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Friday, August 29, 2014

Summer Gaming: 1993

Summer is winding down. I haven't hammered out as many of these as I'd have liked to, but here's the third installment of Summer Gaming. This time, were taking it back to 1993.

Tetris (GB)

Lots of other gamers were exposed to this game in 1989. For me, I wouldn't touch the game for another four years. Tetris has the honor of being the first portable game I ever played. Largely viewed as one of the industry's first casual games, Tetris was quite a pack in game to just give away with the system and it ensured that the GB flew off the shelves. While it really wasn't the game I was dying to try out, it made for a nice diversion. I think the first time I played Tetris, I didn't even break 30 lines. I wouldn't appreciate the true beauty of Tetris until I I got older, though B-Type music immediately clicked with me, more so than A-Type.

Mega Man III (GB)

This is the GB game I coveted most. After reading all about it in Nintendo Power, it was THE reason I wanted to own a GB. Despite playing the NES version of Mega Man 3 countless times, I still had to have Mega Man III on the GB. The lack of color didn't deter me, nor did fighting familiar foes. Actually, playing Mega Man III on the GB was fresh and nostalgic at the same time. I no longer had an NES so Mega Man III served as sort of a remixed version of Mega Man 3 and 4. The levels weren't complete copy and paste works and the GB's sound chip gave some slightly new spins on favorite themes. I especaially was quite fond of the game's rendition of Snake Man's theme. I had to wait for my dad to get off of work so he could drive me up to Meijer to get this one. The wait nearly killed me, but when you're a kid, 30 minutes seems like an eternity. Mega Man III provided me with some of my fondest memories on the GB and was an excellent 12th birthday gift.

Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins (GB)

Mega Man III was all kinds of awesome and Tetris was nice to have around. But it was the 4th of July weekend and I was a new GB owner so I was always on the lookout for new titles to add to my collection. Before nightfall came and the fireworks began, I was in Meijer with my family and my mother gave me some cash to go get something. I cannot remember what it was, but she gave me enough moola to pick up the game that introduced the world to Wario, Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins. By the time, I got my hands on it, it was about a year old, but I still remember that creepy commercial where Wario was trying to hypnotize the viewers. It sure left an impression on me, that's for sure. My mom was quite peeved when she found out I blew 30 bones on this game. I felt bad about it for about a minute. Then I heard the game's athletic themed and didn't give it much thought afterwords.

Despite not being a Miyamoto game, Super Mario Land 2 was no less a strange game. The game was packed with all sorts of oddball locals, each classified under zones, much like the Sonic series. Mario Zone was always an interesting place for me because it took place inside a giant Mario. The final level was actually the crotch, which was filled with, I kid you not, balls. This was also the only game to feature Rabbit Mario, which let Mario glide with a pair of, you guessed it, rabbit ears.

It was very easy to get lives in this game. In fact most of Super Mario Land 2 was quite easy. Right up until you reach Wario's castle. Holy crap. The difficulty spike here was completely unexpected especially since most of the game was a cakewalk. I've never actually beaten Super Mario Land 2 because of this stupidly hard final level.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GG)

I wonder if my having a GB had anything to do with it, but my dad ended up plunking down some cash for a Game Gear during the summer. SEGA's big claim to fame for it's handheld was color and while it certainly looked nice, it sucked down batteries like a kid does Caprisuns. I think the six double A batteries my dad used for it on the first day died within two hours. Fortunately, he shopped smart and bought his with an AC adapter. My dad, bless his heart, let me play his GG whenever he wasn't using it and I treated it like it was my own.

Even I found the color of the GG attractive and more importantly it had some games that caught my eye, mainly the Sonic titles. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a game he picked up the day he bought his GG and it was vastly different from the Genesis version. For one, Tails wasn't even playable and the usual green first level areas found in  Sonic 1 and 2 on the Genesis were 86'd in favor of what I think was my first experience of a mine cart level in the form of the Underground Zone. The big kick to the crotch was the third act. I made it through the first two acts with little trouble but Underground Zone Act 3 was my first brick wall, not only due to the boss and the screen limitations, but the fact that Act 3 contained no rings. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Lack of rings made what was already a frustrating battle far more difficult. As I progressed through the later zones, I caught on that each third act was ringless, which in turned forced me to get better at the game. 

