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Nintendo releases full Earthbound strategy guide online for free

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Why it matters: One highlight of this week’s Nintendo Direct is the rerelease of Earthbound and its prequel on Nintendo’s subscription service. Players digging around in the service’s menus rediscovered Earthbound’s complete player’s guide, which Nintendo posted as a free PDF online. It’s a piece of nostalgia that many gamers would like to see for other classic games.

Nintendo must see its 135-page player’s guide for Earthbound as highly important. It has offered a PDF of the original 1995 guide for free online for a few years. However, with the game’s re-release for the Nintendo Online subscription service, it has been pointing a whole new generation of users to the well-designed guide often commended for its artistic style.

Users looking around in the Nintendo Online news feed, found on the Nintendo Switch home screen, found a QR code that leads to the PDF. The document came with copies of Earthbound cartridges when it came out in western countries in 1995. It served as both the game manual (back when there was such a thing) and a strategy guide. Nintendo offered free digital versions with the 2013 Wii U Virtual Console re-release and the Super Nintendo Classic Edition in 2017.

Nintendo still keeps the manuals available online for all the Super Nintendo Classic Edition and NES Classic Edition games. However, Earthbound is the only game for which a player’s guide is included. These are useful for those playing these games on Nintendo Online, but not all the Nintendo Online classic games manuals are there.

Game manuals are fading from use these days, but these games are from the era when most were designed under the expectation of players reading the manual. For instance, when Nintendo re-released StarTropics for Nintendo Online, some players got stuck because sections of the game required information from the original guide to proceed.

Although StarTropic’s manual is on Nintendo’s website, the subscription service didn’t let players know about it the way it has for Earthbound. It seems like a bit of a slip considering Nintendo included manuals for every game it released on Virtual Console for the Wii, Wii U, and 3DS.

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Nintendo did publish complete player’s guides for other classic games in past decades, which it has never re-released, even as it launched their corresponding games for Nintendo Online. If the company can do this for Earthbound, why not for Zelda games or other titles? Especially for those more graphical. It would be cool to see more examples of what has become a lost art form for older players and new ones alike.

In any case, players looking for other classic game manuals can always check sources like the Internet Archive. Another source is GOG. It includes manuals with the classic games it sells, and many Steam pages also have them.

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