Osaka-based co-author BRIAN ASHCRAFT is the editor of Kotaku, one of the biggest gaming blogs on the net (one of the top 20 most popular blogs in the world, according to the website Technorati: http://technorati.com/pop/blogs/) with approximately 750,000 hits (23 million readers) per day.
Based in Tokyo, JEAN SNOWs art, design, and media-themed blog (www.jeansnow.net) boasts about 3,000 readers per day. Both are experts on the Japanese gaming scene, and are experienced writers: in addition to their blogging activities, Ashcraft is a contributor toWired Magazine, and Snow has a column on design in The Japan Times.
Arcade Mania is great fun for gaming fans!2008/12/3
Although arcades are all but gone in the USA, but they still live on in a big way in Japan. Take a fun trip through Japanese game centers with Arcade Mania!
This book is absolutely fantastic and definitely a must own video game book for fans of Japanese video gaming and more!2008/12/14
Dennis A. Amith
I've always been fascinated with the video games that have come from Japan and it's no secret that I play a lot of the imports (good and bad) and even in Tokyo, well take some time playing at the video game arcade machines at the local arcade or on the second-story of a grocery store in the middle of nowhere.
When you're in Japan, may it be at Sega Joypolis or a dingy arcade, you can't help be mesmerized by the various types of machines available for people to take part in. The types of games that are attracting various gamers and there is just so much available, to cover the various machines would be a major task.
That was until I read "ARCADE MANIA!" by Brian Ashcraft (with Jean Snow). I'm literally in awe of how much coverage was featured in this book. The first thing that caught my attention was the hip layout but most of all, the people featured in the book and the history behind the various arcade machines.
Brian Ashcraft's work for Kotaku.com and Wired Magazine is well-known, along with Jean Snow who also writes for Wired Magazine's Game|Life blog. Both men delivered in what probably is one of the best written books on video gaming.
Chapter 1 features "CRANE GAMES". I have to admit that when I'm in Tokyo, I spent a bit of money trying to get some of the items at these various crane games. Because the prizes offered are not always stuffed animals but some prizes are just rare items specifically for the crane game (or UFO catcher). And in Japan, when you think of crane games, you think of Yuka Nakajima.
Just reading this chapter and reading the interview with Yuka Nakajima giving her game tips, seeing the various photos of UFO catchers and also the competition between Yuka Najajima and Aya Toyoda was surprising to find its inclusion in this book but immediately, I liked where this book was heading.
Chapter 2 then goes into sticker-picture machines aka Purikura machines. If you are into Japanese pop culture, may it be a trip to your local Japanese mall in America or somewhere in Japan, it's quite fun to get a group of friends and hit the purikura machines. But what was cool about this chapter was the interview with Sakurina, a model for "Koakuma Ageha" magazine who was discovered by a scout because of purikura and now she's featured outside a variety of those machines.
Chapter 3 goes into rhythm games and its history in Japan and an interview with Aaron Chmielowiec who scored a AAA on "Dance Dance Revolution" and his ability to remember patterns (including the algorithms of "Pac Man" when was younger). This chapter was pretty cool because it features quite a bit on various rhythm-based machines including "Taiko no Tatsujin" and "Rhythm Tengoku".
Chapter 4 features shooting games (aka shoot `em ups or shmups). From the history of "Space Invaders" to "Ikaragua" to the "Shmups skills test". There is a lot of cool information on the genre in this chapter and I really enjoyed the interview with Kenta Cho who is known for his doujin software such as "Gunroar" and "Tumiki Fighters".
Chapter 5, my favorite chapter, covers fighting games. From "Street Fighter II" to SNK games and the popular PC game "Melty Blood", I just felt this chapter was well-written. And there was one key thing that definitely caught my attention in this chapter and that was the interview with Daigo Umehara and also a piece on his battle with Justin Wong at EVO 2004 (Evolution is a competitive fighting tournament that primarily featured fighting game competitions at the time).
I was at the event to interview Daigo (and the other Japanese fighting game competitors) at EVO 2004 and was also to see that comeback against Justin Wong which was detailed in the book. It was one of the most impressive competitive battles I have seen in my life and both Daigo "The Beast" and Justin Wong are two competitive individuals. To find that certain match included in this chapter was truly awesome. Wasn't expecting to see it mentioned at all but just shows how thorough Ashcraft and Snow's coverage was in each chapter. Awesome!
Other chapters include "Games of Chance" (for those who love mahjong games), "Dedicated Cabinets" featuring specialized games from gun games to driving games and a cool interview with Sega's Yu Suzuki. There is a chapter on "retro games" and a cool interview with Goichi Suda (Suda 51) of Grasshopper Manufacture fame. And a well-written in-depth chapter on "card-based" games
I can't tell you how impressed I was with this book. Brian Ashcraft and Jean Snow have done a great job with this book which was well-researched, good selections for their interviews and just a wealth of information that this book has... I'm very impressed of how well-written and well-researched this book truly is.
