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American Kirby Is Hardcore

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American Kirby is definitely in it to win it.

"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."

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 were originally intended to be cute. Sometimes this trope goes the other way, too: an American character may be made cuter for the Japanese release.

This has to do with Values Dissonance and, to a lesser extent, Americans Hate Tingle. Japan's culture, in general, is very accepting of cuteness anyplace, and will take it in stride. In comparison, the American culture, while not having any animosity towards it nowadays as they did back then, often tends to associate the bright, colorful, and innocent with childhood and immaturity, and generally has more of a preference towards the dark, edgy, and "mature". The trope of "I Want to Be a Real Man" seems to have rooted itself more firmly in this culture.

The trend in question became especially notorious in the 1990s (see the '90s Anti-Hero), and it is largely due to a cultural pushback against sanitized media of previous decades. And, in 1999 and 2001 respectively, the Columbine shooting and The War on Terror left many in the United States confused, angry, and traumatized, and the media of the 2000s reflected this. Even otaku resonated strongly with dark and edgy anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Death Note, and Elfen Lied.

But the situation had changed when the 2010s had begun, which can be traced to North America's growing general pushback against the Darker and Edgier trends of the previous decades and the wider spread of Japanese pop culture during that time period. While the preference for "mature" media isn't completely gone, cuteness in general is, nowadays, far more loved and accepted in North America than it used to be.

In the past, American culture's former attitudes against cuteness used to go so far as to color their perceptions of Japanese culture; some historians had 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, pink is a value-neutral color in modern Japan, to the point where there are even pink gas stations. In North America, bright pink tends to be associated with young or adolescent girls, so most ostentatiously pink cover images (and other objects) are toned down drastically, even in the modern day.

This trope is one reason why GameFAQs has a separate tag for box shots, since sometimes it just happens that the box art of the games differs significantly. As an added bonus, if the game is ever brought out to Europe, expect the artwork cover to be more artistic than usual regardless of whether or not the buyer can make sense of the artwork.

A subtrope of Cultural Translation and related to Darker and Edgier. It's also not always a bad thing, mind you; if the game itself isn't particularly cutesy, 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 perfectly normal if you're wondering why he isn't smiling).

See also Mascot with Attitude, since many examples are an attempt to turn a character into one of these.

Note: Weblinks Are Not Examples! Please include a description of the cover art in your examples.

Video Game Examples

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  • The Trope Namer here is Kirby. The box art for many of his games since Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land note  have had angry eyebrows added to the main character, which was likely meant to make the pink puffball seem more determined but wound up making him look more aggressive. This strange practice is joked on originally in this YTMND and subsequently in this Brawl in the Family strip. It seemed to have calmed for a brief time with Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Kirby Super Star Ultra, and Kirby's Epic Yarn, whose box arts have Kirby actually looking happy for a change, but crept up back again with Kirby Mass Attack and Kirby's Return to Dream Land. Ever since Kirby's Dream Collection, the box art has been consistently the same across all regions, apparently alternating between cheery Kirby and ferocious Kirby.
  • In Europe, it depends if the localization 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.
  • Earlier in the series, this applied to advertisements rather than box art. A Kirby's Dream Land 2 commercial aired in North America 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, ending with a menacing voiceover by Tony Jay. Also 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 commercial for those games also established Kirby as a criminal.
  • Kirby's Avalanche shows Kirby as a Jerkass who acts sarcastic and mean to his friends, saying things like "Oh, I'm so scared" and the like while also threatening other characters unprovoked and even forcing an innocent Waddle Dee to play with him. The game was an installment of the ineffably cute Puyo Puyo series rebranded for an American audience, giving Kirby a personality more similar to Puyo's protagonist, Arle. Ironically, the cover of the game is a rather cute image of a cheery looking Kirby and Dedede.
  • Kirby's Block Ball plays this straight with the international version's intro and title screen, which has an angry Spark Kirby as opposed to a cute ball-shaped Kirby, but inverts it with the advertising; it's the Japanese commercial that has Kirby tearing down buildings. The American commercial has an adorable animated Kirby that strangely has teeth.
  • Zig-Zagging Trope in Kirby Super Star, albeit not so much the box art as the in-game dialogue, and not so much Kirby as Meta Knight. The Revenge of Meta Knight mode received some minor changes seemingly to make it more "hardcore"—the most notable of which is the name itself (from "Meta Knight's Counterattack"). A fairly innocuous "Let us duel!" was replaced with "Prepare to Die!", pointedly avoiding one of Nintendo's stricter rules at the time. Inversely, a line where Meta Knight coldly insults his crew for dying on a sinking ship in their single-minded pursuit of Kirby was replaced with one where he agrees to their plan and thanks them for their loyalty. Both of these changes were reverted for Kirby Super Star Ultra; the earlier line became "come meet your doom!" Even Meta Knight's stated motivation is changed to make him sound more villainous:
    Meta Knight (Japanese): The time has come. The time to show our power! Dream Land has become rotten to the core, and we will change it with our own hands!
    Meta Knight (English): The time has come. The time to show our power! Dream Land's lazy lifestyle will end! I will rule!
  • While Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards averted it on the cover, the marketing of the game actually parodied it with an ad depicting Kirby as "the face of terror". A commercial for said game had a similar theme, having Kirby blow up a puppy and a kitty with a missile.
  • Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble, released just before the trend really came into full force, has a downplayed variation; both use similar art of Kirby, with the Japanese version having a cute smiling Kirby and the American version having a more confused, upside-down one. However, the American boxart conveys the theme of the game better than the Japanese artwork by actually showing a tumbling 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 Japanese, its English title is Kirby Mass Attack. Zig-zagged in that half of the Kirbys are angry, the other half are doing other expressions.
  • Kirby's Return to Dream Land swings the pendulum back around and gives him angry eyes on the North American box art, highlighting his Ultra Sword Super Ability. Contrast the Japanese box art showing an ability-less Kirby happily posing with his friends, which is also used everywhere else. The 2023 remake Return to Dream Land Deluxe notably undoes this change and goes for the same box art, based on the original Japanese art, across all regions.
  • Later games use the same box art across all regions, so it actually hasn't been played straight since 2011:
  • In the Kirby of the Stars anime or in English, Kirby: Right Back at Ya!:
    • The original Japanese theme song is a children's march set to the main characters in a parade; though it does feature some shots of angry Kirby getting into fights, it's still very much a children's song. The second one is similar, being a cheery pop song prominently featuring Kirby's smiling face. The English opening is a big band song with a bombastic beat that focuses on the monster battles. Even the title is clearly aimed at an older audience.
    • The memetic "Handsome Dedede" scene also changes context between original and dub. The original text has him and Escargoon endlessly complimenting each other ("His Majesty looks so cool!" "You are just beautiful!"), as if he was a dashing Bishōnen. While the English dub does have this exchange, it was moved to earlier in the scene and the "Handsome Dedede" sequence instead makes him out to be a heroic champion ("Have you seen Kirby today, Majesty?" "He don't scare me none!").
  • Series director Shinya Kumazaki explains the phenomenon.
    Kumazaki: "What we have heard is that strong, tough Kirby that's really battling hard is a more appealing sign of Kirby, so that's what we feature in the U.S."
  • On the (unofficial) extreme end of the scale, there are There Will Be Brawl's and Sonic for Hire's versions of Kirby... And it's exaggerated in the parodies by Davuu Wart: Spanish Kirby is a Motherfucker, with huge eyebrows and an aggressive personality to fit.
  • A famous piece of fan-art parodies the phenomenon with an absurdly angry Kirby starring in Kirby's Fucking Pissed, rated 18+.

