This review ran on my old blog back in September but since it was impossible to find…no one read it. Figured I’d repost it this week while I’m away. I already talked about this book being one of my Favorites of 2016 (click here to read) and nothing has changed. In a word? AMAZING. I still pull it out constantly when I’m sitting around the mancave. It is just a magnificent work. So, without further adieu, here’s my original review on Ultimate Nintendo Guide to the NES Library…
I’m going to start this off by talking about YouTube. I just got into YouTube a few years ago when I was home sick. I was in bed with the iPad watching Red Letter Media’s Phantom Menace review when I asked myself, “Does anyone review old video games?” A quick search led me to James Rolfe’s Angry Video Game Nerd which kept me fairly amused for a couple hours. I came upon an episode about a cart I never heard of called Nintendo World Championships 1990 where I was introduced to a fellow named Pat the NES Punk. As much as I enjoyed AVGN there was something about Pat’s acting that I enjoyed. I found that he had his own channel and I started watching his videos. I enjoyed the skits that Pat acted out but really appreciated his approach of reviewing games. I was hooked and within a couple days I had watched every single episode he had online.
Pat Contri’s new book Ultimate Nintendo Guide to the NES Library 1985-1995 was a Kickstarter that I very foolishly did not give to. I had been thinking about ordering it online when I went to A Video Game Con here in Jersey. Pat was there and he had the book on display. I pieced through it for about eight seconds when I decided I MUST own this book.
This book is a monstrosity – in a great way. It’s big and full of information on every single game released for the NES. This sucker weighs about six pounds and for good reason. Every page contains a picture of the actual NES cartridge, screenshots from said cartridge, a description of the game, Pat’s personal reflections on the cart, and information such as genre, release date, developer, publisher, number of players, how rare the cartridge is, and Pat’s personal rating of said game.
This being the Ultimate Nintendo Guide I wondered, “Does this have EVERYTHING?” I put it right to the test as I looked to see if Mr. Gimmick was included – a game never released in the USA and one of my favorite Pat the NES Punk episodes. Sure enough Mr. Gimmick was there in a ‘PAL Exclusive NES Releases’ section that has everything from the superior New Ghostbusters II game to Devil World – the one Shigeru Miyamoto game that never saw the light of day here. This supplemental section is near the back of the book which also features HES Exclusive NES Releases like Little Red Hood, Special and Promo Cartridges (like the Nintendo World Championships 1990 cart), Test Cartridges, Variants, and Accessories.
While I’m talking about the back of the book it also features some great articles written by some of the best YouTubers out there – some based on videos they had previously done on their own channels. Joey DeSena from 16 Bit Gems writes about how the Zapper gun works, James Rolfe talks horror video games, Dan “Pixel Dan” Eardley talks toys turned into videogames, and the super awesome Norm Caruso (The Gaming Historian) talks about the lawsuit Nintendo brought down on Tengen – which is such an interesting story. Seriously. Read Norm’s article then for more enjoyment go watch his video on it. Seriously. The guy knows his shit.
Enough is enough though – how does the bulk of the book look and read? In a nutshell it is simply fantastic. On every two page spread you get four reviews of games. The descriptions of the games read quite well and Pat’s assessments are usually spot on for how I feel about the bulk of the games I played in my youth growing up on the NES. Pat is like a Nintendo encyclopedia but he couples that with an amazing writing style. That helps with a book like this because you don’t get bored after twenty pages. You want to continue on and on reading about games you know and those you never had a chance to play because your mom didn’t make a million dollars. Well maybe yours did. I usually had to borrow games or scrounge my measly dollars together to buy new games.
Some games get a page all to themselves like some of the Mario games or The Legend of Zelda. Why? Let’s face it – they deserve it. These games helped sell systems. Nintendo didn’t have just one killer app – they had quite a few. Certainly a game like Super Mario Bros 2 deserves a longer section given its history and change in playing style from the rest of the games. And don’t actually know the story why that is? Pat clues you in.
Having watched so many videos on these retro games I wondered what Pat might say about a game like Stadium Events – one of the hardest to find games on the NES. He admits that it is super rare but goes on to call it just what it is…a piece of crap. It’s a game that hardcore collectors want but really just is a terrible game. You also learn a bit of history on why it is so rare and what you can do if you really want to play it … which is actually just going out and buying the same game released by Nintendo with a different name.
I touched on Pat’s writing style which I do enjoy. I’ll also praise whoever edited this book (if it is Pat himself – kudos to you, sir). As the book is self-published I’m sure the book doesn’t have an editor in the typical sense but whoever combed through this book made it read and look great. The photography is also top-notch. Each Nintendo cart is seen in crystal clarity as are the screenshots. In addition there’s all sorts of shots of promotional posters, NES peripherals, and so much more.
I also got to learn a few things about Pat – like the man doesn’t own his own copy of Little Samson – a super rare game that came out late in the later years of the NES that is known to be just amazing. If you’ve ever seen Pat’s collection in his videos it is super hard to believe that he doesn’t own this classic game. Someone hook the brother up! Game Chasers I’m looking at you!!!
Each page of this book is like a breath of fresh air – because for every game like R.C. Pro Am, Metroid, N.A.R.C., and Chubby Cherub I played as a kid there’s games like Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy, Dirty Harry, P’Radikus Conflict, and Secret Scout in the Temple of Demise that I’ve never heard of and enjoy learning about.
Pat got me into retro gaming. While I watched shows like his, Gaming Historian, Game Sack, Game Chasers, AVGN, 16 Bit Gems, Rerez, Cannot Be Tamed, Pro Jared, The Gamer From Mars, JonTron and many, many more – it was actually talking with Pat on Facebook about the Coleco Chameleon debacle that got me thinking – if you want a system that plays cartridges why not start collecting the games you loved as a kid?!?!?! And so I do. I hit the flea markets and yard sales, go to the awesome video game cons in the area, and enjoy arcades like Barcade and Richie Knucklez. And for the first time in a long time? I actually enjoy gaming again. My PS4? I use it to play Blu-Rays. My Xbox One? Well – my Simpsons Season Five is sitting on top of it so I guess it is getting some use. And while yes I still enjoying playing the WiiU with my son, I’m quite excited that his love of watching YouTube has translated into him buying a retro system and his own start of playing these retro games. I never saw a kid more excited then when I handed him his own copy of Super Mario RPG.
If you are a retro collector, a retro ran, or just someone who loved playing Nintendo back in the day – this book is for you. It’s a book I’m very excited about having in my collection and my only regret is not buying two…because I have to keep fighting my kid over reading it.
Here’s the link on where to buy this bad boy: http://thepunkeffect.com/products-page/. Looks like the second printing is in pre-order status so pay your money, sit back, and wait for the goodness to come right to your door.