I've read a good share of video gaming books and to have one written about the Japanese arcade game industry but also how it seems to crossover to the video game console systems, I have no doubt that people who are fans of Japanese video games of various genres will surely find this book, not only just a good read but it's absolutely fantastic. Definitely an A+!
Arcade Mania- simply AMAZING!2008/12/6
My first date was at an arcade. I recall, fondly, my early childhood and teen years, blowing thousands of quarters and game tokens on my favorite arcade games. Beating my brother at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or X-Men was the highlight of most visits. With the demise of so many game centers in North America, I have turned to my beloved home game consoles. "Arcade Mania" takes me back to when I was a kid. As a huge fan of crane games and classic fighters, it was very interesting to learn how and when my favorite games were designed. Arcades are huge in Japan. Mr. Ashcraft does a splendid job shedding light on the true gamer mindset of the Japanese people. All sorts, salaried office workers, housewives, teenagers, and children alike spend countless hours pouring their hard earned money into varying game machines. The gamer profiles of real arcade gamers are a great addition to the historical aspect of this book. I especially related to the bit about Yuka Nakajima. This book is a must read for anyone claiming to be a gaming enthusiast. The arcade may soon be a thing of the past here in America. "Arcade Mania" allows you to share a passion for arcade gaming and recapture treasured memories from your past.
Arizona Daily Star review2009/2/20
Bloggers-turned authors have earned the reputation for solipsistic navel-gazing, but Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft proves his impressive journalistic mettle throughout the comprehensively researched and elegantly written "Arcade Mania! The Turbo-Charged World of Japan's Game Centers."
Crammed with interviews that range from superstar developers such as Suda 51 ("No More Heroes") to professional competitors, sticker-picture models and everyday Japanese gamers, Ashcraft - a Texas transplant who lives in Japan - and contributor Jean Snow mash out a cheat code that zaps you into Japan's chaotic, engrossing arcade scene.
The book is a particular joy for adult gamers who grew up slamming quarters into "Ms. Pac-Man" and "Street Fighter II" machines, only to see the economy swallow up their childhood playgrounds. If the American arcade scene has died, Japan is the heaven to which it's spiritually drifted - as well as originated from. The book says the nation throbs with nearly half a million game machines, distributed throughout nearly 10,000 arcades which serve as a throbbing pulse of the social scene. Lively, often humorous prose and offbeat, insightful quotes make the book an endless charmer throughout its too-short 191 pages. (The back page is a clever "Game Over, Continue?" prompt that made me want to dig for pocket change before the timer ran out.)
Ashcraft expertly paints a pixelated picture of the diversity, sexual openness and technological wizardry of gaming heaven. If you can think of it, Japanese arcades have tried it, and Ashcraft has recorded it into a living history that's a must-read for anyone who wants to visit the Japanese madhouse scene vicariously, or for folks like me who wonder what America's arcades might have become had they been given more time and nourishment after their 1980s heyday.
What a treat!2009/1/14
Jesse D. Watson
It's so great to see the support this book is getting, including a video review from David (CheapyD). The bubbly, happy feeling I get from the sense of community showing up to bat for Mr. Ashcraft is also the giddy, joyous sensation I get from the book itself, a tour of the Japanese childhood I always wanted but never got. BUT, not only that, these arcades still exist in Japan!
Please let Brian Ashcraft tell you all about them.
The book is impeccably organized, and the presentation (printed in Japan) is fantastic. If this is your first book "from Japan," you're in for a happy surprise. Everything from the dust jacket to the paper and ink are pristine. As soon as I saw Kodansha was the publisher, I knew this would be the case and that the work of Brian, Jean, et al, would be well taken care of. The fantastic writing is, happily, equaled by the great photography, layout and artwork. I simply can't recommend this book highly enough.
If you're interested, even to the slightest degree, in Japanese culture or Japanese video games, even if you prefer to do your gaming in the comfort of your home, you'll devour this adorable little (though information-packed!) volume. And if you already have interest in game centers, you're probably going to study this thing and read it multiple times, as I have, as much for the acumen and style as for the captivating aesthetic.
Thank you so much, Mr. Ashcraft, and big kudos to Jean Snow as well. Nothing would make me happier than to see these books to keep coming from my ludicrously talented peers (are they still my peers if I'm completely outclassed?). I've never been so proud.
Jesse Dylan Watson ____________________ The Bonus Chance Blog [...]