Disclaimer: The author and I came to a disagreement over an article he wrote. We have since emailed and have cleared the air on the topic. My copy of the book was complementary.
It is no secret that I believe the Sega MegaDrive to be the pinnacle of console greatness; with the Atari’s and NES’ of the past all leading up to this epitome of wonder and all systems since paling in comparison. While this unfortunately is not a widely held belief, you can understand my pant-wettingly excited reaction when I discovered that Read-Only Memory had created a gorgeous Sega MegaDrive/Genesis: Collected Works coffee table book complete with rich, beautiful images and in-depth interviews, and that I was being given the chance to review it.
I thought there was no way that the online images could live up to the reality but they absolutely do. The imprinted hardcover is simple, stylish perfection, and the pages are so slick, thick and glossy that you almost don’t want to soil them with human hands. It is, in short, beautiful: a work of art in its own right.
It begins with an interesting and concise rundown of the MegaDrive’s history, from its conception all the way through to the release of the 32X. The writing is accessible and a pleasure to read, punctuated by various artworks and stills from advertising campaigns. As a resident of Japan so much of the inner workings of Sega at the time stood out to me as distinctly Japanese and so had me chuckling at the mismatch of cultures between the Japanese and North American companies.
The bulk of the book is made up of images, from technical drawings and concepts for everything from hardware to software art including finished sprites from all their classic games as well as designs that didn’t quite make it all the way to store shelves. Many of these images fold out to extra large sizes, and can keep you entertained for hours in the sheer complexity and detail.
The book ends with multiple interviews from people involved with Sega on the MegaDrive in Japan as well as North America, and give interesting insights into what working on the project was like. This includes the obvious, such as long hours and nights spent in the office, all the way through to specific characters, concepts and techniques which had to be removed for the sake of time management. While these interviews were certainly interesting, they are numerous, and after the first few dozen I found it hard to muster the excitement to continue reading through staff interviews from people who generally seemed to have shared experiences with the company. Still these interviews can be seen as added extras for the most ardent fanboys and don’t detract from the book as a whole.
Overall, I have few negatives to say about the title. While I would have enjoyed more in terms of the development of the project I can understand a desire to keep things concise and as always there should be an emphasis on quality over quantity. My main gripe would be the focus on a limited number of titles. While I understand the desire to keep a focus on just a few of the more popular titles to give in depth analysis of say Golden Axe, Phantasy Star, Sonic and Streets of Rage series’ and stop it wandering into small tidbits on every one of the MegaDrive’s hundreds of titles, I can’t pretend I wasn’t disappointed by the lack of inclusion of some of my favourite titles such as Chiki Chiki Boys, Rolo to the Rescue or many of the Disney titles.
My main issue lay not with content but with pricing. At around $65 (including postage) this book while highly desirable would have been too rich for my blood, but is definitely worth the cost and would make an extraordinary and unusual gift for the MegaDrive fanatic in your life. It’s certainly a niche title, but one that is so beautifully executed it will be treasured eternally by those certain few.