If there's anything I truly miss about gaming as a kid (Aside from, you know, having the ability to play Final Fantasy VI for eight straight hours on a Saturday) it's game manuals. Oh, they still exist, sure, but they are to gaming what album inserts are to music. It's rare that you find one of any depth, beauty, or grace these days.
Part of that is the nature of gaming. I haven't played a game since 2006 that didn't walk you through every single mechanic found in the game as they're needed, so what's the point in printing instructions? And since the storytelling capabilities of modern gaming rival film, there's not much a manual can tell you in a paragraph about a character you won't learn in due course in the game.
In the olden days, though, manuals were the only way you'd ever learn some bizarre trivia. The game wasn't going to waste valuable kilobytes on that stuff in-game. Other mindblowing facts hidden in the manuals include...
The bricks in the Mushroom Kingdom are people The original manual for Super Mario Bros. makes for some fascinating reading. It's where you learn that the goombas are actually Koopa-sympathizers who have betrayed the mushroom kingdom like those French anti-Semitists that aided the Nazis in World War II. It's also one of the places that states explicitly that Bowser is a master magician.
One of the reasons that the brothers fight alone is that the Koopas black magic has transformed the residents of the Mushroom Kingdom into thinks like hills, clouds, and bricks. Those are actually people stuck in an inanimate form like some sort of whimsically Japanese version of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.
It also means that every time Mario breaks a brick he crushes the life out of cursed citizen. Those 1UP Mushrooms? He's consuming the soul to extend his own power. Are we sure Bowser is the bad guy in this?
Goro is a polygamist Few games have had the anticipation of the original Mortal Kombat when it came to the home console releases. Mortal Monday was an event I still remember, and I was first in line at a local store to pick up my SNES copy.
The manual of the game offered some surprising trivia on many of the characters, but none more than the four-armed sub-boss Goro. It addition to laying out his royal lineage, it also stated that he had seven wives, though these are not named. Sheeva has often been suggested to be one of them, though there's not any direct evidence if this nor is it stated that Goro's wives are necessarily Shokan like himself.
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Donkey Kong Land is a bet For my money the original Donkey Kong Country is the greatest sidescroller ever made. You can just feel the work and effort that went into it. It's also kind of fun because it breaks the fourth wall a lot in the form of Cranky Kong, the original Donkey Kong now all old, grizzled, and ornery. Throughout the game he tells his grandson that back in his day they didn't need all these fancy graphics to stay relevant and fun.
Well, according to the manual for Donkey Kong Land the younger Kong put his money where his mouth was. Cranky said that Donkey couldn't create a fun game on an 8-bit system like he had, in this case the Game Boy. The result is actually a pretty good title that not only held up well, but also introduced new enemies and bosses into the series rather than just being a lesser port of the SNES adventure.
Still, in Cranky's defense, I'm willing to bet they'll still be playing the original Donkey Kong long after DKL is forgotten.
Dr. Eggman is a feminist Sonic's long-time enemy is something of a weirdo even by video game nemesis standards. For instance, his mustache is a prosthetic, which would explain the way it looks different in so many games but does beg the question of why someone would invent something that hipsterish.
The manual for Sonic Heroes offers a deeper look at Eggman. He considers himself to be both a gentleman and a romantic. He is also one of the few video game characters to be an unashamed feminist, as even strongly feminist characters like Lara Croft don't use the term to describe themselves. It makes you wonder if this Eggman utopia he is always going on about might actually be a better place than wise-cracking hedgehogs would lead us to believe.
Grunts are murder junkies because of sex probes Something games have always had a problem with is motivation of the hordes of enemies that you come across. Zombies are always a good work around because we just assume they're going to mindlessly eat their way through us because, you know, zombies. Few give it more consideration than that.
Quake went above and beyond that in their manual. Sure, they've got zombie soldiers in the Grunts, but the explanation for them is that they have had probes inserted in their pleasure centers so that they get a buzz of orgasmic ecstasy every time they murder. That's right, someone decided they'd invent a serial killer mind implant and hand the guy that loaded it onto a shotgun. That's actually a bit of backstory I could do without. No need to picture a zombie pumping a load in two different meanings simultaneously.
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