Rating: 4 Stars
This book is gorgeous. Beautifully, stunningly, GORGEOUS. With a cover like that, so simple but effective, could the contents have been anything but? Unlikely. The whole slew of photographs are on-point.
I can in no way be mistaken for a serious gamer. I don't have the newest systems, I don't wait outside a store until midnight to get a particular game, and I don't even play the systems I do have very regularly (this will definitely change when my daughter is a little older and can play too). What I do have, however, is a deep appreciate for older systems that allowed me to play the games I do love so much. I remember well playing Pitfall on the Atari with my mom and one of my uncles, until my uncle sold it and I was heartbroken. That would have been late 80s, very early 90s. Then I received an original NES for my birthday, again very early 90s, and IT STILL WORKS! None of that nonsense with having to blow on the cartridges, or stick a ruler into the game slot with the game just to hold it down. I also have a still working SNES, which I really only wanted for the original Sim City. I have a PS2, because of The Godfather game (and all the Guitar Hero editions - Eleanor wants to play this one so badly, any day now). I also have a Wii, which I almost got by accident. Mom had some last minute Christmas shopping to do, gosh maybe a decade ago now (has it really been THAT long?!?!) and I didn't want to go along. Seriously last minute, we are talking December 23rd. I whined and complained, as any mature 26 year old would do, and she said if I went along with to help, she would get me a Wii. I even got a pink controller out of the deal, so in the end it was worth braving the crowds - and I then got Super Mario World and The Godfather: The Blackhand Edition. Sadly, my original Gameboy no longer works, though I can not bear to part with it. When my mom moved while I was in college, the Gameboy (inside its carrying case of course) must've have had something heavier placed on top of it by accident, because the A button is permanently pressed in. Such a sad discovery, that was. It still turns on and would work otherwise, but somehow I don't think customer service would help me get it repaired now, even if I did call the 1-800 number.
Anyway, you might be wondering what I am doing reading and reviewing a book about a subject that seems ill-suited for me, given my singular focus when it comes to what games I am interested in. I love the nostalgia and seeing these systems - plus so many that I never even knew existed. I love history, and even if I did not have or use all the systems, growing up my friends did - not to mention two of my guy friends/former roommates who - combined with an ex-boyfriend who was best friends with them - literally had every system ever crammed into the living room in our apartment.
The author did not set out to write a book. Initially he began this little project as a way of improving the Wikipedia articles he came across that had some very poor quality photos. He took it upon himself to find so many of these systems, photograph them, and improve their pages. This passion project of his turned into what we have now, and isn't that cover gorgeous? I was very happy to see an NES control on the cover. I recall having arguments in elementary school over the NES and SNES vs. the Sega Genesis and though I thought Sonic was pretty neat, I was always firmly in the Mario camp. I don't even know why we argued about it then, I have no recollection of the actual arguments, just the feeling of these arguments being intense.
The book is broken up into generations of consoles, which I found helpful, as I was not familiar with so many of the systems. I of course knew to which generation my own belong, but there was much I learned from this book, even when its focus was not so much on the words as it was the pictures. Each console presented is given two pages, sometimes more, to showcase not only the exterior, but all the interior pieces as well. Controllers and accessories were also included where applicable and I loved seeing how those evolved over time. The text was helpful, especially when detailing the pros and cons of consoles and why some worked well and others failed miserably. There are specs tables included that give information about where it was manufactured and when, any memory it might have, the year it came out, how many were made, how many games were manufactured for it, and so on. The focus is strictly on the hardware here, aside from the mentions of how many games went with the console, though of course the very most popular systems and their flagship characters were given a few lines in most cases.
Obviously this book will be of interest mostly to those who love video games and play them regularly. Or, someone like me who loves the older systems and enjoys the nostalgia and good memories that these older systems conjure up.