I was really looking forward to Edge Presents… The Art of Videogames. Over the years, Edge has featured some fantastic game-inspired artwork on its cover so I would have thought they’d be able to compile something rather special when making a magazine to celebrate it.
And did they? No. No they didn’t. “Edge Presents… Some Hastily Assembled Assets From a Highly Questionable Selection of Games Culminating in a Overwhelming Sense of Missed Opportunity” would have been a more accurate title, if a little harder to fit onto the cover. And to market.
I realise it’s supposed to be “Volume 1” so perhaps there’s more to come, but the first edition of Edge Presents… contains such glaring omissions that my faith has been shaken. A lot of what they did feature is reasonable, and, given that the universe is infinite and there are therefore an infinite number of games it would be possible to include, they were never going to be able to please everyone. It seems a bit of a thankless task. But when you’re charging £8, you’d better have produced something worthy of calling itself a “Collector’s Edition”. “Collecting Dust On the Shelves of Smiths Edition”, more like!! Sorry, I’ll stop that now.
So, in order to do some justice to the art of great games Edge forgot, I’m going to highlight five of the most bewildering omissions and explain why I think they should have been included. These aren’t games that were just graphically unique, but also whose distinctive art direction was carried through the whole experience to make them particularly special.
Yoshi’s Island (1995, SNES)
Yoshi’s Island, easily my favourite platform game ever, still looks fantastic today – especially on a big screen. Forget the lacklusture DS sequel – grab the Virtual Console edition when they eventually release it. The thick kiddie crayon lines, the rainbow colour pallete and the surprisingly varied, multi-layered backgrounds (like the one above) made it a joy to play.
Browse Yoshi’s Island Sprites at The Shyguy Kingdom.
Fallout (series) (1997, PC)
Edge Presents… does include S.T.A.L.K.E.R., the recent (sort of) post-apocalyptic Ukranian FPS/RPG thing. And with good reason, I think. But it doesn’t feature the Fallout games, whose ’50s-tinged retrofuture (think Twelve Monkeys in a desert bunker) was expertly realised. Fallout Boy (above) would cheerily illustrate the horrors that lay ahead and hint at the utopia that had been lost – or perhaps never existed. Along with the attention to detail in everything from the interface (remember PIPboy?) to the tubes-n-bolts creations invented to endure the harsh environment, this helped to make the Fallout universe memorable and compelling in a market full of derivative rent-a-wizard settings.
More Fallout artwork at Duck and Cover.
Ico (2001, PS2)
The architecture of Ico’s castle setting, the framing of every fixed camera position (if not always welcome) and the strikingly bleached out, almost painted graphical style are all part of the reason that some people claim Ico is a work of art in itself. I don’t really want to get into that, partly because I can’t remember precisely who those people are, but unless Ico and its spiritual successor Shadow of the Colossus have an entire future issue of Edge Presents… dedicated to them, their omission from Volume 1 is a complete mystery. I can’t think of a game whose concept art I’d rather see on the printed page.
Print out and make your own Ico papercraft sculptures at RPGFan.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002, Various)
I chose Vice City because it was a huge success commercially as well as critically, and it played so pleasingly with the ’80s Miami asthetic. The lurid pallete seeped through box illustration to the lights of Vice City itself, while the retro ‘loading’ screen welcoming the player served to remind us just how far games have come since the BASIC decade.
Buy Vice City Kubricks at ToyTokyo.
Katamari (series) (2004, Various)
Besides Ico, this is possibly the most surprising omission from Edge‘s compilation. Katamari is famed for the artistic vision of Keita Takahashi (look, here’s an interview with him from Edge, of all places!!), prompting tribute art from fans on a scale large enough to impress even the King of All Cosmos himself.
Download a whole host of Katamari wallpapers courtesy of llshibata (and, originally, Namco) at Flickr.
Those are a few I would have expected to see, along with the likes of Final Fantasy, Zelda, Electroplankton, Pikmin, Quake, Wario Ware, Earthworm Jim, Street Fighter, or any graphic adventures (like Day of the Tentacle, Broken Sword or Discworld). I could go on, but why don’t you? What great game art do you think deserves to have Melvyn Bragg’s full attention, or failing that, a 10 minute slot on The Culture Show?