Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Nostalgia Bomb! - Video Game Instruction Manuals

What are they?
Once upon a time when you got a crisp new video game you would receive a small manual in the packaging, which would give you some backstory for the game you were about to play, information on how to play the game, and occasionally some tips and tricks to help you out along the way.

An assortment of NES instruction manuals

When did they come out?
Video game manuals would have appeared in just about every home released video game going back to 70s, including standalone games like Pong and the earliest cartridge-based games, like those on the Fairchild Channel F, right up to today's modern consoles.

Mega Man 3 (NES) Instruction Manual

What about today?
I just said that manuals come with modern day console games, so why the heck is this a "Nostalgia Bomb"? Well, the era of high-quality colour manuals is a without a doubt over and done with. The rare game might release with a nice manual, but it's definitely not the norm. In some cases a game might release with some form of manual, but its completely bare bones. Many are just a black and white fold-out piece of paper with the controls written on them or just a slip of paper outlining how to find the "online manual", which is often just as barren as the fold-out.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker's instruction manual

Why do I remember them?
Lately I've been replaying the original NES Legend of Zelda games, most recently Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. As I was playing, I found myself more interested in the story behind the game, so I turned to the Internet to see if there was ever any backstory to the title. Sure enough, if you picked up the complete in-box game on the NES you would receive a full colour manual, which not only showed you how to navigate the world of Zelda II or how to fight using Link, but it also gave you a really nice background story, which included hand-drawn art depicting Link and how he begins his quest.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link storyline from the manual

The manuals that came with 8-bit and 16-bit games were full of wonderful concept art and backstory that you couldn't necessarily get from playing the game. It was a sign of the times. These days, you don't really need to have the story of a video game explained to you in a paper manual, because you get it all from the game itself.

I'm not complaining so much that manuals have gone the way of the Do-do. I get it. If the story is present within the game itself, all you really need is to know the controls. Honestly, most games these days take you through a tutorial to teach you the controls, as well, so I can see why dropping manuals would save money and trees.

That said, I used to love opening up a new video game and breaking out the instruction manual. It was like a first peek into the adventure that was about to unfold, and in the case of an NES title it gave you an idea of what you were actually doing in the game, as often you'd just be dropped right into the game with little idea of what was going on and just playing the game solely for the gameplay.

Old school video game instruction manuals are definitely a blast from the past!

Hope you enjoyed,