Lunar 2 and its predecessor Lunar arguably created the modern collector's edition with their lavish North American releases. Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete for the PlayStation shipped with a two-sided poster, a hardcover instruction booklet, paper standees of the main cast, and an impressively large replica of heroine Lucia's pendant. The original Lunar also shipped with a lavish collector's edition that included a hardbound instruction booklet, a cloth replica world map, a soundtrack CD, and a special "Making of Lunar" disc that actually contained a hidden, playable bonus mini-game called Lords of Lunar.
These collector's editions may not sound like anything out of the ordinary now, but consider that Lunar shipped in 1999 and Lunar 2 in 2000. These weren't collector's editions for triple-A games backed by a massive publisher, either, but labors of love accompanying a niche JRPG being published by Working Designs, a relatively small company. While lavish collector's edition releases weren't uncommon in PC gaming, the kinds of huge console game limited editions that are now commonplace wouldn't be seen regularly even for major titles until around 2005.
The final single-player Ultima game boasted a collector's edition that let the series go out with a bang. Called the "Dragon Edition," Ultima IX's collector's edition shipped in an oversized box that contained Ultima IX itself, a bonus disc containing the first eight Ultima games in their entirety, a cloth world map, a good-sized ankh pendant, eight Tarot cards, a collectible spellbook, and a special certificate signed by Lord British himself, Richard Garriott. While lavish PC game releases were nothing new at the time, the sheer quantity of stuff crammed into Ultima IX's Dragon Edition remains impressive to this day.
Ultima IX was the first game in the Ultima series to ship with a collector's edition, because earlier games in the series tended to make cool pack-ins a standard feature. Every game in the Ultima series shipped with a cloth map depicting the in-game world, documents written in an in-universe style, and some kind of trinket that represented an item from the game. The extras were meant to help develop the idea that Ultima games were more than just RPGs to play, but worlds to explore. The basic idea of enhancing the game experience with physical collectibles arguably comes from the Ultima series.
Good modern collector's editions do exist! One of the best is for BioShock 2, a game that by itself is pretty good but not quite in the same league as its predecessor. BioShock 2's collector's edition puts the original's to shame, though. The Limited Edition shipped with a 164-page art book, an orchestral soundtrack CD containing music from BioShock 2, three Rapture advertisement posters, and a vinyl soundtrack LP containing orchestral music from the original BioShock.
While the BioShock 2 vinyl LP hasn't gone on to become especially rare (you can pick it up for about $10 on eBay), it's one of the best types of collectibles to include in a collector's edition. It's unique, it serves as a conversation piece, and it wouldn't even feel out of place in the game's world. The fact that it doubles as a soundtrack rather than just taking up shelf space is another nifty bonus.
There were multiple collector's editions for Fallout 3, but the best by far was this one. The main collector's edition for Fallout 3 shipped with a 100+ page art book, a "Making of" DVD, a Vault Boy bobblehead, and a special retro-style metal Vault-Tec lunch box. Much like BioShock 2's music LP, it's the metal lunch box that makes this collector's edition so special. Fallout 3 is all about a nightmare world where the warped values of the 50s crashed headlong into the nuclear paranoia of the Cold War era. Nothing evokes that retro vibe quite as strongly as a metal lunch box.
Fallout: New Vegas also managed to have a pretty memorable collector's edition. It shipped with seven clay poker chips, one for each of the seven in-game casinos, a special deck of playing cards containing information about the game's NPCs, a prequel graphic novel, a replica of the in-game Lucky 38 platinum chip, and a bonus documentary DVD. Just like Fallout 3's collector's edition, the items included with New Vegas were all about making the expansive in-game world feel a little bit more real.
The collector's edition of Assassin's Creed II is incredibly similar to the collector's edition for the original game, with one crucial difference: the Assassin's Creed II pack-in items didn't suck. Buyers of the Master Assassin's Edition for Assassin's Creed II got an art book, a special metal case, a documentary DVD, a game soundtrack, and a collectible statue of the game's new protagonist Ezio. Where the original Assassin's Creed pack-in figurine measured at a miserable 2.5 inches, the Ezio statue was a phenomenal 8.5 inches tall.
Ezio's statue was also beautifully sculpted, sturdy enough to make it easy to display, and well-painted. It was, in short, not a complete piece of crap, despite the Assassin Creed's II collector's edition retailing for around the same price as the first game's.
I'm sure there are personal favorites and least favorites which failed to make this list, so, by all means, use the comments section below to plead the case for your entry, or to reopen the wounds of a horrid game worthy of an extra dash of salt.
By Alicia Ashby
CCC Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*