    Action-Adventure Games 
  • 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. The American version of the game also has the blood the game was originally intended to have, while others don't, so this might be reversed.
  • Inverted with No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle. All covers are intense, though the Japanese cover (especially the Hopper edition cover) is even more hardcore compared to the international ones.
  • 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.
  • The Japanese box art for Naruto Uzumaki Chronicles 2 has a smiling Naruto with a bunch of his friends behind him. When the game was released in America, the box art was changed to an extremely pissed off Naruto charging towards the buyer/owner.
  • 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 box art. Averted for Unlimited Cruise 2: Awakening of a Hero, where the original Japanese box art was used for both versions.
  • Yakuza series:
    • The Japanese box art for the first Yakuza artfully shows a monochrome Kiryu delivering a roundhouse against a white background. The American box art, meanwhile, shows Kiryu standing menacingly and shirtless, his dragon tattoo in full view.
    • For Yakuza 3, the Japanese box art shows Kiryu looking up at the sky, rendered in the same monochrome style as the other Japanese covers. The Western box art, conversely, shows half of Kiryu's face glaring at the viewer against a deep red background.
    • Yakuza 4 downplays it. Both the Japanese and Western cover arts show the game's playable cast in monochrome, but while the Japanese box art is more subdued, the Western box art has their visages showing sharper contrasts against a red background.
    • Inverted with Yakuza 6. The Japanese box art has Kiryu and several other characters sporting menacing scowls, but the Western box art has Kiryu standing protectively alongside his adopted daughter Haruka, and her infant son Haruto.
    • Yakuza: Like a Dragon has the starkest inversion in the series. The Japanese box art shows the game's cast, plus some key story characters, sporting various threatening looks, with Kasuga giving a Death Glare. The Western box art has Kasuga sporting a goofy grin, with the background rendered in popping yellow and proudly showcasing some of the game's goofier aspects.
    • Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise: The Japanese cover art features Kenshiro protectively clutching Yuria. The western cover has Kenshiro menacingly cracking his knuckles as bandits and raiders loom in the background.
  • Asterix 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 North American English!
  • 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.
  • Dynasty Warriors:
  • 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 Dog's Life. The European and North 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.
  • 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".
  • In the hentai doujin platformer Succubus, the main character is a curvy anime succubus who can have sex with defeated enemies to regain health and magic. When the game was made available on the English market, developer Libra Heart decided to change some things to appeal to American tastes. While the ingame graphics are unchanged, the title screen and unlockable artworks are changed from anime succubus to a more "realistic" rendering, who also has way larger breasts.
  • Inverted with the Japanese version of MediEvil, which tries to make the skeletal hero Sir Daniel Fortesque a bit less spooky looking. Firstly, he retains his helmet from before his death, hiding his fleshless face. He wears his helmet in the cutscenes, but in-game, it can be removed at any time. Second, his one remaining eye was given a bigger pupil. This particular change was carried over to his design in Playstation All Stars Battle Royale and in the PS4 remake of the first game.
  • The Atlantis SquarePantis game has SpongeBob smirking on the cover on most versions...except for the Japanese, where it's a genuine smile.
  • (Warning, slightly NSFW) Majoriko Inbizone kind of parodies this, the game is an obscure platformer released on the Japan-only PC-98 series of computers, yet the cover is Boris Vallejo-esque erotic dark fantasy style, while the actual game is an anime-style magical girl action adventure platformer.
  • Hard Edge's Japanese (Softsoft Best reprint) and European features a close up of Alex's face. The North American version's cover art instead features Alex and Michelle as Back-to-Back Badasses with a still image of one of the bombs the terrorists used to wipe out the Special Forces.

    Action Games 
  • Downplayed in the covers for Dead Rising 2. The original Japanese cover depicts Action Dad protagonist Chuck Greene protecting his daughter Katey from a horde of zombies while holding a baseball bat. The American cover just has Chuck by himself while holding a significantly more badass weapon, the Paddlesaw. So both covers are relatively hardcore, but the American boxart removes the heartwarming undertones of the original in favor of trying to look more awesome.
  • The prototype American cover art for Gunstar Heroes is the same as the finalized version (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 North American 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.
  • 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.
  • The Japanese box cover art for Jack Bros. for Virtual Boy is very cutesy looking, with the little Jack Bros. and fairies in a maze. The North American box cover art, on the other hand is a little bit more spooky, which is oddly more fitting for a Shin Megami Tensei Spin-Off despite the game itself being more Lighter and Softer in tone. What really stands out though are the character designs, Jack Ripper being taller, Pyro Jack looking like Scarecrow from Batman, and last but not least, though covered by the logo, we have Jack Frost with a tin helmet, carrot nose and a bear like body.
  • 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 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.
  • Robot Alchemic Drive features a giant robot curb-stomping another giant robot on it's North American cover. The Japanese cover (used for the NA manual as well) simply features the protagonists and one of the robots against a blue sky.
  • 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". In 2017, the trailer for the PC version tries very hard to make it seem like a gritty badass game, complete with Inception blaster beam musical hits.
  • 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. This also extends to the logo on the title screen: the International logo has a skull over a bloody chainsaw and a Gothic-inspired font, while the Japanese logo has a rainbow title and a skill-and-crossbones symbol with lollipops as crossbones.
  • 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.

    Adventure Games 
  • 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 one and more effectively conveys the seriousness of the game's subject matter than it.
  • Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders: In America, Zak and Annie are Atop a Mountain of Corpses in some ancient ruins, smiling. In Japan, Zak is scowling while holding a gemstone in his hand dramatically; Annie is clinging to Zak, scared; Melissa is investigating a broomstick; Leslie is staring into the distance; and there's a baddie knocked out.

    Beat 'em Ups 
  • River City Ransom: Contrast the Japanese box art, in which everyone looks more or less like they do in the actual game, with the American box art. 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:
    • 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. Sunset Riders, most of the Contra games, and Castlevania III and IV also qualify.
    • 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. This is because the American and European box art is actually lifted directly from the cover of TMNT #4 (2nd printing), which can be seen in its full version here. The original cover features the Turtles fighting the alien Utroms on top of a teleporter and has nothing to do with the plot of the game.
    • While the Game Boy game Radical Rescue seems to play this trope to the hilt, with the Japanese box art featuring the Turtles as they appear in the '80s cartoon and the international box art depicting a realistically-designed Leonardo bursting through a wall in an action pose, it's actually the international artwork that's more accurate to the actual game, which uses an art style inspired by the Mirage comics of the time.
    • Inverted with The Hyperstone Heist, where in the Japanese cover, the Turtles are on a tussle with the Foot clan, while in the American cover, The Turtles (who are still looking realistic) are only looking at the shrunken New York City. The European cover is only the Japanese cover of Turtles in Time.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • The Rushing Beat, Rushing Beat Ran and Rushing Beat Shura Japanese covers present a hardcore anime style, while the English localizations, Rival Turf!, Brawl Brothers, and The Peace Keepers attempt to be Totally Radical.
  • For all the censorship done to the North American version of Streets of Rage 3, it does feature an odd moment of this in its "time out the Final Boss" bad ending. In the Japanese version, all that's mentioned is that a war was prevented and that the nuke "left terrible scars in its wake". In the North American version, it's only convention bombs that damage the city, yet the game emphasizes that a lot of people died, that the city will take a very long time to get repaired, and that the citizens' trust in the heroes has been severed as a result of the latter's failure.

