American Kirby Is Hardcore
Being happy is sometimes rather pleasant, really. Japanese developers understand this mysterious truth, but while they keep trying to export their eternally sunny characters to us, we just keep transforming them into gloomy, moody tough guys.For whatever reason, when a Japanese game is released Stateside, there's a tendency to make the box art, or even the character models, a little more hardcore. Maybe it's as simple as adding Angry Eyebrows, or maybe the character's model is completely redone. This is often done to characters who are supposed to be cute in the first place. Sometimes it goes the other way, too: an American character may be made cuter for the Japanese release. This has to do with Values Dissonance. Japanese culture in general is very accepting of cuteness pretty much anyplace, and will take it in stride. American culture, to the contrary, is very accepting of tough manliness, often views cuteness as a sign of childishness and immaturity, and thus has a strong aversion to it in any media that's not explicitly kid-oriented. "Cutesy" is a loaded term synonymous with "wussy" or "kiddie" to most Americans, who often feel that, if a game or movie is to be taken seriously, then it must have a serious, or at least adult, tone. This attitude goes so far as to color American perceptions of Japanese culture; some historians have occasionally (and controversially) attempted to link kawaisa to the national humiliation endured by Japan in World War II and the nation's resulting 180° turn from a warrior culture to a pacifistic one. And speaking of color: in modern Japan, pink is a value-neutral color. There are pink gas stations. In the US, pink is associated with pre-pubescent girls. So expect a toning-down of any ostentatiously pink cover images. And in an extra bonus, if ever the game is brought out to Europe, expect the artwork cover to be more artistic than usual, whether it takes the buyer to figure out the artwork or not. This trope helps explaining why GameFAQs has a separate tag for box shots, since sometimes it just happens that the box art of the games differs. Essentially the opposite of Bowdlerising and a subtrope of Cultural Translation. It's also not always a bad thing, mind you; if the game itself isn't particularly cutesy-poo, then giving it cute box art is just weird. It can also mean that a game with cute art direction may hide a heart of blackened steel underneath that gamers might miss out on. On the other hand, if you're thinking about buying a game whose main character is an adorable pink puffball surrounded by sparkles and rainbows, then whether or not he's smiling on the cover honestly shouldn't be a deal-breaker (though it's no bad thing if you're wondering why he isn't smiling). Weblinks Are Not Examples! Please include a description of the cover art in your description.
— "Why Japanese Boxart is Better," GamesRadar
Video Game Examples
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- The Trope Namer here is Kirby. The box art for many of his games have had angry eyebrows added to the main character to make an 8-inch-high pink puffball seem more aggressive (side by side comparison of several here.) This strange practice is joked on originally in this YTMND and subsequently in this Brawl in the Family strip. It seems to have calmed for the time being with the release of Super Smash Bros.. Brawl, Kirby Super Star Ultra, and more recently, Kirby's Epic Yarn, whose boxarts have Kirby actually looking happy for a change, but it seems to be creeping up again no thanks to Kirby Mass Attack's cover (though to be fair, roughly half the Kirbys on Mass Attack's cover still retain their cute/curious expressions and most of the "hardcore" ones are already attacking something). It's back in full force with Kirby's Return to Dream Land.
- In Europe, it depends if the localisation team wants to use the Japanese or American version as a basis. It seems that Europeans are expected to be able to stand happy Kirby.
- A Kirby's Dream Land 2 commercial aired in the US turned Kirby, Rick, Kine, and Coo into scowling tough guys (or, you know, as tough as an 8-inch high puffball and his similarly-sized friends can be) roughhousing some Hell's Angels. As well, compare the commercials for Kirby's Dream Land and Kirby's Adventure, to say nothing of the magazine ad for◊ Kirby's Avalanche and Kirby's Dream Course. "He used to be such a good boy." The box art for Kirby's Dream Land 2 avoided this by having the same exact art as the Japanese box, in all its cutesy happiness.
- It also showed up in Kirby Super Star; not so much the box art as the in-game dialogue, and not so much Kirby as Meta Knight. In Revenge of Meta Knight, what used to be an Anti-Hero with uncertain motives, as usual, was given several rewritten lines of dialogue to make him sound less like he was trying to do a good thing for Dream Land and more like he was trying to be the next Hitler. He even got "Prepare to Die!" as a line, replacing the fairly innocent "Now we duel!", explicitly ignoring Nintendo's policy at the time. The best part is that the changes were kept (besides "Prepare to die!", which became "Come meet your doom!") when the script was rewritten for Super Star Ultra.
- Kirby's Avalanche shows Kirby as a Jerkass who acts mean to his friends and acts sarcastic, saying things like "Oh, I'm so scared" and the like. Needless to say, the game was an installment of the ineffably cute Puyo Puyo series rebranded for an American audience. Ironically the cover of the game is a rather cute image of a cheery looking Kirby and Dedede.
- On the (unofficial) extreme end of the scale, there are There Will Be Brawl's and Sonic For Hire's versions of Kirby...
- Nintendo Power lampshaded this phenomenon in the May 2011 issue's highlight on Kirby, saying he puts on his "angry eyes" for the boxart. As did IGN, when they launched a new feature comparing different box arts. Kirby went first specifically thanks to the series' use of the trope.
- Even the title of 2011's DS game seems to carry on in this tradition; known as Gather! Kirby in Japan, its English title is Kirby Mass Attack. And to top it off, on the American boxart, nearly half of the Kirbies have angry faces... but the other half doesn't. This makes it... jarring, to say the least.
- Kirby's Return to Dream Land swings the pendulum right back around and gives him angry eyes again. Contrast the Japanese boxart◊.
- For once, this is (semi) inverted in Kirby: Triple Deluxe. He's as equally annoyed on the Japanese box art as he was on the earlier game's American ones. See said box art here◊. The TV commercial on the other hand, has ominous chanting in the background while Kirby basically kills everything in sight. It's honestly kind of hilarious.
- Completely averted with Super Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS, where on both American box covers, Kirby is the only one who ISN'T determined to beat some fool down.
- Surprisingly, one of the promo artworks of the Kirby of the Stars anime◊, also known as Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, shows a hardcore Kirby.
- Averted with Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, which is merely an English reskin◊ of the adorable Japanese boxart◊, which simply shows Kirby at the happiest he's ever been in a while. Although the title seems a bit more aggressive than the Japanese one (Touch! Kirby: Super Rainbow), it's only renamed for association with Kirby: Canvas Curse (Touch! Kirby in Japanese), which plays the trope straight.
- Devs explain the phenomenon.
- Compare the Japanese and American box art for the obscure Game Boy port of Milon's Secret Castle.
- The box art for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is operating on this◊. The Japanese version resembles an Indiana Jones movie poster◊.
- “Kakefu’s Jump Heaven and Speed Hell”, which is known as “Kid Kool and the Quest for the Seven Wonder Herbs”in North America.
The Angry Video Game Nerd: Is that Kid Kool? What happened? He looks nothing like the guy on the cover. Now that’s what you would call cool. Shaking his fist at a wizard. A dragon humping his leg. I love how the North American packaging changed that derpy-looking Japanese kid into a badass to deceive people and increase sales.
- The Japanese Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance cover has Raiden in a fighting stance while holding his sword◊. The English version instead has Raiden cutting a cyborg in two◊. This affects the actual game too where the Japanese version had cyborgs bleed white blood (which had an in-universe reason from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots) while other regions have cyborgs bleed red.
- Totally Rad is one of the most extreme examples. The translators changed most of the dialog and even its name from the original (which was called Magic John, a reasonable change). And of course plunked in two completely different main characters in place of the originals. The result is a send-up of '80s surfer dude culture in place of a fairly forgettable platformer.
- Not surprisingly, Magic John/Totally Rad was published by Jaleco, a company famous for having its game's characters and plot being almost completely altered for American release. A good example being Saiyuuki World 2, a game based loosely on Journey to the West (and sequel to a dolled-up Wonder Boy In Monster Land) which became the Native American themed Whomp 'Em.
- Taro's Quest, an unreleased and unfinished localization of Jaleco's Dragon Quest clone Jajamaru Ninpou Chou, had major changes to the graphics, redrawing the character portraits to be less Super-Deformed and outright replacing some of the more goofy-looking monsters.
- The first Super Famicom Ganbare Goemon game was translated and brought over as Legend of the Mystical Ninja, and funky character renaming aside (Kid Ying and Dr. Yang), the box art◊ was suitably "Americanized"◊.
- Most The Legend of Zelda box arts invoke this, going back to the first game. US releases often either discard the generally colorful artwork of the Japanese and occasionally European versions in favor of the game's logo on a (usually) sepia background. The American box art does lean towards the yellow end of the color spectrum. Particular examples include:
- The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. In Japan and Europe, the box to Link's latest DS adventure features him and ghost Zelda happy riding their train (the train being the game's big innovation, after all) while in America, Zelda is possessing a Phantom and Link is doing his best to look like a sword-brandishing tough guy. Which kind of clashes with the art style.