So, provided you were alive and kicking at the time, what games were you playing during the summer of 1993?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Favorite Tunes #95: Sonic Boom

Last week's Favorite Tunes was all about Mario. Since Sonic and Mario are like two sides of the same coin, it only feel rights to have the fastest thing alive follow after the plumber.

Eggmanland Night - Sonic Unleashed (PS3, PS2, 360, Wii)

The day portions of the game are awesome. The night portions of the game suck. Says the majority of the Sonic fanbase. I'll admit that the night levels of Sonic Unleashed can dragon on, but they aren't all the game destroyers that so many make them out to be. Of course if everything I hear about Eggman Land is true, then this level can go screw itself. At least the music is pretty rad. That's gotta count for something.

Sonic Boom - Sonic CD (SCD)

Come on, you knew this was coming. How can I reference one of the most recognizable songs in the history of Sonic and not have said song featured here? As everyone knows by now, when Sonic CD was being brought over to the United States, SEGA of America made the decision to change the music, something that has since divided the fanbase to this day. We would never have gotten Sonic Boom if SEGA hadn't done this and the rest of the American soundtrack is certainly nothing to scoff at. Sonic Boom was included as an unlockable song in Super Smash Bros. Brawl as well as Sonic Generations.

Green Hill Zone Act 2 - Sonic Generations (PS3, 360, 3DS)

Past meets present in Sonic Generations, the game that allowed players to play as two different versions of the hedgehog each with their own style of play. Classic Sonic's levels are 2D affairs while Modern Sonic blasts through 3D stages. The soundtrack featured tons of remixes and arrangements from the updated levels from all the previous Sonic games. Long time Sonic music composer Jun Senoue took a stab at remix the famous Green Hill Zone theme. There's lots of trademark Jun guitar goodness but it still sticks close to the original theme.

Terminal Velocity Act 1 - Sonic Colors (Wii) 

A modern Sonic game that had a host of 2D gameplay. Despite not being on an HD console, Sonic Colors still posts visuals that are on par with it's HD brothers. I had more than enough time to get Terminal Velocity stuck in my head because I kept failing the first act over and over again. There's been an abundance of rock music in Sonic's long history and this baby ranks right up with the best of 'em.

Work It Out - Sonic R (SAT)

As part of Sonic's 23rd anniversary SEGA gave Sonic R's soundtrack the digital release treatment. The original album was released in 1998 so it has long since been out of print, making this re-release extremely welcome. The lyrics can be a bit cheesy, but Sonic R has always had some of my favorite vocal performances in the series. For me, Work It Out is every bit  as good as Can You Feel the Sunshine and Super Sonic Racing.

Intro - Sonic Mega Collection (GCN, PS2, XB)

This wasn't Sonic's first anthology release. Far from it. But being available on more platforms maid it far easier to own than Sonic Jam. Featuring all of Sonic's platforming Genesis adventures along with the spin-offs, Sonic Mega Collection was a hefty dose of Sonic goodness. Originally a GCN exclusive, this compilation eventually made it's way to the PS2 and XB in the form of Sonic Mega Collection Plus. Outside of the mostly great selection of games (Sonic 3D Blast sucks on unimaginable levels), there was some sweet, original music. The nostalgic is magnified tenfold when you hear the intro/title music while watching the demos of these games.

Favorite Tunes Database

Friday, August 22, 2014

Latest Purchases #74

I think I'm approaching otaku status in terms of collecting Dragon Ball manga. I already have Viz's 16 volumes of Dragon Ball and the 26 volumes of Dragon Ball Z, yet hear am I, buying the whole series all over again in the form of their Dragon Ball 3-in-1 volumes. I love the spines on these and those red covers taken from the Japanese perfect editions is just soooooo awesome. I ordered the third edition Dragon Ball 3-in-1 off of Amazon in late July but it never arrived. This is actually the second time I've ordered something off of Amazon and I haven't gotten it. Worse, this was ordered from Amazon Prime, so I'll definitely think twice before ordering from them from now on. I just went ahead and picked up book 3 along with 4 and 5 from  my Barns & Nobles. If the book ever does come in the mail (doubtful since it's been over a month), I'll just give the extra copy to a friend or something.

Wrapping up the Dragon Ball purchases is the Blu-Ray of Dragon Ball Z Kai season one. I already have all nine seasons of DBZ in the form of Funimation's orange bricks and while I do intend to pick up the Blu-Ray nine season set as well, I've been meaning to start recollecting Kai for a long time. I picked up Part seven of the DVD release about two years ago and then realized that I'd be better off just nabbing this series in season form.

