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Unraveling the mystery behind  Phalanx's  delightfully weird box art

Unraveling the mystery behind Phalanx's delightfully weird box art

November 6, 2017 | By Chris Kerr

November 6, 2017 | By Chris Kerr
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More: Console/PC, Design

Do you remember the box art for Phalanx? You know, the classic SNES space-shooter that decided to feature a bearded, banjo playing old-timer on its front cover. 

As you can imagine, it's a strange fit for a game all about blasting starships in the far reaches of space, but it worked wonders. The zany cover is generally considered one of the most memorable in video game history, and ensured Phalanx would stand the test of time -- albeit for a rather bizarre reason. 

Why though, did some brave soul decide to slap an image of an old man on the front of a sci-fi shooter? As perplexed as ever by the evergreen mystery, Destructoid did some digging and managed to find one of the people responsible.

The person in question? A certain Matt Guss, an ad-agency worker who handled Phalanx developer Kemco's account back in the '90s. According to Guss, Phalanx wound up looking like poorly photoshopped Willie Nelson album because the game itself wasn't that great. 

It wasn't terrible, either. But in a market filled to the rafters with sci-fi fodder, they had to do something to help Phalanx stand out from the crowd. So Guss, along with his co-worker Keith Campell, took matters into their own hands. 

"Most of the games back then were in a look-alike category: same genre, same kind of graphics. Nothing to differentiate them from each other. Keith was not a gamer, and, in fact, none of us were in our agency. But Keith was a brilliant idea guy and always was," recalls Guss.

"We knew the game didn't have a lot to offer, but we wanted to make the package arresting. Keith called this kind of thing the 'heavy huh factor.' If we couldn't do anything else, we'd try and get the potential purchaser to stare at the package and try and figure out what just happened. Today it might be called a WTF moment.

"So Keith could have done some predictable spaceship shooting bullshit that would have been like every other game out there. Or he could create a story that would make people stop and think about it. And I guess it's proof that was a good idea because people are still thinking about it."

To hear more from Guss, be sure to check out the full article over on Destructoid.

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