Member Reviews

Fascinating and well-researched archive of gaming history for fans of video games and nonfiction alike. Definitely a bookseller recommend!

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Fight, Magic, Items is the nonfiction of dreams. It's a thrilling deep-dive into Japanese roleplaying games that is suffused with so much past & current nostalgia. I really, really loved reading piece after piece by Moher, diving into different eras and imaginings of RPGs and their context within Japanese and North American society.

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There's no denying that Fight, Magic, Items: The History of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and the Rise of Japanese RPGs in the West has a distinctly fanzine vibe to it.

That's not a knock, mind. In the best zines you'll find dedicated fans grokking passionately about the objects of their obsession, often pointing out subtleties and nuances with the deft eye of an insider. Author Aidan Moher gets to do exactly that in his book about that genre of video games known as Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPGs), and the fact that its title is derived from the typical command options players are given in such games should leave little doubt about his bona fides.

As its subtitle suggests, Fight, Magic, Items is a history of how JRPGs as a genre came full circle: influenced in the beginning by tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, becoming a breakthrough hit as video game consoles found their niche in the entertainment landscape, and now having its own influence on Western game design as well. Drawing from a wide array of sources and documentation, Moher offers the backstory for nearly every major JRPG released from the heyday of the Nintendo Famicom to the current generation of consoles.

Indeed, Fight, Magic, Items appeals because of its breadth of coverage. Certainly, any of the video games or franchises that feature in the book (Earthbound! Chrono Trigger! Paper Mario!) could be the subject of a deep dive in and of itself; as such, Moher exercises restraint and discretion to deliver just the right amount of information to the reader. On the other hand, because the book takes on what is essentially a niche topic, it helps if the reader already has a passing familiarity with JRPGs. In that sense, there's a natural barrier to entry, as Moher can only do so much to describe each title and their gameplay novelties.

On a personal note, I enjoyed the book a lot because I could identify with Moher's affinity for JRPGs. They're some of my favorite games, too, and it was fun reading up on how many of them came about and were received in the market. But I will admit that Fight, Magic, Items could be challenging reading at times, because I've only played maybe a small fraction of the games Moher mentions in the book. Fortunately, we seem to like the same ones, and where we don't…he is most obviously wrong (Final Fantasy X, FTW!).

Video games have become big business and the fact that there are so many good books about them goes to show that they have come of age. There's no doubt that Fight, Magic, Items should rate with the best of them.

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Fight,Magic,Items by Aidan Moher is an informative and interesting look into the history and development of a gaming genre.
Aidan Moher strikes a wonderful balance in their writing, weaving together a passion for gaming with an excellent hand at research.
I was particularly impressed with how well quotes were worked into the main text.
This is definitely a book I will be buying a physical copy of.

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Definitely a good book to learn some history on JRPGs and it was fascinating learning more about the genre and its roots.

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There is an indie mobile game called Evoland that shows the history of RPGs as you play. This book reminded me of that game as I read about the ever evolving history of JRPGs. As a fan of mainly handheld JRPGs, I was delighted to read about the Western & Eastern roots of favorite games such as Etrian Odyssey Untold II and Radiant Historia (and see them mentioned by name!). I also learned about games I never played such as Tactics Ogre and Phantasy Star and games I want to play when I finally get a Nintendo Switch (Sea of Stars is going on my wish list). This book was fascinating and enthralling and I highly recommended it to any JRPG fan.

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Moher has a high understanding of JRPGs and their history. Through his writing, it’s obvious how much joy he has played RPGs throughout his life and how much they mean to him. His enthusiasm made me dig out my own classic consoles and boot up some of the games he talks about in the book. It was an absolute pleasure reading his thoughts on some of the greatest games of all time and if you have any interest in Final Fantasy, classic games, or how the video game industry works you owe it to yourself to pick up his novel.

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A book about JRPGs is an easy sell to me, but even so, Aidan Moher has done a fantastic job of making that history accessible and entertaining. By mixing his personal history and opinions into the genre's history, he avoids the book becoming a dry summary of events and instead creates a reading experience comparable to someone sitting across a table from you and speaking enthusiastically about something they love. His fondness for this genre comes through almost too well as I'd often find myself thinking, "Why am I not playing this game right now?" after reading a passage describing the merits of a specific title.

I wish he'd had access to some of the creators behind these games to provide more original insight from them. However, given that this is a book about a Japanese genre, it's understandable that such access wouldn't be easy to obtain. Instead, he does a great job drawing from other sources and weaving those quotes into a singular narrative.

I unexpectedly found myself immediately beginning to re-read this book after finishing it the first time, which is not something I often, or possibly ever, do. Fight, Magic, Items belongs on any bookshelf dedicated to the history of video games.

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I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

Japanese RPGs saved my life. They made my life what it is today. Aidan Moher approaches the games with much the same passion and emotion, and his intimate analysis of the history and very experience of Japanese-influenced role-playing games make this book an incredible read. He delves with the full progression of the industry from D&D to Wizardry to the rise of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy for Nintendo, and continues from there right up to the present day with a look at MMORGs and the rising indie programming scene.

