Book Review: The N64 Encyclopedia: Every Game Released for the Nintendo 64 -.

Chris Scullion, by the author’s description, has been a gamer for more than 30 years. In his 15 years working professionally in the business, the Scottish video game journalist has also written for various outlets. His resume includes such names as the UK’s official Nintendo Magazine (plus the official PlayStation and Xbox magazines, so no fanboyism there), Retro Gamer, Polygon, The Guardian and Video Games Chronicle (VGC). With such a long and prolific career, it is not hard to believe that Scullion possesses a vast knowledge of video games and consoles. Fortunately, he has chosen to share this knowledge with us by writing and publishing books.

Scullion has previously written three unofficial guides for Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and Sega Mega Drive, with each book covering each game launched on these consoles for the Western market. Scullion’s fourth book was published in August 2022 (or December 2022 if you live in the United States), and this time he has gone a step further by also including every game launched exclusively for the Japanese market. It may sound elaborate, but since the console in question is the Nintendo 64, the task is not as daunting as you might expect.

Book Review: The N64 Encyclopedia: Every Game Released for the Nintendo 64
The N64 Encyclopedia is the fourth book in Chris Scullion’s series in which he charts every game released for a console.

Although the total game library for Nintendo 64 was considerably smaller than both its two predecessors and its biggest competitor, the Sony PlayStation, Scullion’s book still totals more than 400 games across its 256 pages. This means that no matter how limited your experience with the Nintendo 64 is, you’ll still find some devotional words to describe your fondest memory of the console, whether your game of choice is one of the classics like Goldeneye 007, Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or lesser-known titles like Bass Hunter 64, Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue, or one of the gazillion wrestling games (how many of those do you really need?)

After a brief introduction about the console itself, which could have been longer even if the focus of the book is the games and not the N64 or its place in gaming history, Scullion goes right ahead and begins in alphabetical order (meaning, of course, that 1080° Snowboarding is the first game released). Each game is listed with its full title, launch year, developer, publisher and three symbols indicating the regions in which it was published. The best games (or, in the case of Superman 64, the most infamous) get a whole page to themselves, while smaller titles and many sports titles get half a page or even just a quarter page. The exact information shared about the game can vary, but usually involves the game’s place in the series (if it is part of one), presentation, reception, achievements, challenges during development or some thoughts on the game’s entertainment value. The book does not attempt to review every game, but you can still extract information about whether it is good, bad or just for the really interested enthusiasts based on what is written.

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Book Review: The N64 Encyclopedia: Every Game Released for the Nintendo 64Book Review: The N64 Encyclopedia: Every Game Released for the Nintendo 64
All the games are catalogued with pictures, text and fun facts. Some games get a full page, others only a quarter.

Whether you have any prior knowledge or relationship with the games, it is easy to sink into the material and turn page after page to go through the console library. This is due to the light and enjoyable nature of the book, where Scullion is not afraid to throw in a bad pun or two (before apologizing for his silly humor) to spice things up. The jokes are never distracting or cruel, which is something to appreciate. What is a nice bonus is that each game’s article comes with its own fun fact or curiosity, and these are written in their own special bubbles making them easier to find when looking up the game again later. It all comes together to make the book both easier to read and more enjoyable than similar titles within the same genre, where the quality ranges from fantastic to amateurish, especially among unofficial guides. However, I noticed a few minor errors in the book that could easily have been corrected with more proofreading before publication (I counted only three in the entire book, which is probably less than what you’ll find in this review, given that it was written by a non-native English speaker). None of these errors are serious enough to throw you out of the flow while reading, so they should only be considered minor details and not convincing arguments against reading or buying the book.

Book Review: The N64 Encyclopedia: Every Game Released for the Nintendo 64
All games released only in Japan are also included in the book, including the 64DD games.

All games are combined with screenshots taken by Scullion himself. Some screenshots may be diffuse and indistinct, but this is as much a testament to the graphic quality of games at the time as the author’s aesthetic talent. Speaking of pictures, the biggest drawback of the book is that it does not include box art for each game. There could be many reasons why this is omitted: Space is the most obvious, it can be difficult to find perfect copies of each Nintendo 64 game box, if that is even possible anymore, and the covers were often different between regions. Still, many of us have many memories of the mere boxart of these old games, so a collage of all the boxart in the back would have been a nice addition.

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What you do get is a section on the last pages of the book that covers all of Japan’s exclusive games, which is a nice bonus, since Scullion hasn’t been able to cover these games in his previous books because Western libraries are big enough as it is. The section begins with the ten games released for the 64DD, the magnetic disk add-on released exclusively for the Japanese and marked in 1999 before being discontinued in 2001. This section is extra juicy for readers who want to expand their horizons as much as possible, and you can easily understand when you read why most of these games did not receive an international release due to their niche nature (it’s hard to see why we would need a gazillion mahjong games here, even though we got that kind of wrestling game). Still, some of these releases could have had potential outside Japan, and it feels like a shame they never got a chance. The run-and-gunner Sin and Punishment or Tetris 64 are just two examples that could have been successful in both the United States and Europe, but the biggest surprise is that Nintendo skipped the opportunity to release a Pokémon game outside Japan. The book can tell you that Japan received not two Pokémon Stage games, but three, because the first game in the series called Pocket Monsters’ Stage was a Japan exclusive. The game was somewhat bland because it featured only 42 monsters, but considering that it was released in 1998 when the Pokémon craze was just beginning in the West, you can’t help but think in retrospect that the game would have sold well. On the other hand, Pokémon Puzzle League was only released in Western territories, so I guess no region could catch them all …

Book Review: The N64 Encyclopedia: Every Game Released for the Nintendo 64
We don’t get much of the console history, technical information or promotional material related to the Nintendo 64 in the book, although here we see an example of the latter.

Those who are fans of reference books on video games, video game history and/or Nintendo 64 get their money’s worth with The N64 Encyclopaedia. Scullion’s writing style is upbeat and easy to read, the structure makes it easy to find specific games you might be looking for, the production value is solid thanks to great materials and easy-to-read fonts, and the illustrations are mostly good, although some screenshots could have been better. Hopefully Scullion isn’t tired of writing yet, and while we wait for his next book there is his back catalogue that I want to check out now.

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