The story of Nintendo’s rise and the beloved icon who made it possible
Nintendo has continually set the standard for video game innovation in America, starting in 1981 with a plucky hero who jumped over barrels to save a girl from an ape.
The saga of Mario, the portly plumber who became the most successful franchise in the history of gaming, has plot twists worthy of a video game. Jeff Ryan shares the story of how this quintessentially Japanese company found success in the American market. Lawsuits, Hollywood, die-hard fans, and face-offs with Sony and Microsoft are all part of the drama. Find out about: Mario’s eccentric yet brilliant creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, who was tapped for the job because he was considered expendable; Minoru Arakawa, the son-in-law of Nintendo’s imperious president, who bumbled his way to success; and the unexpected approach that allowed Nintendo to reinvent itself as the gaming system for the nongamer, especially now with the Wii.
Even those who can’t tell a Koopa from a Goomba will find this a fascinating story of striving, comeuppance, and redemption.
©2011 Jeff Ryan (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“One of America’s favorite pastimes is covered in exhaustive, enthusiastic detail.” (Publishers Weekly)
Ray Porter is my favorite narrator and his reading can make an average book feel great. I think this might be why this book gets such good reviews. Either that, or die-hard Nintendo fans love hearing lists of the gazillions of variations on all the Mario games.
What I got from this book was that Nintendo found a formula that worked and were careful to not change things too much and milk that baby for all they could get out of it.
Don't get me wrong - I like Nintendo. I like that their devices and games are usually high quality, family friendly and I especially liked the Wii with its introduction of less sedentary gaming.
But after the first hour the book, it became less of a personal story and entrepreneurial success story and more like a high level chronology of a corporation's product rollouts.
Still, Ray Porter can make the ingredients list on a packet of peach rings sound enthralling :-)
Wow! What a great read!
Don't get me wrong, I love my nonfiction, documentarian fare when it comes to reading; but when it comes to books of this type, I am accustomed to informative rather than entertaining.
I finished this book in under 24 hours (where typically I take days or weeks). It was just that interesting and fun(!) to listen to!
To be sure, it contains a few (minor) factual errors, and the narrator occasionally produces a cringeworthy pronunciation...but if you have any interest in Nintendo, Mario, or the history of videogames in general, read this well-researched, well-written book. You won't be sorry.
As someone who was born in 71, this book was meant for me. It should be required reading for people who read Ready Player One, which I highly recommend. I knew things the reader was going to say before he said it, which is always a treat when listening to an audio book, but the real treat was that he would then give you the behind the curtain details. Pop culture has put forth so many myths about games, characters, and the Big N itself and this book dispels them all. This book even features snip-its about Mikhail Gorbachev, George W. Bush, astronauts, the Beatles and to many others to list. As the book went through each era, I can remember where I was, who my friends where, the rumors that would fly about the next greatest thing that was coming out. It's easy to be an armchair quarterback and hindsight is always 20/20 right... but I can look back and remember how my friends and I would think than Nintendo was genius at times or wondering what the hell they were thinking. This book gives you real insight to the evolution of a business, an industry, a culture and a way of life. From a business stand point this shows how making sure it's right before it comes out is critical... "there's no such thing as late game once it comes out, but a bad game will always be bad". On the other hand the race could be over by the time your unbeatable car is finished.
I've read a number of other video game books but never listened to one -- the read does an incredible job on this. The book itself is quite good and even the biggest Nintendo nerd will learn something. Note to the author however, what's with the stupid Green Peace mention at the end? Completely out of place and annoying, but it's only like a minute or two so don't let that ruin the book. I would love to see the author do a full history of Nintendo, this covers a lot of it, but there is a lot of stuff missed as well since this focuses more of Mario. Highly recommend this to any video game / technology / child of the 80s nerd.
Funny, clever, interesting writing with energetic poise narration. I often found myself laughing aloud and being refilled with a long lost desire to revisit my favorite Nintendo games as I continued to listen to this great audiobook. Well worth the time and money!
Jeff Ryan clearly knows how to write about videogames - that is to say that he knows how to spin un-researched anecdotes as probable facts, and how to turn attention to merchandise and pop culture rather than the topic at hand. I learned more about Captain Lou than I did about Nintendo, Miyamoto or Mario.
