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Tracing the Influence: Stolen Images in Games

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Part 4: Other: Boxart and ads

Flash Gordon vs Commando & Strider & Dragon Ninja & KyuRyuTou

Another well-known shot. While the game is obviously inspired by the Schwarzenegger movie of the same name, the generic soldier for Capcom's Commando strikes the exact same pose as Flash Gordon in the promotional artwork for the film of the same name.

But that's not all, a promotion still from the movie was also used for the Western home version covers of Strider. The pose has changed a little, but the arm in front and the shirt make the heritage obvious. The arcade flyer for Arabian Magic also features him alongside the Arnie trace from page 1. An even more modified variant seems to appear on the flyer for the arcade game Dragon Ninja (also known as Bad Dudes, right alongside a not-too-convincing Bruce Lee impersonation.

Ming the Merciless also gets some space, on the box for the Japanese home computer RPG KyuRyuTou. The rest of the cover is very likely cobbled together from various sources as well.

Bruce Lee vs Yie Ar Kung-Fu 2 and The Kung Fu

Bruce Lee's fighting style and mannerisms were copied for dozens of fighting game characters, from Street Fighter's Fei Long to Dead or Alive's Jann Lee. But the first in that line of Brucexploitation fighters was Oolong in Yie Ar Kung-Fu. His son in the sequel apparently actually is Bruce Lee, at least if the game's cover is to be believed, which captures him in his poster pose from Game of Death. The same poster also was reference for the Japanese cover of the PC Engine game The Kung Fu (China Warrior in the US).

Bruce Lee vs Dragon Ninja

While the arcade version of Dragon Ninja already featured a vaguely Bruce Lee-style pose, whoever ported the game to the Amstrad CPC computer platform went all the way and copied a still from Enter the Dragon nearly 1:1.

Joe Lewis vs Target: Renegade & Dragon Power

A poor man's Double Dragon from Europe? No wonder they used a poor man's Bruce Lee for their cover - Martial Arts Legend Joe Lewis teaching you how to fight like Bruce Lee. The same image appears also in pixellated form on the title screen. More surprising is the appearance of the same image on the cover for Dragon Power, the disenfranchised localization of an early Dragonball adaption on the NES.

Jackie Chan vs Gang Wars & Silent Dragon & KyuRyuTou

When the soundtrack compilation Jackie Chan Digest was released in Japan in 1983, apparently everyone bought it, as at least artists from three different developers copied its cover. The flyer for Gang Wars shows the Hong Kong superstar next to Tom Cruise(?), while in KyuRyuTou he has to fight Ming the Merciless, apparently (with the angle for one of his arms changed). The intro and flyer of Silent Dragon copied yet another Jackie Chan pose, which appears on the poster for The Big Brawl, but also on the back of that very same soundrack LP. The guy with the flying kick on the KyuRyuTou cover also looks similar to a small element of the Big Brawl poster, but for all we know a more appropriate angle may also be printed somewhere in the LP's booklet.

Return of the Jedi vs Mirai & Lady Sword

More King of the Mountain goodness, but here the lady to the legs is derived from Leia in captivity of Jabba the Hutt. The guy we don't know yet.

Return of the Jedi vs Majuu no Oukoku (Dark Adventure) & Castlevania III

Since Dark Adventure's main hero is such an obvious Indiana Jones ripoff, the Japanese flyer for the arcade game quickly falls under suspicion of stealing from the trilogy. Well, it is Harrison Ford, but surprisingly the motif comes from the poster for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, as evidenced by the stance of the Luke Skywalker replacement above him. Even more strange is the same pose showing up on the Japanese cover for Castlevania III, and given that Trevor Belmont wields a whip as well, this variant might actually have been taken the detour through Dark Adventure, rather than being copied straight from Return of the Jedi.

Star Wars vs Chase HQ

Star Wars is always good for surprising references, it seems. The man with the wavy hair might look reminiscent to a young Charles Bronson that never existed, but apparently he just stole the moustache from his partner, who actually is Lando Calrissian / Billy Dee Williams. Apparently they had to draw him new hands, though, which would explain why they're bigger than his head.

It is still definitely better than the "super deformed" version for the racially insensitive Game Boy cover, which paints Williams in glorious blackface:

Star Trek III vs Gofer no Yabou Episode II

Compared to Star Wars, there doesn't seem to be too much material for trekkies but the Gradius spin-off Gofer no Yabou Episode II, sold in the West as Nemesis 3, gladly fills the void. So... apparently between his death and return, Spock led an evil galactic empire?

Raiders of the Lost Ark vs Almana no Kiseki

Almana no Kiseki is another obscure game that takes inspiration from Indiana Jones, and this time the stolen part of the artwork actually is from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Indiana Jones vs The Maze of Galious

Konami's sequel to Knightmare also took inspiration from Indiana Jones, at least for its cover. The woman clearly is Willie from Temple of Doom, while the guy could be a trace over Indie himself - at least the positioning of his hands and fingers looks exactly like Harrison Ford would hold his whip for promotion photos (compare the free hand on the Raiders poster).

