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Thanks to modern Internet marketing, it’s unlikely that anyone buys a video game without first having seen multiple gameplay videos of it as various stages of production. Gamers didn’t used to have access to so much information, though. In the 16-bit era, the less developed video game journalism sector meant that only major releases would get spreads in print magazines, and for some niche titles the only available visual preview came on the box itself.

As a result, the cover artwork played a huge role in catching customers’ eyes and conveying the mood and style of the game. Like classic movie posters, the best examples are works of art, and many of them are now being assembled in the upcoming book Super Famicom: The Box Art Collection.

UPDATE: Preorders can now be placed for Super Famicom: The Box Art Collection (priced at £24.99) through Funstock, the book’s exclusive retailer, here.

U.K.-based Bitmap Books is committed to documenting retro video games, which according to the publisher’s interpretation includes the software for Nintendo’s Super Famicom (known as the Super NES in the international market). While Bitmap Books has previously released visual histories of the Commodore 64 and Amiga computer game libraries, this is the company’s first time to turn its focus to console gaming.

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Within the pages of the hardcover Super Famicom: The Box Art Collection, readers will find the covers of some 250 titles for the system, and the criteria of Japanese releases should be a crowd-pleaser. During the peak of the system’s popularity in the early and mid 1990s, the vast majority of console games were still being made by Japanese companies, who saw the overseas market as being of secondary importance. Far more effort went into the covers used in Japan, and for international releases of the same games the U.S. and U.K. often received cheaply slapped together redone art, either out of a misguided effort to appeal to local tastes or an unwillingness on the part of the overseas publisher to pay to license the original cover for use outside of Japan.

For example, let’s compare the Japanese cover of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (seen on the left below) with the American one (on the right).

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Another key difference is that most Japanese publishers chose to lay out their covers vertically, which sometimes produced a far more cinematic effect, such as in the towering Tree of Mana on the Japanese cover of Seiken Densetsu 2/Secret of Mana.

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Bitmap Books’ decision to use extra-large pages means that the artwork can be printed at the exact dimensions it appeared with on the game’s box. In addition, the book will contain critiques of the covers and interviews with notable Super Famicom game collectors.

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Pricing for Super Famicom: The Box Art Collection is yet to be announced, but the publisher’s previous 230-page softcover Commodore 64 tome sells for 33.69 pounds (US$51). Bitmap Books hopes to have its Super Famicom cover collection ready to print in 2016, and in the meantime you can check the publisher’s website for more information as it becomes available.

Related: Bitmap Books
Source: Culture Lab via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Bitmap Books
Insert images: Bitmap Books, Amazon (edited by RocketNews24)