Friday, 6 December 2013

Ultimate Nerf Blaster Book Review

Many of you will have heard of the Nerf Blaster Book before, with it being released in mid November. The publishers of the book, powerHouse Books contacted us and offered to send us copies of the book for review. Unfortunately, as we live in Australia they were unable to send us hard copies, but instead provided us with full digital copies of the book, and it is this on which I base this review upon.
The Ultimate Nerf Blaster Book is the first book I'm aware of to be published and retailed regarding Nerf blasters. It is around 100 pages long in hard copy, and contains the 6 deco'd darts you see in the front cover picture. As my copy of the book is a digital soft copy, I cannot speak for the darts included with the book, but as you can see from the front cover image, the darts clearly have the Elite logo printed on in silver/grey, with three silver/grey chevrons below it.

The boks is split into a number of sections.

The first section, called "Introduction: Foam Power" is a four page introduction of Nerf from it's beginning of the classic foam ball, through to Nerf's first blasters, and then through all of Nerf's major modern blasters, right up to the Mega Centurion. There is also a small section explaining the meaning of the letters and numbers which follow many blaster names, such as Nitefinder EX-3 and Longshot CS-6.

The bulk of the book is split into an number of chapters detailing Nerf products.

The first short chapter describes the various major ammo types Nerf has created, going into detail about the original mega darts, as well as all modern ammo types including the new Mega darts, bar (strangely) Dart Tag darts.

The blasters are split into three categories - "Light Blasters" (pistol sized blasters), "Medium Blasters" (carbine and assault rifle style blasters) and "Heavy Blasters" (anything bigger).
From NERF: The Ultimate Blaster Book by Nathaniel Marunas, published by POW!
This is an example of the style of the pages in the book. The left page is the first page of the Light Blasters chapter. Each of the first pages of each chapter is styled like this, with the "Class: (class name)" and miniature description in the middle of the page, and blasters in that category surrounding it.

The right page is of course the page on the Jolt EX-1, and is an example of a single page blaster spread. It contains as you can see a large picture of the most recent/normal version of the blaster and is annotated with various notes. Each blaster is given a small statistics box, with details like the rate of fire, ammo type of the blaster as well as (surprisingly) the dart firing mechanism used. The firing mechanism is described using "direct plunger", "reverse plunger", etc, which of course is meaningless to normal people, but to modders makes perfect sense. The Jolt's box is in the top right hand corner. A description is also given for every blaster, which is the small paragraph in the bottom left. Important details are in bold orange/red. Past/alternate versions of the blaster are also pictured, like the Jolt's original N-Strike version just below the Elite version.
From NERF: The Ultimate Blaster Book by Nathaniel Marunas, published by POW!
This is an example of a two page spread, in this case for the Vulcan, which comes under the "Heavy Blasters" category. It has all the same features of the Jolt's page, with the stats box, annotated diagram and description. The Vulcan also has its three alternate colourations on the left hand side. As you can see, the description for the Vulcan as quite long, in contrast to some other blasters like the Quick 16.

Most modern blasters (Dart Tag, N-Strike onwards) are featured in these three blaster chapters, including the Mega Centurion, Elite Rapidstrike and Vortex Revonix 360, but excluding any Zombie Strike and Rebelle blasters, as well as excluding the Mega Magnus, Elite Alpha Trooper, Elite Spectre, and Psuedo-Elite Barrel Break.

After the three chapters on blasters, there is a small chapter on the all important accessories of the Nerf franchise. Each accessory featured is given a short description. This small chapter includes accessories such as dart drums, various Vortex mags and the Pyragon drum, as well as the two 18 clips (mags) that are currently sold separately. There are some pieces of tactical gear featured, such as the Tactical Vests and the Bandoliers, as well as the all important tacticool accessories, such as the highly sought after Pinpoint Sight. Not all accessories are featured though, but most of them come under various categories that are mentioned in the Accessories chapter, such as the "Quick Reload Clip" (mag), which pictures only the Elite 18 clip (mag).
From NERF: The Ultimate Blaster Book by Nathaniel Marunas, published by POW!
After the Accessories chapter is a two page Nerf timeline, detailing which products were released in which year. At least for the more recent years, the list of blasters released is quite comprehensive though not entirely complete, mentioning the Elite Alpha Trooper, but not mentioned the Psuedo Elite Barrel Break, Reflex and Jolt, or the Elite Spectre, which were neglected in the blaster chapters. Each blaster is also labelled with the line under which they were released, which is useful.

After the timeline there is a two page index, and after that a one page teaser for the already released Zombie Strike line. As "Zombie Strike" is not mentioned in the book, I have to assume that this book was written to be released before Zombie Strike was released, but as it happens this has not occurred, with ZS blasters being available even in Australia.

Besides these sections mentioned, there are also pages on the design process for the Mega darts and the Centurion, as well as the Vulcan. There is a page about various firing mechanisms used in modern blasters, with a couple of internals shots. The direct plunger is represented by a Retaliator, flywheels by a Stryfe, reverse plunger by a Recon, and torsion spring by a Proton. The fact that they would actually describe the internals of blasters is quite a surprise to me, and a welcome surprise for anyone who wants to know how Nerf blasters work but are too scared to open them up. Weirdly enough this page mentions an 'electronic reverse plunger', which as far as I'm aware has not been implemented in a Nerf blaster so far. Perhaps a sneak peek into the future? Next to the Retaliator's page, there is a page flaunting Nerf's tacticool customisation, describing how blasters can be customised with various attachments, using the silhouette of a taken apart Retaliator and a number of other parts as a diagram.

