The Pixel Frames shadow boxes have been around for a while now. The idea is the line captures a classic retro game moment, typically an 8-bit or 16-bit scene. Each one is officially licensed, for the sake of accuracy and authenticity. They all add a bit of depth by placing elements on multiple layers. A number of different series, like Castlevania, appeared in the collection. Now the latest Pixel Frames scenes capture moments from the Mega Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Street Fighter series. And as always with these items, the impression left by the final piece varies depending on the scene chosen.
All three of the Pixel Frames shadowboxes I examined were of the nine inch by nine inch variety. Each frame is black and about two inches thick. They also each include a silver metallic name plate sticker. A person can peel off the backing and apply as desired to the frame, with the game’s title and release date noted. The shadowbox then has elements of a design appearing in a foreground layer, up to two midground layers, and a background layer. The result is, well, an image that might call to mind those old Sega 3D Classics entries on the Nintendo 3DS. You have a recognizable scene from a title, only with added depth to provide some extra context. The company uploads YouTube Shorts videos, to offer a better sense of how it works.
As for how well different ones work, it all depends on the design. Of course, someone is going to be partial to ones based on titles they love. But more objectively, the moment makes it. Take the Mega Man 7 Dr. Wily Pixel Frames shadow box. In many ways, this is a pretty ideal moment. You have Mega Man, Dr. Light, Rush, and Dr. Wily all in the scene. There’s the gauge on the lefthand side. There’s definitely more texture and you can see the 3D effect. However, because so much of it is in the forefront, it doesn’t “pop” as much as the other two Pixel Frames I got. The composition is great and it is a fantastic scene. But the effect isn’t as remarkable.
Now with the Street Fighter II Car Scene scene, the Pixel Frames mission gets closer to ticking the all the boxes by depicting the game’s bonus stage. You can really see how the company understood the assignment here. The layers are extremely evident here and cast a great shadow. (Not counting the ones actually present in the art under Guile, the car, and Chun-Li.) The UI at the top of the screen looks good and pops. The car is in the midst of being broken. Guile is using a Sonic Boom, while Chun-Li is performing Hyakuretsukyaku. Some of the broken car parts are already flying off and are on their own layer, which also works out well. The rest of the background might seem a little flat, but you can definitely see the distinction from the ground and the ocean in behind it. It’s tactfully done, and immediately recognizable.
But from what I’ve seen, I think the Sonic the Hedgehog Loop Scene is the Pixel Frames shadow box that best shows what this collection can do. First, we’re in Green Hill Zone. Everyone knows it. Sonic is just finishing running through one of the series’ trademark loops. It conveys a sense of speed, since we see he’s already gone through it and is in motion. Plus, it provides an opportunity to place him in one of the midground layers, with the front of the loop and “stage” in the foreground. Lurking ahead is a Buzz Bomber, one of the series’ more recognizable standard enemies. Plus, the background layer is far enough behind to provide even more context. It highlights a lot of things people love about the series. We have four layers in effect. There’s a pretty good distribution of content on all four layers. The shadows really are visible when displayed. I think it’s just a very well-handled piece.
The one thing I do wish is that there was an easel back on each Pixel Frames piece. All of them come with a sawtooth picture hanger on the back. This means you could fairly easily mount it on a wall and have it hang level. But there’s no stand in place in the event you wanted it on a shelf or table. On the plus side, each one’s frame is rather thick. They’re about two inches wide, which means it can stand up independently if you place it somewhere. But given the height, I’d feel more secure displaying it with an actual easel in place. Though if someone would want that, it would probably be pretty easy to buy an easel back separately and set it up to work out.
Honestly, I get the impression that the Pixel Frames shadow boxes tend to be handled rather well. They’re substantial pieces. Care is put in to get the licensing for games people have fond memories for. The scenes picked tend to be immediately recognizable ones with familiar characters. Yes, getting one for a title someone prefers is going to probably be the most influential part of picking one out. But as for the actual display, it feels like the more detailed and active the scene, the more opportunity there is for the 3D effects and nature of the collection to stand out.
The Pixel Frames Mega Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Street Fighter shadow boxes are now available at retailers like Amazon and IGN Store. The retail price is $29.99 each. The official website for the collection is also now open.