- The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. Japan and Europe got a colourful spread of Link and Linebeck sailing about, the US art had them in moodier poses with a brown-shaded Phantom Ship as the backdrop.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D: The Japanese and European box arts feature a beautiful and colorful rendition of Link crossing Hyrule Field, while the American one features a Link striking a cool pose on Epona with a generic golden background.◊
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD follows suit; art-wise it's identical to the Japanese box art, but the color palette is much different, having everything and everyone except Link rendered in shades of yellow. In the original release, Japanese players got an ensemble picture◊, Western players got a sepia-toned Link and King of Red Lions sailing◊.
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D downplays it. The American box art is a bit darker than the other regions, but is still in full color - although in this case the box art was pretty low-key to begin with.
- ICO's Japanese cover did a good job of capturing the overall feel of the game - quiet, isolated, beautiful, and above all artistic. The American cover◊ and gives it the look of an uninspired throwaway game, while making Ico himself look gritty, aggressive and as being straight from the Uncanny Valley - something he most definitely is not. This happened because the artistic Japanese cover wasn't finished by the time of the American release date, but the resulting American cover was infamous enough that it actually gained a short set of comments from head development staff in an interview on the PS3 re-release.
- Metroid Prime's Japanese box art◊ is actually more intense than its English artwork◊, with Samus running in front of an explosion instead of standing in an empty hallway. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption also reversed the usual trend by being more action-packed, since the Japanese artwork crams most of the game's major characters behind Samus.
- The cover art for E.V.O.: Search for Eden is a subversion. First, take a look at the Super Famicom cover art◊—it's considerably cutesy, featuring a cartoony dinosaur facing off against a giant bee while an anime-style Gaia (matching her in-game appearance) watches over them in the background. Meanwhile, the SNES version's cover is more like a painting for a fantasy novel◊—featuring a progression of animals representing all life on Earth throughout the geologic record, starting from the Precambrian all the way to the modern age, while two dinosaurs throw down right in front of Earth, which is prominently featured in the background.
So, where's the subversion? It turns out that the SNES cover art is actually the same cover art from the earlier PC-9801 game, 4.6 Billion Year Story: The Theory of Evolution. This is the original E.V.O, made by the same developers, and the version on the Super Famicom and SNES is actually a loose port!
- The American box art of No More Heroes has Travis Touchdown holding his beam katana with an aggressive look. The European and Japanese box art has Travis standing in the streets of Santa Destroy with a smile on his face and an arm around Sylvia's waist.
- Considering the American version of the game also had the blood the game was originally intended to have, while others didn't, this might be reversed.
- Inverted with No More Heroes 2. All covers are intense, though the Japanese cover (especially the Hopper edition cover) is even more hardcore compared to the US/EU/AU one.
- Steambot Chronicles featured Vanilla playing his harmonica with Connie beaming at him, both drawn in a cutesy style, and a trotmobile parked in the background◊ for the Japanese boxart. For the American release? Vanilla and Connie drawn in a more shonen-esque style, Vanilla looking serious as Connie belts it out on the mic, and a trotmobile brandishing an arm cannon◊. The original Japanese cover art was used for the American version's instruction manual cover, however.
- One Piece Unlimited Cruise 1: The Treasure Beneath The Waves got a reworking for the European release. Here is the original Japanese boxart◊. For comparison, here is the European boxart◊. Averted for Unlimited Cruise 2: Awakening of a Hero, where the original Japanese boxart was used for both versions.
- Spyro the Dragon (1998) has the reversed version of this (being cutened up), mainly with a Dreamworks Face. Just take a look at the American◊ / European◊ versions, then take a look at the Japanese◊ version (where he seems to have lost his claws).
- The second game had that too. Compare the covers for the US version◊, European version◊ and the Japanese version◊.
- In the Japanese version of the game, the titular character is voiced by a woman with a much higher pitched, child-like voice compared to the Totally Radical teenage one he had in the American version, complete with cutesy little noises nearly every time he jumps.
- Astérix and Obelix XXL is a bit "American Kirby" compared to the source material, with the titular characters more aggressive than usual (with a good reason though, since the premise is the burning of their village and the capture of all their friends); however, while the European cover◊ shows their faces drawn similarly to the comic book, the American cover◊ is a render of their in-game selves, ready to fight. And, as you can notice, the game is called Asterix and Obelix Kick Buttix in the US!
- Jak and Daxter got the reverse of this: Compare the original American cover◊ with the Japanese port. Curiously, the American cover fits with the tone of the rest of the series, but not with the happy original.
- The Japanese cover art for Dynasty Warriors 7 was very minimalist, with simply the game's logo on a gold background. One can't blame Koei for wanting to spruce it up a bit. But they may have gone a bit too far◊.
- Solatorobo: While all covers are taken from official game art, the Japanese cover◊ is definitely more happy-looking than the European◊ and American◊ ones.
- Inverted in the PlayStation 2 game called Dogs Life. The PAL and American covers are rather fitting for the game; showcases the villains, protagonist, and the dogs you can control all in the style used for cutscenes. The Japanese cover is just Jake running through a farm that vaguely resembles the Clarksville levels; and a stylistic version of him anyway.
- In the first English trailer for Kid Icarus: Uprising, Pit's voice gets even deeper than the English Brawl voice variant, mainly because his voice has changed.
- The Japanese box art for Bayonetta is merely a shot of her from the back, holding one of her guns. The American box art, on the other hand, shows her in a badass fighting pose.
- This even occurred for the advertising. Japanese advertising showed a hot Asian woman cosplaying as Bayonetta, combined with gameplay footage, all of which was set to the happy and cutesy-sounding "Something Missing" by MiChi. The American commercials showed gameplay footage accompanied by "In For the Kill" by La Roux. Then, the European advertising (which was just a magazine ad) is just a close-up of her leg, with a caption reading, "Being bad never felt so good".
- The Japanese box art for◊ Lollipop Chainsaw depicts Juliet and Nick laying down on a bed, with lollipops scattered all around them. The American/European box art◊ depicts Juliet standing in front of a dark background, holding a lollipop in one hand and her chainsaw in the other hand, and looking all badass, while a zombie can be faintly seen coming out of a locker in the background.
- Ninja Taro had a chibi ninja and princess surrounded by lots of colourful enemies on the Japanese cover◊, but the American cover opted for a more realistic art style and a muted colour palette, displaying a couple of ninja, (presumably) the princess, and a castle off to the side.
- Wonder Boy In Monster Land. The Japanese version◊ has a cute looking knight trying to hide himself from the monsters that are attacking him. With such a box art, you would believe that they would try to remove the cuteness of the character when localizing the game to America. But during the making of the American box art◊ they decided that the guy should keep it's cuteness while fighting another knight. The result can best be described as "disturbing".
- Metal Slug Anthology for the PSP is quite a weird aversion of this trope. The Japanese cover and Korean cover are indeed more character driven than both the American cover and the European cover, but it is still not the cutest version. That one was the cover that was released in the rest of Asia.
- In God Hand, the Japanese box art is quite simple; a flaming fist striking down from the top left over a white background. The European version is slightly more hardcore, featuring a fist punching a guy in the face. The American cover is the same, except the fist is punching the guy THROUGH the face.
- In Yakuza 4, the PAL collector's edition sheath has the tagline "Do Something Terrible Today". Anybody who plays a Yakuza game for about ten minutes knows that they are essentially a manual about how to be manly, which includes being a good (if sometimes rough) person.
- There is a variant cover for Gunstar Heroes is pretty much the same as the original release (right down to the poses), only all the characters are more realistically drawn, rather than the same style as the game itself.
- Game Freak's action puzzle game Quinty was released in America as Mendel Palace and... well, just look.
- The cover artwork of Demon Sword (the U.S. version of Fudō Myō-ō Den, a Famicom spinoff to Legend of Kage) depicts the protagonist as a long-haired Barbarian Hero instead of the Japanese swordsman actually featured in the game.
- Bomberman for the Turbo-Grafx 16—compare this◊ to this◊.
- Mass Destruction is a game where you drive a tank and blow things up. The Japanese cover depicts a tree in a park. Compare the original American cover with the Japanese release.
- Seek and Destroy's American cover is far more hard core than the cover of any Japanese game from the entire series. Compare these two. There's no US army in that game...
- The Japanese box cover art for Jack Bros.◊ for Virtual Boy shows cutesy little Jack Bros. and fairies in a maze. The U.S. box cover art◊, on the other hand... is kinda scarier and just... plain... freaky.
- Brain Dead 13's original box cover art◊ shows Fritz unloading a wide range of weapons under his trenchcoat, just like in all other console versions. When the game became localized for Japanese releases in October 1996, it is averted when the box art for the PlayStation version remains the same as in the American release, but inverted when the Japanese Sega Saturn version box art◊ is very different, in that it adds Red-Headed Idiot Hero Lance Galahad right next to Fritz, who looks ready to slice him with a chainsaw while our hero is struggling to stay alive, indicating that Japanese Fritz is hardcore!
- As a Japanese game in the early '90s, Time Gal had to have this happen to it. While the Japanese cover◊ depicts the titular character more or less how she appears in the game, the European/American cover◊... well, doesn't. The EU/NA cover is also a lot more comic book-y in art style than the Japanese cover's Animesque art style.