    Driving Games 
  • The Shutokou Battle series zig-zags this trope as a whole, but it depends on individual games.
    • Compare Japanese, American and European boxarts of PS Shutokou Battle. The European one is the most hardcore, as the American one is drawn in a silly caricature style, while the Japanese one features a photo of a vehicle wheel rim.
    • Compare Japanese boxart and the North American boxart of Zero, which is a minimal inversion. Note the North American boxart has copied the older Dreamcast TXR2 game, although the white NSX's front fascia was redrawn from the original to avoid legal issues with Honda. Oddly, Zero's game disc retained the authentic NSX front fascia as in TXR2.
    • The first Kaido Battle game, Nikko, Haruna, Rokko, Hakone, has Japanese boxart featuring the generic Scenery Porn background, while the North American TXR Drift features racing scenes instead.
    • The Japanese cover of Shutokou Battle 01 inverts this by featuring a car doing burnout, while North American TXR3 boxart features two cars in front of flashy neon city backgrounds.
    • The second Kaido Battle, Chain Reaction, aka Kaido Racer, played straight a bit. Both feature generic backgrounds, though European boxart looks more aggressive compared to Japanese one.
    • The third Kaido Battle, KAIDO: Touge no Densetsu (aka Kaido Racer 2 and Tokyo Xtreme Racer: Drift 2), zig-zags this again. Both the Japanese and North American boxarts feature cars perform drifting, while European boxart features generic background again.
    • The final game in the series, Import Tuner Challenge, inverts this again. The Japanese boxart looks more aggressive compared to the overseas boxart.
  • The Ridge Racer series routinely averts this trope, but there are several instances in which the trope is in play:
  • The European Dreamcast version of Looney Tunes Space Race features a colorful and comical scene of Yosemite Sam chasing Daffy Duck amid a flurry of Acme rockets while riding their vehicles, beneath a cartoony logo with checkered flags hanging off the side. The American Playstation 2 version has Wile E. Coyote, Daffy Duck, and Bugs Bunny (wearing sunglasses), wearing space suits and serious facial expressions while posed behind a menacing-looking red-and-black logo which looks like it's made of brushed metal. It even has an edgy tagline: "Speed is not your only weapon."

    Fighting Games 
  • Compared to whatever North Americans got, the box art of the European BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger seems to suggest a Noel Third-Person Shooter spin-off 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 Isuka 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. As for the actual cover art for the game, Kirby's facial expression was left alone in the North American version (contrary to the name of the trope) — the bright, partly cloudy blue skies were removed, on the other hand. Japanese titles for Smash entries are always modest compared to the Western ones, but Ultimate took this to a new level (in contrast to Special, which conveys the dream match nature of the game less extravagantly). Even the creators thought it was a bit much..
  • Exaggerated with the Sega CD game Revengers of Vengeance. The Japanese version is merely called "Battle Fantasy" and has a serene picture of a warrior elf on the cover. The American version, well, looks like the poster of a cheesy, gimmicky B-movie. See for yourself.
  • Power Quest, an obscure RPG-fighting game hybrid for the Game Boy. On the one hand, the Japanese box art features two of the game's characters fighting each other, while the western box art doesn't. On the other, the western box art features the game's playable cast standing around looking badass. Furthermore, the Japanese version's robot designs are cartoony, while the western version looked more humanoid.

    First-Person Shooter 

  • Nintendo famously radically redesigned and renamed the small, red, white and gold Family Computer ("Famicom" for short) to the larger and grayer Nintendo Entertainment System outside of Japan. This, along with the creation of the Robotic Operating Buddy, was done to make it look and sound less like a toy and more like a high-tech appliance, which was especially necessary at the time due to American retailers' skepticism towards video games in the wake of The Great Video Game Crash of 1983.
  • The Japanese Super Famicom and European Super Nintendo Entertainment System had bright and colorful promotion, with a four-color logo derived from the four colors of the buttons on the controller. However, Nintendo of America, dogged by Sega's aggressive advertising that tried to paint Nintendo as "kiddie", decided to eliminate the colors from both the hardware design and the logo, changing the colors of the buttons to two tones of purple, and making the logo suitably monochrome.
  • The Japanese PC Engine was roughly the size of three CD jewel cases stacked together and colored white with a red logo. Its North American counterpart, the TurboGrafx-16, is about thrice the size of the PC Engine and given a more rust-colored look.
  • In general, if it's not Nintendo since the Nintendo Gamecube and Gameboy Advance era, Japan is more likely to see consoles released in a variety of bright colors, while Europe and especially America typically get more muted colors, if they get any color variations at all.

    Maze Games 
  • 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 Kamikaze Bomber (a member of the Bomber Family, sporting a Mohawk and wearing shades) 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.

  • The Japanese cover art of the Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood expansion shows the cast of characters of the expansion much like the previous covers - meanwhile the American cover has Zenos in full armor front and center, blood-red sword drawn and staring directly at the viewer

    Pinball Games 
  • Revenge of the 'Gator for the Game Boy. In Japan, the 'gators in the cover are happy and smiling, and look a bit cartoony. The ones in the Western releases are gruffy, serious and drawn more realistically. Coincidentally, it's made by HAL Laboratory, like Kirby.

