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Book review: The N64 Encyclopedia: Every Game Released for the Nintendo 64

Chris Scullion delivers an encyclopaedia suited to those who need gaming-related books to decorate their coffee table with or are just nostalgic for the Nintendo 64.

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Chris Scullion has, according to the author description, been a gamer for over 30 years. In his 15 years working professionally in the business, the Scottish video game journalist has also written for several establishments. His resume contains names like 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 productive career, it's not hard to believe that Scullion possesses a vast knowledge of video games and consoles. Fortunately, he's 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 every single 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's taken it a step further by also including every game launched exclusively for the Japanese market as well. It may sound extensive, but considering the console in question is the Nintendo 64, the task isn't 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 where he maps all the games launched for a console.

Though the total games library for Nintendo 64 was significantly smaller than both its two predecessors and its greatest competitor, the Sony PlayStation, Scullion's book still covers a total of more than 400 games over its 256 pages. This means that no matter how limited your experience with the Nintendo 64 might be, you will still find some dedicated words to your fondest memory from 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?)

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After a short 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 starts in alphabetical order (which of course means that 1080° Snowboarding is the first game out). Every game is listed with its full title, launch year, developer, publisher, and three symbols showing which regions the game was published in. The greatest games (or, in the case of Superman 64, the most notorious ones) get a whole page for themselves, while smaller titles and lots of sports titles get a half page or even just a quarter of a page. The exact information shared about the game may vary, but mostly it's about the game's place in its series (if it's part of one), presentation, reception, performance, challenges faced during development, or some thoughts on the game's entertainment value. The book doesn't seek to review each game, but you can still extract information on whether it's good, bad, or only for the really interested enthusiasts based on what's written.

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 cataloged with pictures, text and fun facts. Some games get a full page, others only a quarter.

Whether you have any previous knowledge or relationship to the games, it's easy to sink into the material and turn page after page to go through the console's library. This is thanks to the book's light and pleasant nature, where Scullion isn't afraid to throw in a bad pun or two (before apologizing for his silly humour) to spice things up. The jokes are never distracting nor cruel, which is something to appreciate. What's a nice bonus is that each game's article comes with its own fun fact or curiosity, and these are written in their own dedicated 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. I did however notice a couple of small errors in the book that could have easily been corrected with more proofreading before publishing (I only counted three in the entire book, which is probably less than what you can find in this review given that it's written by a non-native English speaker). None of these errors are grave enough to throw you off the flow while reading, so they should only be considered minor details and not compelling arguments against reading or purchasing the book.

Book review: The N64 Encyclopedia: Every Game Released for the Nintendo 64
All games that were only released in Japan are also included in the book, including the 64DD games.
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All games are paired with screenshots taken by Scullion himself. Some of the screenshots can be diffuse and unclear, but this is just as much a testimony to the graphical quality of games at the time as the author's aesthetic talent. Speaking of pictures, the greatest drawback with the book is that it doesn't include box art for each game. There may be many reasons why this is omitted: Space is the most obvious one, it may be hard to come by 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 lots of memories attached to the mere box art of these old games, so a collage of all box arts in the back would have been a nice addition.

What you do get, however, is a section on the last pages of the book where all Japan exclusive games are covered, which is a nice bonus considering Scullion hasn't been able to cover these games in his previous books due to the Western libraries being large enough as they are. The section starts with the ten games released for the 64DD, the magnetic disk add-on released exclusively for the Japanese marked in 1999 before being discontinued in 2001. This section is extra juicy for readers who wish to expand their horizons as much as possible, and you can easily understand when reading why most of these games didn't receive an international release due to their niche nature (it's hard to see why we would need a gazillion mahjong games over here, even though we did get that kind of number of wrestling games). Still, some of these releases could have had a potential outside of 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 United States and Europe, but the biggest surprise is that Nintendo skipped out of the opportunity to publish a Pokémon game outside of Japan. The book can tell you that Japan received not two Pokémon Stadium games, but three, as the first game in the series called Pocket Monsters' Stadium was a Japan exclusive. The game was somewhat lacklustre as it only contained 42 monsters, but given 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. Then again, Pokémon Puzzle League was only released in Western territories, so I guess no region got to catch 'em all ...

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

Those who are fans of reference books about video games, video game history and/or Nintendo 64 will get their money's worth with The N64 Encyclopaedia. Scullion's writing style is joyful 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, though some of the screenshots could have been better. Hopefully Scullion isn't tired of writing yet, and while we're waiting for his next book there is his back catalogue I now want to check out.

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