At the beginning of this summer, I realized I wanted to try writing up reviews of books about video games. There are a lot of factors for why, but only two are important right now: my love for Boss Fight Books' Earthbound, and my dislike of Blake Harris's Console Wars. But since I've never played Earthbound, and I really don't wanna force myself through Console Wars, I'll try and tackle Chrono Trigger instead.
At the end of the first chapter of Chrono Trigger, Williams writes:
I hope this book becomes a key item for you- a Gate key- that unlocks new ideas and views into the rich worlds within and behind the world of Chrono Trigger.
The book is successful in unlocking and unfolding Chrono Trigger, in transporting the reader into Guardia and through the game's events. Chronopedia lurkers may not learn any new facts, although interviews with translators Ted Woolsey and Tom Slattery should interest the most obsessive of fans.
But you shouldn't read this book just to learn more about Chrono Trigger as a game. Or, that shouldn't be your only reason.
More than any other medium, talking about games requires discussing how we consume games. This isn't always done intelligently, in my opinion, as things like review scores put experiences into a hierarchy. But Boss Fight Books has hit upon a method of delving into a game holistically. Chrono Trigger is not only a critical look at a beloved game, but also an autobiographic and historic look as well. We learn how the threads of this game are interwoven through the author's life, how it has served to define him. We see the game contextualized within the history of Japan, and society at large. Ultimately, this is a book which looks at a game in order to look at life.
The book opens with the narrator as a child. There is a nostalgia present in his memories, but nostalgia isn't required to enjoy this book. I have to confess, I first read Chrono Trigger before purchasing and playing the DS remake of Chrono Trigger. (I have since reread it to make this review.) It is an investigation into and a celebration of the game's past, open to anyone regardless if you are blessed with rose-tinted glasses or not.
It reads smoothly. The narrator's tone shifts and slides between critical, didactic and personal with only an occasional hiccup. No sections drag on. If anything, they sometimes seem all too brief. I kept reading because I wanted to delve deeper into this book, into the stories of and about this game.
The high and low points, for me, came when viewing Chrono Trigger against the backdrops of history and society, respectively. I found the threads drawn between the Day of Lavos and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki especially interesting. Granted, my hometown was secretly founded in WW2 to produce nuclear material for the bombs (Oak Ridge, TN, if you're curious), so if Japan is Guardia than I'm from the birthplace of Lavos.
There are a couple stumbling points. When Williams tries to look at Chrono Trigger with regards to diversity, the writing looses some focus. The pull these sections exert is less, and I found myself wanted to return to reading about what Chrono Trigger is, rather than what it isn't. But these sections aren't long, and he's noting a lack of representation, rather than complaining about it. Additionally, there are some overreaching comments made on the human condition which feel iffy. I don't want statements which try to feel important. I can read the mundane happily enough.
These aren't any big knocks against the book as a whole, though. You don't always have to agree with Williams' opinion to enjoy this book. I don't. For instance, he egregiously fails to mention that Ayla is clearly the best character, nor does he call Magus out as the floaty fucking tool that he is. But the pleasure of this book is in seeing Chrono Trigger through another's eyes.
I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically recommend this book. You don't have to love the game, or even have played it. And because there is a StoryBundle going on from now to Sept 11, you only have to pay $3 to pick it up. Though, it would be awful nice of you to pay more. Regardless, a good, quick read at a minimum of three bucks is definitely something worth grabbing. Sit back, relax, put on a copy of the Chrono Trigger Soundtrack and dive in.
((Ayla>>>>>>>>Magus, easily. Badass cavewomen will always be leagues ahead of half-assed Piccolo clones))
I'm trying to decide my next book to review right now. I liked writing this so I'll put out at least another whether y'all particularly liked this or not. I would love to get suggestions (or free books, haha, but I know that's not happening). Anyways, if there is something you wanna see reviewed, please let me know. Sleepiest out.