• SNES/Super Famicom: a visual compendium, Bitmap Books 2017
  • 540 pages

Bitmap Books have become quite a tough act to beat in the retro video-game system book field, with their 'visual compendium' series of particular note. SNES/Super Famicom: a visual compendium is the 5th in the series, and quite simply a wonderful tome. And tome it is - over 500 pages of SNES games, history, and interviews. The kickstarter origins of this book tell the tale well - Nearly 225,000 pounds pledged against an original goal of 25,000, every stretch goal was met, adding 240 pages, 16 gatefold pages, and an awesome hardcover case with lenticular cover. A true story of kickstarter success, and boy is the book all the better for it.

Although each game generally only gets one image to represent it, they are almost without exception covering a full 2-page spread, giving enormous weight and substance to each image. In a plain corner, or column near the edge, unobtrusive and with a matching background colour, sits a few paragraphs of text about the game. Sometimes a guest reviewer or journalist's text, sometimes notes from the developer, these notes are frequently interesting, informative, or a window into someone's nostalgia for the given game. Also included are several multi-page articles covering the history of the console, a developer (e.g. Square's output on the SNES, Acclaim, Argonaut, Hudson), magazines, art design, or even unreleased games. These would not be out of place as magazine feature articles.

While too hefty and a little too small form-factor to be a 'coffee table book', the visual compendium neatly straddles the line between art book and a text book. If you're just flicking through to look at the art, it's a satisfying experience, but reading the text is a nice and lengthy affair.

If the Super Nintendo isn't your choice of console, the other books in the series are the Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, Sinclair Spectrum, Nintendo Entertainment System, and also an officially licensed Neo Geo book (which I'll be reading soon). The love that Sam Dyer, the designer of these books, has for the subject matter is absolutely clear - all are highly recommended.

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