The SNES Encyclopedia is the Perfect Gift for 90’s Gamers
When I read Chris Scullion’s NES Encyclopedia last year, a wave of nostalgia floored me with every page. Hearing he was going to release a follow up for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, my interest went way up. You see, despite owning a Super Nintendo, I didn’t own very many games. The prices were expensive and the Sega Genesis split my options between two consoles. It wasn’t until the Wii’s Virtual Console that I really started to dive into some of the gems I missed. Despite getting that chance, it was still refreshing to learn more from Scullion’s SNES Encyclopedia. Thanks to his hard work, all the games from the system are documented in one easily digestible package, and just in time for Christmas!
The book starts with a foreword from Kevin Bayliss, ex-Rare Ltd. character artist now working for Playtonic Games. He goes into detail of how the Super Nintendo came into his life at Rare, and even how he made the difficult decision to abandon his Sega Mega Drive. The amount of extra power and features the SNES offered made games like Donkey Kong Country possible. To Kevin, the SNES was the perfect system in all of its 16-bit glory. Even when the N64 came into the spotlight, he was reluctant to move on. He even goes on to say the N64 was just an ugly machine. That might make the potential Nintendo 64 Encyclopedia a little awkward, but we digress.
Chris Scullion’s introduction was a bit different than that of Kevin Bayliss. In his introduction, he talks about his love of the original NES console, making him a happy gamer for roughly five years. Then in 1992, things all changed when he obtained the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The Mode 7 graphics giving a 3D feel to games like F-Zero blew him away. Super Soccer gave endless hours of fun for Scullion and his brother. Even Super Mario World and it’s introduction of Yoshi was a game changer. Iconic moments from many of the games to follow struck a chord within Chris, but of course, the point of this book is to give every game the spotlight. Scullion goes on to say how he enjoyed writing The SNES Encyclopedia, even as he juggled being a father and his writing.
After the foreword and introduction, The SNES Encyclopedia gives readers a little history lesson about the console. The SNES was a surprisingly successful system, but it had some strong competition in the Sega Genesis. To make sure that Nintendo could keep up, Nintendo had to be less restrictive with their rules that made the NES difficult for third party publishers. While the Nintendo seal of approval was still necessary, companies could now release as many titles as they wanted and they could even make their own cartridges. They also didn’t have to withhold releases on other platforms for two years like they did for the NES. While Nintendo’s family friendly image prevented blood in Mortal Kombat (though not the case for the sequels), it kept itself in the ring with nearly 800 titles.
Getting to the majority of the content in the book, every game gets a few paragraphs to an entire page to themselves. Like The NES Encyclopedia, The SNES Encyclopedia also includes a fun fact. Sometimes this fact reveals behind the scenes info, a code, or even relevant information to the game. It’s a great system that keeps things informative without burning readers out on too much content. Many of the games get a short critique from Chris as well, mentioning things like frustrating controls or performance issues. No matter what though, the games you remember are all here and accounted for. At least all the ones that released outside of Japan on a Super Nintendo rather than a Super Famicom. Sorry Fire Emblem fans.
This means most games are here, and they’re all displayed in alphabetical order. That includes all the obscure Mario’s Early Years! titles, the Blockbuster Video exclusive games, and of course, every single game with the word “Super” in it (over 70 titles). While many titles that came much later don’t appear, Chris does mention some that were in development. Overall, this book focuses on titles releasing during the SNES life cycle. As an added bonus, Chris even gives all the Virtual Boy titles a chance to shine. All 22 of them. While they aren’t the highlight of the book, the information about them is definitely welcome.
As for the writing style, the author is a UK based writer, so you’ll find a lot of British slang here. This, of course, also includes British spellings for a lot of words. Words that usually have a Z will replace them with a letter S, and the letter U will often find itself in multiple words as well. Of course, this isn’t a criticism, as there’s nothing wrong with being from across the pond. As for his jokes, that might be a little harder for some to ignore. While it keeps the writing fun, some jokes do repeat in a sense. If you’ve been a fan of Scullion from his magazine publication days or even from his website, you’ll probably know what to expect.
Now of course, the SNES having such a legacy, it’s not possible to tell everything about it in this format. Despite this, The SNES Encyclopedia covers a lot of obscure information. This includes information like Mega Man X3’s outsourcing to another developer, or even how a clay fox from Claymates appears in Clayfighter: Tournament Edition. While it has a ton of rare and informative details, I was a little surprised by some omissions. For example, Robocop vs The Terminator makes no mention of Mortal Kombat 11 featuring both these characters. Of course, an encyclopedia of this nature is also bound to have a few typos due to the overwhelming wealth of information. It’s to be expected, especially given the time crunch of meeting a publication deadline.
Overall, there’s really little to complain about here. The SNES Encyclopedia is a great way to check out what the 16-bit console had to offer. For those that grew up with the console, it’s a great resource of information. If you didn’t grow up with an SNES and are curious to know about games like Chrono Trigger, Super Metroid and more, then this is the book for you. Even if you want a quick refresher of the Virtual Boy, there’s a lot of history here. With the holidays upon us, this would make the perfect bookshelf gift for 90’s gamers.