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It’s become less common with the increasing globalization of the video game industry, but not so long ago, box art for the same title could vary wildly from one region to the next. Much of this was due to the nature of licensing contracts. For example, it may have made sense to commission a popular anime artist to draw the cover for a Japanese release of a game, but without that same fan base and recognition overseas, oftentimes executives judged it was wiser to hire a struggling artist to draw new art on the cheap than to shell out the extra money necessary to procure the rights to use the anime art internationally.

But while these sorts of legal technicalities explain how North American gamers ended up with such horrible art on the packaging for Mega Man and Ranma 1/2 Hard Battle, it doesn’t explain why someone felt the need to create strange new covers for bootlegged video games in Iraq.

Actually, there’s one other common reason for changing box art: to make the product look edgier or more macho than the original packaging. For instance, here’s the difference between the Japanese and American versions of Dragon Quest II.

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Maybe Iraqi bootleggers had something similar in mind when they decided to punch up the cover of Matrix: Path of Neo, which originally looked like this.

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That’s not so bad, right? It’s got Neo in his cool trench coat and shades. But compare it to this version found in Iraq.

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Now that’s a cover with so much testosterone we’re surprised that man’s Fallout tattoos aren’t covered up by a thick carpet of chest hair.

Shadow of the Colossus, a game as memorable for the innovation of its boss fights as the guilt it instilled in victorious players, got a similar treatment. Going from this…

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…to this:

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Wander, the protagonist of Shadow of the Colossus, is far slenderer and more smooth-faced than the smirking alpha male shown here. Moreover, his in-game steed Agro lacks the flaming hooves seen here.

Apparently, if you’re selling illegally reproduced games in Iraq, it’s in your best interest to add masculinity even to already manly artwork. Here we see the American cover for Mark of Kri, with a muscle-bound warrior showing off his trusty spear and well-developed pecs.

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But he’s still not as awesome as Yoshimitsu, the robot ninja from the fighting series Tekken, so why not have him grace the cover instead? You can’t let minor details like the fact that Yoshimitsu doesn’t appear anywhere in Mark of Kri, or even the fact that the two games are made by different developers, stop you if you’re going to succeed in the dog-eat-dog world of pirated game sales.

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Speaking of unlicensed crossovers, let’s talk about Bloody Roar, a fighting series that’s seen its relevance rise and fall multiple times since the franchise started in the late ‘90s. The series’ PlayStation2 iteration, Bloody Roar 4, upped its regular ante of shape-shifting martial artists by adding a hefty dose of werebeast cleavage.

▼ And hot pants!

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Unfortunately, that violet-tressed lass’ recognition among gamers isn’t nearly as impressive as her bust measurement, so Iraqi bootleggers decided to swap her out for a better-known female hand-to-hand expert with a hatred of high necklines, The Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3.

▼ The title 3 Bloody Roar makes about as much sense as anything on this cover.

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Because if fame and boobs are both powerful persuasive forces, famous boobs must be the best marketing tool of all.

Sources: Jin, Inside Games
Top image: Inside Games
Insert inages: Hardcore Gaming 101, Moby Games, Inside Games, Wikipedia (1, 2) Inside Games, Wikipedia (3), Inside Games