The amount of research involved is obvious and extensive, but the book never feels stodgy or academic. On the contrary, I felt like I was geeking out with a friend--and I kept feeling the compulsion to share trivia with my own best friend, my husband, when he was nearby. "Hey, did you know that..." He fully appreciated the data points. We've been married over twenty years and as a bride I walked down the aisle to the Final Fantasy theme. We are very much the audience for this book.

This book is a fond nostalgia trip and a must-read for JRPG lovers whether they've been playing for forty years or five months.

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This was an extremely informative book, and I enjoyed it tremendously.

It covers from the very beginning of JRPGs straight through this 2020. While it doesn't hit EVERY game (obviously, that'd be a long book) I believe it does well in explaining Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and the genre generally. While I knew a lot of the information going into this, I still learned some thing and had a good time reading.

Now, if you're not a JRPG or at least a gamer person, I'd probably pass. It's very technical, and probably not particularly enjoyable if you have no stake in it. It sometimes feels like an essay, so if you're already bored of the subject, I can imagine it would be boring that way as well. However if you like games, this is definitely a fun read, I already recommended it to me FFXIV Free Company.

I really enjoy that when the book mentions a game that it isn't focused on, it gives the game its own little segment and tells the synopsis and such for it, which is really cool if you're interested in picking up new titles.

My biggest issue was formatting. I have a Netgalley version that I got for free, so this may be different in the released ebook version, but the footnotes were all over the place and mildly distracting, as were those information points for not talked about games. I've seen how this usually looks in physical books, and I'd definitely recommend getting a physical copy over an ebook version.

Great read, regardless! I would be interested in reading more things like this!

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This book is my life in an alternative history. This is my life where my friends spent time with JRPGs instead of beat 'em ups and sports games. This is my life where I didn't spend most of my early 20s replaying Bioware games because of how much I enjoyed them (and due to a serious lack of funds). This is my life if I didn't spend most waking hours working in my early 30s. This book talks about the kind of experiences that I've tried to recapture despite never having most of them originally. It succeeds at capturing that nostalgia and allowing the reader to experience it along with the author.

I love reading nonfiction and specifically love history books. This is a history book filled with vignettes and anecdotes about different games, creators, and periods of video game history. It is also the history of a genre and the history of a medium that has adopted so many of the ideas that originate with or iterated upon by JRPGs.

This book both informs and makes me nostalgic for things I mostly never experienced. It's a combination that makes for a great read and provides a roadmap for experiencing some of the great JRPGs that deserve to be replayed or experienced for the first time.

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I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book is around 3.5 stars for me. I can see it being interesting to those who are really into RPGs, but it is at times a very technical and academic read.

This book covers the history of RPGs and JRPGs and how they are so popular today. The book follows the careers of prominent game creators and RPG artists and game designers. The book is full of interviews, anecdotes, and has informational blurbs about various games throughout the chapters.

Overall an informative read.

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This was a fascinating look into the world of JRPGs! Prior to reading this book, JRPGs were an area of gaming that I just didn't "get." Thanks to Aidan Moher's explanations, I see now how my misunderstandings of the genre had kept me from enjoying them and I'm looking forward to trying them again. Highly recommended!

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I grew up so closely in Aidan’s demographic so this felt like a conversation with a friend. It’s cool a non-fiction book like this exists! However, the organization should be re-considered. A lot of the info-boxes are placed in ways that were distracting from Aidan's writing.

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**Many thanks to Running Press and Netgalley for an Advanced Reader's Copy (ARC) of this book**

I grew up with JRPGs when I was a kid, and still love them today. When I saw this title on Netgalley, it went on the top of my reading list. And, it did not disappoint.

I never knew the history of JRPGs, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn all the ins and outs of Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and other properties of Square Enix, as well as a few from other makers I had never heard of. Because of this book, I bought and downloaded RPG Maker MV for my Switch, and I have a deeper understanding of the work it takes to make an RPG... let alone a good one (or a decent one!). This book is such a fun read, and worth the time for any gamer.

It is very well researched; I can tell the author loves these games as much as I do! But, many might need to take breaks between readings though, because the information is (appropriately) dense to unpack.

All in all, I enjoyed this book a lot!

****One note that I will not fault the writer for: the format of the ARC I received, and possibly any digital copies. This book is best enjoyed in print form. Digitally, some sections of footnotes and "game-dropping" boxes (like name-dropping, only with the author's favorite titles that are pertinent to the information he discusses at the time) were confusingly out of order. Sometimes, I had to flip ahead several screens in order to read the footnotes, or the boxes of information popped up in the middle of paragraphs. It took me a bit to discover why that was: for the footnotes, the book was following the natural progression of printed book pages, and how page breaks would work, where the footnotes would be at the end of the page. Not sure about the game info boxes.

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