There are plenty of hardback retro books produced each year. Designed to hit the nostalgia gland with a trip down memory lane. Sometimes they are simply a best of compilation or games you may have missed type affirs. Usually they are quite short and more about the images than the actual content. Bitmap Books have stepped it up and published what are more like retro encyclopedias than a quick nostalgia bump.
We are taking a look through their Sega Master System: a visual compendium. But before we delve into the Sega goodness held inside you should understand the quality of this book. The weight alone gives a good indication that the materials are top notch and even the packaging the book arrived in shone with care and attention. The book is housed in a thick outer case with beautiful holographic pixel art featuring some much loved Master System titles. Simply spellbinding.
Turning into the first page you get another indicator of the attention to detail Bitmap Books have applied. They should be commended for the lengths gone to in securing many high profile contributors. Relevant industry insiders who were either directly involved in the Master System or game journalists that were there at the time. Damien McFerran, Mark Cerny, Naoto Ohshima, we could go on. Being huge Sega fans at the Retro Faith offices the illustrious list of contributors was a good sign.
The book itself covers over 150 Master System games, the hardware, box art and rounds things off with a few select interviews. There are over 420 pages covering almost everything you would need to know about Sega’s 8-bit wonder. We were particularly excited to see a special section on Tectoy. The Brazilian company licensed, distributed and even programmed Sega games and consoles in the region. Again, attention to detail.
The book is filled with facts, figures and history from the outset. You begin to build up an image of the systems importance in the Nintendo-dominated world of home consoles. Its easy to digest structure makes this a breeze to read and it skips along at a decent pace. The entire book is emblazoned with Sega imagery from interesting blueprints to double page spreads.
Every turn of the page is an assault to the senses. Colourful pixel art and logos fly out at you and everything is summed up with relevant content. Each featured game is spread across two pages with an industry insider mixing a brief review with their memories. Sega’s more important titles like Alex Kidd and Zillion have bigger sections that unfold revealing huge maps and art from the game.
The interviews are insightful, any Sega fan will be hanging off each word these industry veterans say. Featuring Mark Cerny and Mutsuhiro Fujii amongst a host of others, each interview has an intro highlighting their part in the Sega story. They all help to uncover the rich history of the Master System and often give the context needed to bring it to life. There is good variety with the interviews ranging from marketing managers to programmers.
Sega Master System: a visual compendium caters to the nostalgia guzzling crowd in the box art chapter. 20 pages crammed with iconic imagery from the Master System’s most loved titles. The inclusion of Japanese Mark III box art is great and will give an insight to western collectors how different artwork is in the East. A nice touch is the included 3D glasses to use in the chapter on Master System 3D games. Proper 80’s!
Retro Faith’s favourite feature was an in depth history of Tectoy, the Brazilian company that licensed everything Sega. Readers who may not be aware of Sega’s dominance in the region will find an insightful piece full of little treasures and curios. The attention to detail shines through and Bitmap Books have made sure that this often overlooked part of the Master System’s history takes pride and place.
From the huge double page spreads to the intimate interviews everything about this book is quality. It will probably not be of interest to those looking for a quick nostalgia burst, but anybody interested in video game history, especially Sega, will get a lot of joy from this. Sega Master System: a visual compendium is available from Bitmap Books now.