cannon Spike is often credited as the "final" PAL Dreamcast game, this isn't quite true. It was certainly one of the last, but Big Ben actually did one last hurrah and threw out a bunch of last minute software on the same day, though with the exception of Evil Twin, these titles had already released in other regions. The only problem is, it was clear that quality control had well and truly gone out of the window at this point. Logos were no longer correctly proportioned, colour schemes no longer maintained, and in Cannon Spike's case, I swear the back insert (below, right) was printed on an Epson Inkjet. So not really a mistake as such this one, more just a lack of care…

C+, could do better.

If you're curious if things got any better inside the box, Lewis has joined in on the packaging snobbery and is kicking off over this beautiful example found on the manual of Heavy Metal Geomatrix, which commits the astonishing faux pas of having the Capcom logo obscure the game's title:

"Like, couldn't they have just duplicated the front cover?" - Lewis

Too Many Blues

Another comment often brought up when discussing the PAL territory's unique aesthetic is just how inconsistent the blue used is. As you can see below, nothing seems to truly match up, unlike with the USA’s black or white spines. I cannot 100% vouch for this as I am no expert, but I have been reliably informed that the consistency itself wasn't as bad as it looks, and that the true culprit for such a divergence in colour consistency is in fact caused by different PDF software at the time interpreting the colour specs differently.

I guess that's why they call it the blues.

Mistake: Picked a colour that doesn't print consistently especially on different software.

So there's just a few booboos that slipped through the quality control of Sega Europe back in the day. Have you spotted any consistency or packaging issues of your own on the Dreamcast? Did the Japanese and US branches of Sega do much better jobs at quality control? Let us know in the comments or on social media!


Lewis Cox said...

That “Lewis” guy sure has a point… that manual for Heavy Metal Geomatrix is bloody atrocious. 😂

Tom Charnock said...

Excellent stuff. DCJY still delving into the obscure shizzle. Love it!

Le Rowe said...

Thanks for unlocking a hidden memory of me looking at Tokyo Highway Challenge and just feeling like something was off. It felt too simple and clean...