Review: The History of Nintendo Vol. 1 – 1889-1980

Everybody knows that Nintendo is an old company. Most fans know about their history as a card and toy company along with infamous forays into love hotels and instant rice. Few know the story of exactly how Nintendo went from the card making company Nintendo Koppai to the multinational video gaming juggonaut it is today.

Whereas most books on Nintendo simply focus on the production of their gaming systems or their performance in the video game market, The History of Nintendo Vol. 1 – 1889-1980 attempts to fill the gaps in the general public knowledge of the company by taking us through the story of Nintendo from its foundation through to the period just prior to the release of the Game & Watch.

The book was produced by Florent Gorges in association with Isao Yamazaki, and published independently through Gorges’ Pix’n Love Publishing. It was originally published in French in 2007; this is the first book that the company has published in English.

This isn’t just a simple fan work expanded into book form, however – this book completely blows away any other piece of media that has covered Nintendo’s pre-gaming past to date. The bredth of coverage and the in-depth research that went into this book is simply amazing.

The History of Nintendo Vol. 1 is broken up into eight sections. The first second is a no holds barred trip through the history of Nintendo, charting the company’s rise from a small card making company to major toy maker to video gaming pioneer. Gorges shares of both good times and bad – from the struggles card makers faced when many types of card games were outlawed to the successes the company had when they became a major licensor of Disney. The author doesn’t shy away from making an honest protrayal of Hiroshi Yamauchi, the long time chairman of the company who is famously known for being abrasive and controlling.

Once the history portion is out of the way, the book shifts its focus onto the products which Nintendo released prior to the Game & Watch. Each chapter covers a particular class of product, be it cards, toys, board games, arcade games or standalone console. Each product is accompanied by a picture and a brief description at the very least – Gorges goes into greater detail on some of the more famous products (the Color Game consoles, the Ultra Hand and Love Tester), as well as some of the obscure ones (the failed attempt to bring Twister to Japan, for instance). The sheer volume of products the company released is astonishing yet the quality of the coverage never waivers.

The only noticeable issue with the book is the frequency of translation errors. It’s understandable given that this is the first book Pix’n Love has released in English, but some readers may find it distracting. The text can be a little dry at times as well. The publisher has indicated that they will be using a different translator for future books.

Minor translation quibbles aside, The History of Nintendo Vol. 1 is a must-read book. No other book goes this deep into the history of Nintendo – after reading it, you will have a much greater appreciation for the company and be amazed by just how far they have come. The level of detail and quality coverage in the book make the wait for the future History of Nintendo volumes all the more difficult.