- Inverted with Asura's Wrath, surprisingly. True, the American cover has Asura trying to smash your face in, but the Japanese version has six-armed Vajra Asura screaming in rage at you with his arms raised instead.
- Heavy Rain's European and American box art. The European version simply shows the origami bird figure, while the American box art shows the main cast standing behind the origami bird, with Madison Paige standing in the foreground (wearing a revealing tank top that she wore in only one part of the game) and Scott Shelby wielding a pistol. The Japanese box art◊ was simply an ominous sighting of a seemingly drowned man. The Japanese version isn't as mysterious as the European version, but it is significantly more solemn than the American version and more effectively conveys the seriousness of the game's subject matter than the American version does.
- In Japan, the cover of the first Ace Attorney game is the same as the rest (including in North America, starting with the second game): Four portraits of the main characters in a row.◊ In the US though, the first Ace Attorney game's cover is a picture of Phoenix pointing angrily◊, with Maya standing behind him and Edgeworth evilly overlooking them. As mentioned above, however, the series started using the "four portraits in a row" format with the second game, Justice for All (see this image◊ from The Other Wiki), and every game released there since has done the same.
- And the European one is Phoenix standing in front of a white background, looking serious. Same trope, blander cover. At least later games retained the Japanese covers too.
Beat Em Ups
- River City Ransom is a textbook example. Contrast the Japanese box art◊, in which everyone looks more or less like they do in the actual game, with the American box art◊. Of course, even in the Japanese version, the heroes of that game, as well as every other game in the Kunio-kun series, are indisputably hardcore. For the Japanese, "cute" and "hardcore" are not mutually exclusive.
- The American cover of Robo Army is, ahem, more "hardcore" than the Japanese original.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. The Japanese version◊ used stock promotional art from the '80s cartoon. The American version? As per Konami of America's standards at the time, incredibly hardcore◊ and more like the original comic. (See also: Sunset Riders, most of the Contra games, and Castlevania III and IV.)
- Both versions of the game allowed you to switch between two different palettes for the turtles: the bright and colourful "Animation" ("Anime" in the Japanese version) palette, that made them look like their 80s cartoon incarnations, and the darker, pupil-less "Comic" palette, which made them look somewhat closer to the original comic designs. However, the "Animation"/"Anime" palette is used as the default in both versions.
- The American (at least) boxart for the NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles platformer also follows this trope, giving all four turtles red masks a la the comic book series.
- The American cover art of Guardian Heroes replaced the original anime-style depictions of the six main characters with a fantasy novel-like illustration of Han fighting against the Undead Knight, even though he was one of the heroes in the game. The European version used the original Japanese art, but replaced the two heroines, Serena and Nicole, with Zur the magician and Macho the bodybuilder, who aren't even main characters, turning the European cover into a complete sausage fest for no reason (see for yourself).
- Dynamite Dux is a cutesy game about colorful ducks beating up other animals and strange bosses through several weird worlds. The Amiga box art◊ shows the two protagonists smirking and beating up a few enemies while Atop a Mountain of Corpses.
- The Japanese box art◊ for God Hand features nothing more than a burning fist. The box art used everywhere else◊ features a guy getting punched in the face.
- Compared to whatever North Americans got◊, the boxart◊ of the European BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger seems to suggest a Noel Third-Person Shooter spinoff rather than a Fighting Game, among things. The fact that the iconic title is merely featured as a background element with more emphasis put on a title written in a generic font doesn't help.
- Guilty Gear had 2 different covers for all their installments which got ported over the Pacific, most notably the Isuka installment: The Japanese version has a visibly flushed A.B.A. between Ky Kiske (behind) and Sol Badguy (front), who are meanwhile completely ignoring her as they are engaged in a staring contest with each other (homoerotically charged full of Foe Romance Subtext). The American version on the other hand, was a rather generic image of Sol wielding his Fireseal sword in the style of a bazooka with the hilt pointed at you.
- Pit's (from Kid Icarus) English voice in Super Smash Bros. Brawl sounds noticeably older then his original Japanese voice. Video comparison.
- The American box art for Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon has soldiers in camouflage pointing guns and jumping out of helicopters (you know stuff you will be doing in the game). The Japanese box art has a painting of them relaxing in front of a pink sunset while they wait for extraction.
- In Elebits, the box art for the US audience is much more actiony that the other ones. Not only does the front of the boxart get a complete remake such that disorder can be shown, the back is also changed slightly: the back of the English European box art has three screenshots labeled "Seek!", "Find!" and "Catch!" The same three images on the back of the US box art are labeled "Hide!", "Seek!" and "Destroy!"
- The cover of the first game in Europe is a mashup of playable characters◊, while the US Boxart is... a Robot with Breasts◊ (and nipples, even!) holding two pistols (That's on the back of the European box, as well) with some generic time-based background.
- The second game didn't fare much better, the US boxart◊ is just the Main character standing with a gun out looking irritated on a blank background, while the European boxart◊ is a nice stylized piece. The Japanese box◊ (Just called Timesplitter as it was the only game in the series that came out there) has a very western-comic style to it showing the main characters.
- The Japanese cover of Bomberman 94 just shows Bomberman riding a Louie. The European cover of Mega Bomberman adds a bunch of bombs and explosions to the same image. The American cover shows only Punk Bomberman making a V Sign, though for once this wasn't something the American box artists thought up just to make a Japanese game look cool.
- Ristar originally only had angry eyebrows for boss fights; in the American version, they're present all the time. The enemies, too, look mean instead of neutral in the American release. Ristar's European/American release contains a downright heart-warming inversion. While the Japanese version closed with a fairly cool scene of the villain, Greedy, and his henchmen picking themselves up on some barren world after their defeat, the English versions close with 'DAD!' and an image of Ristar throwing himself into the arms of his rescued father.
- Blinx. Japanese Blinx◊ looks like a sweet little anthro kitty cat; American Blinx◊ looks downright mean. To the point where he looks like he's about to rip you limb from limb when he's trying to look helpful and friendly◊.
- Inverted with the Super Mario Bros. 2 box art. In Japan, everybody but Toad is scowling, engaged in some act of violence, or both. America gets a picture of Mario clutching a vegetable, with a big ol' smile on his face. The Japanese version was titled Super Mario USA, so the use of this trope may have been a deliberate attempt to invoke an American feel. At the same time, Super Mario USA's boxart is very similar to Doki Doki Panic's boxart, which was the game it mimicked.
- Namco briefly considered giving Klonoa a rather drastic makeover for the U.S. release of the Wii remake of his first game. While not exactly "hard", the new look was significantly less cute, looking like a generic anthropomorphic cat, or like a wingless bat. Most bizarrely, however, they gave him "normal" anthro cat ears, despite Klonoa's droopy, almost hand-like ears having an actual gameplay role. And they took away his Pac-Man cap. Bad Namco! Fortunately, the game was released with Klonoa's original look intact- surprisingly enough, because the U.S. fanbase demanded he remain cute. Who says Japanese Klonoa Isn't Hardcore?
- For an example of becoming cuter in Japan, look no further than Ratchet & Clank.
- He isn't known as 'Groucho' Ratchet for nothing. The Big Ol' Eyebrows in his Japanese incarnation supposedly came about because initial market research showed the Japanese kids loved 'em.
- The first game had American cover◊ intact when localized for Japan◊. From Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando on, however, the American cover has remained stereotypically tough◊, while the Japanese version has gotten absurdly happy◊.
- Ratchet could in fact be seen as an inversion of this trope: his depiction on Japanese covers often have him and Clank much more in character, while the American and European covers would make him appear rather angry. This is especially true of Clank, who appears rather devious in art for the original game when his character was anything but.
- Crash Bandicoot is another American game where the main character was "cutened" up for the Japanese release. He even got a funky dance created by the Japanese that was carried back into the American versions. Some have speculated that this design change combined with Radical Entertainment's major character redesigns that would make such things look awkward is what's making Radical's Crash games a no-go for the Japanese.
- Mega Man (Classic):
- The American boxart◊ for the first Mega Man was commissioned on very short notice, and the only direction the artist had was a brief description of the game's premise over the phone, which led to the image that looks like it belongs on a 80s sci-fi novel cover. On top of jarring art direction, Mega Man has a gun instead of an arm cannon, and isn't even colored correctly. For comparison purposes, here◊ is the cover of the Japanese release. The European edition◊ does a bit better, though it's still a drastic departure from the actual game. The second game's box, while still bad, at least has Mega Man properly blue, and a few recognizable characters, more or less on par with the European version.
- In Mega Man ZX Advent, the cover is actually poked fun at. One of the missions in the game involves getting a data disk for a kid who wants one that has something with "a hero" on it. In the end of this "talk to the people who SHOULD have one" quest, you find out that the said kid has the only data disk with anything close to "a hero" on it, which is the American boxart of the original Mega Man. The kid openly calls it weird, and not very heroic at all. You then get the disk yourself, and the ingame description says that the character depicted on it "resembles a colorful coal miner instead of a hero".
- European Mega Man 3 is an odd one: the robots are illustrated accurately, but Wily is beyond hardcore.
