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Last of the Argoolians

Game:Rygar (NA) / Argo no Senshi(JPN) Release:Apr 87 (JPN) / Jul 87 (NA) / Mar 90 (EU) Platform:NES / Famicom Game Director:Tecmo

Here’s a rather interesting bit of design from 1987. Having purchased a boxed copy of Rygar on the NES for a friend of mine, I noticed a curious icon that Tecmo had decided to utilize rather heavily on the box and instruction manual.Unfortunately I do not have access to boxed copies or scans of other Tecmo games for the Famicom/NES so I am unsure as what the idea behind the use of this icon is, and if other games employed a similar idea.  Case in point, the only available scans of the non-Japanese Rygar box art are of the front cover, which is the only place this icon does not appear.

The icon itself contains only three colors and depicts a stylized fiery sun setting over a towering pair of mountain peaks; this is essentially a freeze-frame of the iconic first screen of Rygar:

Rygar – Arcade Rygar – NES

The way the shape itself is “shredded” with heat waves against the sky is a great touch and very reminiscent of similar graphical techniques of the era for depicting things like changes in atmosphere density (look at the sky in Simon’s Quest for an idea) or to emulate the refraction of the sun’s light against the horizon-line.  From conversations I’ve personally had and experienced vicariously, this opening screen of the game is above all other aspects the one thing most gamers remember about Rygar.  The fiery red sky with the melting sun against the distant purple mountains is the pure distillation of every young boy’s dreams of adventure.

It is no small leap of logic then, to assume that somebody at Tecmo’s offices in America (from what little there is of the Japanese box art, I do not think this icon appears on the box on Japanese copies of the game) knew from the game’s performance in the Arcades that there was something magical about the scene. However, it is interesting to note that the icon features purple mountains as seen in the NES port, and not the black silhouettes of the original Arcade release.

Their decision to employ it as some kind of “brand” for the Rygar franchise is wildly fascinating, unfortunately it has proven rather impossible to discover the motives behind the icon’s existence.  Interesting to note that icons of this type, that is to say a perfected essence of what a game “is” to its players, is oftentimes the driving idea behind the creation of modern-day Achievement icons on services like Steam or Xbox Live.

Recreating the Icon

Although its relative simplicity doesn’t require it, I used scans to recreate the icon for the sake of accuracy on the shapes and color. It was a simple retrace, and the rather high quality print job on the manual made this about a 2 minute affair. One thing of interest is that the sun shape is not simply a circle shape with ragged shapes cut away from it. As the left edge of the shape nears the top of the icon, the curvature dramatically flattens out. In the grand scheme this has absolutely no meaning, its just a peculiar quirk of the design itself.

The scans I used are below:

Rygar NA Box Art – Rear Rygar NA Box Art – Spine Rygar NA Box Art – Instruction Manual Back
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Posted in Icons, Rygar

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