A wondrous thing happened back in 1990 when Nintendo decided it was time to create a brand new arcade quality home video game system to rival their 8-bit power house that was the Nintendo Entertainment System. This new system was to be known as the Super Famicom, a.k.a. the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). This new console opened up a new wave of pure arcade quality games emerging from great software houses like Capcom, Hudson Soft, Square Soft, Konami and Enix. A great many of these 16-bit cartridge games were revolutionary in their design and even introduced a new type of gameplay on the machine.
The launch titles that appeared on Nintendo’s red hot 16-bit console, such as F-Zero, Actraiser, Final Fight, Pilot Wings and Gradius 3, were like nothing any other platform could match. Perhaps only SNK’s Neo Geo could but it carried astronomical price tags for both the console and its games. This made the Super Famicom Japan’s number one choice and, given Nintendo’s trusted name, this made the console a sure hit even against its arch rival, Sega’s Mega Drive (which pre-dated the Super Famicom by a year or so).
But what made the Super Famicom’s games appeal and leap off shelves was their presentation and remarkable box art. These had an incredible attention to detail and so much so that it didn’t matter if the games was rubbish or great as the box art was enough to relieve you of you hard earned Yen. With my being a bit of a Super Famicom fan myself, I always wondered why no one had risen up to the challenge of creating a Super Famicom/SNES book. Then along comes a collector with both the concept and a bloody huge Super Famicom collection to produce such a book in celebration of these wonderful games and their equally wonderful box art. This collector is Stuart Brett, the author of this book, where he gets to show how much he loves this medium, its art and its design. This exceptional book is titled “Super Famicom: The Box Art Collection.” When you see this book for the first time, you know you are in for a treat. The cover has a wonderful gold foil on the text that lets you know you’re going to see something special within the pages of the this book and it certainly does not disappoint.
Once you open the book, you arrive at the index with the wonderful line design of the Super Famicom as seen on the original Japanese console box. I thought that was a brilliant idea and really lets you know that this book is all about the Super Famicom and nothing else. There is a great foreword by Steve Jarratt (boy this man certainly gets around) followed by a wonderful introduction by Stuart Brett himself with four additional small, yet informative talks, with Massaaki Enami, James Wragg, designer Van Orton Design and Damien McFerran. After this, the incredible Super Famicom box art is unleashed on you. The amazing quality of the art work is something to behold as it is simply stunning. Each game is accompanied with a paragraph or two of text with details about the games as well as some anecdotes related to the games’ background or even details about the illustrator of the box art.
With the book being a whopping 270-plus pages of awesome Japanese box art, there is plenty that it offers. I actually found many games within the book that I had never seen before. I’m not just talking about JRPG’s but also shooting, driving and action adventure games that truly deserved to have a European and USA release but, sadly, that was never to be. I also loved the colour scheme of the pages taking a universal colour from the box art itself allowing the box art to settle within the pages very nicely. I have many favourites in this book and some would make incredible poster art to hang framed within your game room. This original book started off as a Kickstarter project but was later picked up by Sam Dyer’s publishing arm “Bitmap Books” to see it fully realised. I wish to personally thank him for that and releasing such a must-have book. The quality of the print is as expected from Bitmap Books, in other words, second to none. The binding of the book is also excellent and ensures it will last a lifetime on your bookshelf.
But nothing is ever perfect, as much as I wished it to be. Throughout the review I have said how amazing this book is, and rightly so, but I also feel there were a few missed opportunities here. Being aware that it is a box art book, I still think this would have added greatly to the content had there been screenshots for each game as there was plenty of space to have included this. With some of the titles being Japanese-only releases there is no easy reference or connection to the actual games which the reader can associate with. So, some of the box art simply represents something the reader can’t relate too or understand without actually seeing the games themselves. This really is the only drawback I found with the book. The content is great, light, and interesting and is all about the artwork. Stuart and his team have done an amazing job and I truly urge any fans of this system or retro gaming in general to pick this up straight away. If you don’t, you’re missing out yet again on a fantastic book and, with Bitmap Books new “SNES Compendium” Kickstarter appearing in April, this book will be the perfect companion for it. To pick up this awesome book head over to Bitmap Books where it retails for £24.99.
Creator of forth coming Coin-Op:Arcade Guide and creator of the Atari Gamer Magazine and the Atari ST Gamer Magazines. Retro gaming expert & fact finder.