Thursday, January 30, 2014

Manual Stimulation: Mesopotamia (PC Engine)

When you sit down and think about it, it's kind of shocking how many PC Engine instruction manuals are starkly black-and-white affairs--especially when compared to the kaleidoscopically hued games about which these manuals are supposed educate...

Thankfully, not all of these colorless pamphlets can be categorized as boring. A good number of them, after all, feature appealing illustrations and the like that help elevate them from drab to fab. The New Zealand Story's is a good example, and Mizubaku Daibouken's is another.

The manual included with every copy of Atlus' Mesopotamia (Somer Assault in North America) fits this description, too, although perhaps not quite as well as its above-mentioned counterparts.

Regardless, its cover certainly is colorful enough, wouldn't you agree? OK, so it's a bit busy, but that aspect of it gets a pass from me thanks to the fact that it's predominantly orange (a color that gets far too little love when it comes to box art) and that it features a number of adorable drawings that depict the game's Slinky-like protagonist.

As should be expected given my earlier musings, the cover art's bold display of color doesn't survive the transition into the manual's interior. Oh, well, what can you do?

Sadly, things barely perk up on the manual's next pair of pages. Do any of you know who the guy featured in the text blocks at the bottom of the page is supposed to be, by the way? He appears throughout this particular booklet, so I'm guessing he's important?

Finally, a bit of visual interest! Those illustrations are the cutest, aren't they? Sure, they'd be even nicer if they were in color (pink, to be exact), but they're still pretty nice as is, in my opinion.

Hey, look, more Slinky illustrations. At least they're unique and not just reused from previous pages. Also, the one with the heart bubble over its head is my favorite of the bunch.

And there you have it. Admittedly, the folks who designed Mesopotamia's manual could've been a little more (OK, a lot more) creative while completing this particular assignment. Where's the cartoon depicting how the ol' Slinkster got himself into this predicament? Where are the illustrations of the zodiac-symbols-that've-come-to-life bosses he's forced to battle? Each of those additions would've turned this "merely acceptable" manual into a "unquestionably stellar" one, if you ask me.

Not that I'm complaining. I consider what you see above to be a lot more interesting than the majority of game manuals that came before and after it, so I'm going to go ahead and treat this one as a "take what you can get" sort of situation. 

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts


michaelstearns said...

Yo! :D I wasn't aware of the black-and-white PC Engine situation at all, but that is pretty surprising! SF and MD manuals were always in full color (afaik--it was always one of the perks of Japanese MD titles, at least!) so I would have thought PCE titles would follow suit. I also think it's weird that there's never anything on the back of the case! How was a consumer supposed to know anything about the game?

The guy in the text blocks is Ryuuseiyarou Aihara, your "Atlus Advisor." I thought maybe he was the slinky's "pilot," but he's just there to give you tips. I wonder if he appears in other manuals? His surname is a bit unusual and could be translated as "Comet Guy" or even "Comet Bastard" so I wonder if there's a joke in there. His given name (Aihara) is more normal-sounding, to me at least.

I didn't say so before but I really like the cover of this game, the design elements are kind of mysterious and I really like how the slinky is incorporated into it. As a child I would have found that really intriguing! I almost wish the cartoony version (and some of the extra text) wasn't on there, just to give it more room. The slinky background pattern on the second page is cool, too.

michaelstearns said...

Interesting on the color manuals. I guess Famicom games were like that too? (NES games definitely were, the color seemed to be pretty rare) Since the PCE was introduced as a Famicom rival I wonder if that "standard" (that is, there was no standard!) was based on that?

I did a little Googling before on Ryuuseiyarou and didn't find anything in Japanese (I didn't look too hard) but in English it returned both this page (Discuss must index quickly!) and a Growlanser FAQ that lists him as a credit for "Publicity." I checked out Mobygames but they're pretty bad about providing credits for import-only Japanese games.

Maybe they were pushing him (a real person?) as a Takahashi Meijin or Howard Philips kind of figure? Clearly there isn't much out there to document the possibility. said...

Yep, Famicom games were very similar to PCE ones when it came to some being in color and some being B&W.

I feel like both eventually switched over to color completely, with a few exceptions, but that's just an anecdotal observation.

I have a feeling you're right about Ryuuseiyarou -- that Atlus may have been attempting to make him into a Takahashi Meijin type of figure. Seems they didn't take it very far, though... said...

That's awesome, Michael! Thanks so much for digging up so much interesting detail about the "guy in the text blocks" :)

I have a feeling he did show up in other manuals of the time, then -- although I have no idea knowing which ones, as I don't own any other Atlus games from the same period.

Oh, and I'm glad my new Blogger profile pic gave yo a laugh. I thought it was time to change it up. The old one was to staid :)

michaelstearns said...

I guess we need to get in touch with a more prolific collector. :) said...

Yes. That, or dig around on sites that feature scans of old Fami, PCE and other games -- like videogameden. said...

Hey there, NG :) You've beaten 85 stages of this game? Wow, congrats to you! I completed a handful (10, maybe?) of the PS1 version's stages only to find myself stuck :| Anyway, no, I haven't bought a WS yet. I keep waiting for the ones at Rose-Colored Gaming to come back in stock!

NeoGaf said...

Ah with the backlit mod?

Now I've beat all 100 stages but Engacho awesomeness didn't stop there.
After you beat the game, you unlock a special mode with other 100 new levels and the twist you need to complete them with the minimal step count.
That's hard!