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Pat Contri, Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the SNES Library December 2, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Baseball, Basketball, Books, Education, Football, Internet, Media, Radio, Sports, Technology, TV, Video, Video Games.
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I photographed my copy of Guide to the SNES Library shortly after completing it Sunday

Two months and one day after completing Pat Contri‘s Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Librarywhich I reviewed here – my pre-order copy of the special edition of his Guide to the SNES Library arrived on my front porch.

Once again, the guide is as big as an educational textbook. Now that I think of it, this book is educational. There’s much to learn about the Super Nintendo Entertainment System within its 445 pages (plus a few pages listing Kickstarter contributors).

When I tweeted on Sunday that I finished reading, Pat wondered what my muscle gains were, considering the book’s heft. I replied thusly:

I was late in boarding the NES bandwagon, not getting a console until February 1990, over four years after its initial release in the New York Metropolitan Area. The Super NES, released on August 23, 1991, is a different story. Besides commercials, my first exposure to the console came at my friend Jessie’s house. I regularly played Super Mario World and F-Zero on her projection TV as 1991 gave way to ’92. After saving up part of the cost, my parents got a console for me and my sister Lauren in late January. In the months that followed, I spent many hours playing games, especially the aforementioned Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart (an 11th birthday present), and Mario Paint. I discovered all of Super Mario World’s exits and repeatedly watched the end credits. I would get emotional at the scene with the Yoshi eggs hatching. I successfully beat all cups in Super Mario Kart in all cc modes, and I loved the Rainbow Road theme. And as a weather buff, I had fun making radar loops with Mario Paint’s animation feature.

In nearly 28 years, I’ve amassed a collection of 46 Super Nintendo games. Reading this guide inspired me to add to that collection, at least somewhat.

Guide to the SNES Library chronicles all games released in North America and PAL territories in alphanumerical order, from 3 Ninjas Kick Back and The 7th Saga to Zool and Zoop. (Yes, those are their names.)

Pat Contri was not alone in reviewing the games. Returning from Guide to the NES Library are Asheton “Ashi” Phinney (I loved his alliteration, puns, and rhymes), Jim Evans, and Karen Niemla. The new recruits are Daniel Anderson, Daniel Greenberg, Dagan Moriarty, Kyh Yang, Alli Flanagan (who, like Pat, appeared in The Video Game Years), Pete Skerritt, and Mike Vito. Visual effects artist Yoshi Vu provided cart and hardware images, and additional cover art. The foreword was written by Jirard Khalil, a.k.a. The Completionist.

As with Guide to the NES Library, most pages in Guide to the SNES Library are devoted to two games. An image from one of the games is blurred in the background with two images from each game appearing above and below the review. The top of the page shows the games’ cartridge designs and lists their genre, release date, developer, publisher, number of players, special features, availability during the SNES’s life (from “very common” to “extremely rare”), and star rating. There are 10 ratings that range from half a star (one small star, “poor”) to 2 1/2 stars (two big stars and one small star, “average”) to 5 stars (five big stars, “classic”). Reviews can take up anywhere from a fifth of the page to a third of it, followed by the reviewers’ “reflections.” Reviewers are identified by their initials (i.e. PC, PS, AP, DG).

Eleven landmark titles with five-star ratings got full page reviews, including EarthBound, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario World and its sequel, and Super Metroid. Those reviews take up more space on the page than regular half-page reviews. I only own four of the games out of those eleven, and only two that I listed here. Some five-star games only got half a page, such as Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, Super Street Fighter II, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. I have two of those, along with one that I didn’t mention. You’ll have to buy the book to find out which other five-star games were only on half a page and which got the full page treatment.

The tone of game reviews ranged from clinical to critical, but not in your face or obnoxious. I’m just glad the SNES versions of Tetris 2 and Yoshi’s Cookie weren’t treated as harshly. As I mentioned earlier, I currently have 46 SNES games, and I plan on buying some of the easier-to-obtain games in the book with ratings of 4, 4 1/2, or 5 stars to add to the collection. If they cost over $100, forget it. No Pocky & Rocky for me.

There were plenty of sports games released for the Super Nintendo that I read about. At the moment, I only have four: NBA Hangtime (which I also have on the Genesis and Nintendo 64), NBA Jam: Tournament Edition, True Golf Classics: Pebble Beach Golf Links and Super Bases Loaded. While reading about Midway games like NBA Jam, I learned who that the voice of most of those games was Tim Kitzrow. Besides NBA Jam, Tim also voiced the NFL Blitz series, which I enjoyed on the N64. He included video of an appearance on FOX Sports West on his website:

NBA Hangtime, Midway’s successor to NBA Jam, was voiced by longtime Bulls TV play-by-play announcer Neil Funk, who is retiring at the end of this season. Other TV announcers and analysts to lend their voices to sports games on the Super Nintendo are Al Michaels, Jack Buck, Pat Summerall, and of course, John Madden, to name a few.

