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Jack Bros.

Jack Bros.
(Jack Brothers' Labyrinth Hee-Hoh!)
Japanese Release: September 29, 1995
Retail Price: ¥4,980
North American Release: October 20, 1995
Retail Price: $39.99

Nintendo's Virtual Boy was an absolute commercial failure. In less than a year Nintendo had given up on the system; systems and games were clearanced, Nintendo Power stopped writing about it and unreleased games were cancelled. Over the course of its life, a little over 770,000 Virtual Boys were sold and only thirty-three different games were released worldwide. Reasons for its demise were numerous: it was initially expensive, it wasn't quite as portable as Nintendo claimed, the graphics were varying shades of red, it gave people headaches after prolonged playing sessions, it could damage the eyes of younger children, many games weren't really taking advantage of its capabilities, etc.

One of the few released games happened to be Jack Bros., developed by Atlus initially under the title of Devil Busters. Oddly enough, it was the first Shin Megami Tensei related game to be released in the United States, beating Persona: Revelations to that claim by less than a year. The Japanese release date of Jack Bros. was in September with the US release quickly following, fittingly, in October.

Jack Bros. is uncommonly rare as far as US released Virtual Boy games go. Used English copies generally go for around one hundred dollars on sites such as eBay. Japanese copies go for substantially less, but still are rather expensive. Atlus is generally known to produce rather limited runs of their games for even the biggest, most popular platforms. It would be natural to assume far less were made for an as of yet unproven system such as the Virtual Boy.

For whatever reason, Atlus's US arm decided to make the localized boxart and advertising more "edgy". While the original Japanese boxart features cartoony versions of Jack Frost and friends, the US version has darker, more detailed imagery. It's certainly a poor design to begin with, but it doesn't help much that the logo cuts off Jack Frost's head entirely. This new style is not translated into the graphics whatsoever, which are completely unchanged from the cartoony Japanese originals. The advertisements did their best to market this game towards an older audience that it was most likely not originally created for. Ironically, despite this attempt, the only reference to anything of questionable descent was removed: Jack Ripper was renamed Jack Skelton in the English release.

© Tony

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