It's been years since I've picked up a physical copy of an imported game. When I was writing my editorial about the printed instructional manuals being phased out, I came across scans of Sonic the Hedgehog 2's Japanses manual on Sonic Retro. I was so enthralled by it that I went looking on Amazon to see how much a Japanese copy of Sonic 2 would set me back. Much to my surprise, the cost was quite low, as in only $15 or so including shipping. This thing is in very good condition and even includes the European and Chinese instructions in addition to the Japanese manual. I'm thinking I'll pick up a Japanese copy of Sonic 1 sometime down the road and perhaps Sonic 3 & Knuckles.

Batman: Assault on Arkham. There are more DC animated Batman flicks than of other DC super hero. I caught a preview of this when on the Blu-Ray of Son of Batman and I gotta say, I liked what I saw. This one looks like it's pretty bad guy-centric, which is fine with me, because Bat's rogues gallery can easily carry a comic or TV episode when written correctly. As I am in the middle of Dragon Ball season four, blogging, gaming and work, I haven't watched this thing yet.

The last water bottle I bought was in 2011 and the image of Sonic the Hedgehog has long since faded from it, sadly. Be it cartoony or serious, I'm all over Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles merch. The sandwich containers is something I'll probably use for storing small things. No way I'm going to use it for what the manufacturer intended at my age.

Well, would you look at that. Books! And neither one of them Dragon Ball related. The only Alice in Wonderland things I've see are Disney's 1957 movie and the Batman: The Animated Series episode Mad as a Hatter. I've passed by this book numerous times in Barns & Nobles and I've been wanting to see just how differently the book is from Disney's film. $6.98 for a hardcover book isn't shabby at all. There's even some artwork in here.

The hardcover edition of The Fault in Our Stars is usually somewhere around $20 or so. My local Krogers had it for $13.99. I was a bit worried there wouldn't be any copies of the hardback edition left when I got paid, but sure enough, there were three sitting on the shelf.  The first time I saw this book is when I was getting checked out at fye a few months back. The praise and summerization on the back intrigued me, so I thought I'd give this one a look. I'm backed up with a ton of other books but I plan to make room for this one.

So apparently there's this whole World of Nintendo toy line going on, ranging from figures to plushies. The plushies were $7.99 in Target and I had slim pickings between a Yoshi, Toon Link and a Red Pikmin. I went with the Red Pikmin because he was the only one left, I already have Toon Link and Yoshi plushies and the thing is just so dang adorable. I always knew Pikmin would make great plush toys and the very sight of this thing sends me in daaaaw mode. I can't wait to get the remaining Pikmin colors. The mini figures were $3.99 and they nearly had the whole set of six was there for the picking. Of Diddy Kong, Ice Luigi, Wario, and Waluigi, the Donkey Kong and Fire Mario appealed to me the most. I've always been a fan of Waluigi, so maybe I'll grab him  next time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Favorite Tunes #94: Do the Mario

Favorite Tunes has been MIA for a little too long for my liking so I've decided to bring it back. As the subtitle suggests, this is a Mario-centric edition, specifically, the Super Mario series.

Slider - Super Mario 64 (N64, DS)

Super Mario 64 may feel a bit aged in the control department when compared to Super Mario Sunshine and the Super Mario Galaxy titles, but it's still a fine game and did a exceptional job of propelling the plumber into the third dimension. Slider, is usually a theme heard during racing segments such as the one with that huge, annoying Penguin in Cool, Cool Mountain. It's actually an arranged version of the game's Main Theme.

Clock Tower - Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)

One of the most anticipated 3DS games in 2011, Super Mario 3D Land was a much needed title for Nintendo's then fresh 3D handheld that was lacking in killer apps for the unit's launch. 3D Land took many inspirations from Super Mario Bros. 3. Not only did it feature the return of one of my favorite power-ups, the Tanooki Suit, but the levels were also on the short side. The last time I did a clock tower stage in a Mario game (Tick-Tock Clock in Super Mario 64) the frustration I felt was almost on par with that of Castlevania III's Clock Tower level. Thankfully, the Clock Tower stage in 3D Land is far more tolerable.

