Commentary on the Metroid Instruction Manual

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Commentary on the Metroid Instruction Manual

July 12, 2013

Hi everybody! Now that I'm finally done my album Working From Home (available wherever mp3 downloads are sold) and my marching band shows for the summer, I can get back to more important things, such as obsessing over ancient video games.

I love instruction manuals for old video games, especially NES games. Sometimes I get more nostalgia out of thumbing through the manual for a game than actually playing it. They have a look to them that's unique. As my brothers and I grew up and gradually lost interest in NES games, many of our cartridges were scattered to the four winds. The instruction manuals however were kept safe in a box in a closet, out of sight and out of mind. As a result, when my interest in NES games was reignited as an adult, I found myself in the position of having to repurchase games that I already had the manuals for. In fact, that's the case with this particular one, which is the original manual that came with my first copy of Metroid, a game which I 'lost' in high school and was given again as a gift in college. I scanned it myself, especially for this blog entry.

I've had this manual since the late 80's and it shows. As is often the case with old NES manuals, the cover is no longer attached.

I love how they thank you for buying the game.

This just seemed so EPIC to me as an 8 year old. I guess when you're 8, everything is epic.

I think there's still disagreement over whether the plural of 'metroid' is 'metroids', or if it's the same as the singular, like 'moose'.

One interesting thing is how the manual refers to Samus with male pronouns, considering Samus (spoiler) is a woman. Metroid was originally produced in Japan, and since the Japanese language doesn't use gender specific pronouns, the ambiguity was easy to maintain--the average gamer would just assume Samus was male. The game's ending, in which Samus takes off her helmet (and possibly a whole lot more) was intended to be a big surprise. In order to maintain this surprise for the American release, the translators had to be a little dishonest. If you finish the game in under three hours, you can start a new game and play as Samus sans her bulky space suit. Before I ever finished the game, I used passwords that allowed for suitless Samus, and didn't even make the connection in my mind that it was the same character. My brothers and I just called her 'the girl', as in "I'm playing Metroid with the girl."

You'll notice that the art style is very inconsistent. sometimes it's a more realistic comic book style, and sometimes it's more cartoonish and sloppy. This is the case with a lot of early NES game manuals. I think the cartoonish illustrations were supposed to be some kind of 'chibi' style in the original Japanese booklet.

I've always loved that drawing of Samus. Cool as a cucumber.

Early NES game manuals were not translated particularly well, which could sometimes make them more confusing than helpful. Metroid isn't the worst contender, but it has its moments. Sometimes I wonder if the translators even played the games at all.

The Maru Mari is almost universally referred to as the 'morphing ball' after the first game. Only the most hardcore Metroid fans still call it by its original name.

I always thought the enemies in NES games had the most ridiculous names. It's probably due to a combination of factors: names that sound cool to Japanese ears just don't sound as cool to American ears; poor transliterations, especially regarding s/th, v/b, and r/l; and enemies being given completely new names in the American version which were based on stupid puns or out of date pop culture references (Konami was especially bad for that last one).

If you're familiar with later games in the Metroid series, you'll notice that Kraid and Ridley have changed dramatically. I always liked their original character designs. They went from being unique organisms to both just being big lizardy things. You'll also notice that Ridley is described as being indigenous to Zebes, an idea which I'm pretty sure was abandoned in later games. I also loved how NES manuals always had a big question mark in place of a picture for the final boss. If you want to see what it looks like, you have to reach it. It's silly, but as a kid it gave me a wonderful sense of mystery, as if getting to see Mother Brain was a big deal, like I was privy to some secret knowledge if I managed to get that far.

I'm a little shocked that I never wrote anything on this page. I think it must have been that my sense of preserving the manual for one of my favorite games intact was more important than writing passwords in it. I did keep a little address book full of every Lemmings password I got, but that's another story.

I will admit that this page is not from my Metroid booklet. Rather, I scanned it from another game. The last page from mine is missing, but since it was identical in practically every booklet, I didn't think it mattered.

There you have it! This blog entry was intended to be a sort of appendix to The Ultimate Metroid Walkthrough, so be sure to check that out as well. If you'd like a map of Metroid, just image-search 'metroid map', as there are already dozens available online. If you enjoyed this article, you might also like Highlights from the First Issue of Nintendo Power.

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