Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The best PC Engine game manuals (I've seen)

NEC's PC Engine was and is beloved around the world for a lot of reasons, including the console's small footprint, its credit card-sized cartridges (called HuCards) and its eclectic library of games.

Another reason that should be added to that list, in my opinion: the drop-dead gorgeous instruction manuals that were packed inside many PC Engine game cases.

Speaking of which, I consider the manuals below to be among the system's best. Before you start scrolling through them, understand that this post shouldn't be considered exhaustive. I certainly haven't flipped through every PC Engine instruction manual in existence, after all. I have pored over a good number of them, though, so I'd say my thoughts on the matter are as valid as anyone's in this area.

With all that out of the way, here are my personal picks for "best PC Engine game manuals."

Don Doko Don--Something you need to know right off the bat when it comes to the instruction booklets produced for this system's games: the ones that accompanied Taito-made and Namco-made titles are the most impressive. I especially like Taito's PC Engine manuals. They're crude in a way that Namco's aren't, but I find that aspect to be surprisingly charming. Don Doko Don's is a perfect example of this. It's bursting with monochromatic depictions of this single-screen platformer's protagonists, enemies, bosses and items that are simple, yet captivating. To see the entirety of this HuCard's how-to pamphlet, by the way, check out my "Manual Stimulation" post devoted to it. You also may want to spend a few seconds or even minutes ogling The New Zealand Story's manual, which is similarly appealing.

Hany on the Road--It's a crying shame that this oddball platformer's instruction manual is so short. Not only is it full of vibrant color and adorable enemy illustrations, but it features a handful of wow-worthy clay models. A few more pages of the latter would've been warmly welcomed by yours truly. Still, the artists and designers at publisher FACE deserve kudos for offering up a booklet that's more beautiful than it has any right to be, regardless of its length. (FYI: the whole she-bang can be viewed here.)

Mizubaku Daibouken--In some ways, Mizubaku Daibouken's manual impresses me more than Don Doko Don's. As nice as the latter title's booklet is, the former's is a lot more adventurous. For starters, it kicks off with a multi-page comic that shares the game's backstory. It also uses eye-popping illustrations to introduce Mizubaku Daibouken's many worlds (see above) and explain its controls. That it wraps up with black-and-white doodles of some of this arcade port's enemy characters is the icing on the proverbial cake. Experience all of the above for yourself by perusing my "Manual Stimulation: Mizubaku Daibouken" write-up.

PC Genjin 2--Why did I choose PC Genjin 2's instruction booklet over those of the series' first or third entries? For me, the original PC Genjin's manual is a smidgen too safe. No one would use that word to describe the ambitious PC Genjin 3 manual, but I feel pretty comfortable calling it "a bit much." I love that it's bursting with color, and I appreciate its enemy illustrations, but taken as a whole it's nearly seizure-enducing. The PC Genjin 2 pamphlet provides some of the same thrills but without the headache that's sure to follow in their wake.

Pop'n Magic--I guess it shouldn't be a huge surprise that the manual made for a Bubble Bobble clone is as cute and colorful as can be. That said, the ones produced for genre mates Rainbow Islands and Parasol Stars are flat-out duds, as far as I'm concerned, so I'm fine with expressing some shock at the verve showcased in this Riot release's how-to booklet. The spread above is my favorite of this pamphlet's many pages, but that's not to suggest the remainder are stinkers. Decide for yourself by taking a magnifying glass to my "Manual Stimulation: Pop'n Magic" post.

Valkyrie no Densetsu--As I've said before, Namco's PC Engine games haven't always been favorites of mine. Thankfully, I pulled my head out of my butt some time ago and realized the bulk of them are well worth owning and playing--even if they aren't perfect replicas of their arcade counterparts. In general that's due to their attractive graphics and gameplay, but it's also due to their beautiful manuals. Valkyrie no Densetsu's (see it in all its glory here) is the best of the bunch, if you ask me, but even turds like Barunba came with booklets capable of taking your breath away.

For more awesome PC Engine game manuals, check out these "Manual Stimulation" posts or head over to Video Game Den and peruse that site's HuCard and CD-ROM2 sections.

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