- Mega Man 4 and Mega Man 5 both had very similar artwork in the European and US releases, the only differences were that Mega Man's face in the US version was very strange◊ and "Manish"◊ while the European ones have◊ a more accurately◊ designed face.
- The US producers of Mega Man 9 and 10 in keeping with their Retraux graphics style, had throwback◊ boxart◊ made to please the fans.
- Mega Man 7's ending, where Mega Man contemplates ending Dr. Wily's schemes once and for all. When Dr. Wily points out robot law prevents him from taking a human life, Mega Man simply stands there while Wily escapes. Unless we're in America, in which case he blurts the infamous "I am more than just a robot! Die Wily!!!" line...and hesitates anyway.
- On a similar note, the promotional artwork for the cartoon depicts Mega Man as ready to tear someone's spine out (or at least punch their lights out), and made him far more ripped than he was in the series proper.
- Terrible Boxart Mega Man is so (in)famous that this is the version Capcom chooses to cameo in Street Fighter Versus Tekken.
- An old NES game, Power Blade (originally Power Blazer in Japan) is an interesting early example. Read the article about it here.
- Alisia Dragoon features a pretty cover in Japan, while the Western boxart is... well, cool-looking but rather contemptible.
- The original boxart for Sonic the Hedgehog gave us a fairly confident looking Sonic with a tasty palette of colors surrounding him. The US boxart gave him a chubbier redesign with mohawk-like quills (said quill style was also carried over to the DiC cartoons and Sonic Spinball), the art has him posing for a 'tude expression, and they sprayed him with a coat of airbrush. Even the original members of Sonic Team said they despised this Americanized Sonic design - there were especially baffled as to why the American branch of the company decided he needed the redux in the first place, considering Sonic was designed to appeal to Western audiences right from the start. (Sonic's Western redesign has tellingly appeared in-game precisely once, on the title screen of the Europe-only Master System release of Sonic Chaos, and nowhere else.)
- Dr. Eggman/Robotnik's classic design looked like a happy spherical fellow◊ in the Japanese games. The American games made him a constantly scowling spherical fellow with... no eyes.◊ This isn't even taking into account the weird cartoon-based design they switched to for some of the later boxart. The differences are probably best illustrated through the Sonic Shorts Volume 5 segment in which Dr. Robotnik from the American Saturday morning Sonic cartoon discovers Dr. Eggman from the Japanese Sonic X.
- The EU covers went in and out with both the Japanese and American styles. Interestingly cases such as Sonic the Hedgehog Chaos actually used Japanese promo artwork not related the region's original cover.
- The Sonic the Hedgehog CD boss music and game over music go from being upbeat in the Japanese version to downright frightening in the American version.
- Tempo was a game about an adorable cartoon cricket that makes music. The US box art tried to make the main character look like a photo-realistic mutant cricket man in the vein of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, rippling with muscles and using kung-fu.
- Rocket Knight Adventures, released by Konami for the Sega Genesis/ Mega Drive. Similar to the Kirby examples, the American boxart gives Sparkster a look of grim determination, in contrast to the smiling Funny Animal knight the other regions got. It's interesting that the front artwork is almost identical on all other aspects, and that the EU version used the Japanese and not the American art.
- This change is in fact a rare example that became the definitive characterization, as even the Japanese promotional artwork (and even the in game sprite art) for the sequel Sparkster depicts the title character with a serious scowl (even if his original wackier demeanor blatantly reappears from time to time in game).
- Then came the PSN/XBLA reboot, developed in the UK. In this one, Sparkster fights wolves instead of pigs, in order to make him feel more badass.
- The American version of Castlevania: Bloodlines redrew Eric Lecarde's face to look manlier and less pretty boy-like (see for yourself). The European version, Castlevania: The New Generation, reverted Eric back to his original design, reusing the artwork of the Japanese box. The weirdest part of all this? Eric's American redesign was made canon! Look at the supplemental artwork for Portrait Of Ruin.
- Comparing Panic Restaurant's box art Japan, Europe and United States pretty much defines this trope, too. The in-game graphics were also altered in a comparatively minor way. The Japanese version of the game had a cute young brown-haired chef in the title role. For the international release, he was switched out for a different, older, white-haired character resembling Chef Boyardee.
- We all know Donkey Kong, right? Well, we bet you've never seen him like this◊.
- The Colecovision cover◊ on the other hand was looking fairly decent.
- The NES version of A Boy and His Blob and its Game Boy sequel had a small overhaul with the Boy's design, title screen and box art in Japan to make it look cuter.
- Chameleon Twist was a charming, adorable game starring Davy, a chameleon transformed into a bubble-headed long-tongued chibi alien, and his friends. Its boxart is an interesting variation on this trope: (The American boxart shows Davy gobbling up foes with a cheery grin, while the PAL version shows him gobbling up foes with a look of death in his eyes. Chameleon Twist 2, of course, played this trope straight for America and Europe— while Japanese buyers got the same adorable bubble-headed aliens as before, the American and European versions swapped the colors of Davy and his friend Jack (the localizers might have thought green was a better "default color" for a lizard) and turned all four characters into grotesque anthropomorphized lizards with semi-realistic heads. Also compare the US and EU boxart to see yet another cheerful-wrathful dichotomy.
- The box art◊ for Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 seems to be a deliberate aversion of this trope, as the image of Spencer (with goofy smile and Porn Stache looking like he's about to give the viewer a hug) on the game's front cover can only be described as jarringly happy-go-lucky. Especially funny (until you beat the game) when you compare it to the cover art◊ to the 2009 game which Rearmed 2 is a direct prequel to, which featured a goth-ified Spencer smouldering with generic rage.
- This Cave Story mockup cover parodies this trend. The Japanese cover◊ for Cave Story 3D features a colorful spread that complements the game's art style, while the American one◊ changes the art style to a rougher form and has Quote giving a Death Glare to something just out of sight. The American box art also puts more emphasis on Quote's... giant head?
- The Japanese and European cover art of Captain Silver for the Master System shows rather cartoon-like renditions of the game's protagonist and a few of the villains fighting on a pirate ship. The American cover art shows a similar scene, only the protagonist is drawn more realistically and he's fighting the final boss (the titular Captain Silver) one-on-one.
- Not even Disney games were immune to this. The Genesis/Megadrive title Quackshot features a dynamic shot of a scowling Donald Duck baring his gun with a evil looking Pete plotting in the background. The Japanese cover features Donald and his nephews smiling at you with Pete throwing a comical tantrum behind them.◊ Granted Donald being Donald the Western cover might be considered more in-character.
- The same goes for The Lucky Dime Caper. The US got a cover in which a courageous Donald is about to crush a bear with a hammer. The Japanese cover for the Game Gear version has him looking all happy, having somehow shrunken Magica de Spell.◊
- In some of the Bonk games, Bonk's second powerup form was changed. In the Japanese version he showed his love of meat by turning into a doe-eyed version of himself who attacked with hearts. In the US version he was changed into a scowling form with a scar rather similar to the page image. Though his third form was hardcore in both versions.
- Data East USA gave Kaiketsu Yanchamaru a Totally Radical makeover, turning it into Kid Niki Radical Ninja. Kid Niki was given spiky hair in-game, and the NES version got a totally hardcore cover◊ (by contrast, the Famicom◊ cover is downright cartoonish).
- An example that seemingly has nothing to do with America: Namco's Legend of Valkyrie series is rarely seen outside of Japan, but one of the side games, Sandra's Great Adventure, was released in Europe under the name Whirlo. As part of the localization, the main character's in-game sprite was changed to give him angry eyes.
- Kabuki Quantum Fighter is an odd example: while the American cover is indeed a bit darker than the Japanese one, it's the Japanese version of the game that has more realistic-looking character portraits, perhaps because it was released in Japan as a Distant Sequel to the Jidai Geki film Zipang.
- A rare case of European hardcore is M.C. Kids (Wikipedia), whose European boxart turned the kids into cool teens.
- The arcade platformer Athena. In the Japanese cover◊, Athena is a cute anime chick wearing just a bikini. In the American cover◊, she was turned into a She-Hulk-like muscular woman, apparently traced off bodybuilder Lisa Lyon. Wearing just a bikini.
- Inverted with Astyanax. The muscle dude brandishing a torch and shield in the Japanese cover for the Famicom version was replaced on the American NES cover with a pretty-boy warrior, albeit trying to stab a dragon.
- Happened twice with Valis III. The TurboGrafx-CD version got a rather creepy-looking cover with a too old model posing as Yuko. The Sega Genesis cover instead drew a ridiculously punk-looking Yuko on the cover trying to stab you.
- The North American NES version of The New Zealand Story, retitled Kiwi Kraze: A Bird-Brained Adventure, had a creature on the cover looking more like a real bird than the Waddling Head seen in the game, with a bear wearing Cool Shades aiming an arrow straight at it.
- Keith Courage In Alpha Zones: Keith Courage on the American cover◊ looks much manlier than Wataru on the Japanese cover◊. At least both are wearing the same costume.
