Good Box Art: Advance Wars

Remember when I used to write about awful box art? Well, I actually updated the old gallery with an entry on Wing of Alnam. Lots of people discuss bizarre game cover illustrations these days, but as far as I can tell, nobody's taken a crack at this one just yet. Besides, I enjoy pretending that the last ten years haven’t happened.

I also want to highlight good box art—the stuff that sells a game better than any panting laudatory quotes or pre-order gadgetry ever could. I’ll start, in no way alphabetically, with Intelligent Systems and Nintendo’s original Advance Wars.

Advance Wars is a game of jovial strategy, a game where little rounded helicopters and puttering tanks and squat, rifle-toting troops clash in big colorful battlefields. And the cover illustration captures it perfectly. Three young heroes commandeer a tank and rush into battle with such energy that the treads lift off the churned concrete. Andy, an Orange Star officer, mans the controls with a maniacal cartoon grin. It’s all a good taste of what’s inside Advance Wars.

Yet Advance Wars, like many outwardly cute video games, is rather depressing when you think about it too hard. The most disposable pieces of any Advance army, as Andore Jr. eloquently points out, are the humble soldiers in your basic infantry units, and at least a few of them are guaranteed death every time they rise to attack or defend. Advance Wars may be precious and gleeful, but it’s still about wars.

This brings me to my favorite part of the cover. Andy may brim with gusto as he guns that tank toward victory, but his companions don’t. Max wears a look of grim caution, while Sami stares numbly before her. Because they know.