3 out of 5
So I guess it was inevitable, but we’re at the point in the Boss Fight Books series where we’re not only covering some sequels to game that’ve already been covered, but we’re also revisiting some interview subjects, and even referencing previous books directly. It would perhaps be weirder if Alyse Knorr wrote her Super Mario Bros. 3 book in a vacuum, without namechecking the SMB2 book, but it’s also representative of the familiarity that pervades throughout the text: it never really surprises or inspires, or casts new light upon its game. Which is tough to do, with SMB3 – as Knorr points out throughout her text – often being considered The Best of The Best for video games by many, and so, certainly, you’ve had opportunity to have your own thoughts on the game, or read others’ takes on it previously; it should be commended then that Knorr’s book is undeniably very, very readable, and continues a streak for BFB of entries that choose a mature, but entertaining tone (as opposed to the too-cool-for-school snark of their first season or so of books). I also don’t want to suggest that it’s not jam-packed with information – on the game’s creation, it’s level design, it’s music – and is probably the most slickly written, in the sense that Knorr does the level-by-level bit that most of these entries do, but it never feels like we’re forced on that road, which has almost always previously been the case; similarly, there are citations out the whazoo, but at no point does it feel like we’re being read off a list of facts – the knowledge is sneaked in there, nestled amidst Knorr’s memories of playing the game and her weaving through talking to industry professionals and whatnot.
So Knorr’s writing makes an impact (I wish I was more of a poetry fan – I’d pick up more of her work, for sure, if that was my thing) – this is absolutely a person you’d want to talk games with, for hours and days – but her topic doesn’t impart us with any feelings we likely didn’t already have on it, and there’s also a missed opportunity to attempt to upset SMB 3’s halo of perfection , if slightly, which was a stated intention at the book’s outset.