11/04/2024

Bitmap Books – The Unofficial N64: A Visual Compendium Review By Britt ๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“– @bitmap_books #Retrogaming #N64

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The last Bitmap Book release that we covered here at Games Freezer was the incredible From Ants to Zombies: Six Decades of Video Game Horror, a book that could very well be – and indeed is - one of the best gaming-related pieces of literature that I’ve ever had the pleasure of inhaling.

It’s a slight change of pace here, from the many forked branches of horror through to a visual compendium focused on the much beloved fan favourite Nintendo 64, whether through many a blistering, thumb-stick breaking multiplayer session of Goldeneye, marvelling at Mario in 3D, or zooming across Hyrule Fields in Zelda, there are millions of memories out there that began with that trusty trident controller in-hand.

Presented in a glorious slipcover case, featuring holographic images that reflect key moments in milestone games on the system, the overall presentation – as is always the case with Bitmap Books – is an absolute belter. Kudos again goes to them for being very clearly a market leader in robust packaging, it always feels like I’m destroying a piece of art in itself when I open the packaging to get at the book, truly impressive stuff. Removing the book from the slipcase reveals a dustcover on the hardback book itself, ensuring that those 400+ pages of Nintendo gold shall remain forever dust (and in my house, wine glass stain) free.

The book begins with an introductory page that summaries the flaws, strengths, appeal, and historic placement of the N64, before moving on to list the contributors to the book, a litany of luminaries that all had involvement in the various aspects of the history of the N64. This leads onto the alphabetised contents page that separates the various sections out, from N64 Games through to the handful of 64DD games available, as well as features and interviews. Naturally, all of this follows a foreword by the ever-wonderful David Doak, a man who is slowly but surely turning into Mick Fleetwood, of Fleetwood Mac. Good. 

Being a visual compendium, the images and screenshots are given some serious real estate here, each video game entry features a couple of screenshots, as well as the standard information of initial release date, genre, developer, and publisher, as well as several short paragraphs that pass along key information about the game and its history, as well as some interesting facts and points. The highlights for me were the more Japanese-centric entries here, as they are often massive gaps in my knowledge, so getting the opportunity to learn more about titles such as Nushi Tsuri 64 is always a pleasure.

The interviews and feature sections scattered throughout are well-placed to add variety to the layout, and are given plenty of space in the book, ensuring that a lot of details can be imparted to the reader. Whilst these are often the sections I’m pulled towards - being more text-driven than visually-minded – I have to say that the choice and clarity of the screenshots throughout are incredibly appealing, and I found myself pausing my reading and popping onto YouTube to watch some gameplay footage of the title at hand in order to deepen my understanding of them, as the N64 isn’t a console I spend as much time with as others, and so I still have a lot to learn about it, this book acts a great starting point for that due to its accessibility and scope.

SUMMARY

As usual, Bitmap Books have come up with the goods in creating an incredibly in-depth and yet approachable and vibrant book that celebrates the N64 in a way that appeals to both hardcore console fans as well as more casual folks.

Whilst my personal preference leans towards the more text-heavy releases from them, this is a title that’s incredibly easy to pick up and flick through with a coffee, and is sure to get some nostalgic conversations going in your home…heck, maybe you’ll end up picking up Goldeneye again and arguing over who gets the ropey third-party controller with the dodgy thumb-stick, who knows!

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