The definitive guide to the history of the JRPG, in our hands

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To Kurt Kulata we owe an important part of the current information repository on numerous games and sagas, some of which are known worldwide and others are completely forgotten. As responsible for the page Hardcore Gaming 101 has given space to all kinds of authors to delve into games of various kinds, from timeless great hits to illustrious strangers who have enjoyed new recognition in retro communities. And from there, together with the connections that he has forged with a wide range of collaborators, he has shaped numerous compilation books that already form an enviable and essential body of work to understand the history of the video game: the two volumes of the history of shoot’em ups, the compilation of classic graphic adventures, the monographs of sagas such as Castlevania, Shin Megami Tensei or Contra, the books dedicated to the trajectory of companies such as Taito or Treasure … A remarkable work It has even been translated into Spanish on some occasions (the publisher GamePress has brought some that can be found in its store).

Now, from the hand of the always excellent Bitmap Books, we have what is perhaps the most ambitious work coordinated by Kulata: an extensive and well presented compilation of the history of the JRPG from its origins to the present day, commenting from the first steps in the Japanese computers from then to individual reviews of each installment of the best-known sagas and more in everyone’s mind as Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Megami Tensei, Tales of and many others. With more than 20 signatures included, the book does an extensive review of more than 650 pages in which we can see first-hand how the genre has developed over the decades, learn more about titles that we did not know or increase our knowledge about sagas that we do know but that perhaps we have not played all its deliveries and derivatives. It also dedicates a part to commenting on non-Japanese games but that have been influenced by the Japanese way of interpreting the genre as happens with Cosmic Star Heroine or Secret of Evermore.

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An essential compendium for lovers of the genre

Since the book reviews hundreds of games, there is no in-depth information on any. Depending on the historical importance of the game or saga in question, or the story behind the game, more or less space is dedicated to it. The main sagas have their own sections that are preceded by a beautiful and nice representative full-page pixelart illustration, which also includes its own section for ARPGs such as Secret of Mana, Kingdom Hearts or SRPGs to accommodate the Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea, going through Dungeon Crawlers like Etrian Odyssey or the Japanese Wizardry. All possible platforms are covered, including laptops, although given the large selection of titles, most are covered in spaces less than two games per page, which allows at least to know them a little and know that they exist, which is the general idea of the work.

The fact that maximum of two games per page covered allows each of them to have at least one capture and a sample of the original cover, as well as a generous fragment of text that allows us to place it on the map. When you choose to dedicate one or more pages to a particular game, graphic material is not abused either and space is left for a more generous text that allows you to get lost in details. As we have already mentioned, fans of a specific game or saga will not get much out of these sections since they are not in-depth articles; the true utility of the book is to be able to review the history of the genre as a whole, with the best, the worst, the mediocre or the different and do it in a pleasant way, with a presentation of authentic luxury.

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The guide rises to its best when it is allowed to talk about games that do not have as much impact outside of highly specialized circles, especially when dedicates long reviews to explain curious or striking aspects of titles that have been cornered in the drawers of history but have something to contribute in terms of ideas, setting or originality. Curious things like LaSalle Ishii no Child Quest, an early Famicom game based on caring for and bringing to fame three Japanese idol candidates, peppered with humor and completely removed from the medieval fantasy clichés that were legion in the genre. It is also especially revealing when tackling disastrous games like Ganso Saiyuuki: Super Monkey Daibouken, a completely broken game created by a subsidiary of Taito that also has a very curious story about the messages of a programmer complaining about not finding “a perverted girl”.

It also turns out particularly useful to identify which installments of a long saga are worthwhile and which we can save. The only downside is that in some entries there is a little more talk about aspects of the story or certain script twists, perhaps with the idea that the reader has either already played those titles or will never play because they have not been translated. A careful reading will help us avoid those moments, in case we have the opportunity in the future to know them first-hand. Another useful key that they usually incorporate is to identify which versions of the game are the most desirable, or which are not worth it, which is useful to focus the shot when deciding to test a title that has been released in many formats.

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As the British publisher is accustomed to us, the presentation of the physical edition is for framing, with a beautiful cover illustration and a book that exudes quality in each of its pages. It is not surprising that the first edition literally flew and it was not until a few months later that they were able to get the new print that we have in our hands. On November 22 they will have a new shipment for those interested, at a price of 35 pounds (about € 41 to change, plus shipping costs that to the peninsula can be about € 7). Certainly a gem that any fan of the genre will consult frequently in their search for the next game to enjoy. The biggest problem, as is usual when we talk about the production of this house, is that the British Bitmap Books only publishes in its language, although it has international shipments, and it is therefore essential to read comfortably in English to fully enjoy this outstanding production.

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