At this point, I’ve covered both Sega Genesis and Sega CD box/case artwork in terms of style and substance on my blog. The Genesis had those great, sturdy clam shell cases until Sega decided to cut some cost corners later in the system’s life. After they abandoned the flimsy cardboard boxes, the Sega CD ended up with cool blue spines on hard, if brittle, plastic cases. Now the time has come to tie a neat little bow on this era of gaming by talking about how the 32X games were sold in North America.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a ton of praise I can throw the 32X’s way for the overall design and presentation of the box and manual artwork used for this system’s games. Taking a cue from the Sega CD, Sega decided to color code the 32X boxes through the design of the spines and outer fringes of the front and back box covers. It makes complete sense from the standpoint that Sega would want to make their “premium” games distinguishable not only from the competition outside your company, but the competition within. They wanted these games to scream, “Here’s the games for our latest and greatest unnecessary add-on. They’re expensive, but very much worth it!” I’m not sure a uniform yellow color for the games was going to convey this message unless it was meant to invoke a “gold” experience. If so, mission accomplished, I suppose.
By the time the 32X was released in late 1994, Sega was already in cost savings mode. Genesis games were no longer being released in premium hard clam shell cases, but instead they had reverted to plain old, boring cardboard boxes. Not only that, the manuals for most of these cardboard housed Genesis games were printed in bland black and white. Guess what approach Sega took with the 32X packaging? Yep, cheap cardboard and manuals printed in black and white. It’s hard to blame them for making this decision when Nintendo had gotten away with using cardboard boxes from day one and no one seemed to begrudge them for that. However, the black and white manuals were a big disappointment considering the bright, colorful manuals Japan received for their 32X games.
In a general sense, the 32X box design was perfectly fine. Groundbreaking and amazing in all respects? Nah, but they were fine. The golden yellow side stripe with 32X printed vertically in red on the upper left side of the box definitely distinguishes them from everything else. This left plenty of room on the box fronts for the actual artwork to be displayed. The back of the boxes were used to display a standard of four screenshots from the game along with several lines worth of game summary and bullet points identifying key aspects of gameplay.
The back of the boxes also identified a few notable tidbits that include how many players the game could be played by. The game’s ESRB rating would be located on the front and in more detail on the back. Some games would also indicate if the game could be played using a controller different than that of a standard Genesis 3-button controller. For example, Virtua Racing Deluxe includes a call-out recommending the use of the 6-button Sega Arcade pad controller. Thanks for the hot tip!
Sega used a combination of stock photo art, models, as well as 2D and 3D drawings to represent the gameplay found on the cartridges. Sadly, most of the space on the boxes was used on fairly generic and unmemorable photos. Some, like the art for Kolibri and Blackthorne, looked cool, colorful and matched the tone of the game. Others, like Shadow Squadron and Star Wars Arcade, were simply….meh. I can’t think of many plain awful box arts for the 32X, but I also can’t think of too many that simply wowed me either. Which explains my overall feelings towards the 32X boxes in general.