Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Laser Ghost! (May Not Contain Ghosts or Lasers)

There was a game called Laser Ghost. It came out in 1989 for the Sega Master System. The box art looked like this:

I don’t know what the title Laser Ghost is supposed to make me think of, exactly, aside from maybe a modern-day electroclash band that I wouldn’t like, but this box art represents none of the qualities I’d associate with either lasers or ghosts. Based on the title, I’d hope for some kickass fusion of scifi and horror. Instead, the box art offers me no explicit ghosts but only rather benign-looking floating skulls, a paintin’ with movin’ eyeballs, and hanged man and a monster car. No wonder that little blonde girl torched the place: Blatant false advertising pisses me off to the point of arson too.

 From reading the entry on Wikipedia, I know that Laser Ghost is actually a shooting game in which the player fires an NES Zapper-like light gun at monsters on screen. (I also know that the game’s plot involves the protagonist girl fighting her way out of the pits of hell in order to reclaim her soul. Again, not really what the box art would make you expect. And sort of like Poltergeist re-envisioned though pixels and from the perspective of Heather O’Roarke’s character.) Even the actually gameplay doesn’t come close to matching what I thought the game would have been like. Instead, it’s simultaneously darker and more lighthearted.

From the original arcade version:


And the Master System version, which was apparently made by people who hadn’t played the arcade version and instead just pieced it together from an explanation they heard while drunk:


Honestly, I’m a little taken with the box art, I realize now. Yes, that’s it. It’s not the art that’s wrong. It’s the title and the gameplay. Here, then, are titles that I feel would better fit the game depicted in the box art:

Quinceanera of the Damned 

What Happens to Little Girls Who Have Naughty Thoughts

Slightly Atypical Sleepover 

Don’t Piss Off Tiffany Henderson on Her Birthday 

Grandma’s House Is Weird Sometimes

Puberty: The Video Game 

Sandy Felt Responsible for Her Parents’ Divorce and Then Had a Weird Dream 

Now I want to play one of these games.


  1. The 'Sandy...' title sounds promising. Why not do an entry about electroclash? I have been thinking about doing a Peaches entry for quite awhile now... and maybe the time is now..?

  2. You know, the box art isn't bad at all, especially when compared to other examples of North American Master System box art. Unfortunately, like you said, the name doesn't make any sense. Who came up with it, I wonder, and why was it agreed to? Although I like all of the names you came up with, I have to admit Quinceanera of the Damned is my favorite. Unfortunately, even that name wouldn't make me want to play the game -- based on the video you linked to, at least. What a mess!

  3. Big: Well, I do generally enjoy electroclash. Some of the bands can be pretentious and awful, however. A few posts back, however, I wrote about how a certain footnote video game has a surprisingly ahead-of-its-time, electroclashy soundtrack: http://kidicarus222.blogspot.com/2011/07/marta-and-luisa-throw-dance-party.html

    Bryan: Yeah, what is up with the disconnect between cover art at the games themselves? I can only guess that the artists couldn't be bothered to really play the games or the companies were deliberately portraying the games in a way that would help them sell better. Also? Clearly Quinceanera of the Damned must become a Spanish language horror punk band.

  4. There's something to be said for the appealing crappiness of the Master System box art.

    Meanwhile, is that a Simpsons character menacing her from the top right corner?

  5. I don't know, Sam, most of the NA Master System box art is just straight-up crappy to me -- which is a shame, since much of the Japanese box art for the system was wonderful.

  6. Of course, one of the best covers that has nothing to do with the actual game is Phalanx, the SNES space shooter that inexplicably has an old hillbilly with a banjo on its cover. The picture does get you to pick up the game based on curiosity alone.

  7. Sam: You're right. It looks like Gil, if he finally decided life had taken him as far as it ever would

    Godaigamer: Without having played Phalanx, I knew exactly what game you were talking about. So yeah, I guess that was effective box art.