Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Donkey Kong's mundane instruction manual: Seemingly the rule, rather than the exception, when it comes to early Famicom releases

Ever since I introduced the "Manual Stimulation" series last month, I've been flipping through the instruction manuals of all of my games (the Japanese retro ones, especially) to find those that are most likely to cause, er, stimulation.

Before all of that flipping started, I imagined that my Famicom and PC Engine collections would be responsible for the bulk of the booklets that will be highlighted in future "Manual Stimulation" posts. Surprisingly, I was only half right--or at least that's the case as of now.

You see, while I've come across plenty of awesome PC Engine manuals, just two of my Famicom game manuals--those being the ones produced for Mother and Super Mario Bros.--could be described as such. A more apt description for the rest of the bunch: Boring.

Take, for example, Donkey Kong's instruction manual (below). Admittedly, its front cover isn't the most boring ever produced, but it's also not exactly thrilling. (Click on it or any of the other scans to take a closer look.)



On the other hand, this particular manual's first four pages are, in my humble opinion, the definition of "ho hum."





Things perk up just a bit half-way through Donkey Kong's manual, though, thanks to the inclusion of a few black-and-white sprites.







Despite the improvement, I'd be hard-pressed to describe this game's instruction manual as "stimulating."

Donkey Kong isn't the only early Famicom game to have a yawn-inducing manual, though; in fact, all of Nintendo's "Pulse Line" and "Silver Box" (Balloon Fight, Ice Climber and more) are similarly lackluster, as are Namcot's first releases for the system.

When was this trend bucked? I can't say with any certainty, unfortunately, but I think it may have been when Super Mario Bros. was unleashed upon the masses. That game's manual, while not exactly wow-worthy, is twice as thick as the ones produced for its predecessors and features a number of illustrations--rudimentary ones, but still--that call to mind those that appear in later, greater examples of the medium.

See also: All 'Manual Stimulation' posts

10 comments:

Motherplayer said...

Decent enough, but nothing special and a bit forgettable naturally. Luckily this wouldn't stay true for much longer....

Bryan Ochalla said...

Yes, you're right, Motherplayer -- this period didn't last for too long. Still, it's too bad some of these early Nintendo releases didn't get better manuals -- esp. when you consider how awesome the cover art was for most of them.

Marco Grande Arbitro said...

This is the story: D!
It 'a wonderful heirloom!

Bryan Ochalla said...

Thanks, Marco! Yes, calling it a wonderful heirloom -- despite the fact that it isn't as interesting as some Famicom manuals -- is appropriate, I think :)

Adam said...

I've never seen a famicom manual before, but I do hate the plain bare-bones black and white ones.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, Adam! A bit of color here and there wouldn't have hurt, right? Sheesh, Nintendo!

Viewtiful_Justin said...

The hand drawn, black and white sprites are my favorite thing about early manuals, and this one is a treasure trove!

Bryan Ochalla said...

Ah, I *knew* someone would mention those, Justin. I like them, too :) Still, I wish there were more of them -- or more of something else -- in these manuals...

Sean said...

It is a good point - the early Famicom manuals are quite boring. Though I do love the fact that they are so small, even though they don`t have much flair it at least makes them cute!

I think this may explain why the strategy guides (sold seperately) became so popular during the Famicom`s lifetime. Those are jam packed with color images, etc. I picked a few up the other day and just love them.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, Sean! Yes, you're right -- their tiny size does make them pretty cute. Also, like Justin said earlier, the inclusion of some sprite imagery is nice, too.

I also agree with your comment about strategy guides from the era. As for the ones you recently picked up: Hopefully you'll be sharing images of some of them on your blog in the coming weeks/months? :)