    Platform Games 
  • The Japanese version of El Viento is a simple close-up shot of Annet Myer. The North American version has her fighting a group of mobsters and is drawn in a more Western artstyle.
  • Kabuki Quantum Fighter: While the American cover is indeed a bit darker than the Japanese one, oddly enough, 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 Jidaigeki film Zipang.
  • 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 hardcore cover (by contrast, the Famicom cover is downright cartoonish).
  • The European 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 North American 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!
  • 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.
  • Klonoa has a history of hardcore revamps.
    • The Japanese cover of Door to Phantomile depicts Klonoa in a relaxed standing pose, smiling at the viewer at a 3/4 angle. The American version swaps this out for an action pose with Klonoa dramatically pointing his ring at the viewer.
      • While the games never got much advertising at all in North America, one of the few known American ads for Door to Phantomile is oddly suggestive, with a man impressing a woman by telling her he has "Klonoa" (a pun on "chlamydia", presumably referring to the game.) The game itself is kid-friendly, so this was definitely an attempt at appealing to adults.
    • Namco briefly considered giving the title character a rather drastic makeover for the North American 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. Fortunately, the game was released with Klonoa's original look intact- surprisingly enough, because the North American fanbase demanded he remain cute.
    • While Klonoa's appearance in the Wii game remained cutesy, the English dub still changed his voice. In Japan, Kumiko Watanabe always gave Klonoa a childish, high-pitched voice, which is fitting because he's a Kid Hero. But the Wii game was the first to have the characters speak English, and the voice actor chosen for Klonoa, Eric Stitt, was given very little information about the character. Because Stitt didn't know that Klonoa was supposed to be a child, he wound up giving Klonoa a deeper, teenaged-sounding, Sonic the Hedgehog-esque voice.
    • The Japanese box art for Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil had Klonoa smiling and relaxed, while the North American version had him scowling in a tensed-up Ass-Kicking Pose.
  • 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.
  • The American and European covers of Lilo & Stitch 2: Hämsterviel Havoc show a slightly vicious Stitch in his Experiment 626 form and spacesuit (which he doesn't wear in the game) firing three plasma blasters towards something off-screen with Richter (X-513) and Spooky (X-300, who does not appear in the game) in the shadowy background, with a crosshair around the 2 on the American cover. The Japanese cover shows a more neutral "dog form" Stitch just pointing a plasma blaster at the viewer with five of the game's experimentsnote  scattered across the light floral pattern background, with stylized flowers and palm fronds around the logo.
  • A rare case of European hardcore is M.C. Kids (Wikipedia article), whose European box art turned the kids into cool teens.
  • Magical Doropie underwent this treatment in its localization as The Krion Conquest, with the cover's depiction of Doropie/Francesca resembling a busty brunette version of Glinda from The Wizard of Oz rather than the in-game Cute Witch.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man (Classic):
    • Mega Man X:
    • In Mega Man ZX Advent, the Mega Man 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 box art 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 in-game description says that the character depicted on it "resembles a colorful coal miner instead of a hero." If that wasn't enough, "Bad Box Art Mega Man" is so (in)famous that this was the version Capcom chose to cameo in Street Fighter X Tekken.
  • The Super Cassette Vision version of Miner 2049er, while released in Japan with the North American 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.
  • The North American NES version of The NewZealand 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.
  • Oddworld is another American video game franchise that was bizarrely altered for Japanese audiences. The Japanese version of Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee made efforts to reduce the dark and creepy tone of the original American version. The game was renamed Abe a GoGo in Japan and the characters speak with higher-pitched voices. The American advertisement for Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee shows the dark nature of the game, while the Japanese advertisement is completely unrelated to the game and shows Abe having a dance party with a bunch of schoolgirls for some reason, with upbeat pop music (the same music is also featured in the Japanese ending). The American design of Mudokon Pops is gruesome and depicts a Mudokon head being impaled on a stick. However, the Japanese design alters Mudokon Pops to make them look more cartoony and less realistic. The Japanese box art is different as well, featuring a more upbeat and brightly colored style, and a silhouette of Abe running. * Compare Panic Restaurant's box art Japan, Europe and North America. 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 releases, he was switched out for a different, older, white-haired character resembling Chef Boyardee.
  • Plok's European and American boxart depicts Plok with angry eyebrows, squaring off against most of the enemies and bosses he encounters throughout the game. The Japanese boxart, on the other hand, depicts Plok much happier and with a much more cartoony design, emphasizing the different costumes he can wear.
  • An old NES game, Power Blade (originally Power Blazer in Japan). The player character in Power Blazer is a short little Super-Deformed guy with a helmet on. In Power Blade, he's a much more realistically-proportioned Action Genre Hero Guy who bears an uncanny resemblance to Arnold Schwarzenegger on the game's cover. Read the article about it here.
  • Inverted with the cover of the SNES port of Prince of Persia. The Japanese cover portrays the sword-wielding protagonist with the scared princess and villains behind on a darkly-colored background of the castle while North America gets a brightly-colored patterned cover with the leaping protagonist and logo.
  • Psycho Soldier is about a cute Japanese schoolgirl with psychic powers, which the original cover accurately reflects. The cover art for the American and European releases is a different story... Interestingly, this cover was also drawn by Bob Wakelin, with Athena's pose once again traced from a reference photo of Lisa Lyon. To quote Hardcore Gaming 101: "By now that should probably make her the definitive Western Athena..."
  • Ratchet & Clank was made much cuter in Japan. 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, and they even extended to his in-game appearance for several years.
    • The first game had its American cover mostly intact when localized for Japan (the only difference was changing the weapon schematic background for a cityscape). 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Rocket Knight Adventures, released by Konami for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. Like Kirby, the American box art 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 unusual in that it became the definitive characterization, as even the Japanese promotional artwork (and 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.
  • Shantae and the Pirate's Curse: Inverted. While American promo art features Shantae (and the other female characters) smiling rather cutely, the Japanese 3DS cover art features Shantae with a much more serious and angry expression. Risky Boots and Rottytops are still smiling, though while Rottytops retains her cuteness, Risky is posing with her gun.
  • For the American version of Jerry Boy, retitled SmartBall, the cutesy blob still featured in-game was retooled for the cover art and the title screen by popping his eyes out and giving him a mile-wide grin, trying a bit too hard to pass him as "one of the most devilish creatures you'll ever meet." The American cover art also includes a freaky-looking bird and inexplicable flaming meteors raining down on a cityscape.
  • Apparently, Hanafram misunderstood this trope while localizing Snow Bros. 2 for North America and Europe (the game has the data for all regions built into the same ROM). While the game's character select screen contains cutesy characters with the country switch set to Asia, Korea or Japan, when the switch is set to North America or Europe, the cutesy characters are replaced with horribly deformed photoshopped images of babies.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
  • Spyro the Dragon:
    • Spyro the Dragon (1998)'s Japanese boxart loses Spyro's DreamWorks Face of the original boxart and cutens him up. 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).
    • Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! had that too. Compare the covers for the US version (where Spyro is in front of a backdrop of fire), European version (tamer, but still gives off a "cool" and desaturated vibe), and the Japanese version (a cute Spyro surrounded by happy characters).
    • In the Japanese version of the games, 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 every time he jumps.
  • The box art for Super Ghouls n' Ghosts greatly differs between the Japanese version and the localized one. The Japanese boxart shows running with the game's enemies and bosses glaring down at him from the background with the art design looking, while a bit scary, pretty cartoony. The localized boxart shows Arthur in a full suit of armor with a slick looking cape and has his sword and shield ready while the undead are shown off in the background. The art style in the localized boxart is drawn in a more realistic tone with a darker color palette.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Inverted with the Super Mario Bros. 2 box art. In Japan, known as Super Mario USA, Mario and Luigi are scowling and engaged in some act of violence, Peach is shocked and only Toad is smiling. America gets a picture of Mario clutching a vegetable, with a big old smile on his face. The reason for this is that Super Mario Bros. 2 is based on Doki Doki Panic, and they share a boxart theme.
  • Also inverted with Super Mario Bros. 3: In Japan there's Raccoon Mario flying with a smile on his face, plus various enemies chasing Luigi, Peach and Toad, while Bowser stands behind the whole thing with an evil look on his face. The American version has a yellow cover with the title and Mario.
  • 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. The only one they actually show is the one that involves anger and fire. The Western box art for the game downplays it, in that 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.
  • Tempo was a game about an adorable cartoon cricket that makes music. The North American 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.
  • Both North American localizations of Valis III got rather creepy-looking covers instead of the original Japanese art. The TurboGrafx-CD cover had a frowning, too old-looking model posing as Yuko in front of a generic spooky landscape. The Sega Genesis cover instead drew a ridiculously punk-looking Yuko on the cover trying to stab you.

