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Friday, November 28, 2014

Book review: Sega Mega Drive/ Genesis: Collected Works

Review by Matt S.

I love collectible books. And that's not just because I've got my own coming next year. I love them because, for fans, a good book about their favourite hobby is a wonderful way to engage with something they love doing on a deeper level.

Like collectible miniatures, a well made book is something that you're happy to have sitting on the shelf. Unlike collectible miniatures, a good collectible book is also something that provides you with a deeper understanding of your favourite hobby, with the kind of insightful content that would never be published on a website finding a chance to shine in the book.

Case-in-point - Keith Stuart's 10,000 word introduction to Sega Mega Drive/ Genesis: Collected Works. With websites it's generally not a good idea to publish a single article with more than 3,000-4,000 words, because the nature of online reading habits is that attention dives off a cliff after much longer than that. This is why I want to see print find some relevance in the games industry again, because without those more sustained texts, the overall industry will find itself becoming increasingly thin on ideas and focused more on snappy, instant soundbites and thoughts.

Stuart's introduction is enough of a reason to buy the book by itself. The piece moves across the history of Sega and the impact that its major creatives and business people had on it, through to the Mega Drive's relevance to the games industry and the impact of Sonic himself. Written by someone who is a clear fan of Sega himself, Stuart's piece opens a fan book about Sega as it should be opened - with passion, finesse, and a deep understanding on the ingredients behind the company's early successes.



And that's not even the meat of the book. Stuart's introduction gets things off to a good start, but from there there you've got page after page of gorgeous art, from the design of the console hardware, through to photos of that hardware, logos for key games, sprite art, promotional and concept art, and storyboards. It's the kind of stuff that you don't usually see in screenshot-heavy websites, and it will help this book stand as a key archive of the history of game development. It is truly amazing to compare how truly different Mega Drive era looked to what we have now, and flicking through the pages was a nostalgic rush, to say the least.

The book then moves into Q & A interviews with 20 of the most important game creators who were with Sega at the time (and yes that does include Yu Suzuki). If I say that these interviews were the weak part of the book, I only mean they are weak relative to the astounding quality of the art and Stuart's introduction. These interviews don't do as much as I would have hoped to give me insight into the creation of the games, and also didn't do a great deal in creating personalities around these great figures of gaming history. With that being said, they were still an enjoyable read, and a nice way to conclude the book.

The quality of the book is patchy, however. The hard cover and paper stock gives the book a real heft, a nice physical reminder of how valuable and important the content within it is. But this is let down by the option to go with a matte, rather than glossy page finish. This is a matter of personal preference, but I do prefer glossy paper when reproducing high quality art, as I believe it brings out the colours better. And the interviews on the back of the book are printed on an odd coloured paper that is uncomfortable on the eye.

These are just niggling issues, and I hope that highlighting them doesn't scare people away from picking up a copy of the book. Sega fans will obviously get the most from it, but anyone who has any respect for the history and heritage of the games industry owes it to themselves to pick it up as well. With any luck the startup publisher of this book, which relied on Kickstarter to make it happen, finds enough success to produce many more books of the like in the future.

- Matt S.
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld

You can pick yourself up a copy here
Book review: Sega Mega Drive/ Genesis: Collected Works
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