NES Worlds: Novels based on NES Games

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Matt Barton's picture

1UP is running a hilarious feature called 8-Bit Lit: Behind the Worlds of Power. These were books for children based on such popular NES games as Castlevania, Metal Gear, and Ninja Gaiden. The authors of the article do a great job providing snippets from these amazingly poorly written books published by Scholastic. Apparently, Scholastic was even more draconian about censorship than Nintendo!
The covers, which were based on the covers of the NES games themselves, had to be airbrushed to remove weapons, while the stories were carefully edited to remove any trace of witchcraft (ironic, since Scholastic unrolled its Harry Potter series a short while after). At any rate, it's a fun look at a bit of gaming culture that hasn't received much attention. I'm especially curious to know if any AA readers actually had these books growing up (or perhaps have them now!) If so, what are your impressions?

Comments

Mat Tschirgi (not verified)
I had the Ninja Gaiden one

I had the Ninja Gaiden one years ago. It was arguably one of the better written entries in the series, though it did take some liberties with the game, to say the least.

I also used to read some of the Mario Bros. Choose Your Own Adventure books, which had a nice bouncy style to them.

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=- Mat Tschirgi =- Armchair Arcade Editor
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Bill Loguidice
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I have several old books

I have several old books inspired by 80's Infocom favorites such as "Planetfall". As novelizations, these fall flat, with the added insult of not even using the original IF authors to write them, which you think would be a no-brainer. Shockingly, the hack who wrote "Planetfall" and "Stationfall" in paperback form, Arthur Byron Cover, has a littany of other writing credits to his name. I would assume that Mr. Cover's other books are actually readable, since he kept on getting work...

I wonder if there's a trend here with taking videogame forms and turning them into something else? Certainly making movies from games has been mostly disastrous, while novelizations have been hit or miss, with cartoons falling somewhere in-between. I think graphical novels/comics have been the most successful medium to decently translate the subject matter. What is it about videogames that make them so hard to translate to something else? Is it their interactive nature? Is it their often shallow designs? (though that's not the case with IF games, right?) There's an article or two in there somewhere...

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Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Novels based on games: Uhh, no.

Yes, this is something I've often asked myself as well. I've read several novelizations of games (Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds) and I guess it's techically true that any of the AD&D novels are somehow based on games. However, I stopped reading these books (and other "licensed" novels) when I developed enough taste to realize how cheezy they were compared to non-licensed works. I'd take J.R.R. Tolkein's ring trilogy over the whole corpus of AD&D-licensed novels anyday. Likewise, I'd take Frank Herbert's Dune over the whole library of Star Trek-licensed novels.

One of the saddest things I ever heard concerned Piers Anthony, an s.f. and fantasy novelist famous for his "Xanth" series, a pun-based fantasy world that's a treasure to read. Anyway, most of this Xanth novels were New York Times best-sellers. But when I met him at a little event at USF, he confessed that his #1 best-selling novel of all time was a novelization of the movie Total Recall. That's just sad. So VERY sad. I'm not saying that the novel sucked (I never actually read it), but it's shameful to think that so many people only encountered Piers Anthony through this novelization of a really hair-brained "Ahh-nald" sci-fi flick.

I think there's just something less creative about trying to make a novel based on some other form of entertainment, whether it be a movie or a videogame. These "novels" seem to be intended merely as type of booster for the main product; a sort of "memorabilia" or what-have-you to snare a few more dollars from foaming-at-the-mouth fans. I mean, look at this crap!! A whole trilogy dedicated to Halo? Who's got lifetime to waste reading this drivel? Heavens to Murgatroid, it's an abomination to the muses!

No, no, no. At the very best, these novelizations might serve as means of getting kids interested in reading, even though it's sad that they're so mentally limited that these books are the only ones capable of interesting their shrivelled little minds. As for the idea of a grown man reading them, well, I don't suppose I can talk, since I have been known to read Nancy Drew novels alongside The Odyssey and Descartes' Meditations in my summer reading queue. :-)

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Mat Tschirgi (not verified)
Novels based on games: Um, Yes

While I've only read a few novels based on video games, I am a big fan of the idea. For the most part they are poorly written, but a really good novel could be written based on a computer game; after all, if we have novels based on comic books (Death and Return of Superman), movies (Batman Begins), and so forth, why not games?

The few novels I've read based on the Wing Commander series and the Resident Evil series were a mixed bag. The Wing Commander novels were fun military sci fi reads that were faithful to the source material with above-average writing. The Resident Evil novels had very simplistic prose and felt like a novelized take on a walkthrough, but at least had the spirit of the games in them.

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=- Mat Tschirgi =- Armchair Arcade Editor
Hear my gaming podcasts!

The Super Koopa Troopa Show

Played to Death

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