JAPANESE VIDEO GAME OBSCURITIES / AUTHOR: KURT KALATA / PUBLISHER: UNBOUND / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Video games are so prevalent in our culture, part of every under-30’s lives (and some well past that), that producing a book about them is no simpler than writing a book about TV or music. No single book is ever going to be able to cover the length, breadth and depth of the industry any more than you could do the same with any other medium, and much of it is so ingrained in the popular imagination that it might be a pointless endeavour anyway.
So it’s fortunate that there are some intrepid individuals trawling the darker corners of the gaming world, looking into its history from the days before the internet, before the world went global, when there were truly wonderful surprises to be found that, in this day and age, would be international hits.
Of course, Japan is always going to be a source of such treasure, and Kurt Kalata’s Japanese Video Game Obscurities, from the Hardcore Gaming series of books, shines a light on some delightful – and some surreally bizarre – PC and console games from the 1980s and 90s. The Hardcore Gaming books are an offshoot from the website, and Kalata brings the enthusiasm of that long-running temple of gaming goodness to this beautifully-produced book.
The 101 games featured are sorted by theme – RPGs, beat-em-ups, platformers – but are otherwise randomly presented, each with a page of informative text and an accompanying series of screenshots. If there’s one tiny criticism of this layout it’s that the often incredible box art does not get a bigger image, but that’s nitpicking at what is an attractive presentation.
Kalata’s text is chatty and does assume some prior knowledge of gaming terms, but filled with tidbits of information about the games and the studios, programmers and soundtrack composers who produced them.
There are far too many delights contained within to list them all, but one favourite is the never-released-outside-Japan LSD: Dream Emulator, a polygonal acid trip of an adventure game, based on the ten-year dream diary of its creator, Osamu Sato. Special mentions also must go to the bizarre minigame title for the PS2, Super Galdelic Hour and soft drink-themed runner Pepsiman.
This is a book that has an appeal not just to the hardcore gamer but also those curious about the industry’s history, as well as Japanophiles and fans of weird ephemera. Kalata and friends have produced a wonderful resource and a time-sink, to boot; this a book to leave out for friends to look through, as well as to be used a base for further adventures into the videogame vaults.