Super Mario Encyclopedia
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Review by Sean Frankling
To call the Super Mario Encyclopedia an encyclopedia is generous at best. To be honest, calling it a book is pretty generous, too. Except in the obvious technical sense that it is, yes, a collection of printed pages bound to a spine. What is it then? Well, disappointing, for one.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not playing the role of snooty critic suggesting that books about video games don’t have merit. That’s not what we at Rogues Portal are all about. In fact I was really looking forward to the Super Mario Encyclopedia. But this is more of a list than an actual book. And some credit where it’s due: as a list it’s definitely exhaustive. Inside, you’ll find entries for every Mario game ever made. Plus every enemy, stage, and environmental component therein.
“Now, Sean,” I hear you say, “Have you just never read an encyclopedia before? Listing stuff is what they tend to do.” And yes, I have, thanks for asking. But encyclopedias tend to also give you some information about the things they list. Instead, the Super Mario Encyclopedia consists of page after page of postage stamp-sized screenshots of Mario games. Each with about two terse sentences of explanation of whatever enemy or level the minuscule image shows. So, it’s not exactly the polished aesthetic and original art you’d have every right to expect from a coffee table book.
In fairness to the encyclopedia’s compilers, it’s a daunting task to compile 30 years’ worth of franchise history into a single volume. But in fairness to the readers, this robotic, rapid-fire approach has got to be the least fun or readable way to do it. This should be the kind of book that you pop open and leaf through for fun. Gaze at the illustrations. Learn something new about your old friends in the Mushroom Kingdom. Instead, the experience is genuinely less fun than the old game manuals that so much of the content is cribbed from.
What’s most frustrating is the actually good version of the book you can almost see if you squint your eyes and let hope back into your heart. The Super Mario Encyclopedia could have been a blast if they’d focused on writing fun, colourful content about the characters people recognize. Dig out some of the fun obscure facts that not everyone knows about Mario. For example, did you know how much Mario’s original design was dictated by graphical limitations? The overalls delineate his legs from his torso with as few pixels as possible. The moustache removes the need to animate a mouth — ditto with the hat and his hair. A book of fewer entries with more time spent on actually teaching you something worth knowing about these classic characters would have been so much more fun to read.
The Verdict: Skip it. And you know what? For all this book sacrifices in the name of obsessive completeness? They didn’t even mention Waluigi. What’s even the point?