The thread on the BF: Vietnam manual got me thinking, which game had the best manual ever? Some key points to focus on:
Content: How in-depth was the manual? Did it describe the gameplay in detail?
Accuracy: Was the manual truthful? Did it properly reflect the game?
Printing: How was it bound? Was the text readable? Did they use special paper for extra flavor?
Art: Was the artwork striking? In color?
Humor or Other Outstanding Qualities: Was there something unique about the manual that made it stand out amongst others?
Personally, I found the original NES Zelda to have a great manual. Lots of color, informative, and pretty lengthy for a manual when it was released back in the day.
For PCs, I gotta say that everything I know about helicopters (which isn’t a heck of a lot, but still), I learned from Jane’s AH-64D Longbow manual. That thing was thick! So thick, it was spiral bound. I can’t say it was the best, but it does stand out in my mind as being high quality. Blizzard games also tend to have great manuals. They pack a lot of game lore in those things.
Agreeance. I remember deluding myself that just maybe I could fly the actual thing in a pinch after reading that tome. I cannot use the word book because it was a tome. It was actually interesting reading too because it just had a great deal of stuff in it about aerodynamics, aerial combat, etc. instead of just the “here is what the keys do”. I’m not certain I’d want to read a manual that big again for a game, but it does stand out in my mind.
I also have to throw in that Microprose had excellent manuals. F-19, Pirates, M1 Tank Platoon, 1942: PAW, F-14 Fleet Defender, and so on. The manuals were well written, informative, and actually enjoyable to read. I miss manuals like that…and yes Lock-On, I’m looking at you and your pamphlet…
Red Baron II.
All the game mechanics, controls, concepts, etc., + a good overview of WWI history, stuff about WW1 flight concepts and tactics, anecdotes from real WWI flyers, full color pictures of aircraft, and… more.
This got me thinking. I think the last “golden age” of flight sims, i.e. 1994-1999/2000ish, had some of the best manuals around. Almost all of the Jane’s sims had wonderful manuals, as well as other sims such as Tornado, EF2000, F/A-18 Korea, iF-22, iF-18, Flying Corps, Red Baron II, Falcon 4.0, Hind, Total Air War, and so on, all had fantastic manuals, probably some of the best of their time. They were all large, filled with useful information, enjoyable to read, and made their sims more fun. I sure do miss manuals like that…