    Puzzle Games 
  • Puzzle Bobble / Bust-a-Move series:
    • The Super Bust-A-Move (PS2) cover shows a baby blowing blood-red bubbles.
    • The Sega Saturn boxart of Bust-A-Move 2 decided to treat us to the creepy image of a disembodied head of a bald guy trapped in a bubble, with matchsticks shoved into his eyelids. Both things have absolutely nothing to do with the theme of the game (cutesy dragons solving puzzles).
    • This happened with a good few covers 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.
    • Bust-a-Move Again, a North American arcade version of Puzzle Bobble 2, replaced the cute bubble dragons with sentient hands.
  • 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.
  • Palamedes is a rather obscure NES 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. That is, except for this.
  • The Japanese and European box art for Cleopatra Fortune is a picture of the game's adorable protagonist in a cute pose. The American box art is just a photo of an ancient Egyptian death mask.
  • Godzilla for the Game Boy came out in North America 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. The game, known as Gojira-kun in Japanese, 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 North America 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 absent except for a tiny graphic of Layton's face in the corner. 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.
  • Puchi Puchi Virus has a cutesy, chibi, cartooney aesthetic which is reflected in the original Japanese boxart. While the American boxart still keeping most the title with that same aesthetic, is now set against a more serious-looking series of human icons, one being red-colored and under a crosshairs. There are also several chemical diagrams.
  • 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. Even more extreme is Nintendo of America's original plan for the series—they wanted to turn it into a Killer Instinct spinoff!
  • Dr. Mario, for its NES release. 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.
  • Puyo Puyo:
    • The English translation of the Puyo Puyo arcade game has a bit of this (of course, it was the early '90s...). Arle/Silvana has a noticeably more aggressive and occasionally snarky attitude in the English translation, often making Badass Boasts along the lines of "I fear no one!" Although not all comedy was removed from the game's story mode, the final confrontation with Satan/the Dark Prince is played entirely seriously, removing the comedic bit where Arle gets his name wrong.
    • Puyo Pop on the GBA changed several pieces of dialogue when it was localized, mainly to emphasis Arle's Deadpan Snarker characteristics. This is especially noticeable when you compare it to the hidden English translation in the Japanese version.
  • The Japanese cover of Xi had an upward-facing die and a quote from Julius Caesar in front of a dreamy blue landscape. The American cover changed the name to "Devil Dice", stacked 3 downward-facing dice with electric bolts between them, and put the dice over a background of some childish devils rolling some dice on a dark background while more lightnig bolts appear. The European cover focuses only on the dice, which are placed on a flaming background.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • Pikmin:
    • Pikmin (2001) has two covers. The Japanese image contains Pikmin just hanging out on a branch. The North-American and European cover image depicts Olimar and the Pikmin battling a Dwarf Bulborb while it attempts to devour a Yellow Pikmin.
    • Pikmin 2: Downplayed. The American version shows Olimar throwing Pikmin onto a Hermit Crawmad, which is clearly trying to fight back. The European/Australian boxart consists of a few Pikmin on a branch, one holding on and trying to climb up, and a couple holding berries — and a barely visible Bulborb looming behind them.
    • Pikmin 3 averts it and has the same peaceful nature-themed box art in all regions.
  • 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 box art 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Breath of Fire: 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 North American 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.)
  • Dragon Quest:
    • The early boxart differed greatly between regions. The boxart for Dragon Quest I shows the same scene in both Japan and America, but the Japanese version features Akira Toriyama's signature art style while the American version has a more generic and realistic art style.
    • The art style for the Game Boy Color remakes of Dragon Quest I, II, and III also differ. In Japan, both games feature cutesy artwork. In America, the box art for I & II has a bizarre, stiff-looking CGI look. The box art for III retains Toriyama's style, but features realistically proportioned characters with stern looking expressions.
    • Dragon Quest IX: In the Japanese box art, there's a group of four happy-go-lucky children in a market. The North American box art contains four older-looking warriors, three sporting Angry Eyebrows, ready for battle.
  • 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.
  • Lufia & The Fortress of Doom and its prequel Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals. The first installment's Japanese box art is a cute image of 3D models based on the in-game sprites looking up at the floating fortress they must conquer, while the American art has a much more generic dungeon-crawler look that significantly deviates from the art style. Meanwhile the second installment's Japanese cover is a serene image of the four legendary heroes with the fortress as a backdrop, while the American version features Maxim in a combat pose on a black background.
  • Pokémon:
    • When Pokémon Red and Blue were 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 fans when in later generations those two moves were classified as "cute" moves and were described as endearing. "Smack Down" would sound more appropriate for a Fighting move than a Rock move (it's known in Japan as "Knock Down", as in knocking something down from above with a stone).
  • Inverted with Secret of Mana. The North American commercial made Randi look even cuter.
  • 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.
  • Persona:
    • While the box art for the first Persona game is not particular light and fluffy in Japan or North America, the Japanese box art was more artistic in its depiction of its protagonist, while the North American box art shows one of the game's demons prominently.
    • Inverted with Persona 2: Eternal Punishment: the Japanese cover art shows two Maya Amanos: one whose eyes are closed, and another sporting a Slasher Grin and Supernatural Gold Eyes akin to the Shadows that appear in later games. Meanwhile, the US box art also shows two Mayas, neither of which looks demonic, with one of them held protectively by her Persona.
    • Inverted with Persona 3: the US box art shows artful silhouettes of three of the protagonists against a deep blue background, while the Japanese box art shows the Persona of Thanatos erupting from the Player Character. Downplayed with the FES version of the game between Japan and North America: the Japanese box art shows the protagonist and his friends smiling at the viewer, while the North American box art follows the previous version's example by showing a silhouette of Aigis. The European box art, meanwhile, shows the playable cast looking like they're about to throw down with their Personas.
  • Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner 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 North American 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, 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:
  • 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.
  • NieR is the 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 (PlayStation 3). 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 the only difference between the two versions. The American branch of Square Enix actually paid to develop a 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). 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 depicts a happy scene with Johnny and Shania, which actually matches the Lighter and Softer nature of the game when compared to its predecessors. 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 — it shows only Johnny in Badass Armfold pose, with much less edgy background.
  • The original Japanese box art for Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana features Klein, Lita, and Popo sitting down near a crate and smiling. The western box art instead features Klein doing a dramatic pose with a serious expression in front of ruins, with a vision of Iris praying the background.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy III had an intricate design in the Japanese and European versions while in the North American 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.
  • Final Fantasy XIII actually has a few subtle instances of this trope. The western localization team apparently felt the need to turn Lightning into more of a recluse or possibly just less sensitive than in Japanese. Case in point—English players will not see her smile even slightly until chapter 7, and then not even until the ending cinematic. Japanese players first saw her smile while spending some time with Hope in chapter 3.
  • Final Fantasy XV's Japanese box art features the main party going down a street together, while the North American boxart features the party ready for battle while three large figures loom above. Taken further with the cover for the PC version's cover which features a weary looking older and bearded Noctis sitting on a throne clutching a sword, with none of his friends in the shot. Playing on PC is almost nonexistent in Japan, so clearly it was made with a Western audience in mind.
  • Final Fantasy Mystic Quest provides an inversion (released in North America 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.
  • 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 North American cover... what the...
  • Anyone seen the Suikoden 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 North American 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.
  • Agarest: Generations of War, The European release of Agarest Senki narrowly avoided this trope due to fan backlash against the redesign.
  • Blue Dragon: The Japanese box art (available on the manual) makes Shu & the titular dragon look silly. The American box art, on the other hand, makes both look positively badass.
  • EarthBound: 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:
    • 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.
    • In Monster Rancher 3, it's done IN GAME. In the Japanese version, the assistant, Fleria, is a little girl. Western fans complained about the design making the game look "kiddie", so in response, Fleria was turned into an adult in the American version, complete with new portraits.
  • Robotrek: The US 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 (yes, even fucking Dark Souls is subject to this trope) 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 Japanese boxart for Demon's Souls features a knight resting against a wall, whereas the Western box features a knight about to draw his sword, ready for action.
  • The Phantasy Star series has always had awful, awful box art for the western releases, but they went all out for Phantasy Star IV. They hired renowned fantasy artist Boris 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. 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.
    • Digimon World 1: 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 European release, rather than using the Japanese or US art, instead uses a version of the American Digimon logo used in promotional materials, with the original seven Digidestined Digimon happily hanging around the logo on a blue background.
    • Digimon World 2: The Japanese box art, while definitely a little edgier, 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.
    • Digimon World DS had a very cute group shot on the Japanese cover, replaced by a still-cute but more battle inclined group shot in the North American cover.
  • For A Witch's 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.
  • Sands of Destruction's Japanese cover features the six major characters lined up with neutral facial expressions. The American box art features only the two leads, and makes it seem like Kyrie is the one out to destroy the world and Morte is some sort of pensive Living MacGuffin or Apocalypse Maiden. The reality is quite the opposite: Kyrie is a Nice Guy with Power Incontinence that turns everything to sand, and Morte is your rather energetic Token Evil Teammate who wants to use his powers to cause The End of the World as We Know It (ostensibly because the world is full of Fantastic Racism and already well on its way to ending itself, but she's also a bit of an Omnicidal Maniac).
  • White Lion Densetsu: Pyramid no Kanata ni featured this on its Japanese cover, which accurately reflects characters in the game, namely the protagonist Maria, a blonde woman in a short pink dress holding a spear. When released in North America as Ghost Lion it received this, showing an unrelated hero character in a mix between a medieval fantasy outfit and aerobics clothing complete with puffy 80s hair and an ornate sword, a weapon not used in the game. The only common feature is their hair color. And that white lion sitting beside her? That's actually the main villain of the game. The artist clearly had no familiarity with the game itself, and that's assuming they didn't just use artwork that was already lying around.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles X, the giant robots were changed from "Dolls" to "Skells" in the English translation for this reason.
  • The Japanese box art for Great Greed is full of cute anime-style characters, while the American box art is a grim fantasy with a guy fighting a monster.
  • Knights of Xentar: The only difference between the American cover and the original Japanese cover is that the American cover has the illustration mirrored and the colors altered to make it more convincing.
  • This is the American box art for Ys III for the Sega Genesis. The SNES version and the TurboGrafx-CD version (the latter of which depicts Genos instead of Adol) aren't quite as misleading, especially since the SNES version doesn't end up making Adol look like some sort of barbarian, though they still ditch the anime look the series is known for.