Special World - Super Mario World (SNES)

Mario's first 16-bit title on the SNES and a launch title, Super Mario World unfortunately had fewer power-ups than it's predecessor, but this didn't prevent it from being another benchmark Super Mario title. The familiar Super Mario Bros. Theme seemed to become more and more hidden with each successive game. In Super Mario Bros. 3, if you wanted to hear the tune, you had to use the Music Box to put enemies on the world map to sleep. Make it to the Special World in Super Mario World, a world which houses the most brutal levels in the game, wait a few minutes and that music we all know and love kicks in.

Comet Observatory 3 - Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Releasing in 2007, just one year after the Wii was on store shelves, gamers were treated to the next 3D adventure. After the somewhat disappointing Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy had a lot to make up for. It did that and a thousand times more. The planetary gameplay mechanics of Super Mario Galaxy, coupled with some awesome level design, rivals that of Mario's best 2D exploits. It was the first Mario game to use a fully orchestrated musical score. It also gave us Rosalina, my favorite female character in the Mario universe. The third version of the Comet Observatory theme uses more instruments than the previous two, making it sound as if the theme has been fully fleshed out.

Athletic - New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)

New Super Mario Bros. U's soundtrack can certainly be accused of being lazy. Most of the tracks are ripped straight from New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Much of the new music came from the world map themes but the game did give us Acorn Plains and the pretty head bobbing Athletic theme, which of course, is an arrangement of Acorn Plains. I actually prefer this over the original theme.

Bowser's Highway Showdown - Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

A sequel to 3D Land, Super Mario 3D World greatly expanded upon 3D Land in a plethora of ways. It added multiplayer, Rosalina as an unlockable character, gave each character their own style of play a la Super Mario Bros. 2, introduced the Cat Suit and featured some of the best level design not just in the Super Mario series but in video games as a whole. 3D World deserves each and every ounce of praise that it gets. Bowser has always had a history of being associated with rock music. As great as his orchestral themes in the Galaxy games were, it was great to hear Bowser rocking out once again, and with an awesome set of wheels, no less!

Favorite Tunes Database

Monday, August 18, 2014

Best Levels Ever Vol. 1

Meet the sister series to Frustrating Levels in Gaming. Where as that feature bemoans the level aspects that make them a chore to go through, Best Levels Ever is all about giving props to awesome, fun, well-thought out level designs. 

World 3-6: Mount Must Dash - Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Super Mario 3D World is bursting at the seems with brilliant level designs, with just about every stage having its own unique feel to it. World 3-6 incorporates elements from what is arguably the plumber's best spin-off series, Mario Kart. Using the classic Mario Circuit tracks from the original Super Mario Kart as the level layout, Mount Must Dash is all about moving at break neck speed. Boost panels are scattered all throughout the level, discouraging slow movement. This level can be a little tricky when three or more players are involved, especially if everyone isn't on the same page. But when it's just one person or everyone playing is in sync, blasting through Mount Must Dash feels as cool as a summer breeze. Then speedy nature of this level makes it great for time trial purposes.

Magnet Man Stage - Mega Man 3 (NES)

Mega Man games have been lauded for the exceptional stage designs. Egoraptor even pointed out the the Classic Mega Man games have been excellent teaching tools for players without holding their hands. Magnet Man's stage is a shinning example of this. Magnets obviously play a big roll in this stage and you're introduced to several of them early on. These magnets fly through the air as you traverse over bottomless pits while avoiding the magnetic pull. Once you get below the surface, more magnets are introduced but instead of pulling you upward, these are wall mounted, so they pull you left or right. Nothing too threatening, but you can get pulled into a few enemies if you aren't careful. At the level's midway point, those blasted disappearing blocks make an appearance and this is by far the most challenging portion of Magnet Man's stage. The disappearing blocks are divided into mini sections. The first section is easy to pass through but by the second section, those wall mounted magnets make a return to screw up your jumps. By the time you reach the third section, you'll have to deal with those infernal blocks, the magnets and bottomless pits. This last block section is usually the one that has players seeing red. It can be difficult, but the level slowly introduced you to every single one of these hazards one step at a time. You really can't say it's unfair because the game didn't spring it on you. Not only is Magnet Man's stage fun and challenging, but it comes with a super catchy, upbeat musical theme.