- The Japanese commercial for Super Princess Peach is a short and sweet montage that shows Princess Peach's emotion-based powers to a catchy song. The American one shows a group of princess soldiers going through boot camp while heavy military fanfare plays in the background, and the emotions are instead touted as being "elements" that must be mastered. Of course, the only one they actually show is the one that involves anger and fire.
- This game's western-region boxart is a mild example, in which the only part that differs from the Japanese cover (aside from the logo, and Peach's face taking up three-fourths of the box for some reason) is what's in the bubbles surrounding Peach. America and Europe◊ gets a bubble featuring Mario all tied up, staring angrily at the Hammer Bro. leader, while Japan◊ gets four bubbles featuring each of Peach's emotion-based abilities..
- European example: The original box art◊ for Kao the Kangaroo Round 2 shows Kao jumping along, raising his boxing glove high in the air while avoiding a fish. For the U.S. release, however, the game developers made him into a scary-looking kangaroo wearing an army hat and a dog tag on his neck and aiming a bullet cannon with giant monster bullets flying around, as if to show his foes that Kao means business◊!
- The Super Cassette Vision version of Miner 2049er, while released in Japan with the U.S. cover art, redrew Bounty Bob's sprite as a cuter-looking blue-haired kid.
- The Nintendo DS game Mister Slime has the protagonist look cute on the Australian and European box art, but the American box art gives Slimey an angry face.
- In a similar case to the American first-party Sony games above, the Japanese box art for Rayman Legends involves Rayman and co. in their usual happy-go-lucky stance a la Origins, bar monster fighting. Compare with the original box art (used in both North America and Europe, the series itself being French), with Rayman ready to punch a monster directly in the mouth, with the help of Murfy.
- Super Puzzle Bobble / Super Bust-A-Move's American boxarts: The Super Bust-A-Move (PS2) cover shows a baby from the pits of the Uncanny Valley blowing blood-red bubbles, while the Sega Saturn boxart of Bust-A-Move 2 decided to treat us to the oh-so-kid-friendly image of a disembodied head of a bald guy trapped in a bubble, with matchsticks shoved into his eyelids.. What does any of that have to do with cutesy dragons solving puzzles?
- This happened with a good few titles in the series until later games, which omitted the cute little dinosaur/dragon mascots in favor of dynamically angled shots of detonating bubbles in a space age style background.
- Baku Baku Animal is a falling blocks puzzler game starring cutesy animals. Nothing could possibly makes it looks hardcore but that didn't stop whoever did the American cover from trying.
- This happened to the rather obscure NES puzzle game Palamedes. The game is basically a Match Three Game with dice. The music is cheery, the graphics are cutesy; all player sprites are tiny, sugary little SD characters. There's absolutely nothing weird or bizarre or Gonk in this game. So where the hell did THIS◊ come from?!
- Godzilla for the Game Boy came out in the U.S. with this◊ cover, showing Godzilla like he looks in the movies and, with the intro screens, misleading people into expecting it to be a thrilling action game. Actually, the game, known as Gojira-kun in Japan, is a Puzzle Platformer with cutesy Super-Deformed kaiju, looking more like the picture on the Japanese cartridge◊.
- The Angry Video Game Nerd lampshaded this during his review of this and other Godzilla games.
- Puzzle Boy was the first game published by Atlus in Japan, where it had a perfectly sensible cover. Acclaim released it internationally as Kwirk, and slapped something frighteningly Totally Radical on the cover instead. Averted with the sequel, released in the U.S. by Atlus as Amazing Tater.
- Not exactly "hardcore", but Professor Layton and the Curious Village suffered a case of "European Layton is Noir". While the Japanese and American covers of the game call attention to both the puzzle-solving aspect of it and its colorful characters, the European cover is completely dedicated to puzzle-solving and mystery, with the characters pretty much completely absent. This was allegedly a decision by Nintendo of Europe, who believed that emphasizing those aspects of the game would boost sales. Later covers still follow a similar "model", but are just edited versions of the original covers instead of radical redesigns.
- Interestingly, while most of Yoshi's dialogue in Tetris Attack is a fairly straight translation of Lip's dialogue in Panel de Pon, his attitude in one area of the game was changed. Yoshi gets impatient and yells at you if you stick around for too long at the "Congratulations!" screen you get at the end of Easy mode, while Lip is friendly and polite the entire time.
- A less severe example from the NES release of◊ Dr. Mario. Mario himself looks fine, but the viruses are drawn much more grotesquely than their in-game sprites. (The Japanese box art◊, for comparison.)
- The Japanese Super Famicom puzzle game Keeper◊ featured Cartoon Creatures in a fantasy world. The unreleased American version CyberSlider◊ would have had them replaced by robots in a factory.
- Inverted by the Game Boy version of Adventures of Lolo. The European box art shows a smiling Lolo, Lala, and Lulu leaping into the air, but in the Japanese box art, Lolo has angry eyebrows and a scowl on his face.
- The Nintendo DS version of Shiren the Wanderer. The original Japanese cover art (by former Capcom illustrator Akiman) is very nice, the Western one, well... Shiren looks like he's going to slit your throat or something. And what they did to poor Koppa and Oryu is just wrong. Bad, bad Sega!
- Azure Dreams for the PlayStation had 2 different covers: The Japanese version◊ was cute and emphasized the dating-sim/harem-romance aspects of the game (featuring all the girls in the game you can eventually get, plus your kid sister and your sidekick), while the American version◊ was scenic and emphasized the treasure-hunting/dungeon-crawling aspects of the game (the hero gazing at his hometown from a mountain cliff).
- The European version's manual has the Japanese cover though.
- Pikmin has two covers. The Japanese image contains Pikmin just hanging out on a branch. The North-American and European cover image contains a battle. The same thing happened with the sequel, though Canada and Europe had a different, also peaceful cover.
- The Settlers European cover shows a cartoonish RTS city builder while the American Cover shows a rather stern looking lord in managing his kingdom/army Comparisons here◊. Upon further inspection, the American cover of the settler usually just features the armor clad knight on the cover while the other shows the other professions being as prominent. The subsequent one features a slightly more colorful boxart seen here◊
- The PSP version of Lemmings exhibits this trope. The Japanese box art depicts a bunch of happy Lemmings in a happy, bright environment. The European box art shows a crowd of Lemmings smiling at you. The American box art depicts a more active scene, and has a slightly duller color scheme compared to the other boxes.
- Breath of Fire is a major example of this. Compare the Japanese box art◊ with the American version◊, featuring Jim Lee-esque cover art in which Ryu became a Conan impersonator even though he is clearly depicted as a pretty-average built teenager in-game and Nina looked like a man.
- Working Designs was known for averting this, always keeping the Japanese box art during a time when this trope was at its strongest. With one bizarre exception... Cosmic Fantasy 2. Compare the Japanese box art◊ with the very much played straight North American box art◊.
- On the Chrono Trigger packaging in Japan, there were images of all the playable characters in the game. In the US version, it had Frog, Crono, and Marle fighting Heckran, the scene captured while the party was using the Arc Impulse/Frost Arc Triple Tech. (The Nintendo DS Updated Re-release gave a Shout-Out to this artwork by allowing players to replicate this in the form of having battles with Heckran-like enemies on a snowy mountain in a bonus dungeon.)
- The box art of the early Dragon Warrior games for the NES was very different from the Japanese Dragon Quest box arts.
- Guardian's Crusade. The Japanese box art◊ is more colorful and rather whimsical in looks: showing Knight and Baby doing various activities you can do in the game, all the while looking dang adorable. The back cover is even more cuter◊. The American version◊ is more generic in comparison. The game came out about a year and a half after Final Fantasy VII, during that dark period when American game companies thought that RPGs that weren't dark and existential wouldn't sell.
- When Pokémon was being localized for America, a significant portion of people at Nintendo thought that the characters were too cute to sell well, and tried to get all of the Pokémon redone for the states as muscle-bound humanoid Pro-Wrestling monsters. In other words, they wanted to turn Pikachu into Kinnikuman.
- Compare the American box art◊ for Pokémon Yellow to the Japanese box art◊ for Pocket Monsters Pikachu. It is remarkably similar to the depiction of Kirby from Japan to America.
- Some of the move names were made hardcore, though. "Tail Wag" was translated to the more badass sounding "Tail Whip" and "Cry" to "Growl", which confused many when in later generations those two moves were classified as "cute" moves and were described as endearing.
- The Last Remnant's Xbox 360 artwork depicted the young, typical Final Fantasy-style androgynous male protagonist. The PC version, marketed to Western gamers, had a picture of an older, more badass antagonist, and a more energetic color scheme.
- Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner arguably benefited from this phenomenon. The original box art for the two games depicted Serph/Varna and Sera/Varnani in static poses more reminiscent of action figures in a blister pack; the U.S. versions depict the exact same characters, but in more active poses. (Assuming, of course, you reverse the cover insert for the second game; the display box art depicts the entire cast in a battle scene, arguably embracing this trope in its entirety.) Though it's not like the game needed to be made any more hardcore, seeing as how it has plenty of demonic cannibalization anyway.
- Hardly uncommon in Tales localizations:
- Tales of Eternia (or Tales of Destiny II) originally had a smiling group shot, which was replaced by a scene of Farah and Reid ready to battle. The absence of everyone else is... intriguing.