    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.
  • 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..
  • Contra:
    • The Japanese boxart of Contra 4 has Bill and Lance preparing for the fights when the American boxart shows them firing their guns instead.
    • Inverted by Neo Contra, surprisingly. The American boxart has Bill and Jaguar deploying for the missions, in a style drawn by Jim Lee. The Japanese boxart instead shows Bill aiming his gun, and Jaguar crossing his arms, in an explosive background done in CGI.
  • Inverted with the first MSX versions of Zanac: The Japanese coverart has the aircraft confronting a flurry of invading enemies (which the later Zanac releases also use), while the European coverart depicts a CAD drawing of an aircraft.

    Simulation Games 

    Sports Games 
  • Baseball games in general. While the most notable Western ones are realistic simulators, the most traditional Japanese Baseball video game franchises such as Famista and Power Pros go for an arcade angle and have a cartoony aesthetic, going as far as to disregard having characters look like their real-life counterparts for much of their history. It took 20 years since Pawapuro '94 for Konami to start a realistic Baseball series, Professional Baseball Spirits.
    • An interesting subversion is Super Mega Baseball, a Western release with a more cartoony look. The most recent release, 3, is a major graphic upgrade, but still retains the basic cartoon look.
  • The original RBI Baseball game was a localization of Namco's Pro Yakyuu Family Stadium (aka Famista) franchise of Baseball games. When RBI sequels with their own engines started being developed for 16-bit consoles, they acquired realistic-oriented graphics, with the Sega 32X entry having large digitized sprites as tall as the screen. Famista, however, never stopped being cartoony even when giving their stickmen ballplayers more detail in the 3D installments.
  • Downplayed by MLB Bobblehead Pros. While still cartoony, instead of the chibi Power Pro-kun Baseball puppets it uses bobblehead toy-like characters whose faces are modeled after the ballplayers they represent. They still have no legs, though.

    Stealth-Based Games 
  • 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. They are both dressed in less revealing clothes, and The Boss has her Navel-Deep Neckline done up.
  • Compare the international 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 international 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 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.

    Survival Horror 
  • Compare the box art for the first Resident Evil game from the Japanese version to the American and European versions. The former is merely a creepy eye looking at the player, while the latter resembles the poster of a B-Movie. The covers for all versions of the game (the original release, the director's cut, the remake, the port to the DS) have differences overseas. The Japanese versions all use a minimalist approach, such as having a shot of the empty main hall for both the director's cut and the remake. The American versions meanwhile, emphasize the horror and action you should expect, to the point of exaggeration (the DS version depicts Jill duel wielding a pair of pistols, something that is quite impossible in-game).
  • 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.
  • 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. Cute can be considered sexy in its own right in Japan, while in America, it's seen as childish, and thus, giving sex appeal to 'cute' characters can produce pedophilic undertones (especially if the character resembles a minor).
  • The box art for ObsCure II. For the European version, there are several different covers floating around: you've got Floating Head Syndrome featuring several of the main characters, a shot of a creepy hand reaching out at the player, and a very gory, yet artsy, shot taken from the Mushroom Samba scene in the opening. For the American release (retitled ObsCure: The Aftermath), they went with something more aggressive than any of those, prominently featuring a giant monster growling at the player alongside a close-up of his face. What makes it truly outrageous is that this shot gives away a major plot twist (namely, Kenny's Face–Monster Turn) that comes almost halfway through the game!

    Third-Person Shooter 
  • Devil's Third. Compare the European and Japanese cover, which has lead character Ivan holding a katana and a gun on a bluish background with several SOD agents and broken glass around him, with the American cover, which has a close up of Ivan holding his katana on a background of fire, in a design very reminiscent of '80s movie posters, making Ivan fit the Hollywood Action Hero stereotype in a more overt fashion.
  • Fortified Zone has a more realistic art on the American and European boxes. The Japanese version uses a hand-drawn cover.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising:
    • 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.
    • While both the Japanese and North American box art show Pit with a furrowed brow, the NA version removed all traces of pink and gave him an angry frown instead of the open mouth smile.
  • In Omega Boost, the Japanese cover shows a closeup of the mecha, while the Western cover makes sure an enormous weapon points towards the audience.
  • 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. In Japan and Europe, the first game 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 of this first installment also placed 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 box art for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves shows Nate hanging from a cliff and losing his gun in the struggle. The Japanese version resembles an Indiana Jones movie poster.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • Advance Wars:
    • The overseas cover of Advance Wars: Dual Strike has a foreboding shot drawn exactly to the in-game artwork, while the Japanese cover shows toy soldiers.
    • This trope is more or less the reason we even got Advance Wars: Days of Ruin/Dark Conflict: the series always sold much better in the west than in Japan, which inspired the developers to make a Gaiden Game that was "grittier and more suited to western war themes like War Is Hell". Naturally, this trope was inverted when the game finally got a release in Japan: the Japanese box art was a more hopeful scene of a happy Will and Isabella in front of a very downplayed image of a destroyed city, rather than the American / European boxart which depicts explosions, tanks shooting at each other, meteors destroying the world, and a frowning Will and scared Isabella.
  • 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.
  • Warsong, the American version of Langrisser, besides renaming the characters, retouched their portraits to make them look a bit fiercer.
  • The Japanese box art for Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love features Gemini by her lonesome in her Texan cowgirl outfit, sporting a friendly smile. When the game made its way to the west, the new box art showcases the New York Combat Revue in their combat uniforms, ready for battle, against the New York skyline at night.