Jewel of the Nile vs The Goonies II

This is a similar rip to the one from Dark Adventure, taking poses from an entirely different movie and drawing on additional elements around them.

Robin Hood vs Prince of Persia (& Castlequest)

Jordan Mechner has admitted himself that he ripped the fencing animations for Prince of Persia from the classic Robin Hood movie with Errol Flynn, but the game's cover is even more obvious about it than the game, and reproduces the whole stairs fight setup. The prince's stance can be combared to Flynn's in the central image. The Western box art for the NES game Castlequest does the same scene, although it might be only inspired by the film, without taking any specific frame from the scene.

Creature vs The Guardian Legend

Not only is the US cover for Compile's classic action adventure The Guardian Legend vastly inferior to the Japanese and European versions, it's also not original. The evil eyes are ripped straight from the 1985 horror flick Creature.

The Howling III vs Oh Shit!

In a similar fashion the creepy monster face on the third Howling novel by Gary Brandner was ripped for the Japanese cover of the crappy MSX Pac-Man clone Oh Shit! (dubbed simply Shit over there)... how strangely unfitting!

2001: Space Odyssey vs Golden Eagle

The cover for Golden Eagle is most likely cobbled together from a lot of other images, but the only one that's painfully obvious is the Discovery from 2001: Space Odyssey.

Patrick Swayze vs Crime Wave

Arnie is not the only Hollywood star ripped of in Crime Wave. In the corner we seen Patrick Swayze leaning towards a post, just like he did on the poster for Road House (only mirrored).

Mel Gibson vs Jail Break

"Despite being a policeman, Mel Gibson never wears a police uniform in the Lethal Weapon series, how can that be?" That is apparently what Konami asked themselves, and not finding any answers, they just put him in one for one of their more obscure 1980s arcade games. Also cut that hideous mullet of his while they were at it. Turns out the game was actually released before any of the Lethal Weapon movies. But where is the image taken from, then?

Robocop vs Image Fight

Ripping off the same movie three times on one flyer? That could just be a new world record!

Mad Max vs Road Raider & Roadwars

Did the dog just detonate in a huge explosion?

Reb Brown vs Cabal vs Line of Fire & Rampart & Alien Breed 3D & Call of Duty 2 & Heroes of Might & Magic V & Deadliest Catch

How did the cover for Cabal gain such extraordinary cult status among video game cover artists without anyone noticing? While the Western arcade artwork was very cartoonish, Carl Pugh and Bob Wakelin by Ocean introduced the more realistic variant for the home versions. The first time this motif reappeared was on the cover of another Amiga game called Line of Fire. But soon it was adopted by the famous Rampart, which seems to have elevated its popularity - even the scenery in Call of Duty 2 seems to be matched to that version. The game tie-in to Discovery Channel's extreme fishing show Deadliest Catch doesn't quite achieve that, but the screaming guy in front looks more similar in turn. Starhawk only has the guy's screaming face in front of a battle scene, leaving out the arm pointed at the latter.

The origin of the Wilhelm Scream of game covers seems to come from infamous B-movie actor Reb Brown in his commando mode - he wore similar outfits in Strike Commando and Robowar, and looks very much like the Cabal guy when he's shouting, which he does a lot in those movies. We couldn't catch him in that particular pose yet, though. So the "pointing at a faraway battle scene" thing might have been an addition by the artists. Or it could have been taken from another source, see below.

The Charge of the Light Brigade vs The Charge of the Light Brigade

This game even bears the same title as the 1968 movie where the central character on the box is taken from, but only because it's based on the same historical maneuver by the British cavalry in the Crimean War. David Hemmings pointing at a faraway battlefield while having his mouth strained to what looks like part of a shouted phrase is also reminiscent of the famous Cabal cover from the previous page. Coincidence?

Erwin Rommel & Bernard Montgomery vs Afrika Korps

Another war game with some all-too-obvious inspirations for the cover.

Casshern vs Mega Man & Metal Gear Rising

Casshern is one of the great classics in Japanese animation; no surprise that a number of games took inspiration from it. Pretty much any superpowered hero with a dog companion can be attributed to its influence, from Mega Man to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. And both of those games even have artwork that copies one of Casshern's triumphant poses with his dog Friender. Sega's Shadow Dancer also seems heavily influenced by it, but no direct visual reference is known. (Please excuse the bad quality of the Mega Man image.)

Bubblegum Crisis vs Section-Z

One sex change later, she became the star of an NES game...

Blade Runner & Val Kilmer & Drew Barrymore vs Mean streets

You'd think they just would have taken the actors that actually appear in the game for this one, but both covers that exist for the first Tex Murphy adventure rather draw from hollywood greats. The IBM PC version cover - which also appears in pixel art form in the game - is a reenactment of the movie poster for Blade Runner. No surprise, as the game draws a very similar dystopian future inspired by the film. More surprising is US Gold's Amiga box showing Val Kilmer's face, with Drew Barrymore as the lady.

