calebjross's Blog

Posted on Sep 4th 2019 at 06:08:02 PM by (calebjross)
Posted under Mega Man 3, book,book review,video game book

I'm thinking what you're thinking: Why Mega Man 3 as the topic of a book? Thankfully, Salvatore Pane anticipates this question. In short, it's because he likes that one. And simple personal connection is part of the appeal of this, and many other Boss Fight Books. It's why I read them.

There's a part of me that reads every Boss Fight Books release as a mystery novel, despite them all being not mysteries and not fiction. But I do. I read the title which is always the subject game and wonder why that game is deserving of a book. Some choices are obvious considering the significance of the game, but I actually look forward more to the books about the games I'm not familiar with, like Mega Man 3, the subject of Salvatore Panes book. For me, the Mega Man chronology is sparse. Mega Man 2 is number one. Mega Man's appearance in the cartoon Captain N: The Game Master is number two. Numbers three and four are probably Mega Man X and Mega Man 11. And the final game in my series is Mega Man: The Power Battle, an arcade cabinet game released in 1995 which I got to play in Chicago's amazing Galloping Ghosts arcade a couple years ago. Sure, my chronology is nonsensical, but with a series that notoriously doesn't change much from entry to entry and whose thru-narrative is weak at best, my haphazard chronology is just as valid as any other, dammit.

So I approached Pane's book with questions, but not enough questions to be defensive. I was willing to be taught. Pane spends some of the book justifying his decision to write about Mega Man 3 as opposed to the much more well-known Mega Man 2 with some historical notes and quips about the vocal fan bases in favor of 3, but honestly the reader gets the sense that those justifications are largely subservient to Panes simple love of 3 over all of the other entries. And that's absolutely valid.

The history of the entire Mega Man franchise is explored to some degree here, with no one entry even the titular 3 receiving a comprehensive exploration. We get some Mega Man 3 level-by-level descriptions and a lot of great history regarding the creators of the game, especially the roles that series originator Akira Kitamarua and series adoptive father Kenji Inafune played, but beyond that this book treats the series as a whole, with a focus on the NES entries. Which I think is absolutely valid. When dealing with a series where many entries can be fairly interchangeable, it's warranted to use one entry as a catalyst to explore the entire series. So people wanting a book dedicated 100% to just Mega Man 3 will be disappointed. But I'd argue that those people are probably used to disappointment (even many fans of Mega Man 3 agree that it's not a technically great game).

What I wasn't expecting was for this book to spend so much time not only outside Mega Man 3 but outside the series altogether. Pane steps away from the series many times to explore the retro gaming scene beginning with the mid 2000's. He writes about how he came across the Angry Video Game Nerd, RetrowareTV, and NintendoAge, all personalities and communities that thrive because of the same nostalgia that brought Pane himself back to the retro video games and the Mega Man series. The inclusion of these elements could be seen as a way to stretch the book beyond its focus. That would be fair, as these retro gaming celebrities and fan communities aren't unique to Mega Man at all, and therefore could support any of the Boss Fight Books released to date. The danger is, of course, permissing every Boss Fight Book to feel like it has to include these references lest they be considered faulty, and in doing so the unique angles writers could bring to the games and their stories is compromised. But Pane doesn't just report as an outsider. These communities were integral to his reintroduction to Mega Man 3. Though he discusses them as entities whose historical connections to Mega Man 3 are essentially nonexistent, the personal connection is enough for me to forgive how much page space he gives to these non-Mega Man 3 elements. In fact, I enjoyed these aspects so much that I'd love to read an entire book from Pane about retro gaming and the surrounding communities.

Overall, Mega Man 3 by Salvatore Pane is a great book and a fitting part of the Boss Fight Books catalog. It dovetails a games history with the author's own personal stories in an engaging way. Though the book may deviate more than expected from the subject game, the deviations turn out to be my favorite parts of the book, so I cannot complain.

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