Creative Genesis Features

Creative Genesis: 16-bit As Art

The need to be creative is something that has been linked to video gaming since the dawn of the industry. The Atari 2600 was blessed with many original pieces of great quality, arcade cabs have featured side art over the years that still inspire artists to this day, and the number of video game characters that have found their places in comics and other forms grows every day.

It’s a seemingly paradoxical situation when you think about it. Traditional art playing such a large part in pushing a medium that is entirely digital. Beyond the range of traditional marketing, art still remains a huge part of the game-making process even though consoles have made huge strides in creating 3D worlds, and young people the world over strive to improve themselves in hopes that one day their work will influence the character creation process for designers and modelers or even grace the shelves of their local game store as cover art.

Insert Art Here

Today’s gamers are a lucky crew, to say the least. With all the technological goodies that modern consoles provide, they have little need to even care whether or not their favorite games have decent box art. If your Xbox 360/Playstation 3/Wii can download content, play custom music, or let you challenge someone across the country, why should you care about the box? This isn’t even really a factor anymore when it comes to making a purchasing decision. The Internet provides high quality screen shots, videos, and all sorts of other media that makes buying quality software easier than ever.

Such was not the case before the world got hooked on the web. Often, rentals and purchases depended on how cool a game looked on the shelf or what information could be discerned from those muddy and totally unhelpful photos on the back. There was nothing more distressing at the time than spending hard-earned cash on a game — having nothing else to go on but what was on the box — and having it suck big time. Sometimes, the box insert, art and all, was of no help whatsoever, and if the magazines of the time didn’t cover it, you were screwed. Anyone remember Batman: The Video Game and its NES insert? Not very useful, I’d say, and I’m sure some decent screen shots would have helped sales in some fashion. How about the incredible covers for Strider, Dynamite Duke, and Trouble Shooter? Horrid, to say the least, and living proof that the old adage of not judging a book by its cover is so very, very true. I can imagine how many poor souls missed out on so many quality games because they shied away from these boxes like vampires from the Sun.

There was a bright side to all this, though, and it wasn’t all negative. The Genesis was home to some incredible box art, including some wonderful pieces painted by such renowned artists as Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell. One need only take a look at the covers of Golden Axe II, either of the first two Ecco games, and Eternal Champions to see that some great stuff was there. Sadly, we only got a drop in the pond, with our Japanese friends basking in the full glory of what cover art should be. The mountain of quality to be found there is much too large to describe here, but you only need to casually look to find something that’s worth framing.

Deviant? Nah, Just Darn Good

Of course, all this creative goodness isn’t confined to just the official art of the time. Since the discontinuation of the Genesis, many great repositories featuring characters and games have popped up all over the Internet. Anyone who’s been to the website Deviant Art has undoubtedly come across many pieces that have their origin in gaming, and the Sega Genesis more than holds its own in this area. Some of the best work I’ve yet seen online can be found there, each the product of much love and attention. A plethora of art programs are used to make some of them, while others are penciled efforts that have been scanned and uploaded. There’s something for everyone, and these awesome (and frame-worthy) drawings prove that the Genesis love is alive and well.

Sites like Deviant Art are excellent places to find all sorts of original artistic treasures, and many of the members are more than eager to share their work with the public. Sega-16 spoke to one such artist, Julio Ossa, who provided this sweet Golden Axe II piece, about what inspires him and how he created such a great piece of work.

Sega-16: From where do you derive your inspiration for game-related art? Does it come from specific titles, characters, or experiences, or the product of experimentation?

Julio Ossa: I draw much of my experience from many notable game artists, from Tetsuya Nomura from the Final Fantasy series to Falcoon of the later Street Fighter games. I love character design and these are two artists, for example, who really shine in these areas. I love their sense of expression, anatomy and colors. Always experimenting, I like to mix different styles, kind of like comic book style mixed with fantasy with a hint of anime at times, therefore Golden Axe made for a fun illustration.

Sega-16: Sega is using its back catalogue for the Wii and retro collections, yet almost no new artwork is being produced. If you could produce art for an update to any classic Genesis series, which one would you like to do?

Julio Ossa: Well, for one, it would have to be a title I’m particularily fond of, and two, its gotta be a great action-adventure game… they make for some dynamic drawings. I’ve considered for a while doing specifically Streets of Rage 2 or Altered Beast, and i would love to do a Double Dragon piece.

Sega-16: What can you tell us about the creation of your incredible Golden Axe II piece?

Julio Ossa: The Golden Axe piece was a blast to work on… it was originally going to feature all three characters (the barbarian and the dwarf) but were nixed in the final art to avoid blocking all of the cool details in the back walls and especially the Amazon. A different angle could’ve been used to be able to show all the characters, but I knew I wanted that exact angle for sure. Besides, I imagine that’s actually me playing the game, as if someone paused it, turned the camera around the level and took a snapshot of it in 3D. I love that exact part of the game where you’re surrounded by these two minotaurs in this awesome dungeon, and of course I was by myself playing as the Amazon. I took some reference pictures for the figures and paid close attention to the detail of the stones, pillars. I wanted to stay true to the original level design. However, I added a torch to have some neat lighting to use. Finally, I inked it and applied all of the colors on Photoshop CS using a drawing tablet. About 15-20 hours later, I came up with this fun splash of Golden Axe 2!

Seriously folks, just click on any of the images in the gallery below and tell me they aren’t jaw-dropping. It’s nice to see that so many people still appreciate Sega’s most successful console, and that the characters and games it spawned had such a big impact on them.

Genesis in Live Action

You’d think that Genesis fans would be content to keep their love to 2D, static artwork. Nope, there are some devoted gamers out there that go one step beyond, bringing the characters they love so much to life. Usually, cosplay is confined to anime or anime-based characters, and those that involve gaming mostly tend to stick to modern properties. It’s impressive to see people sporting classic Genesis stuff. Anime fan and Gamer Dustin got together with a few of his friends at a convention last year and showed off his Phantasy Star stuff! Here are some of the shots he sent us!



You have to admire their choice of game for their cosplay. As one of the greatest Sega RPGs ever made, Phantasy star IV definitely stands out as a game worth so much effort. I like the quality of the costumes, and I have to wonder if Rika’s choice of character got her a deal on those pricey PS games!

Something for Everyone

No matter how you slice it, the Genesis pie is big enough for everyone to get a little piece of its goodness. The fact that it still inspires and influences artists and fans almost twenty years after it was released is testament to the impact it had. Still going strong and with some great new exposure on the Wii and through retro releases, I have no doubt that people will still be treasuring and enjoying everything Genesis for years to come.


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