Box Art Bash: Guardian Heroes

For many SEGA fans, the Saturn is a lost chapter in gaming history. Firmly eschonched in the 2-D past, it featured some all-time legendary games that at the time were missed because so few Westerners owned the damn system.

Fortunately, I stumbled upon the magazine Diehard GameFan in 1995: its explosive, vibrant cover art was almost always featuring some weird game other mags relegated to a box on page 97.  I still remember seeing this for the first time:

This looks like something you want to play, right
“This cover sucks, there’s no Sony games on it!” — everybody I knew in 1996. ūüôĀ

From Treasure, makers of Gunstar Heroes (which I had never heard of, even as a Genesis fan/owner), Guardian Heroes¬†looked insane. Awesome ’90s anime trappings with¬†Street Fighter-combo complexity in a beat-em-up (with a great story and dozens of branching paths).

More Guardian Heroes madness

Their spread on it was legendary, with dozens of screenshots filled with madness. Stuff like this, that made you wonder how can this all exist in a videogame while being controllable:

Guardian Heroes is amazing
It’s the beginning of the article and I’ve already run out of hyperbole to do justice to Guardian Heroes

Well, thank God for GameFan, because when I went to buy the game, this is how the U.S. branch of SEGA chose to represent one of gaming history’s¬†holiest of holies:

Guardian Heroes U.S. box art
I’d be mad too if I were drawn in ’90s CG like that


If you aren’t old enough to remember mid-’90s box art, the U.S. was afraid that no one here would like anything that remotely looked like anime, even though almost every awesome console game back then was Japanese.

So no matter how many¬†gloriously talented artists SEGA was paying to¬†pump out breathtaking scene after scene of SEGA covers and concept art, it seems the goal for the overseas release was just¬†“don’t make it look like that.”

I think SEGA of America really wanted to show everyone¬†that CG was awesome — even though it wasn’t (especially in the ’90s).

So, pros and cons, as thought by the average Best Buy customer in 1996, for Guardian Heroes:


  • Swords
  • There’s a rave going on over at CastleVania
  • That Monty Python dragon¬†is ready to do¬†something cool


  • Skeletor, who’s been sucked into an ’80s PIXAR¬†demo, will be trying to eat you
  • You play a romance-novel cover reject with no eyes.
  • Neither you nor¬†Skeletor seems to have¬†other¬†friends or enemies.

As a fan: OK, at least you can tell that’s Han and the Undead Hero. This artist, who I’m sure had about 5 minutes to do this and thought the original was fine anyway, even got their swords right.

But it’s silly considering¬†this¬†is a¬†game where you’re using magic, flying up in the air and oftentimes fighting a small army on screen with FOUR allies, depicts none of that. This could be medieval fencing for all we know.

Incidentally, the European art is pretty good. I’m not sure if that ‘s original Japanese art, but it’s basically a family photo of the main characters, but in hell, I guess. But the art for these characters is so detailed and bursting with personality, that works A-OK. And you can actually go to hell so at least that’s a (probably accidental) connection to the actual game.

And I’m happy that someone¬†in the UK was smart enough to say, “Hey, having a six-player vs. mode is probably something we should tell people about” unlike the U.S. release box.

Guardian Heroes on Xbox 360
“Should we advertise this 6-player versus mode featuring every character in the game?” “Nah, make that rave look crazier.” — actual fake 1996 SEGA discussion

Anyway, I implore all SEGA fans to either track this down on Saturn if you don’t own it (you should!) or at least purchase the Xbox 360 port. Just know that despite the U.S. cover’s depiction, you are safe from¬†the Undead Hero’s appetite. He’s hungry for revenge, not for your face.


As a lifelong SEGA fan, gamer and producer of international events in the videogame world, Chris runs a videogame entertainment company, GDL Entertainment, Ltd. in Cleveland, Ohio, and continues to spread the word about the life benefits of gaming. He'd love to talk SEGA with you at @GDLenter or chris@GDLent.com .

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