    Visual Novels 

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.
  • Dragon Ball:
  • 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 "We'll teach a dinosaur to ride a ball" lyrics to standard "We'll beat up the villains" fare, which is more this trope.
    • Dragon Ball Super is clearly, and officially, aimed at children in Japan. However, because of Values Dissonance and a very strong Periphery Demographic for the Dragon Ball franchise, the show airs on [adult swim] in North America and is marketed towards teenagers and adults, with the show's unfiltered mild swearing and adult humor (a holdover from said Values Dissonance) only enhancing its image as such. This doesn't stop children from watching the show not only because it's Dragon Ball, but because they're outright attracted by the "grown-up" content.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura: Kids WB's infamous dub induced plotline changes, while not exactly "hardcore," considerably downplay the Shōjo 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). Although the full Nelvana dub that aired outside of North America is mostly faithful and keeps every single episode, even then the original opening theme is replaced with a more histrionic rock song, Sakura and her friends sound more like teenagers than elementary schoolers, and most egregiously, Kero is given a Totally Radical dudebro voice and his characterization is changed to be more like a comedic foil sidekick akin to Mushu from Mulan.
  • While the cover art and actual contents of the manga remained unchanged, the Tokyo Pop release of the Chobits manga did this to the title font. Instead of the simple, pastel, childlike handwriting of the original Japanese and the anime, the title is a metallic grey with elaborate circuitry, looking like the kind of logo you'd find in a more serious sci-fi story without any of the cute aspects.
  • The Vision of Escaflowne: When the American Fox Kids aired the Ocean dub, they removed the entire first episode (and then reedited it 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). Around nine or ten episodes aired before being pulled due to low ratings, although it aired in its entirety (barring three episodes being removed from the complete run due to extensive censorship and content removal; the first episode, "Fateful Confession", aired as the FINAL episode on YTV's run, and was surprisingly aired uncut) on YTV in Canada and, ironically enough, the UK version of Fox Kids.
  • Some of the dub voices in Hetalia: Axis Powers. 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:
    • The series 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 North American 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...
    • This also extends to the merchandise, with the Japanese mostly depicting the cast Moe situations sometimes with light fanservice, America focuses more on the more action-packed and angsty parts or at least somewhat neutral. Essentially lessening the Schmuck Bait.
  • Koneko's portrayal in the High School D×D anime. In the original Japanese dialogue, she's very matter-of-fact in her attitude. Contrast with her portrayal in the dub, where she delivers blistering rebukes to Issei's perverted antics in the same monotone, emotionless deadpan.
  • The DVD cover art for Princess Tutu is very much pink and fluffy in Japan; the American DVDs feature much darker, ominously-edited images. While not completely unfitting for the series, 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.
  • Here's the Japanese trailer for Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne, 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.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • The first Japanese intro of Sailor Moon is a love song. In contrast, the English dub version focuses on the Sailor Scouts fighting and saving the day.
    • The original Sailor Moon English dub focused on Sailor Jupiter's tomboy aspects rather than her domestic side. Many fans think this is an improvement- even those who think most of the other Sailor Guardians (other than Mercury and Saturn, who were not altered at all) were changed for the worse. This led to Sailor Jupiter becoming a favorite among American fans.
    • Inverted with Sailor Moon's transformation theme. The original Japanese theme is a bombastic Sentai tune, while the theme for the DiC dub actually sounds more feminine, including plenty of sparkly sound effects.
  • Sankarea. The Japanese cover has a cute, smiling teenage girl with long, dark hair, wearing a blue sundress. The American cover has a teenage girl wearing a tattered school uniform, still smiling (but it's more of a Psychotic Smirk), not to mention It Was 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.
  • Robotech: during the Macross saga's final battle, Minmay's song for the adaptation is the battle anthem-esque "We Will Win". Contrast this to what she originally sung in Super Dimension Fortress Macross, "Ai wa Nagareru", which is, by far, much more pacifistic.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie: Zig-zagged. The "movie" was originally sold as a two-episode miniseries in Japan, with the first episode's boxart featuring Sonic, Tails, Sara, and Metal Robotnik/Black Eggman striking poses while the second episode's boxart prominently features Sonic and Metal Sonic duking it out. The VHS release of "The Movie" in the west featured Sonic with a stern-looking Tails and Knuckles behind him against a dark background (along with the laughable Tag Line: "Scrape your Knuckles, Catch some Tails"), but the DVD release in the west only has Sonic against a much brighter and more colorful background.
  • Suzy's Zoo: Daisuki! Witzy has its saccharine level toned down when being localized for release outside Japan as Suzy's Zoo: A Day With Witzy. Aside from the subtitle being changed to something less sweet, a lot of the voice actors have lower voice pitches and the narrator doesn't talk as sweetly as the Japanese version.
  • While the Japanese Kirby of the Stars (the anime based on the Trope Namer) intro is a cutesy parade, the American intro dubbed as "Kirby: Right Back At Ya!" focuses mostly on fight scenes and Kirby (of course) looking angry.
  • While not hardcore per se, Studio Ghibli's The Tale of the 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 American dub of the 2005 anime of Doraemon emphasizes more on the episodes that are action-oriented and mostly lacks the episodes that focus on heartwarming relationships. Even the background music in the dub is much more upbeat and action-oriented compared to the calm and lighthearted background music in the Japanese version. Not surprisingly, the season 2 promo heavily emphasizes on the action aspect of the dub.
  • The American dub of Hamtaro throws out the epic orchestrated Tottoko Hamutaro no Uta for a electronica-techno theme for the first season, although they replaced it with a very hyper rock number for the second season's theme. However, the second season's theme was never normally shown in North America- Toonami usually cuts it off and replaces it with the first opening theme. Meanwhile, general consensus among viewers in Asia who get the show in English is that the second theme far more palatable and finds the first theme too noisy and chaotic.
  • The 21st Pokémon movie embedded this trope right into the title, changing it from Everyone's Story (Minna no Monogatari) to something more dramatic: The Power of Us. Oddly enough, though, the promo poster art was left unchanged. This isn't the first time localization has shoehorned in the word "power," either; Pokémon: The Movie 2000: The Power of One was originally called Pocket Monsters Revelation - Lugia. The former title-adjustment is partly a Call-Back to Pokemon 2000, since both of them feature Lugia. There is also Pokémon: Giratina and the Sky Warrior, which was originally called ''Giratina and the Sky Bouquet", changed presumably because the word "bouquet" sounds too girly.
  • Glitter Force, the English dub of Smile! Pretty Cure, removed scenes of characters crying. Emotional music and dialogue were also tweaked to be more comedic or optimistic.
  • Inverted with Digimon, which ended up having its humor increased with comedic dubbing to lighten up some of the tenser moments and to make up for moments that couldn't get past American censorship.
    • The poster for the dub compilation movie Digimon: The Movie plays it straight, as the characters are depicted as much more angry and aggressive on the poster than in the film or series itself.
  • One Piece:
    • The original Japanese opening, "We Are!", has an excitedly feelgood vibe to it, emphasizing the thrill of adventure and strong bonds between friends. The Pirate Rap used in the 4Kids dub, however, is significantly more action-oriented and boisterous in comparison.
    • The German opening is an interesting variation: it has an edgier tune, but when it comes to the lyrics, it's essentially a German cover of "We Are!".
  • The original Japanese opening for Yu-Gi-Oh! is "Voice" by CLOUD, a fairly catchy but standard J-pop song about trying to make one's voice heard. In contrast, the English opening for the 4Kids dub is an almost absurdly epic sounding tune with no lyrics (save for a few spoken lines), ominous sounding organs, wordless background chanting, and a decidedly more Ancient Egypt feel.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animation 
  • Wreck-It Ralph gets slapped with this for its Japanese release. Its title in most other markets (North America included) 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 be extremely bright and colorful.
  • Inverted with Frozen: 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 filmgoers being unprepared for the amount of action found within the movie.
  • Inverted with Zootopia: The Japanese trailers play up the action and drama; the North American trailers play up the comedy. The Japanese poster focuses more on Judy's goal to becoming a cop while other posters for the film focuses on the comedic elements or mostly filled with various mammals of Zootopia.
  • The French publicity posters for The Secret of Kells is much more action-oriented (having the main characters in dynamic poses with Brendan looking determined) than the subtle, reserved posters the rest of the world got (Aisling's face gently smiling, mostly hidden by leaves).
  • Inverted with the Japanese The Fox and the Hound poster compared with the American poster.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Kinda over-the-top with Dog of Flanders, a 2000 Korean comedy-drama film. The original cover/poster has the two main leads sitting on a staircase seeming they lost a dog, but in the west, it has a cover of a dog and a hand in a super dark backgroundnote  and is called Barking Dogs Never Bite and it makes the film itself look like a dark film. But in Japan it has the female lead with a bunch of dogs in a colorful and bright background but still have female making a serious expression. Averted in China with the cover being the same with Korea. But the color tone differs.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The Chinese poster is far different from the American poster. For example, baby Groot is naked and snarling in the American poster, while he's waving happily in a jumpsuit in the Chinese version. America eventually saw a tweaked version of the Chinese poster as the cover for the Ultra HD "Cinematic Universe Edition".
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2020):
    • Promotional media for international markets focus on Sonic as a teenager (as he appears for most of the franchise) and primarily center on the action scenes and comedy bits. Japanese promos for the film (including promotional posters, meanwhile, focus on the younger "baby" version of Sonic who appears at the start of the movie, and play up his moe appeal for all it's worth. In fact, baby Sonic's first appearance anywhere was in a Japanese TV spot for the movie.
    • Inverted with one American movie poster showing Sonic smiling at the camera, with Robotnik's face in the background. The Japanese movie poster has Sonic looking determined at the camera, with Robotnik's ship looming behind him. The Japanese poster also has more missiles firing at Sonic than the American poster.
    • Zig-zagging in the movie poster for the sequel. The Japanese version has Sonic looking serious like the North American counterpart, but Tails in the back is smiling in the Japanese poster. In the American poster Tails is scowling instead.
  • The original American marketing for Mothra vs. Godzilla renamed the movie to Godzilla vs. The Thing, teased on posters as a tentacled monstrosity so horrifically obscene it had to be censored for the sake of the faint-hearted. But more likely, the distributors didn't want to admit Godzilla's opponents were a bunch of giant moths (which are actually peaceful and not even slightly scary) in the actual film. Later home video releases re-instated the original title.
  • The American movie posters for How the Grinch Stole Christmas! focused on the grotesque side of the Grinch. One such poster resembles something out of a horror comedy, with the Grinch holding up a broken ball ornament with the message "You better watch out!" The Japanese release used the same poster, except with a human hand holding the broken piece among falling snowflakes. Suddenly, a spooky poster turned into something more sympathetic and tragic, reflecting the relationship between the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who.

