The world of retro gaming and collecting is a big and often confusing one. Countless websites and a few magazines try to give as much background information as possible while books capitalize on the new old. Kurt Kulata’s website Hardcore Gaming 101 offers another insight into Sega arcade gaming from yesteryear, all its conversions and reimaginings.
Hardcore Gaming 101 Presents: Sega Arcade Classics Vol. 1 (Color Edition)
(Editors: John Szczepaniak, Kurt Kalata, publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)
Comparing the old and new
The first thing one has to decide for oneself is: Am I a Sega fan? The second question is: Do I care about the analysis of different versions of one game? And lastly: Do I want my book with colorful pictures or with black-and-white illustrations?
Obviously with Kulata’s introduction it’s clear that one shouldn’t expect an insight into the war with Nintendo or other companies. The book is quite simply an attempt to give an overview of how some Sega titles looked like in the arcade cabinets and how they were converted to different console and computer formats. This can become a bit too technical at times, or one would say, geeky, as the choice of words is also repetitive due to the nature of the conversion comparisons.
Content of high quality with some minor problems
The book is well researched and offers enough information for fans of the Japanese company and those who just want to browse through its expansive history of arcade gaming. Even if some articles are a bit dry with all their comparisons, the writing is generally very good for a compendium. Something which shouldn’t be taken for granted is the editors’ ability to be very careful about superlatives. Reading retro magazines like the UK Retrogamer or other publications, not to mention all the fanboys talk on the internet, it’s refreshing to see that the use of words like “masterpiece”, “classic”, “amazing” is toned down quite a bit, something which so many writers about retro games and culture get wrong. This is a compendium which gives the facts, which can also mean being quite blunt with how outdated graphics look or how the games play. It’s also recommendable that new console conversions, remakes or spin-offs are included as well, making for a comprehensive guide to all things Sega retro gaming.
Even if the quality of the paper and binding isn’t the best, it’s a far better alternative than countless magazines. Buying the color version is also recommended, because there are a lot of screenshots which the black-and-white version doesn’t necessarily do justice. It’s also worth noting that the UK and US versions are much cheaper, even with the atrociously unfair shipping cost pricing system one has to pay from Germany. Seeing how small the price difference between the two versions is on Amazon UK and USA, it’s easy to choose anyway.
A Must-Buy for Sega, retro and collector fans
All in all, Hardcore Gaming 101 delivers a concise, well-written piece of gaming culture which is both accessible to the mainstream and hardcore collector. Only a bit more variety like interviews, Making ofs and maybe a bit more personal anecdotes of the contributors themselves would have made it that bit more enjoyable to read. The size of less than 100 pages could also be debatable, but then again this is much easier to handle than Hardcore Gaming 101’s first book about graphic adventure games (which will get the review treatment some time in the future, as it’s simply HUGE). Maybe Vol. 2 will improve on that which can’t come soon enough.
For more insight, check out Kurt Kulata’s own hands-on video:
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