Because they look good. They are an amalgamation of pixel-art, pre-rendered 3D, real life paintings and locations. I extracted them myself using RetroArch because I haven't seen them anywhere else, and you can't fully appreciate their details in-game because the UI is blocking some parts. Some other arcade puzzle games sport similar backgrounds, and the second and third entries of Puzzle Bobble have nice backgrounds too, so I might add those in the future.
*** Update: Added backgrounds from the Dreamcast version which are bigger and I think they are the same ones from the Arcade and PC versions, they probably were downscaled for the PSX version (I should've started with them honestly). I won't animate these though, too much work but I will update the discoveries. ***
Note: I don't mind if these are uploaded to the spriters resource or some site like that, but I'd appreacite it if I was credited. Every game asset in this page was extracted by me.
Versus Mode Backgrounds
These backgrounds show up in versus mode and in the story mode of versus computer. A few of these also show up in the credits sequence.
Know that some backgrounds have a second layer to them. There are two variations to this second layer, one is a normal sky and the other is the same sky at dawn.
These are the two sky pictures used:
Sometimes the second layer is static, but most of the times the sky will scroll to the left. I'll upload both the version without this layer and another containing it, making it a gif with the sky scrolling if needed. I'll try to remain as faithful to the original as possible.
This one reminds me a lot of Human Entertainment's
Puzzle Story Backgrounds
These backgrounds show up in the puzzle mode story, they are my favorite set. Also, in this story mode, each stage is named after the Major Arcana cards, and the backgrounds seem loosely based on them too.
The High Priestess
Wheel of Fortune
The Hanged Man
I'd like to add a few more things:
- I didn't mix up The Star and The Moon, that's how they show up in the game.
- Here are a few assets related to the Arcana in the story mode, so you can compare with the backgrounds:
(Scaled to 200%)
Arcade Mode Backgrounds
These backgrounds show up in the arcade mode, they are my least favorite, since some of them are a bit samey. Each of the arcade stages corresponds to an alphabet letter (except one that uses the "?" symbol). You advance through these stages in the manner illustrated below:
While some of the pictures seem to be made using pre-rendered 3D, probably made in-house, others were made using real life locations and paintings. Here's what I could find using the power of google. I might be wrong or I might have missed something so correct me if I'm wrong or if you find anything else, reverse image search seems to give different results every day.
Shenwumen Gate from The Forbidden City in China was used as part of G's stage. Other palaces from the same place were probably used for the rest of the background.
For Maita's stage they definitely used Emanuel de Witte's "The Interior of the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, during a Sermon". The way the mixed it gave it an ominous dream-like vibe... Although that applies to most of the backgrounds in this game. It looks even more similar on the Dreamcast version of the background.
If you line up Bramb's stage moon with
The High Pristess stage seem to be heavily altered versions of Roman ruins.
Perhaps one of the most shocking ones, most of the bottom part of the Justice background was taken from the vanitas painting by Juan de Valdés Leal: "Finis gloriae mundi" or "The End of Wordly Glory" in english.
It depicts the rotting corpses of a bishop and a knight while waiting for the Last Judgement. Above them there is a scale being held by Christ.I think it ties well with Justice, or maybe it's more related to Judgement? I don't know, but it is interesting to me that there's this kind of stuff hidden in these backgrounds... One of the dead bodies can still be discerned on the background, but in-game,
This is another one that is on the eerie side.This one is for the Strength stage, and it is also based on a painting, this time by Vittore Carpaccio, "Preparation of Christ's Tomb". There was so much going in the background that I couldn't even fit the interesting parts in one image.
The original painting is about Christ's entombment after his crucifixion. Although Christ was removed from the picture and replaced by a giant lion, some details of the painting have been left around him, like the mourning followers of Christ at the right, the men preparing the tomb on the left, and the skulls at the feet of the lion. Also, barely distinguishable, you can see the crosses of Golgotha on the top left.
This picture comes off as very uncanny to me, not only because of the things already mentioned, but also because it seems to be warped and unfinished, like they moved around squares of the pictures and forgot to fix them. Very interesting nonetheless and I wouldn't want it any other way.
This one is for the Temperance stage. It uses an altered version of the Aqueduct of Segovia. There's not much to say about this one, I think it represents well the Temperance arcana symbolism of transfering liquid from one place to the other.
It can be hard to notice at first but it's definitely there. Compare it yourself and you'll eventually see that El Greco's painting "Vista de Toledo" was used for The Devil stage. Gee... now I wonder if they used paintings I couldn't find for the other "bunch of buildings" backgrounds...
A photograph of the beautiful Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany was modified for Arcade stage O. If you look closely you can notice some of the added parts clearly look more pixel-artsy.
We have stage U and Y featuring a heavily modified version of the Church of Panagia Paraportiani. Both are from different angles and I couldn't find a similar version of the second one that wasn't licensed, but you can see the two triangle roofs from the first one in the second.
Thanks to the Dreamcast backgrounds, I could finally find out that the for the Chariot stage they used the bulls that decorate the columns in Persepolis. Columns featuring two animals seem to be very common in Persian architecture.
At first glance it doesn't look like the case, but a few details like the tree shows us that this one uses the painting "Kew Gardens, Surrey, Ruined Arch" by Richard Wilson, R. A. There are other pictures of this painting that look very different to this one but this one was the only one I could put here :/.
Some details that were deleted from the Playstation version but with the Dreamcast version I was able to find that this one is based on "Temporary Tribune in the Campo San Zanipolo, Venice" by Francesco Guardi.
Stumbled upon this one randomly on twitter, since google images seemed to only throw Minecraft screenshots at me. Develon's background is most likely based on Monte Saint-Michel, from France.
So that was all for now. Was it worth it? I don't know, I've probably spent like four days of work (in my book, a colossal amount of time). But at the same time, I learned a lot of things and got to uncover some stuff no one (I think) knew before.
Seeing this kind of stuff makes me appreciate the medium a lot more, y'know, they could've just put some blocky backgounds like in the first game and called it a day but they took the extra step and added all these things. Imagine an artist in their office, twenty years ago, in the other corner of the world, pouring all their passion on their white CRT monitor to make these special backgrounds... I don't know, maybe I'm just weird, but as a lover of videogames, it makes my heart skip a beat...