If I hadn't already listened to Masters Of Doom, this would have turned me off from videogame nonfiction entirely. It's pretty well-known that games writers are not great nonfiction writers, and the idea of a stack of books of this quality is enough to make me steer clear. Luckily David Kushner has already shown that it is possible to write a compelling, well researched, nonfiction story about game studios, so I remain hopeful that lightning can strike twice.
The reader seemed bored most of the time, and when he tried to spice things up, it always fell flat. One moment that stuck out was when he described Mario's accent in the cartoons, he said the words "New York accent" in a cartoonish BOSTON accent. It gives me douche chills just thinking about it.
If you're looking for a more-or-less chronological list of Mario themed merchandise from the 90s, you'll find it here. If you just want to hear someone utter the words "Super Mario Bedsheets" so you can say "HEY! I had those" then you might like this book.
Jeff Ryan's style is rather akin to the kind of writing one finds in the A.V. Club or Wired magazine--smart, brisk, and lightly sarcastic. And this is the kind of story you'll read in places like those, too--just expanded into epic full-length book form.
This is the first Ray Porter narration I've listened to. His voice and rhythm reminds me a lot of James Spader for some reason. This is certainly no complaint.
Watching my kids and their friends play video games as they grew up, I never knew what was going on in the production and business end of gaming. Ryan brings it all out and in a most entertaining and enlightening manner. Is Mario Mario ?
I grew up in the eighties and played loads of Nintendo games. This book is a straightforward look at the founding and rise of the game company, which was actually founded in the late 1880’s as a card company in Japan but made its first big splash in the U.S. with the 1981 release of Donkey Kong (a mistranslated title that the designers originally intended to be something along the lines of “Stubborn Ape”).
This book is not intended to have Pulitzer-level writing, so yes: as some reviewers have pointed out, the author uses awkward and frequent metaphors. Take, for example, the following excerpt in which the author explains that Shigeru Miyamoto, the game designer who created Mario, generally avoided complex storylines while his engineers sometimes “snuck” them into his games: “All Miyamoto wants from [Mario] is a connection to gamers. He’s at one end of a tug-of-war, pulling for Mario to be recreational, away from the half-hour cut scenes of the storytellers on the other end of the rope. But Miyamoto is only one man, and thus some very clever story sometimes sneaks in under the portcullis.”
The book focuses on describing the design, marketing, gameplay, and ideas behind many of Nintendo’s most- and least-popular titles and game systems. Readers will no doubt remember many of these with great fondness. The book covers far less detail about the personal politics between the people involved in the game company itself... you hear scattered stories about how people arrived at or left the company, but there is nothing earth-shattering or extremely controversial. (If you’re looking for a saga about the internal politics at Nintendo, this story will give you a very cursory overview; look elsewhere.)
I wasn't a big fan of the audiobook narration, but it's passable and not the most critical aspect of a book like this. Ray Porter's voice sounds, remarkably, like a perfect combination of Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd. His reading reminded me of the way a sportscaster speaks, which lends itself somewhat to the tone of the book.
Overall, the book is a light and engaging read. If you grew up in the eighties and played Nintendo games and are even slightly passionate about gaming, this book is probably a good choice for you.
Hero of Time
Likely a comedy
No. The author, while expertly researching and chronicling many aspects of Nintendo's corporate history, seems not to have a personal connection to the games themselves. Consequently, many games and game franchises integral to Nintendo's story and success are glossed over or skipped, and many details fairly basic to an understanding of a specific game are erroneously reported. While the author may have a passing enthusiasm for Nintendo and video games in general, he seems to have more of a connection to the business side of Nintendo's history, which lends his book to an insufficient understanding and reporting of the history of the games themselves.
While I had no problem with the narrator's skills in general, his mispronunciation of several names and phrases - Samus Aran as "Same-us A-rau", Bob-omb as "Bob-O.M.B." (yes, he spelled the second part out), and moychandizing (from Mel Brooks' fantastic movie "Spaceballs") as "moysh-en-dizz-in" are just a few examples that spring readily to mind - really took me out of the story and led me to wonder why, when said narrator reached a word with a pronunciation he was unsure of, an attempt to deduce the correct pronunciation was not made before simply barreling through anyway. I can't remember ever hearing a narrator have so many issues with pronunciation, let alone any. It's incredibly detrimental to immersion in the story.
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