Video Game Book Reviews
Sega Consumer History and Sega Arcade History are a pair of simultaneously-published books on Nintendo's first challenger to the Japanese console market, put out by the Famitsu DC staff. Consumer History is the more bulky of the two, covering all of SEGA's end user-targeted hardware from the SG-1000 to the various 1st party Dreamcast peripherals. The cover also advertises "and over 2434 Software," although the book only contains some 450 short introductions to games. And those are really short; one paragraph only per game, the title screen and one additional screenshot (the strict format becomes kinda amusing at Warp's Real Sound entry (the infamous graphicless game), which only shows two pitch black screens). The number 2434 simply means the complete catalog of games released in Japan for Sega hardware, which is listed in a table as an appendix.
The selection of titles introduced has somewhat of a bias towards in-house SEGA titles, and only really cares about games released in Japan, which is a huge bummer especially for Master System fans, where even many first party titles were produced exclusively for the Western markets, especially PAL territories. Some&mash;like the 8-bit version of Sonic The Hedgehog - are covered for the Game Gear, but once again only those released in Japan.
Sega Consumer History has more to offer than just game introductions, though. You get a sort of time table each for both original games and arcade ports, where every console is assossiated with the arcade hardware(s) the ports were usually based on, and every console's chapter opens with lots of photos of the actual hardware from all angles, including standard gamepads, technical specs, description of the available connections. There are a few pages of the system's career on the market, examples of the different package design templates (for Japan, once again) and comments by Hideki Sato, SEGA's hardware engineer No. 1, who also gives an introductory 5-page interview at the beginning. Thanks to his input, this is one of the most technical books on mainstream game consoles.
But the software creators are also dragged out of their cubicles to be "The Witness of History." Yuji Naka (Sonic Team), Noriyoshi Ohba (Bare Knuckle series, OverWorks studio) and Rieko Kodama (Phantasy Star, Skies of Arcadia) are only some of the more famous names, and even voices from some of the 3rd parties who particularly supported SEGA consoles (Compile, Westone, Game Arts, Climax, Camelot and Treasure) are given their time. But for a Japanese company, SEGA is very generous with retro developer interviews in general.
Interspersed miscellaneous history bits are brief but extremely interesting, there's even half a page specifically describing the emergence of adult software for the Saturn. Those pages are also the rare instances where it branches out into overseas (=North American) territory, which, aside from the dilligent listing of every North American hardware variant is spotty at best. TecToy, for example, the famous Brazilian licensee for Sega hardware, doesn't seem to even be mentioned at all.
The totally Japan-centered viewpoint is almost the book's only weakness though, maybe aside from the small format, which makes it a bit strenuous on the eyes to make out some of the photos and most of the screenshots. And of course, for Western readers, the fact that it's all in Japanese. But there's still a lot of usable data and tons of images, even if you've got no access to the interviews and history texts.