I recently acquired a new book on game history entitled, The History of Nintendo Volume 2: 1980-1991 The Game & Watch games, an amazing invention. (That’s a mouthful, and for the purpose of this review, I will use THONV2 as an acronym that saves my typing fingers from undue wear and tear.) The book was written by Florent Gorges, with collaboration from Isao Yamazaki, and published through Pix’n Love Publishing. It is devoted to the lineup of Nintendo’s handheld games that predated their groundbreaking GameBoy video game system, the LCD-screened wonders of 1980s technology called the Game & Watch series.
Prior to Nintendo’s launch of their Game & Watch product, the potential of LCD technology was relatively untapped, and was the providence of the big calculator manufacturers, such as Sharp and Casio. There were handheld games on the market, such as Mattel’s 1976 Auto Race game, but they used LED technology, which led to design limitations and a less-than-crisp graphic presentation. The jump to LCD technology for handheld game devices was a huge advance in the history of gaming, deserving more attention from game historians, and was one of the chief reasons I was so interested in securing a copy of THONV2 for my library.
So what are my thoughts after reading this book?
First the bad news: the translation is terrible. The book was originally written in French, and has been translated into English for publication. The idioms have not been correctly translated, and the translator, Benjamin Daniel, has made some very odd word choices. The result is a translation that is often stilted, with sometimes archaic wording, and sporadically unreadable in places. The odd spelling error only compounds matters. My advice to the publishers is to NOT use the same translator for future editions, but to seek out someone familiar with both English and French beyond what can be accomplished by the judicious use of Google Translate.
Now the good news: this book is a complete treasure DESPITE the translation. This is an amazing piece of work: the sheer breadth of information contained within these pages ensures that it will hold a special place on my reference work bookshelf. Each of the various handheld electronic games produced by Nintendo throughout the 80s is examined in detail, including screen shots, origin, release dates, variant editions, and interesting trivia. And when I say “each” I mean all 59 models of the Silver, Gold, Wide Screen, New Wide Screen, Multi Screen, Color Screen Table Top, Panorama Screen, Super Color, Micro vs. System, and Crystal Screen series are represented!
As an aside, the color photographs included within THONV2 are absolutely stunning, made especially so by the high-quality paper on which the book is printed. A clue to the quality of paper comes as soon as you pick it up: you notice it feels heavier than a 194-page book should! The quality of presentation simply overwhelms the limitations of the translation, like a crashing wave of artistic quality against a tiny sand cube of inadequacy. But I digress!
Although the main focus of the book is on Nintendo’s Game & Watch series of games, Gorges heads off onto related trails, giving detailed information on rare premium versions given by a variety of corporations as gifts to valued clients or employees; a discussion on the counterfeit versions of the Game & Watch series, as well as some of the more interesting “knock-offs” found for sale; details on the licensed Mini Classics series that was not actually produced by Nintendo; the differences in releases found in different nations, such as France’s J.I21, Germany’s Tricotronic, Australia’s Futuretronics, and Great Britain’s CGL lineups; photographs and pictorials of advertisements and television commercials for the Game & Watch products; and even a section on which games that were released after the end of the Game & Watch era contain hidden (or not so hidden) Game & Watch game play.
As wonderful as all the detailed descriptions are, my favorite part of this book is the historical essay on the origins of the Game & Watch, complete with quotes and anecdotes from the major players involved, but especially those from and about Gunpei Yoki and his serendipitous rise to the top of Nintendo’s game design food chain. Truly, the stars aligned for this man, giving him the opportunity to seize the day when the opportunity arose; to rise from the lowly position of technical maintenance to head the division that brought Nintendo from a company on the brink of financial ruin to complete domination of the gaming market. This is inspirational stuff, and a reminder to everyone that being in the right place at the right time is all very well and good, but you also have to be prepared to shout, “Carpe Diem!” to succeed.
All in all, The History of Nintendo Volume 2: 1980-1991 The Game & Watch games, an amazing invention is a good investment for anyone interested in either video game or electronic handheld game history. It is clearly the definitive work on the subject, and will be referenced by others for years to come. I highly recommend visiting Pix ‘n Love Publishing’s website, located HERE, to make this purchase, as you will be very pleased with your acquisition! In other words, this is a MUST HAVE for any game history collection, and it will make a great gift for that retrogaming enthusiast on your shopping list! Final word: buy it today!
1983 American Game & Watch Commercial!