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A few months after I started this Web site, I was contacted by a fellow named Otto who asked me if I knew anything about a game called Triumph. It had been announced by Hudson Soft in 1991 as an upcoming release for the Nintendo Entertainment System, but was never released in North America. I didn’t really know much about it, but I thought I remembered seeing a trade-show flyer for the game in my collection. Anyway, Otto calls Triumph “by far...the most intriguing game that was never released for the
NES,” so I told him I’d scan the flyer and put it on my Web site if I could find it. I’ve been intrigued by dozens of unreleased games over the years, so I can identify with his thirst for knowledge!

Triumph was to be a localized version of a Japanese game called Castle Quest. The gameplay is similar to chess...but you don’t get to capture an opponent’s piece simply by occupying its space. Instead, the pieces attack each other in turn-based battle sequences like you’d see in a role-playing game. A Game Boy version of Castle Quest was also published in Japan.

When the game was announced for North American release, Hudson was forced to change its title, because another game had already been released in the States with the nearly-identical name of Castlequest. (The latter game was originally called Castle Excellent in Japan). Both the NES and Game Boy versions of Castle Quest were announced as upcoming U.S. releases under the name Triumph, and the NES version was featured in a half-page preview in a 1991 issue of Nintendo Power magazine, sparking Otto’s interest in the game. Ultimately, both versions of Triumph would be cancelled...although an English-language Game Boy version was eventually released in Europe with the original Castle Quest name.

I had to dig through a few boxes, but I finally located the Triumph flyer in my archives; you can see a scan by clicking the link at the top of this article. It seems to advertise only the Game Boy version, but there is a notice on the left indicating that the game was “Licensed by Nintendo for play with the Nintendo Entertainment System.” If this
image was supposed to be box art for the Triumph packaging, it’s hard to believe that it was intended for both versions of the game, because the human character at the bottom of the pile is clearly holding a Game Boy.

Note the signature of artist Daryl Cagle on the right side of the flyer’s artwork. Cagle is now a well-known political cartoonist who once served as the president of the National Cartoonists Society. I understand he had a detail view of the Triumph artwork on his Web site at one time, but it seems to be gone now. I love the way he rendered the Castle Quest characters in a style that evokes legendary MAD Magazine artists Jack Davis and Mort Drucker. Unlike the majority of commercial video-game art in the ’90s, Cagle’s illustration projects a quintessentially American flavor while remaining surprisingly faithful to the original Japanese character designs. This would have been a remarkable feat in any era, but it’s practically a miracle that he pulled it off at a time when games like Mega Man were going out with such horribly off-model characters on the packaging. If it really was necessary to create new artwork for Japanese games to make them more palatable to American audiences, then this was the way it should have been done.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful illustration no matter how you look at it. What a shame that it has not been seen by the general public until now!

© 2012 Chris Bieniek. Certain video game images, characters and logos on this Web site are copyrighted or trademarked by their respective publishers.