After 400 pages of North American and PAL releases, there are chapters on special and promo cartridges, test cartridges, select games from the Japanese Super Famicom library, a look at some unreleased games (by Evan Gowan of SNES Central), and the SNES console and its accessories.

Guide to the SNES Library concludes with supplemental articles. Three of the articles were based on the authors’ YouTube videos. James Rolfe‘s “The Console Wars: SNES vs. Sega Genesis” was taken from a two-part video in 2012, which was combined into one part on the Cinemassacre Plays subchannel:

James and Pat Contri’s friendship dates back to their early days on YouTube. They’ve occasionally collaborated on videos. In fact, their latest went up on Saturday night:

Kelsey Lewin‘s supplemental article was on the Life Fitness LifeCycle Exertainment Bike, based on her video from last year:

In addition to her YouTube channel, Kelsey is the co-owner with her husband Cody of Pink Gorilla Games and co-director with Frank Cifaldi of The Video Game History Foundation. For you sports fans, Kelsey’s father is play-by-play announcer Josh Lewin. You may know him from his stints with the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers on TV, and the New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Chargers, and UCLA Bruins football and men’s basketball on radio. Those and other credits can be found here.

And speaking of sports, the third article based on a video was Norman Caruso‘s Gaming Historian 2016 episode on Nintendo‘s ownership of the Seattle Mariners, which he posted as Nintendo was selling most of their shares. The episode had periodic quote readings by YouTubers, and Pat read a quote – in a sinister tone – from Fay Vincent, commissioner of Major League Baseball at the time of Nintendo’s purchase. Unfortunately, MLB forced the removal of the video, so I can’t embed it here.

As for the rest of the supplemental articles, Chris Kohler’s entry on the SNES CD-ROM originally appeared on Kotaku last September. Roger Barr, Andre Meadows, and Karen Niemla supplied original articles. It’s worth reading each article, especially the ones based on videos so you can see differences in text.

It took 19 days to read 445 pages of Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the SNES Library. Once again, I kept a journal of how many pages I read per day. Dividing 445 by 19, I averaged about 24 pages a day. I mostly imagined my own voice in my head as I read the reviews, but I occasionally thought of certain public figures narrating them. I had Pat’s voice in mind when I read his reviews.

Guide to the SNES Library was another great read! Thanks to Pat Contri and his fellow reviewers Ashi Phinney, Daniel Anderson, Daniel Greenberg, Kyh Yang, Karen Niemla, Alli Flanagan, Jim Evans, Dagan Moriarty, Pete Skerritt, and Mike Vito.

For those that grew up with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, are collecting for it, or just want to learn about it, this book is a must. There are eight versions available for purchase ranging from $59.99 to $99.99, or $29.99 for just the digital download. I have the $79.99 special edition, but I recommend the physical/digital combo at $99.99. I should have bought that in the first place, but I didn’t mind paying an extra $10 yesterday for the digital download and paying the same price to download the NES guide. Having the books physically and digitally is the ultimate experience.

There will eventually be an Ultimate SNES Game Guide Collecting app for iOS and Android. I will update this post when it’s available.

Pat Contri, Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library September 13, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Books, DVD, Internet, Technology, Video, Video Games.
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A cropped photo of my copy after returning from day 1 of this year’s Long Island Retro Gaming Expo

Pat Contri was a name I’d heard of since I started regularly watching YouTube channels a few years ago, but I’d never seen his videos, listened to his podcasts, or bought his merchandise. My only exposure to him was the Angry Video Game Nerd episode he appeared in, which he wrote with series creator and star James Rolfe. My unfamiliarity dissolved after visiting Pat’s table last month at the Long Island Retro Gaming Expo. I got to meet him and his friend and colleague Ian Ferguson…:

…and I bought early episodes of the Pat the NES Punk YouTube series on DVD along with Pat’s comprehensive 2016 book: Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library.

As with Leonard Herman’s Phoenix IV last year, I vowed to read the Guide to the NES Library after the expo. After reading a couple of preface pages on the Uber ride home on August 10, I held off on the rest of the book until 12 days later, August 22. I had another day of the expo, photos to edit, a recap to write, cousins to hang out with while they visited for a few days, and a photo editing project for a friend. In my downtime, I worked my way through the three sets of DVDs. As I neared the end of the third set, my photo editing project was complete, which meant I could finally commit to Pat’s guide.

Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library is as big as an educational textbook and just as heavy. It’s 437 glossy pages long, but the last five pages are a list of the book’s financial backers. So, I read two more preface pages, then moved on to the main 432.

The book chronicles each and every game released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America, from the numbered titles like 1942 and 8 Eyes to Zoda’s Revenge and Zombie Nation.

Pat is not alone in reviewing each game, as he is joined by Ian Ferguson, Asheton “Ashi” Phinney, Brett Weiss, Jim Evans, Joe Pingree, Karen Niemla, and Joey “Roo” DeSena.

Most pages are devoted to two games. An image from one of the two games is in the background while four images from each game are on the bottom. The top of the page shows the games’ cartridge designs and lists their genre, release date, developer, publisher, number of players, special features, whether the game is licensed or unlicensed, availability (from “very common” to “extremely rare”), and star rating. There are 11 ratings ranging from bomb (“awful and/or broken”) to 2 1/2 stars (“average”) to 5 stars (“classic”). Below that is the review, which can be a few short sentences in medium type or several paragraphs in small type. Then the reviewer, identified by their initials (i.e. PC, IF, JD), will add their “reflections.”

The landmark titles get their own pages with additional images. Such titles include the three Super Mario Bros. games, The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II, the unlicensed Tengen version of Tetris, and Tecmo Super Bowl.

Following 387 pages of North American releases, the book concludes with PAL exclusive games, HES (Home Entertainment Suppliers) games, special and promo cartridges (i.e. Nintendo World Championships 1990), test cartridges, label variants, the NES console and its major accessories, supplemental articles, and images of unreleased games.

It took me 21 days to read 432 pages of Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library. Along the way, I kept a journal of how many pages I read each day. I started with 12, then 14, 18, 20, 24, and 50 and 53 pages on two of my last three days. For some games, I imagined certain public figures in my head reading in their voice. I thought of Bob Costas for baseball games, Mike “Doc” Emrick for hockey games, Ahmad Rashad for basketball ones, Jim Lampley for boxing, Liev Schreiber for football, David Feherty for golf, and even Matt Ezero for some games he evaluated in his LJN Defender videos. For reflections, in the case of Pat, Ian, and Roo, I imagined them reading for themselves.

When I wasn’t reading on the first 11 days, I finished Pat Contri’s DVDs, watched all ten episodes of The Video Game Years on Amazon Prime, and caught up on most of Pat’s non-podcast videos from 2012 to the present. That included all later Pat the NES Punk and Flea Market Madness episodes.

It was neat to read about games that I previously saw in Punk episodes, like Baseball Stars, Dance Aerobics, Sqoon, and Wall Street Kid. It was also satisfying to know that some games in my collection were uncommon, such as Wario’s Woods.

The tone of the book’s reviews range from clinical to overly critical. I was satisfied with all but three reviews: Tetris 2, Wheel of Fortune: Featuring Vanna White, and Yoshi’s Cookie. I liked those games growing up, getting plenty of mileage out of them. I treated Tetris 2 and Yoshi’s Cookie as endurance tests, playing until a game over. For Wheel of Fortune: Featuring Vanna White, I played solo, hitting select during the puzzle selection each round until I finally got a big one. That meant more money to win on the wheel. In …Guide to the NES Library, Tetris 2 and Yoshi’s Cookie were dismissed as lousy cash-ins. Wheel of Fortune: Featuring Vanna White was considered a step down from the Rare-developed games that preceded it. “Pat Sajak would not be pleased,” wrote Pat Contri in the reflections.

There were sporadic typos or word omissions, and (counting Console Wars author Blake Harris’s foreword) six instances of my pet peeve phrase “at the end of the day” (thank goodness there weren’t more), but ultimately, the book was a great read.

If you grew up with the Nintendo Entertainment System, are collecting for it, or you just want to learn about the console that revived the video game industry, buy this book, available for $59.99. You’ll love it. And when you’re finished with that, be sure to pre-order Pat’s next book, a Guide to the SNES Library, which will focus on the Super Nintendo’s games. It’s also available for $59.99, or you can buy the special edition for $79.99.

Lastly, there’s a $4.99 app called Ultimate Game Guide – on Android and iOS – which contains all NES games from all regions, as well as accessories and console variants. If you select a game, it includes the statistics and review from the book, though not the reflections. You can even keep track of the games you have in your collection, and go to Amazon or eBay to check listings for the ones you don’t.

11/13 UPDATE: The special edition of Pat’s Guide to the SNES Library arrived on my front porch yesterday. I will begin reading today and will dedicate a post to it when I’m finished, likely sometime next month.

12/3 UPDATE: Here is that post.