Ever since I received my first gaming system, a lime green Gameboy Color, and chose Squirtle as my starter companion in Pokémon Red Version,
I have had a passion for video games. Despite this, I have never been great at them; I am one of those guys who can play Super Smash Bros. and Halo against my friends for hours and have a blast, but never really get any better.
Therefore, I did not grow up with any illusions that I would be able to make a career out of this hobby when I got older. Instead, I went with the slightly more useful history degree. This combination of passions not only draws me to games that feature historical locations and events (such as Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series), but also instills within me a fascination of the history of video games themselves. High Score, a shiny new Netflix miniseries, adds some interesting new colors to the tapestry that is video game history, but it is not a great comprehensive history in and of itself.
Narrated by Charles Martinet, the man who has been the voice of Mario and his kin for no less than 30 years and over one hundred games, High Score starts with the creation of Space Invaders in 1978 and ends with the transition of the medium into 3D with 1993’s Doom and Star Fox. This is a bit curious, as the industry neither began in 1978 nor did it end in 1993. Not only this, but there are a few important developments and people in the interim years that High Score barely touches upon. Legendary creator Shigeru Miyamoto, the mind behind both Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, only gets a cursory mention in the second episode and then is not brought up again until the last episode, for instance.
Instead of focusing on each touchstone with the attention each one deserves, High Score instead bounces back and forth between talking about game development and talking about a few select superfans (and I do mean bounce; the series can come off as a bit ADHD at times, as it has a tendency to switch subjects frequently and with little in the way of segues).
While these latter stories certainly add fresh flavors to the history presented in the miniseries, they also take up time that could have otherwise been spent fleshing out some of the more important events and games. Bottom line, if you know a few things about the history of video games already, High Score will supplement that knowledge, but if you are going into the series blind, you should probably look elsewhere for a more complete history.
That being said, High Score still does a lot of things right. Martinet has a great voice for narration (don’t worry, he doesn’t talk in his Mario voice … that would get annoying fast) and the series is never boring to look at. There is a great deal of charming animations and set pieces throughout that give High Score a whole lot of personality, and if you can stomach the occasional cheesy joke now and then, it is sure to entertain. Just don’t look at it as a complete history of video games and you’ll be as golden as the Triforce or one of Sonic’s rings.
High Score is now available on Netflix.