Stage 4: Dice Dance Days - Gunstar Heroes (GEN)

Treasure's first game is arguably their best. Of the first four levels the game let's you choose in any order, the fourth one is easily my favorite. It begins with your standard run and gun fair, complete with a few mini bossers, but when you reach the halfway point, the stage throws you what has got to be one of wildest curve balls in the history of gaming. On the wall is a giant board, not unlike the fold out ones you see in board games. Each square on the board is it's own mini level and when you go depends on what number comes up when you throw the die. You could be sent to do battle with a Pong-inspired boss, a creepy-looking smiley face, a tiny shoulder with insane strength, a maze, the list goes on and on. Gunstar Hereoes was already a stand out game in the genre with it's combined weapon mechanics and melee moves in addition to the gun play. Dice Dance Days just helped further cement it as one of the most astonishing run 'n game games ever.

Grassland Groove - Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)

A savanna in Donkey Kong Country? This may seem out of place, but considering all the jungle and forest locals in the series, it really is surprising that it took them this long to place this kind of environment in the DKC games. When you're not admiring the lovely scenery set against a sunset backdrop, you'll be platforming on dancing trees, climbing across swaying giraffe necks and moving down stone, grass covered snakes. Grassland Groove has oh-so-crystal-clear inspirations from The Lion King. The only thing missing is the Circle of Life playing as background music, but considering what David Wise came up with, it's highly unlikely that you'll miss it.

Stage 3 - Contra ReBirth (Wii Ware)

All out action is par the course for a Contra game but each entry always has a level or two that is just flat out crazy awesome. Such a level from Contra ReBirth comes in the form of the third stage. You start out on a supply truck and are soon assaulted by mooks, a barrage of missiles and a ninja robot that throws so much ammo at you, you'd think you stepped into a Cave shooter. At several points in the stage you'll have to quickly platform across robotic camels while making your way back to another supply truck. One misstep during these segments can end up costing you many a life. The third stage of Contra Rebirth is undoubtedly the most adrenaline filled stage of the whole game and is an excellent contender for the most outrageous level in the history of Contra titles.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Game Art #68: Mega Man Gallery

How often has Mega Man been the central feature for Game Art? I know he crops up pretty often in these segments, but the Blue Bomber is one of my favorite video game characters so it really is hard for me not to give him his due, especially when I see some art work that catches my fancy. As per usual, enjoy.

By JassyCoCo
By RobShields
By einen
By Ian-the-Hedgehog
By AndrewDickman
Pixiv ID
By wavechan

Friday, August 8, 2014

Latest Purchases #73: Birthday Edition

So my birthday was last month and I felt that I should treat myself with something special. At first I wasn't really sure what I should get but then I remembered my love for one of my favorite series ever. And I went on a Dragon Ball binge.

fye had all five seasons of the original Dragon Ball anime series so I snatched them all up. It's been years since I've seen OG Dragon Ball and watching it again is bringing back so many memories. When I was watching it on my days off on Toonami, I was getting home in time to catch uncut episodes on Toonami's Midnight Run. Currently, I'm on season three.

A few weeks ago while I was browsing in Barns & Nobles I saw these Dragon Ball Full Color Saiyan Arc volumes. Released last year in Japan to help hype the new Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods film, these are fully colored versions of the Saiyan Saga manga. Unlike the colored pages of the Viz Big editions, these are not only printed on bigger, higher quality paper, but the colors used in these editions are also much better and brighter. The end result is one of the best manga releases of Dragon Ball manga. Right now, only the Saiyan Arc is available in America. Japan has the entire Z portion of the manga in a total of  what I believe is 20 full color volumes. No doubt Viz will release the remaining arcs for western audiences. Barns & Nobles had a special on manga where you buy two and get the third one free. I found this out after the lady at the register rung me up and I ended up saving a cool $20.

Long before the Goku knew the origins of his otherworldly strength, the world of Dragon Ball was very lighthearted and the other cast members was on a much more even playing field. This was the early stages of Dragon Ball, stages that some fans contend is superior to the later years. Despite owning the Dragon Ball manga in it's entirety, I haven't let this stop me from picking up different versions of the manga that Viz has released. These Dragon Ball 3-in-1 volumes aren't quite like the Viz Big editions. The paper isn't of the same quality and there are no color chapters to speak of. These however, do sport the sweet redrawn covers that were used of the 2003 re-release of the Dragon Ball manga in Japan. I've got a post on Dragon Ball releases that I've been wanting to do for a while now so I'll elaborate on all this later.

Dragon Ball: The Complete Illustrations. This book originally came out in Japan in 1995 after Dragon Ball had ended. It didn't get translated and released in the west until 2008. Inside this book are tons upon tons of full color illustrations of numerous Dragon Ball imagery. Just thumbing through it, I've come across a a few pictures that I've never seen before. Again, this book came out after Dragon Ball had ended so there isn't any artwork from Akira Toiryama from the 2000s and onward. I've seen a lot of the images in this book before, but its great to have so much of it packed away in one hardcover book.