- Tales of the Abyss originally had a more peaceful, friendly group shot, while the American cover image has everybody except the girls fighting, and Luke ready to slice the player's head in half. On the other hand, the Nintendo 3DS Updated Re-release sticks with the Japanese version's box art◊ on both sides of the Pacific, as well as in the PAL countries, which got the game for the first time.
- Tales of Symphonia has, in the original version, another smiling group shot. In the US, another fight scene.
- Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, the same — Japanese cover, American cover. The European cover◊, however, goes for a simple group shot.
- Averted from Tales of Graces f onward, the west has received the same covers as the Japanese versions.
- Resonance of Fate has peaceful box art◊ with the three protagonists looking upon a tower in its original Japanese release End of Eternity. The US box art◊ is shown to have them on various action poses with their guns to the viewer.
- In Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon for the Wii, the English voices are closer to the age of the characters, around 14/15, while the Japanese voices make the characters sound younger. In addition, the box art, which was reversible in the American version, showed a vicious looking Seto holding a golf club on the American side, while the Japanese box art shows Seto and Ren holding hands over a watery background.
- In America, Fragile Dreams was marketed as a post-apocalyptic action-adventure game, rather than the more quietly emotional RPG it actually is; hence the box art. This was ultimately a mistake, as it caused the game to miss its target audience.
- NieR is quite possibly the ultimate logical conclusion of this trope, to where it not only deals with cover art but the actual game. To explain: NieR is the name of two parallel-developed, Square Enix-published games, NieR Gestalt (Xbox 360) and NieR Replicant (PS3). In Gestalt, the eponymous protagonist is a hulking, white-haired middle-aged man searching for a cure to the Black Scrawl virus, which is ailing his daughter, Yonah. In Replicant, the eponymous protagonist is a young boy who is searching for a cure to the Black Scrawl virus, which is ailing his little sister, Yonah. In case you haven't caught on yet, this is literally the only difference between the two versions. The American branch of Square Enix actually paid to develop an entirely separate version of the game where the only difference is the design of the protagonist. The official reason behind the two versions is that they believed the game would not sell well in the west if the protagonist was young and pretty, rather than grizzled and muscle-bound. While Replicant was the original idea, in Japan both versions of the game are available, and overseas only Gestalt was released (entitled simply NIER).
- On the flip side, this is why the young, pretty Vaan was added to Final Fantasy XII. The original protagonist was supposed to be Basch. This is why Vaan has nearly no character development.
- The even bigger shocker is that, ultimately, it seems as if this decision paid off; when polled, American fans almost always say they prefer "Gestalt Nier" to "Replicant Nier".
- The Wild Arms series usually either retains the original cover art or replaces it by something that, while different, keeps the tone. Exceptions can be found in the first title (J; U) and Wild ARMs 5 (J; U).
- The indie/doujin game Protect Me Knight does this on their web page. The Japanese page depicts a bunch of cute characters in a more Puni Plush/Bishōnen style while the English page depicts something more muscular, epic, and violent. This may have been intentional Lampshade Hanging on the dev team's part.
- Shadow Hearts: From the New World's Japanese cover is actually pretty happy, which actually matches the Lighter and Softer nature of the game when compared to its predecessors (it's also the only of the game's covers that goes for a hand-drawn illustration instead of CGI). The American cover chose instead to showcase a much more tragic/aggressive scene, complete with strong red background to emphasize edginess. The European cover is a middle ground — more hardcore than the Japanese cover, but quite less than the American one.
- Final Fantasy III had an intricate design in the Japanese and European versions while in the US release, everything was removed except for the logo. Interestingly, this is a reversal of the usual trend for new entries. Typically, the Japanese and European cover art for any one main installment will consist almost entirely of the logo against a clean white background, while the American cover art will move the logo to a corner to focus on a rendering of one or more of the central cast.
- Final Fantasy IV character art in an old edition of Nintendo Power. Compare Amano's original Cecil design◊ with the Nintendo Power artwork◊. Strangely enough, the Nintendo Power artwork was drawn by a Japanese artist.
- Take a guess which is the Japanese artwork and which is the American one◊
- Eternal Eyes is a powerful contender for the most misleading use of this trope ever. Japanese cover screams "a JRPG", and an Eastern RPG it is. The US cover... what the...
- Anyone seen the Suikoden I boxart? Yeesh, there are still debates over who is supposed to be depicted on that cover, because it's clearly not anyone present in the game. The only part of that cover that's in the game is the 3 headed skull monster in the bottom right corner! The icing on the cake? The image on the Japanese cover is used on the US version's instruction manual, so gamers got a nice moment of surprise before they even started up the game for the first time. Future installments in the series thankfully ditched this artwork in favor of the Japanese art.
- Narrowly averted with the European release of Agarest Senki. Take this comparison◊: right is the final result, left is What Could Have Been.
- Blue Dragon has this. The Japanese box art (available on the manual)◊ makes Shu & the titular dragon look kind of silly. The American box art◊, on the other hand, makes both look positively badass.
- EarthBound has a minor example: the Japanese boxart was just blank red with the logo, whereas the English boxart instead depicts a Final Starman towering imposingly over Ness on a psychedelic background. Also, the English release material made and used modified versions of Ness and Paula's clay-model artwork to make them look more realistically proportioned, less cutesy, and in Ness's case more Totally Radical (strangely, neither Jeff nor Poo were modified the same way).
- Monster Rancher plays this straight for almost every one of its games. Compare the artwork for original game, where the Japanese artwork just has several monsters posing while the American one has a fight going on. Compare the idealistic Japanese fourth game cover to the intense American version.
- Robotrek is a textbook example. The U.S. cover art depicts a Death Star-like station ominously floating in space, while the Japanese original (titled Slapstick) depicts several characters in cheerful anime style which more closely reflects what's actually in the game.
- Dark Souls has a calmer scene in the Japanese◊ art, with a character resting at a bonfire, while the American◊ art is a silhouette of a man walking, with blue fire effects and hostile looking knights all around.
- The Phantasy Star series has always had awful, awful box art for the western releases, but they went all out for the fourth game. They hired renowned fantasy artist Boris effing Vallejo to re-do the cover for the European and American editions of the game, which turned Rune into a 40-something kung-fu movie villain, Rika into a brunette elf with an 80's secretary haircut, and Chaz into Hans from Die Hard.
- While still decent representations of the game's plot, the box covers of the first two Mario & Luigi games are much busier in their international releases than their Japanese counterparts, which take the minimalistic route. Interestingly, Bowser's Inside Story and Dream Team use the Japanese boxart for all regions.
- Inverted with Dungeon Maker 2 in which the American Cover emphasizes the dungeon creation aspect, and the Japanese cover shows a dynamic battle with the first boss.
- Paper Mario: Sticker Star got hit with it too. To wit: the Japanese cover featuring a happy Mario◊ and the more... proactive Mario in the American one.◊ No Angry Eyebrows, though.
- The European/Australian boxarts have the same one as Japan, so America gets an exclusive boxart of Mario bashing a Goomba with his hammer.
- Digimon: Digimon games in Japan tend to have two flavors of covers: cute ones and badass ones. Naturally, Bandai tends to keep the latter in North American and European releases, but as for the former...well, they get badassified, with stronger Digimon, strikier color choices, etc. The Digimon World series is a good example: The Japanese cover has a nice handdrawn illustration of the main character happily hanging around the many Digimon (some of their creepiness notwithstanding), while the American cover depicts a defiant MetalGreymon. The second game is an even better example: while definitely a little edgier, it still has a very smily human in the center. For the US version, they got VeeDramon, the big beast stationed at the corner of the Japanese cover and gave him the entire cover. And finally, for Digimon World DS: a very cute group shot in the Japanese cover, replaced by a still-cute but more battle inclined group shot in the US cover.
- Another inversion, courtesy of Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (released in the US first). The American and European box arts depict a knight, presumably the main character, standing on a rock while holding his sword aloft in a dramatic pose. The Japanese box has the same scene, except the knight is now Super-Deformed.
- For A Witchs Tale, the Japanese box art has Liddell looking mischievous and more on the adorable side of her Badass Adorable persona while the American art leans more towards the badass side.
Shoot Em Ups
- Castle of Shikigami, a bullet-hell game for the PS2 in Japan, is a game about various people teaming up to defeat the villain and save the day by flying through the air and shooting things with various types of laser-like projectiles, and featured cute anime characters on the box art. In America, the game is called Mobile Light Force and the cover features three leather-clad, gun-toting, large-breasted Charlie's-Angels-esque babes running around and outright lying about the content of the game. Castle of Shikigami 2 did not suffer this treatment, however, it DID suffer from being completely un-localized despite being translated and voice-acted, with some scenes not being translated or voice-acted in English at all and left with Japanese text and/or dialogue. Despite this, they're not bad games.
- Insector X is normally a Cute 'em Up where you play as a boy or girl killing giant cartoonish bugs. The American and European versions of the Genesis port have a more realistic style and made the cyborg bugs even more mechanical..