Jean Claude van Damme vs Jim Power

What's the difference between Jean Claude van Damme and a French platforming hero of the early 1990s? A laser gun and a bunch of really shitty-looking clothes, apparently.

Dirty Harry vs Impossible Mission 2 & Gun Fighter & Freedom Force

I wonder if that mirror image in his glasses is also stolen?

Lisa Lyon vs Athena & Psycho Soldier & Legend of Kage

Athena sports another Bob Wakelin cover to give home computer ports of Japanese games a Western image. This one is based on bodybuilder Lisa Lyon, who made a pretty big splash around 1979/1980 for being a successful female bodybuilder that still retained a marketable "feminine" appearance, and even appeared in the Playboy. Oddly, the same pose was also reused for the male hero on the Western computer version covers of Legend of Kage.

But Wakelin wasn't done with Lisa Lyon yet, as he took another photo of her as reference for his Psycho Soldiers cover. By now that should probably make her the definitive Western Athena...

While it may not have been taken from any of these photos, the pose of the queen on the title screen of Battle Chess on the Macintosh looks suspiciously similar:

Steven Seagal vs IK+

Apparently, he only appeared on the cover of some particular releases. (The Hit Squad?) Good thing that Mr. Seagal's acting range makes finding a fitting image laughably easy. We'll just go with that one.

Boris Becker vs Tie Break & 3D World Tennis

There are not many sports game images on these pages, cause you'd really have to be a sports buff to actually recognize most of those. This one from Wimbledon 1985 has been making the rounds, though.

Die Hard vs Gun-Dec

Gun-Dec (known in the West as Vice: Project Doom) displays Bruce Willis as its action hero of choice. We couldn't get the original shot from Die Hard 2 (left) in a decent quality, but the comparable image from the first movie in the series demonstrates Willis' trademark shooting face just as well. This has gone mostly unnoticed for quite a while, because it only shows up on the Japanese cover. The hero on the American variant rather looks like a cross between Mel Gibson and Patrick Swayze.

The WWF / WWE vs Wrestle War

Wrestle War didn't actually have a WWF license - that didn't stop the Japanese illustrator to put all kinds of real life wrestling celebrities on the cover. Hulk Hogan - taken from one of his famous shirt-ripping autograph pictures - takes the center, above him Hawk from the former Legion of Doom tag team. To the lower right could be his long time partner Animal. The American Genesis cover gets rid of all of them, only keeping Hogan's pose with a completely different head attached to it.

The WWF / WWE vs Wrestling Superstars

Europe can rip off the WWF, too. Although this time, the only recognizable face is Hulk Hogan.

Sonny Chiba vs The Super Shinobi

Sonny Chiba is one of Japan's great movie martial arts heroes, although his Ninja roles are mostly defined by the TV series Kage No Gundan, where he played another historical ninja in every season. This is also where The Super Shinobi AKA The Revenge of Shinobi got its box art from. In the West it was replaced with completely different artwork, but the original image appears also on the game's title screen in all versions - until the Wii virtual console release came along, which distances itself from its former copycat ways by making the ninja's eyes look dorky instead. Intentionally or not, he now looks a lot like another martial arts star, David Chiang. Of course, Sonny wasn't the only one this game had ripped off by any stretch.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail vs Druidenzirkel

Well, the German cover for the action adventure known in English as Druid: Daemons of the Mind still looks leagues better than the hideous American or ridiculous Japanese cover, but this is just... just weird.

Way of the Dragon vs Double Dragon Advance

To be honest, I wasn't expecting to find examples as recent as this one, and it isn't even the last! Great classic still of Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris' final fight in Way of the Dragon; this honestly seems more like a conscious homage than a ripoff.

The Replacement Killers vs True Crime: Streets of LA

No frickin' comment!

La Femme Nikita vs Resident Evil 4

Certainly one more for the homage category, one of the Resident Evil 4 promo renders depicting Ada Wong recreates Anne Parillaud's most iconic pose for Luc Besson's film.

The World vs Devil Zone

This two-page ad for a Korean MSX game really takes the cake. We barely even get half the references from this crazy mashup. In the center of the first page of course stands an amateurishly drawn recreation of the Metal Gear cover seen on page 1 (his clothes prove that he's not copied directly from Kyle Reese), while golem and the mud thing are the two most boring parts from the otherwise fantastic monster gallery on the Last Armageddon cover. The second page is dominated by Charles Bronson taking aim (the image from Death Wish 3 below doesn't quite seem to be the correct source, unfortunately). Over him lurks a demon from the cover of a Mercyful Fate album, and the person with the goggles and the gun is Captain Power, a cheesy science fiction TV hero from the '80s. The rest is anyone's guess...

<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Schwarzenegger and Stallone

Page 2:
Frazetta and Vallejo

Page 3:
Illustrators and painters

Page 4:
Other: Boxart and ads

Page 5:
Other: In-game graphics

Page 6:
Character portrait galleries

Back to the Index