I've had my eye on this DBZ t-shirt for weeks and I've finally made it my own. You've got a good chunk of the heroes, the three big bads and of course, Goku in the center striking a mean pose. This simple looking Batman t-shirt is honestly one of my favorite Bat shirts. Sometimes less truly is more. Much as I like the gold emblem behind the Bat symbol, I think the shirt is worlds better without it. I picked this up as my way of continuing the Batman 75th anniversary celebrations. As per usual, at my fye, buy one t-shirt, get the second for half the price.

Long have I heard of how the Phantom Blot was Mickey's greatest adversary in comics. The fifth volume in Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse comic strip series, I had forgotten this book was due out back in May. I still haven't read the previous four volumes, only thumbing through them and considering this comic strip series spans 45 years, it will probably be a looooooong time before Fantagracphics Books finishes it up. So I should probably start reading what I have on my plate soon. In this volume, Mickey gets pupils! Huzzah!

This Yoshi hat is one I'd seen in fye for some time now. I didn't think it was bad but I thought $17.99 was a lot of bones at the time. Good thing for me I came in when they were slashing prices on a lot of stuff and they had it at a super discount price of $6.49. It is now one of my favorite hats to wear, which isn't saying much since I've only got two of the things. Gotta build that hat collection.

I've been going through different anime series available on Netflix. One such series was Girls Bravo. At only 24 episodes, it seemed like one I could get through rather quickly. I've heard of this anime but hadn't seen it until recently. While I don't know if I'd call it one of my all-time favorites, I liked it enough to the point of making it a part of my anime library. For the uneducated, this is definitely not an all ages anime.

Hello Kitty. Dressed up as M. Bison. Even dressed up as one of the most despicable video game bosses, that is still freaking adorable. I never thought I would any kind of Hello Kitty merch, but then, I saw this for less than $4 at fye. Bargain prices are my weakness.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Death of Printed Instruction Manuals

"Say goodbye to paper." This is the slogan that is splashed across the packaging of every Boogie Board LCD e-writer device. There is no denying the fact that we are rapidly racing towards a digital world. But when something is gained, something must be lost. The times, they have a changed. With digital devices making it easier for our reading and writing needs, paper is going the way of the Dodo bird. In the paper vs. digital war, digital seems to be the clear victor since it takes up less space and its accessibility is infinitely easier. One such causality in this war are video game instruction manuals and I'm finding their loss a bit difficult to cope with.

It didn't really sink in with me that gaming manuals were disappearing until I bought my 3DS two years ago along with Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7. Mario's latest 3D adventure had me raring to go and I thought I'd take a glance at the instruction manual, and well, just a glance is all it really ended up being. Much to my surprise, the manual that came with Super Mario 3D Land was more of a folded pamphlet that showed nothing but the basic controls and nothing more. Had Nintendo turned into some tree huggers or what? The Big N had always delivered some of the finest instruction manuals even back in 8-bit NES days. To see such bare bones manuals from them was quite the reality slap.

You can find out about the story of Kirby's Adventure
in the opening cut scene, but the manual also explains
it to you, complete with nice, colorful pictures.

I really, really should have seen this coming. I myself had begun to embrace digital media, beginning in 2010 when I picked up a Wii. The list of downloadable games I purchased from the Wii Shop Channel is quite hefty. Sure, many of them are digital versions of games I already own, but there are quite a few that I never would have been able to obtain if not for downloadable distribution. We gamers from the NES days love to laugh and joke about blowing in the carts to get them to work, but having the ability to fire up Mega Man 3 without that hassle saves me a lot of frustration. When I picked up a PlayStation 3 earlier this year, I ventured out even further into the realm of digital gaming. Sonic CD, NiGHTS HD, and Zanac x Zanac. My PS3 digital library continues to grow. But as I said in my intro paragraph, the loss of paper manuals is a tough pill to swallow and the rise of digital media has largely attributed to the decline.