The annotated diagrams and statistics boxes are an excellent addition, as they provide good, useful information and consistency throughout the book. The statistics in particular allow for easy comparisons of blasters. The descriptions are neat, although most of the descriptions contain a lot about simply using the blaster in question, rather than describing the blaster itself. The featured pictures are all high res and very clear and detailed, which made loading each page on my laptop take a surprisingly long time.

There are a couple of issues I have with the book however.
According to a poster on the Nerf Modders Welcome FB page, the first Nerf ball was in fact yellow rather than orange. I of course am not old enough to verify this. Additionally, while the Sharpshooter blaster from 1992 is mentioned, a Sharpshooter 2 blaster is pictured instead. This occurs for both mentions of the Sharpshooter, in the Introduction as well as the timeline.
I also dispute some of the range claims in the book, although it is not stated whether the ranges were tested angled or flat. Some of the rate of fire claims are also not values I agree with, such as the Stryfe and Rayven, which are claimed to fire up to 2-3 darts per second, while I have demonstrated the Stryfe and Rayven firing much, much faster than that. As most rates of fire are entirely user dependent though, this is excusable.
The exclusion of Dart Tag darts in the ammo section is of concern, particularly because the book contains information about the modern Dart Tag blasters. Perhaps it is an indicator of Dart Tag's current phasing out, but nevertheless as it is an important ammo type it should have been included.
One amusing thing to note is that the Lumitron pictured simply has a Firefly styled and printed 10 disc mag, rather than its actual Firefly disc mag. This is made more unusual by an ordinary and proper Lumitrion picture being featured on the contents page.
The Elite Alpha Trooper, Elite Spectre and Psuedo-Elite Barrel Break are missing from the book which is unusual considering that the Psuedo-Elite Jolt and Reflex are both present. This could be possibly due to lack of space, as both the Alpha Trooper and Barrel Break sections are small, and a full Spectre picture is particularly long, meaning there is only space for one Spectre picture. The omission of these blasters is unusual though, as they were released before the Mega Centurion, yet the Mega Centurion is featured while they are not.

The biggest problem I have with this book however is the neglection of anything pre-N-Strike/Dart Tag. There are select few vintage blasters featured, including a mislabeled Sharpshooter 2. The timeline also has the names of a number of vintage blasters, however there is no detail whatsoever describing them. As such, this book is not so much an 'Ultimate Blaster Book' as it claims, but rather an 'Incomplete Modern Nerf Dictionary'.

The Ultimate Nerf Blaster Book is available from various sources, such as Amazon US for around 13USD (retail is around 20USD), and of course other book stores which will vary depending on where you live. In Australia, it retails for around 30AUD.

The big question of course is should you buy it?
If you're an internet nerd like me and know everything about the modern Nerf blasters, then no, not really. Outside of a specific few pages none of the information in the book will be new to you, thus the book's only value will be in those few pages and the 6 collectable Elite darts, which IMO is not sufficient to purchase the book.
Likewise if you're a modder uninterested in stock blasters, then this will be of little or no value to you as it details purely stock Nerf blasters and ammo, and has nothing on modding, stefans or homemades.
If you're interested primarily in vintage blasters, then again this book will be of no interest to you as it focuses on modern blasters and only barely mentions vintage blasters.
If you're a casual Nerfer, then this book could be a good purchase. It contains a good amount of information for all the modern blasters currently available as well as a bit more information, and thus could provide a good read for you if you're not already well informed in modern Nerf blasters.
If you're looking to get this book for a child, then it'll depend on their age. As there is a huge amount of small text in the book, it is unsuited to small children, as much of it will likely be gibberish to them, as well as being difficult to read due to the small text size. Also note that some of the words used in the book are likely not in younger childrens' vocabularies unless they are particularly keen and intelligent, and so the book may baffle them. For children with competent reading ability and a decent vocabulary though, the book is quite a good read and will keep them occupied for quite a while. As the book documents pretty much all modern blasters pre-Rebelle, Zombie Strike and Magnus, for most of the newer blasters a child can recognise it, and then go into a toy store and find it on a shelf. The book does contain older Dart Tag and N-Strike blasters though, and those have been phased out in many places including Australian toy stores.
The book may be suitable for teenagers as they have sufficient reading ability and vocabulary to read and understand everything in the book, although do note that modern teenagers seem to be trending away from reading books at all, which is quite a shame.

Due to the lack of vintage blasters, this book probably won't interest those of you who have been collecting Nerf blasters since before the N-Strike era. This is in my opinion its most glaring flaw, as vintage blasters are the blasters with the least documentation on the internet. Since the book is basically an advertisement for Nerf, it makes sense to only include modern blasters, but for a book called the "Ultimate Nerf Blaster Book", not including such a huge part of Nerf history is quite disappointing.

The inclusion of the design process pages is a big plus for me, as that sort of information is not the type that can be found easily by scouring the internet. The internals page is also a big plus, as it actually shows the working parts of a few Nerf blasters, rather than Nerf blasters being portrayed as things that should never be opened or looked inside.
I myself enjoyed reading through it, although admittedly I enjoy most books that are factual and not about biology/geology.

The book is a fun read so if you do enjoy reading a good book then do consider purchasing the Ultimate Nerf Blaster Book, but remember that it focuses on modern blasters, and does not go into detail about anything pre-Dart Tag or N-Strike.

I would like to thank powerHouse Books for graciously providing a digital copy of the book for this review. Note that their contribution does not introduce bias into this review in any way, as stated in the About page that you can find in the top links section.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review, I'm still undecided as to whether I should get this or not. From all the reviews I've read, it's not as informative as I'd like.