I’m a big, big fan of old game box art. Some of it is nostalgia, yes. A lot of it is just loving the tone conveyed by the one piece of key art that wasn’t necessarily produced under the same strict constraints of whatever older computer the devs were working with at the time.
I mean, some of it makes about as much sense as the works of art produced by this parody account, which I follow religiously, but that’s all wonderful too.
So, when I got my copy of Sonic Mania Plus (the enhanced edition of last year’s transcendent Sonic Mania), I actually did the thing with its reversible cover and switched the perfectly fine “regular” side to the subtly wonderful Genesis side.
Look at this gorgeous beast of 90s marketing nostalgia (in the header image)! The colors! The Sega seal of approval! The key art, with a much more dynamic display of the characters running around Studiopolis (one of the game’s zones, the first completely unique area made for Mania and not riffing directly from a previous 2D Sonic game). Sonic is running, Tails is flying, and Knuckles is… Knuckling his way through the colorful, techno-radiant terrain.
And the back! Oh, the back of the box is maybe even better. The same screenshots are used in the regular cover, as is the same piece of art of the two new characters (Ray and Mighty, new to the Plus edition). But the copy is all new, and there's SO much more text in the Genesis version here. You had to get your story from somewhere, naturally. In the early 90s, platformer kids got their deep lore from box covers. Well, some of it.
The captions are pretty great too.
“Graphics so crisp, you’ll think it’s 1999!”
Oh, how that tugs on the heartstrings of a thirty-something player.
The physical edition also comes with a tiny artbook with a whole bunch of concept art to get excited about, if you are a big level/environment design nerd like me. If you squint a tiny bit, you can see a little frozen Sonic cube in sketch for the Press Gardens area. And there’s a really lovely little pseudo-3D sketch for a segment that would become Mirage Saloon Zone that just looks really warm and inviting and… fun!
I’ve been playing quite a bit of Sonic Mania recently (hilariously, the regular version, as I didn’t pick up my copy of Plus until today), and yeah, that’s a fantastic, well-designed platformer. I’m excited to make my way through it with the new characters—probably more than once.
It's all very clear from the game itself and the supporting materials here that Sonic Mania was a project that the team poured love (and really good design sense) into.