3 out of 5
Here’s maybe the most important thing regarding Michael P. Williams’ Boss Fight Books entry on Chrono Trigger: it’s incredibly entertaining. While I found myself trying to burn through Ken Baumann’s Earthbound rather quickly because I didn’t enjoy his writing style, I kept setting Chrono Trigger down for pauses between chapters because I wanted to stretch the experience out. Though Williams ends up losing a thread that keeps initial chapters very tight and focused, his narrative voice – blending game factoids with reflective real-world facts, and how those slip into and throughout his own life experiences – is constantly a joy to read, making the subject matter interesting and funny, but grounded with intelligence, and emotion. For the first half or so of the book, this is exactly what I want from Boss Fight – partial playthroughs of the game, informed by behind-the-scenes info and intelligent criticism; Williams’ back half of his take starts to skip around and wander a bit, forgetting if he’s talking to a crowd that needs a review of the game or is intimately familiar with it. But I come back around to the entertainment factor: even when the writer starts at point A and ends up at D via an unclear path, the bits and pieces on which he decides to focus, and the way he connects them to the factors that might’ve influenced their representation in the game, or how they’ve persisted in the fandom or across subsequent games, is peppered with such energy that it’s not much of a bother that you’re missing B and C. Doubling back, though, I felt so deeply invested earlier on – tapping in to knowledge and experiences that resonated – only to have it dissipate as Williams’ topics lose their sense of linearity; while that didn’t diminish the overall fun, it was a bummer to not be able to feel that up through the end.
Here’s hoping the Boss Fight entries that follow this one just continued to improve on this formula.