- There isn't much you can do to make peaceful series like Harvest Moon to make it "hardcore" however many of the early western covers are more normal than the Tastes Like Diabetes Japanese ones. A noticeable exception is the European boxart for the first game: Compare the Japanese art, with its cute animals and bright colors, to the darker and more realistic looking PAL cover. Notice how Pete isn't wearing the right hat and the game looks like this◊.
- The game Princess On Ice isn't so much "hardcore" as hideously ugly in the US version, even going so far as to replace the cute in-game models with the "girls" on their cover◊.
- Aksys learned their lesson afterward and released Rockin' Pretty, which uses the same characters, with the artwork untouched.
- In Style Savvy, the biggest offender isn't the American cover, but the European one. The Japanese cover features a young girl with a cute, pink background◊. The American cover changed the girl and the background◊ to apply it to Cultural Translation, but the European cover used a luxurious background and replaced the girl for a gigantic shoe◊, supposedly to appeal it to older audiences. Subverted in Trendsetters, where the American cover◊ is more similar to the Japanese one◊, and the European cover used a similar cover to the first game but featuring a girl◊.
- Two sets of promo character renders were made for Metal Gear Solid 3D - one for Japan, and one for America. The Japanese renders show Big Boss and The Boss standing unarmed, with Big Boss looking a little naive but also tough and sexy, and The Boss looking noble and idealistic but also muscular and strong. The American renders show them both scowling and in Ass Kicking Poses, brandishing knives. And they are both dressed in less revealing clothes, and The Boss has her Absolute Cleavage done up, because America considers Fanservice less innocuous than violence.
- Compare the US/UK cover of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to the Japanese one. The Japanese cover has a yellow background and depicts Big Boss and other soldiers in battle stances, with tanks and choppers faintly seen in the background. The US/UK cover on the other hand, is in black-and-white, Big Boss has a more mean and tough facial expression, and an explosion can be seen in the background.
- Tenchu: The Japanese covers of the series tend to favor dynamic renderings (and even illustrations, as in the first game) of the main characters "posing". That contrasts with the American covers' preference for threatening close-ups of (usually) one character, alongside the series' trademark (and very hardcore) tagline.
- Bucking the trend, when Resident Evil 4 was released in Japan, Ashley's Jiggle Physics from the US version were removed. Here's a comparison.
- Here's◊ the Japanese boxart for Deadly Premonition, which shows you exactly what to expect. This◊ is what was decided on for localization for some bizarre reason.
- Fatal Frame's original cover has the main character lying serenely on the floor. The American edition? Floating Head Syndrome. The European cover decided to go the middle route. And this is more or less repeated for the Xbox special edition except Europe followed the North American one.
- Miku's actual in-game model in the first game was altered to look slightly older and less schoolgirl-y for the US release.
- In Dino Crisis, Regina's character model in CG artwork was modified. In the Japanese version, she had small lips and big anime-style eyes. In the western version, she was given smaller eyes and fuller lips.
- Both this and the Fatal Frame touch-up are to accommodate the very different concepts of sexiness that Americans and the Japanese generally hold (yup, cute can also be considered sexy in Japan).
- Splatoon is hardcore in an American Kirby fashion worldwide with adorable squid-people decked out in Angry Eyebrows and armed to the teeth with ink-weapons, but this trope is still noticeable in the way it was advertised. Japan and Europe got an ad that communicated the gist of the game, but without showing any actual gameplay or fighting. America got a series of ads that consist entirely of in-game combat footage, each accompanied by some of the most '90s songs you'll ever hear. The American advertising also places slightly more focus on the male Inklings than the female ones, which is noticeable because the females are otherwise much more prominent in promotional materials (and are still front-and-center on the box art).
- The American versions of the main Disgaea games experience this, abandoning the colorful Super-Deformed Team Shot the JP boxarts use (Which also includes most of the generic character classes, and sometimes even The Cameo and/or Big Bad), in favor of an image that makes the game seem darker and more serious than it really is (Most of the time, at least).
- Something akin to this trope occurred in Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, where Barrington's dialogue with Rafa on the Rooftop of Riovanes Castle was "punched up" to make it even more creepy and blatantly sexual. The original PSX version's translation instead very slightly downplayed that aspect.
Non-Video Game Examples:
- Astro Boy is known to be very cute and innocent. But when the 2003 anime was brought to America, most of the advertisement focused on the action scenes and his super hero side. The dubbing gave him a harsher and more snarky attitude as well. It also cut out most of Astro's cute child-like moments. To say nothing of the DVD boxset cover which is just his face looking absurdly angry.
- Even when it became Darker and Edgier, the Dragon Ball franchise has always had a humorous, whimsical tone, summed up nicely by Dragon Ball Z's Crazy Awesome Japanese theme tune, "Cha-La Head Cha-La". Its North American opening themes, on the other hand, have ranged from "Rock The Dragon" to… well, this. Later English-language releases have either kept or translated the Japanese themes.
- The changes extended beyond the opening themes: the dubbed version featured a completely new soundtrack to replace the Japanese versions, with the new music itself being darker and heavier in tone than the original's orchestral themes. Compare the Japanese version's theme for Perfect Cell to the dubbed version's theme.
- When CNX (Cartoon Network UK's short-lived attempt at attracting the 15-35 male demographic) got the rights to show the original Dragon Ball, the Canadian-dubbed episodes they acquired featured a cheerful kid-focused opening theme. Fearing ridicule from their target audience, a new opening with more action-packed scenes from the show was thrown together, complete with Kung-Foley and a remixed theme. (Though the Canadian themes were accidentally shown on occasion.)
- The French dub (And the many other dubs that translated from it) inverted this trope by giving Z a happier OP about Gohan. Also a case of Mood Whiplash.
- In a variation, the European Spanish dub of Cha-La Head-Cha-La keeps the music but changes the comedy lyrics to standard "We'll beat up the villains" fare, which is more this trope.
- Nelvana's infamous Macekre English dub of Cardcaptor Sakura, while not exactly "hardcore," considerably downplayed the Shoujo Demographic cuteness of the original, essentially trying to change it into Shōnen (even changing the show's name to just Cardcaptors, presumably to downplay the fact that the main character is a girl, and cutting out the first seven episodes, which take place before Sakura's male rival Syaoran is introduced). The original opening theme was replaced with a more histrionic rock song, Sakura and her friends sounded more like teenagers than elementary schoolers, and perhaps most egregiously of all, Kero was given a Totally Radical dudebro voice and his characterization was changed to be more like a comedic foil sidekick akin to Mushu from Mulan. As a result, the English dub had a completely different feel from the Japanese original, and anyone who's seen the latter would be able to spot the dub's attempts to turn the show into something quite different from what it was originally.
- A similar thing was done for the American Fox Kids edit of the Ocean dub of The Vision of Escaflowne: the entire first episode was removed (and then reedited as flashbacks in later episodes, abridged) since it was deemed "too romantic" and unfitting for an action anime block. The soundtrack was also edited to become more hardcore: some pieces were replaced by others, and original music was composed to fill in the silence (this was seriously striking, as Fox/Saban's orchestral pieces were very stylistically different from Yoko Kanno's). This version only lasted ten(ish) episodes — some claim that it was due to plot content that could not be edited out without extensive redubbing (illegitimate children, for example), others say the ratings were simply bad. Canada simply aired the dub unedited.
- Some of the dub voices in Axis Powers Hetalia. Most notably is Russia, who had a higher-pitched, cuter, somewhat happier voice in the Japanese version, and a deeper, gruffer voice in the English dub. It's left up to the watchers to determine whether this was done to better fit the stereotype or to defuse some of the horror.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica was released as 6 two-episode boxsets in Japan, with different boxarts for each. Three of the boxarts show characters looking happy and/or cute, two are relatively neutral, and one has a very dark and angsty mood to it. The U.S. release was 3 four-episode boxsets, and used three of the existing boxart pictures. To the surprise of no one, they chose the two neutral ones (the first and last) and the angsty one (number four). This may be somewhat justified given the nature of the series, but still...
- The DVD cover art for Princess Tutu is very much pink and fluffy in Japan; the American DVDs feature much darker, ominously-edited images. ADV admitted that it was a marketing strategy — maybe some buyers would be too embarrassed to take a pink-and-happy anime called "Princess Tutu" off a store shelf, thus the covers. And, of course, it's not completely unfitting for the series.
- Here's the Japanese trailer for Rinne no Lagrange, which is reasonably close to the sorta-serious but mostly lighthearted tone of the show. The English dub trailer replaces the cheery music with dark instrumental rock, mostly removes the female voices (you know, the protagonists?) in favor of a Don LaFontaine-style narrator, and generally makes the whole show look serious enough to induce loads of narm.
- Sankarea. Japanese Cover: Cute, smiling teenage girl with long, dark hair, wearing a blue sundress. American Cover: Teenage girl wearing a tattered school uniform, still smiling (but it's more of a Psychotic Smirk), not to mention it's A Dark And Stormy Night and the girl happens to have a bloody, gaping wound where her stomach should be. Judging by what Sankarea is actually about, the Japanese cover could be accused of Covers Always Lie. Rea (the girl on the cover) is indeed cute, but she's also undead. Watch.