Box art has improved a great deal for video games in the west. In previous console generations, it was usually Japan and Europe that got all the sweet-looking box art. Video game manuals weren't just there to instruct you on how to play the games. They were also a means for you to get a look at the original artwork. The manuals for Super Mario Bros. 1-3 were filled with illustrations of Mario, power-ups and the numerous enemies you would encounter on your journey. There seemed to be an understanding on the makers of these manuals that they didn't always have to be dull, lifeless, light booklets filled with nothing but informative text, which sadly, is what lots of manuals have become these days. True, the whole point of an instruction manual is to give the player guidance on how to play the game. But when they were bursting with pictures of the non playable characters, mooks and the like, you got the feeling that they were meant to be much more than a simple "How To" book.

Mario, demonstrating his various jumps
from the manual of Super Mario 64.

You've all heard the saying actions speak louder than words. Not all of us pick up on things through instruction or words. There are those of us that are better educated when we've got a visual. Why just tell the player how to slide when you can actually show them by providing a detailed image of the executed action? Mario had always been a jumping fanatic long before the leap into the third dimension but by moving him to a bigger playing field, his jump game was expanded tenfold. Double jumps, triple jumps, long jumps, back flips, wall kicks, boy howdy, the nickname "Jumpman" was more well earned than ever before by the time Super Mario 64 arrived. The two dimensional drawings of the 2D Mario games may have been absent in Super Mario 64's instruction manual, but the 3D models of Mario performing his various acrobatic feats were no less a welcome sight.

Long before the days of the internet and spoilers, manuals were also great for showing you what lied before you. The Sonic the Hedgehog platformers were especially good with these, providing brief explanations about each zone along with a screenshot. The American manuals were colorless compared to their Japanese counterparts, which were by and large much better manuals and I'll get to those in a bit, but still, they weren't too shabby. Seeing images of Star Light Zone gave me a bit more incentive to press on in Sonic the Hedgehog. What's more, the Sonic manuals also told you how to dispose of the Badniks that littered each level. Coconuts giving you trouble? Attack him from underneath. Catakillers making you lose rings and lives? Spin attack him from the front. Yeah, you could find out how to handle these guys by simply playing the game, but the thought of explaining it via manual was still appreciated, at least from this gamer's perspective.

As I've said before, instruction manuals were a great source for original video game artwork. What kid doesn't love looking at pictures? The Japanese manuals for the Sonic the Hedgehog platformers were overflowing with illustrations that it was liking having a free art book to go along with your awesome game. What's more is that these manuals were loaded with cute little sketches, some of which wouldn't be available to the outside Sonic fanbase until the release of the 2012's The History of Sonic the Hedgehog. You can tell that the folks at Sonic Team really went above and beyond caring with those manuals. It's enough to make me want to grab Japanese editions of Sonic 1-3 & Knuckles just to have paper editions of those manuals.

Words, however, do matter. As much as I love looking at the illustrations in game manuals, it is important to tell the player how to play. But that doesn't mean you have to be boring about it. One of my favorite instruction manuals is from the SNES game, Uniracers. When I rented this from Blockbuster in 1996, I was fortunate enough to get it with instructions. It's one of the few video game manuals I've read from cover to cover, not because Uniracers was an overly complex game. Written by Steven Hammond, Uniracers manual was not only informative and well written as a good manual should be, but it was freaking hilarious. It was almost impossible to read a page and not laugh out loud. It even poked fun at those memo pages that you more than likely never used. It was one of the few times where a manual's text out-shinned the artwork, though those CG images in the manual were cool to look at.

So print game manuals are disappearing and its made me a sad panda. Some of the digital manuals I've seen have been nothing but boring strings of text. However, it wasn't until I started writing this editorial that it occurred to me that not all is lost on the digital manual front. Nintendo has been putting out some pretty nice digital manuals for their games. The digital manuals for NES Remix and NES Remix 2 use the in game sprites to decorate the manual and go along with the text. Furthermore, you can spot some of the Famicom's design signatures on the pages. With NES Remix Pack coming to American later this year, I can only hope we'll get a printed version of this nostalgia inducing manual.

Those that backed Yacht Club Games' Shovel Knight with $15 or more could download a digital instructional manual from the game, which is loads better than the digital manual. It looks to be a homage to the manuals from the NES days, with tons of character art to go along with the accompanying controller actions.

Digital manuals like the ones for NES Remix 1-2, Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario 3D World make the lose of print manuals a bit easier to deal with and are an excellent way to remind developers that care can and should be placed in them. I'm hoping more developers and publishers take a look at what Nintendo and Yacht Club Games has done with their digital manuals and follow suit. If companies going to provide gamers with instructions on how to play the game, then the very least they can do is make them look appealing, even through digital media.