Hardcore Gaming 101 is arguably one of the best sources online when it comes to video game information. Their in-depth articles on major game series and obscure games have a level of research and attention to detail that makes a lot of online game writing look pretty poor by comparison.
Last year, the crew behind the site released their debut book, Hardcoregaming101.net Presents: The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures (which we’ll get around to soon enough). Now they’ve moved on from adventure games to the illustrious archive of Sega with Hardcore Gaming 101 Presents: Sega Arcade Classics Vol. 1, the first in a series of books exploring the company’s back catalogue.
Volume 1 features a combination of brand new articles and articles which were previously published on the Hardcore Gaming 101 website, but tidied up for print publication. Over 70 games are covered in all; the vast majority belonging to larger series – Alex Kidd, After Burner, OutRun, Space Harrier, Wonder Boy, Fantasy Zone and Shinobi, while the rest are one-offs like Gain Ground, Crack Down and Alien Storm. The cover is adorned by an image drawn by Jonathan “Persona” Kim (who worked as an animator on Skullgirls and Scott Pilgrim) featuring a variety of Sega arcade characters.
Each game is examined in detail, offering explanations of the basic gameplay, evaluation of each port to home consoles and computer platforms, highlights of trivia and cameo appearances, and references to any games that took heavy inspiration from that particular title. There are also plenty of pictures to accompany the prose – gameplay shots, box arts from across the world, original arcade flyers and pictures of arcade cabinets. The layout of each entry is tidy and well executed, and superbly written – one has to really admire the way each article gets into every nook and cranny of a game without exhausting the reader with information overload. Extra sections towards the back of the book look into obscure things such as Tiger Electronics handheld versions of Sega games, soundtrack release details for many of the games, and notes on Sega compilations and re-releases to date.
The only real issue with the book is that most of the content will be familiar to regular readers of the website, though you can appreciate the thorough proof reading and editing the content received in the process of conversion to book form. Obviously the website also has extra multimedia content that doesn’t convert to book form, but the book tends to be a bit more aesthetically pleasing. I imagine that the balance of old and new content will change from book to book. Of course, if you’re unfamiliar with the website, then this isn’t an issue.
We heartily recommend Hardcore Gaming 101 Presents Sega Arcade Classics Volume 1 to anyone looking to give their Sega knowledge a big boost. Allegedly this is set to be a series of seven books – we look forward to the rest (and other HG101 books) with great interest.