Title: PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 & PC-FX Anthology
Price: Approx $70
Release Date: March 2022
Not too often we review books here on SFG: I think the last time I did was a random catalog book I got sent many years ago, which was OK at best. I later got sent a SNES book from the same author, and while it was much better than the prior one I got, I didn’t really think of any good ways to cover it for the site, so I had to pass on reviewing it.
Yet a few months ago, I heard rumblings from the EU side of the pond that a super huge, impressive book covering all aspects of the NEC console library was on the verge of releasing, and it sounded kickass: hundreds of pages with info on console variations, the entire libraries for NEC covered in detail, and a ton of obscure trivia, history, and more: it’s the sort of thing I’d absorb without hesitation, and since it’s for my all time favorite video game system, I made sure to spend the money for it last month and eagerly start to read it.
Yet it angered me. Very, very much so. Thus, I just had to write this review, mainly to give critical feedback on how this english version of the book was handled, and why it’s an absolutely unacceptable product, along with some general feedback on the book layout in general. It’s clear this book was made with love, but the translation? Oh god…
From the onset, the Anthology comes in a well-presented hardcover format, with quite a bit of heft to it. Definitely surprised me at first, but with over 300 pages included, that isn’t too much out of the ordinary, and if you own any of those fancy hardcover artbooks, that should be a good visual image to the size of this thing.
Opening it up, you get your typical table of contents and some basic info on the book, with this English version by Geeksline being the non-kickstarter version: you can actually buy the KS version from their website still, but I’m honestly glad I didn’t, even though there’s an irritating design choice right off the bat here. So when this book was crowdfunded, the special edition with some extra pages like console variations and unreleased games was labeled the GUNHED Edition, and normally when something happens like that for a book, the standard edition is at least edited in a way to not feel too incomplete or lacking, and usually good enough that said KS/crowdfund bonuses feel like extra complimentary content rather than literal missing pages filled in.
Depressingly, GeeksLine took the latter route with the Anthology, as the table of contents in the standard edition outright lists the chapters in the Gunhed Editionm, so eager me went to see the unreleased games writeup, only to be faced with an abrupt end to the book. No credits page, no fancy transition, not even a notice that this content was kickstarter exclusive: I had to literally google the book out of confusion, thinking I got some sort of misprint from Amazon, since the book ends out of nowhere with little warning. Truth be told, even if there *wasn’t* any indicators of missing content in the table of contents, it’s still utterly baffling they didn’t so much as put a credits page at the end of the book to at least have some sort of closure, but as it stands here, this version of the book at least feels outright incomplete with a gaping hole. All versions that aren’t the Gunhed edition are like this, and I do not know whether or not that version gets any proper closure pages, but even then, this is just a messy way to handle bonus content.
Still, the main focus at the end of the day are the pages you do get to read, and if those are well made, then maybe this book is worth the asking price, even incomplete? Well, for some positives, I do dig that the book goes into some history behind NEC and Hudson, even predating their video game eras by a lot. While Hudson history may be more known to retro gamers, NEC as a whole seems to be generally neglected, despite their huge role on the PCE, so seeing a history segment on them and their eventual later work on PC-FX was pretty good to see. It also touches on the US side of things and the transition to the TTI era and eventual demise, but oddly didn’t do so in as much detail as the Japanese side of things.
There’s also a nifty, huge chunk of the book dedicated to covering every game in the NEC library, and the alphabetical order and structure of these mini summaries are fine enough, with nifty trivia and a look at each title, so if you have any favorites on these systems, there’s at least something to read about them.
…If they even make sense, that is. Without a doubt, the biggest downside to this book, and the main reason I sent it back to Amazon and got my money back without hesitation, is the absolutely abhorrent, abysmal, stupidly made English Translation. Dear Christ, I haven’t seem a translation so stilted since the likes of games such as Kobayashi-San, and this is from French to English! While you may be able to get a basic sense on what’s being conveyed in the book, and can at least admire the effort in the included images and page layouts, the english translation here is beyond unacceptable, with so many grammar errors, mixed up lines, repeated lines, brain-bending translation choices, to the point it outright drove me insane within the first fifty pages.
And it never improved. The entire book is like this, and feels like it never got sent to any english-speaking person for proofreading. For $70, this English version is an outright scam, due to shit translation results and the abrupt ending to this book making it feel like an incomplete draft of what seems to be a love letter to a wonderful system. And from what peers of mine who read the french version of the Gunhed edition noted, the full experience is just like that, and is way better in that fashion. But here in this english form? Geeksline should be absolutely ashamed.
In conclusion, my time with this book gave me some glimmers into the passion the authors had for this godlike console, and I really dug the core concept the book was going for. Yet Geeksline, or whoever decided to translate this book felt that throwing it at an auto-translator or someone with basic english experience without a proofreader would be enough to call it a day for this english version. This, along with the frankly stupid way the Gunhed chapters are excluded from the normal edition, (by still being in the table of contents, and the basic edition not even getting so much as a proper wrap-up/ending page, making it literally feel incomplete) makes this book absolutely impossible for me to recommend in english in any way whatsoever: for native french folks, I could probably advise checking out that version of this book, but only in Gunhed form. Since Books can’t be “patched” like most recent media… Back to Amazon it went, way before this review went live.
I give this English version of the PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 & PC-FX Anthology a huge, huge warning to stay away.. I hate to get aggressive on a tribute made for a lovely system, but when the translation quality is this abysmal and it’s being sold for nearly $70 freaking dollars in the US, I just cannot recommend this. It’s a borderline scam on the translator’s part until they do what they should have done in the first place, and properly retranslate the entire book to be of high quality, and give these authors the respect their hard work deserves.