  • The first Horatio Hornblower novel was titled The Happy Return in most markets. In North American languages, it was titled Beat to Quarters, the order to prepare for action.
  • 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 colourful but almost always more epic, playing this trope completely straight (here and here). But their chapter illustrations are either rather humorous, 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.
  • Peter Grant is way macho in the US cover of Rivers of London (retitled to Midnight Riot) compared to the restrained "arty" look of the British cover. 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 publisher would later revert to a version of the British cover.
  • To ensure that it sells with the mainstream crowd, Yen Press was told by distributors that (the first volume of) American Spice and Wolf is Trashy and Realistic. It didn't go well, so the original art was used from the second volume onwards.
  • Tortall Universe: The Protector of the Small quartet has different covers in North America 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. North American 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.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • The Russian translations make the covers more 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 than Rising Storm. Also, the French title for Fire and Ice roughly means In Fire and In Blood.
    • The Japanese cover for The Darkest Hour, which is probably the most carnage-tastic book in the series, is of two fluffy kitties smiling.

  • 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.
  • 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 North America however, they wanted to market Billy as a rebel, giving it a 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.
  • The Final Fantasy VI soundtrack in Japan features the FFVI logo, and Amano artwork. The North American version is titled Kefka's Domain, and features the SNES cover art, with Mog leaning on a dagger while facing a threatening monster.

  • 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.

  • Brawl in the Family spoofs the box art of Kirby himself here.
  • In Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, this happens to Ryu as the result of a curse, making him look exactly like the He-Man knockoff on the American SNES cover. Commander Badass (himself forcibly bishified by Nomura Syndrome) asks why people can't just be enjoyed for who 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.
  • Critical Miss spoofed the American ICO cover here.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The English opening theme for Donkey Kong Country cartoon is a bombastic Bragging Theme Tune for the Kong of the Jungle. The Japanese opening theme, Ashita ni Nattara, is a gentler Green Aesop song about the Kongs wanting to live in peace away from the humans and city life, subjects which are never brought up in the cartoon proper.
  • 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.
  • Ōban Star-Racers had a mixed French/Japanese J-pop opening theme in France, Great Britain & Japan. North America got a generic rock song called "Never say Never" (No, not that one)
  • SpongeBob SquarePants DVDs in Japan tend to play up SpongeBob's cuteness by making his eyes huge and sparkly in every image. Here is the American cover for comparison. In the show itself, Plankton has a cutesy, high-pitched voice in the Japanese dub, provided by a woman. This makes for a humorous contrast in comparison to Plankton's deep voice in the original English version, courtesy of Mr. Lawrence.
  • Steven Universe's merchandise items of Lapis Lazuli all have her smiling, something that she rarely does in the actual show.
  • The Sylvanian Families animated series was clearly made for a North American audience despite KK C&D Asia, Mook DLE and TMS Entertainment having a hand in it, since it was produced primarily by DIC Entertainment. To wit, the animated series has villains. In other markets, the toyline is marketed as pure moe appeal, and this is clearly reflected in the Japanese OVAs and the Japanese and British ads.
  • The Legend of Zelda (1989) cartoon famously gave Zelda the Xenafication treatment long before the games made her participate in combat, with her outfit changed to more closely resemble an American comic book superheroine instead of a Princess Classic. This also carried over to the CD-i games, which were based on the cartoon. This incarnation of Zelda left a lasting impression on Western fans, and bolstered the fandom's desire to see Zelda be a playable heroine in the main 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.
  • 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 international intro to W.I.T.C.H. is a pop song. The American intro is a rock song with more emphasis on the fight scenes.

  • 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.
  • Even toddler toys become more hardcore. In mid-2012, VTech released a rocking horse toy in the UK. When the toy was finally released in North America a few months later, the horse was changed into a motorcycle! However, it was finally re-released in Horse form after the success of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
  • In Europe, the LEGO Dino Attack toyline (called Dino 2010 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 North America was 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. It also helps to have a LaFontaine-sounding announcer in the latter commercial.
  • 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, while Russia opened the parade with a long, drawn-out intro that feels more at home in a cheesy 80's cop shownote .
  • A device to stop bedwetting called the Wet Stop 3. The version sold in most parts of the world comes plain without any decorations. However, in Japan, the device is sold with a sticker of the company's mascot Potty Monkey and a message saying "I'm Potty Monkey. Let's do this together!", capitalizing on Japan's love of cute and adorable mascots.
  • Inverted with the 2007–2017 Mitsubishi Lancer in Taiwan, where the derivative Lancer Fortis and iO models used a more sedate fascia in contrast to the aggressive "shark head" front end made infamous by the Lancer Evolution X.
  • Professional Wrestling in Japan; the fact that it's all staged makes no difference in public perception of it as a legitimate sport, and the workers as legitimate athletes. Wrestling training in the country (such as the infamous New Japan Dojo) emphasizes ring ability and the capacity to take punishment over marketability. It's no accident that many wrestling fans, including Dave Meltzer, regard Japanese wrestling as the best in the world.
  • A few of the early Super Mario Bros. figurines by the American company Applause had Mario scowling and looking angry as he trampled Goombas and kicked a Hammer Bro. in the head hard enough to break its neck. The later figurines were more in-line with character's usual cutesy portrayal.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): American Kirby Is Badass



Nelvana made Cardcaptor Sakura, a cutesy shojo series, into an action-packed show for the North American market.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / AmericanKirbyIsHardcore

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