Family Computer 1983-1994


Level X


Commemorative Book


In case you missed the "Level-X" exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, the organizers have published a companion to the show -- a commemorative book containing pictures of all 1252 Famicom games in their boxes (well, mostly group photos), as well as extra features.

The two greatest features of this ¥2500 book are the interviews with key figures in the Famicom's, or gaming world's, life in the 1980s and 1990s. These include Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of m... God Himself; Shigesato Itoi, famous novelist and creator of Mother; Yuji Horii and Kouichi Nakamura, creators of DragonQuest; Yuji Naka, creator of Sonic; and others.

The other great feature is a commentary of some key games and their significance in the Famicom world, and in the world at large. Topics such as nerd lore, game violence, crap games, and others are explored here. It really is fascinating (if a little short) reading. And, I think it has an appeal to a wide audience. My manager at work, who scoffs a little bit when I mention videogames, was sighing in nostalgic bliss when she was leafing through this book.

The only downside to the book is that the English translation is badly done. Not as bad as automatic translation software, but nowhere near as good as the work of a professional translator. The English side was probably translated by software then given a cursory glance by some human being, native or otherwise. For example, one of the most common verbs used in videogames is the player's task of defeating enemies, which may be a simple word; however, it is always translated into "get down enemies" or "push down enemies," which reads very strangely.

But this is still a highly recommended book if you want some nostalgia or some light analysis of the videogame world of yore.

The book is available for purchase at Amazon Japan.

Here is an excerpt from the review of "Zelda no Densetsu". (All errors are theirs.)

No 'Zelda' Before 'Zelda'

It is truly puzzling, almost like a bitter ordeal, still, the joy of finding out the clues, is more than special: that was "The Legend of Zelda".
The main character Link had to collect all of the Tryforce scattered around the world, in order to save Princess Zelda, abducted by Ganon. Although it took the style of RPG, there was no element where the main character would grow up by getting down his enemies. The character would grow whenever he obtained the needed items. The concept of 'the one who should mature is not the character but the player' is strictly followed in the game.
The Zelda's intricate style is alive from this very first software for the Family Computer Disk System. One had to use the weapons not to get the enemies down, but to find the hidden doors, and one had to combine the weapons from time to time. The microphone attached to the second player's controller was used to get rid of the enemy with big ears, Poil Voice; screaming over the microphone could get the enemies down as well. Once you finished all of the stages, you would face the 'Ura Zelda', and had to experience the incredibly difficult game.
One's excitement about the coming stage, the joy of destroying, the excitement of fighting, the encouragement of using one's brains, the fulfillment gained after solving the mysteries; there was no 'Zelda' before 'Zelda'. 'Zelda' was packed with sweet pleasure.



Here is an excerpt from the interview with Shigeru Miyamoto.

-- The game for the Family Computer that took the scene away was "Super Mario Bros". How would you assess it, by looking back at it now?

I think that it is fun to see big objects jumping up and down. I think that the core of its fun part remains there. I feel anew that 'simple and fun' is the best. Still, I have questions such as, was the B-button dash necessary?

-- You mean that the B-button dash was not necessary?

The player in me wanted to include the B-button dash, no matter what. You can run really fast by pressing the B-button. I wanted to express how I was getting good at it. Ah, and also when you stop doing the motion and you screech to a halt; I really wanted to have that as well. It's a typical Yoshimoto Shinkigeki move as well as the typical Fujio Akatsuka move.

-- How did you initially come up with "Super Mario Bros."?

As I have mentioned earlier, I wanted to make a game in which these big characters would be jumping up and down. Back then, most games had only one stage. Since people would say that games would make one's eyes weak, everybody was fixated on making the backdrop black. But the thing is that I wanted to do something different from that. That is how I came up with this game in which these big characters would run around in a wide space, under a blue sky. The theme of "Super Mario Bros." was the "blue sky".

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