- While the Japanese "Kirby of the Stars" (the anime based off the Trope Namer) intro was pretty much a cutesy parade, the American intro dubbed as "Kirby: Right Back At Ya!" focused mostly on fight scenes and Kirby "of course" looking angry.
- While not hardcore per se, Studio Ghibli's The Tale Of Princess Kaguya's DVD cover in Japan shows the title character amongst a white background smiling and playing among cherry blossom petals. The American DVD cover, on the other hand, has a purple border, and it has an image of her face through the folding screen with a somber look on her face.
- The Redwall series has produced a lot of covers over the years, ranging from cartoonish to realistic, from gritty and abstract to epic and clear-drawn. Although every country's publications had their own different variations of all ends of the scale, there are some pretty standard levels for their home country (which may not least be due to the artists themselves):
- Original British covers are realistic and colourfully traditional. Here◊ and here◊.
- American Covers are similarly colourful but almost always more epic, playing this trope completely straight (here◊ and here◊). But their chapter illustrations are either rather humurous, cartoonish and abstract (here◊) or beautifully copperplated faux-medieval illustration(here◊).
- French covers are sometimes kept in pseudo-3d-rendering, both gritty and abstract (perhaps even downright disturbing). Just look at those rotoscopes of humans with animal heads (here◊ and here◊).
- Russian Covers are traditional, epically detailed in both physique and attire. (here◊ and (here)◊
- Israeli Covers are... interestingly cartoonish, but certainly light-hearted (here◊ and here◊).
- German covers stay usually on par with the British ones (like here◊), but have quite some... unnerving exceptions (here◊ and here◊) that can head both into lighthearted crayon and gritty absurd territory. Uncanny Valley ahead.
- More like "Russian Warriors is Hardcore". Compare this◊ to this◊. There's a lot more where that came from: The title translation is also subject to this having been translated as Raging Storm rather then Rising Storm. Also, the French title for Fire and Ice roughly means In Fire and In Blood.
- Inverted with the Japanese covers. The Japanese cover for The Darkest Hour, which is probably the most carnage-tastic book in the series, is of two fluffy kitties smiling.
- To ensure that it sells with the mainstream crowd, Yen Press was told by distributors that (the first volume) American Spice and Wolf is Trashy and Realistic. It didn't go well, so the original art was used from the second volume onwards.
- The ''Protector of the Small' quartet has different covers in the US and the UK from book 2 on. American Squire◊ has Keladry of Mindelan holding a baby griffin and looking at the viewer with a faint smile; in the UK◊ she's looking at it and smiling more broadly. US Lady Knight◊ has her staring at us with a hostile expression; in the UK she looks to the side◊ and seems more hopeful. Notably, although three books out of the quartet have different artwork, they all feature the same subject, just interpreted differently.
- Peter Grant is way macho in the US cover◊ of Midnight Riot / Rivers of London compared to the restrained 'arty' look of the British cover◊. Also note that Peter Grant, who in the books is described as a slender mixed race young man who by his own admission looks more North African, has metamorphosed into a Scary Black Man. And as a British Copper, he'd better have signed for that gun.
- The first Horatio Hornblower novel was titled The Happy Return in most markets. In the United States, it was titled Beat to Quarters, the order to prepare for action.
- The original cover art for Japanese Doom Metal band Boris' album Smile is cute◊. The American release's cover is edgy◊.
- An inversion occurred when Within Temptation's album The Unforgiving made it to Japan...and the gothed-up Sharon DenAdel cover was replaced by one with a busty, Moe Meganekko schoolgirl waggling her finger at the buyer.
- A non-Japanese example. British star Billy Idol 's self-titled album cover originally had him looking like a suggestive, but harmless idol◊ for teens. When the album was released in the US however, they wanted to market Billy as a rebel, so gave it this◊ much cooler cover with him wearing a leather jacket and frowning instead. This cover has since become the canon cover having appeared on CD releases worldwide, and is probably the defining image of Idol.
- For the international release of Indianapolis 500, some European games had the playfield and cabinet colors changed to use more primary colors to make the game more manly and appealing in certain distributors' countries.
- The Breath of Fire example mentioned above also happens in Manly Guys Doing Manly Things as the result of a curse. Commander Badass (himself forcibly bishified by the Nomura Syndrome) asks why people can't be content to like people how they are.
- Consolers likes making fun of this - one comic features the "angry American Kirby", where Ameritendo decides Kirby is "too cutesy" and changes him by just drawing on two angry eyebrows. Another comic shows when Nintendo was suggested to make Pikachu more muscular to appeal to American audiences - she's not convinced.
- Most paintings by the infamous Handre de Jager from Something Awful mercilessly parody this trope. The artist himself stated that his initial inspiration was the aforementioned original American boxart for Mega Man. Handre's works can be found on his website (Not safe for work). Be warned, they're disgusting and scary.
- The Mega Man cartoon had Mega Man, Roll and Proto Man look more like teenagers and gave the Robot Masters a more muscular look. This also had an unusual effect on X, who looked like an adult and acted much more violently than he did in the games.
- Inverted for Transformers Animated's debut in Japan. In order to turn it into a prequel to the live-action movies (or so we thought), among other things, a new logo looking almost exactly like the film logos was commissioned, which practically clashes with the show's cartoony art style. And to think that Japan once played this straight with Transformers by gag dubbing the edgy Beast Wars... (Though there might be a reason as to the shift in attitude —- see the Transformers films' entries on Germans Love David Hasselhoff).
- Just to be clear, this is not the first time that Japan has made Americans very confused about the continuity choices the Japanese side makes.
- Transformers Prime's Japanese dub takes a page from their localization of the Beast shows by turning what was originally a mostly somber-toned, serious action show full of (at times needlessly) dark scenes into another quirky robot cartoon, with scary villains becoming comedic and the moody instrumental theme-music being replaced with an upbeat pop song.
- The French publicity posters◊ for The Secret of Kells is much more action-oriented (having the two main characters surrounded by black, angry dogs while holding up the eye of Crom like it's magical) than the subtle, reserved posters◊ the rest of the world got (a small face gently smiling, most hidden by leaves).
- Ōban Star-Racers had a mixed French/Japanese J-pop opening theme in France, Great Britain & Japan. The US got a generic rock song called "Never say Never" (No, not that one)
- Humorously, Wreck-It Ralph gets slapped with this for its Japanese release. Its international title refers to the Villain Protagonist, a burly pseudo-animalistic guy. Its Japanese title? "Sugar Rush", named for one of the Fictional Video Games visited in the film - which happens to Tastes Like Diabetes.
- Frozen inverts this. It's the international marketing that portrays the movie as hardcore, while the domestic marketing made it look like a lighthearted romp in the vein of Shrek.
- Inverted with Big Hero 6, the American trailer focuses more on action and comedy, while the Japanese trailer delves more into the drama of the story. This has the resulting effect of Japanese film goers being unprepared for the amount of action found within the movie.
- Back in the 80s Japan got some special My Little Pony toys which were supposed to be even cuter than the normal ones, called Osharena Pony.
- The artists who design Polish Film Posters are famous for adding a bit of edginess, even if the original poster was already a bit edgy. Check out the poster for Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo as as it appeared in Poland◊ compared to the original.◊
- This was during the times Poland was under communist regime - most of the times, the artists making these posters were not even given a vague sense of what the movie was about.
- This one is more of a coincidence, but notice back when there were two "Noah's Ark" amusement park attractions left (only the American one is still running), compare this (Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Blackpool, Lancashire, England, UK) to this (Kennywood, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA).
- It should be noted though that the video of the Kennywood version of the ride was taken after a Darker and Edgier remodel. On the other hand, you should see it on Halloween.
- Even toddler toys are subjected to this. In mid-2012, VTech released a rocking horse toy in the UK. When the toy was finally released in the US a few months later, the horse was changed into a motorcycle!
- In Europe, the LEGO Dino Attack toyline (called Dino2010 in this market) focused on a specialized action team trying to contain mutant dinosaurs with all sorts of traps in a jungle setting. The sets' American versions replaced the capturing gear with ridiculous weaponry designed to kill and harm, and the setting was also changed to an apocalyptic, ruined city. This caused a great uproar within the LEGO community at the time, not only because the dual setline gave off the impression that the company thought the US is only interested in violence, but also because it went straight against their oft-praised (and nowadays much more loosened-up) anti-violence policy.
- The TV commercials for the Disney attraction, Splash Mountain, when it first opened, are an interesting display of contrast. Check out the commercial for the ride at Tokyo Disneyland (opened in 1992), compared to the commercial for the same ride at Disneyland (opened in 1989). Both emphasize the huge climatic drop (and both play "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah"), but the Tokyo commercial just sounds and feels more happy, whereas the Anaheim commercial has, to quote another Disney attraction, an aura of foreboding.
- Toronto's long-running Santa Claus Parade got hit with this when Soviet-era Russia decided to do a simulcast in 1990 (one of the first non-Russian productions to broadcast in that country). The official opening from Canada's Global TV is simpler, shorter and more naive, almost with a feeling of Tastes Like Diabetes, while Russia opened the parade with a long, drawn-out intro that feels more at home in a cheesy 80's cop shownote .