The Legend of Zelda: Instruction Booklet

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A first edition USA booklet.

The Legend of Zelda: Instruction Booklet is the manual for The Legend of Zelda, an action-adventure game made by Nintendo. The game was first published on in Japan on the Famicom Disk System on 1986-02-21, and later in the USA on the Nintendo Entertainment System on 1987-08-22. Unfortunately, the authors of the Instruction Booklet are not credited.

Personal

The first time I played The Legend of Zelda near the end of the 1980s, I didn't have access to the manual. However, some point after that I obtained a manual, though I don't remember where I got it. I really loved the manual with its wonderful illustrations, thorough explanation of the game, and various hints. When I bought the Classic Edition cart, I also got the revised manual and map. I've read it through dozens of times.

Status

I own the second revised manual. I have read several variants.

Review

Good

  • The manual is entirely in color and fully illustrated including both drawings and screenshots of all of the game's items, monsters, characters, as well as plenty of cartoons and story illustrations. All these visuals really help bring the game to life. The illustrations are especially helpful for turning the cutesy pixel art into creepy drawings.
  • An in-depth explanation is given for all of the game's controls and functions. Far more than would be expected for a typical manual.
  • At 46 pages, the manual is among the longest on the NES platform.
  • The diorama of the over world map in the opening story page is amazing.
  • Helpful game hints are included on the bottom of most of the pages.

Bad

  • The manual has several translation errors where the meaning of the original Japanese text is lost or garbled. For example, the English translation says the red candle can light up several screens worth of rooms when it really it can be used multiple times in a room, unlike the blue candle. Similarly, the translation says the whistle lets link warp to the entrance of the ninth labyrinth, but it doesn't. Also, some of the changes that had to be made when the game was ported from the Famicom Disk System to NES are not acknowledged. For example, the English manual still says Pols Voice hates loud noise, a remnant from the Japanese version which required the player to shout into the microphone of the second controller.
  • The story in the manual, that Zelda placed pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom in eight different dungeons and put a monster to guard each one, doesn't make any sense. Though, this is more the fault of the game than the manual.
  • The "Hints on How to Destroy Ganon" section is out of place in the English manual. Although it makes sense to include the story drawings early on, the hints and tips in the section don't make sense until you read much further into the manual. In the original Japanese booklet, it's near the end. A good compromise would have been to include some of the drawings at the beginning to describe the story, and the other at the end, where the hits are more fitting.
  • The Japanese layout is quite messy and hard to follow, the paintings have the unfinished edges, and the screenshots are pretty blurry. The English manual fixes all of these problems.

Ugly

  • Nothing.

Versions

The Legend of Zelda: Instruction Booklet has gone through many translations and revisions, far more than the game itself. Most of the content is identical from version to version, but there are variations within the layout. I have tried to compile a list every version that exists as well as which version of the game it shipped with. However, this is complicated by the fact that different manuals shipped with different versions of the games, so, some of the versions are speculation based on the cartridge releases. Most of the dates are speculation. More research needs to be done to verify each version.

Released Catalog Region Version Download Notes
1987-08-22 None USA USA 1 Download Has ™ next to Zelda logo on cover. Circular Nintendo seal on page 1. One-line address on back. Shipped with silver circular seal and 5-screw cart no REV-A.
198?-??-?? NES-ZL-USA-I USA USA 2 Download Has ™ next to Zelda logo. Circular Nintendo seal in page 1. Extra precautions on page 2 and 14. Modified warranty on page 46. One-line address on back. Included in box with oval seal, REV-A, and ® next to Zelda logo.
198?-??-?? USA USA 3 Has ® next to Zelda logo. One-line address on back. Shipped in box with oval seal and REV-A.
198?-??-?? NES-ZL-USA-I USA USA 4 Download Has ® next to Zelda logo. Oval Nintendo seal on page 1. Extra precautions on page 2 and 14. Different warranty info on page 46. Two-lined address on back.
199?-??-?? NES-ZL-USA-I★ USA USA 5 Download Has ® next to Zelda logo. Oval seal and rear projection warning on page 1. Extra precautions on page 2 and 14. Different warranty info on page 46. Two-lined address on back.
1992-??-?? NES-ZL-USA-2 USA USA 6 Download Shipped with the "Classic Series" gray cart. Has ® next to Zelda logo and Ⓣ in lower right corner. Subtitle "Instruction booklet" is printed closer to bottom and is not italicized. Back cover has large red bar on the top with Nintendo support number. Nintendo logo has white interior. Matching cartridge uses catalog NES-ZL-USA-1.
2004-06-07 AGB-FZEL - USA USA GBA 1 Download The Game Boy Advance port.
2016-11-02 None USA USA D Download Published on Nintendo's web site. ™ next to Zelda logo. Has the original Nintendo seal of quality. Extra precautions on pages 2 and 14. FCC compliance is different on page 45. Unique warranty info on page 46. No address on back of manual.
1986-02-21 FMC-ZEL Japan FDS 1 Download Four disk care instructions. Only one date on page 53. No barcode on back.
1986-10-31 FMC-ZEL Japan FDS 2 Download Fifth disk care instruction. Page 53 has the revision date. Barcode on back.
2016-10-26 FMC-ZEL Japan FDS D Download Published on Nintendo's web site. Four disk care instructions. No dates on page 53. Barcode on back.
1994-02-19 HVC-ZL Japan Famicom 1 Download Famicom remake version. Uses American layout, but entirely in Japanese.
198?-??-?? NES-ZL-CAN Canada CAN 1
198?-??-?? NES-ZL-CAN-1 Canada CAN 2 Download Cover has ™ and MC next to Zelda logo. Subtitle reads "Instruction Booklet" and "Mode D'emploi". It includes side-by-side English and French translations, making the layout tight, a lot of the less-important text is left out, and some text is reworded.
198?-??-?? NES-ZL-UKV United Kingdom UKV 1
198?-??-?? NES-ZL-UKV-1 United Kingdom UKV 2
199?-??-?? NES-ZL-UKV-2 United Kingdom UKV 3 Green triangle on top left. Has a ™ next to Zelda logo and Ⓣ in lower right corner. Subtitle reads, "Instruction booklet". Back has green triangle. Bandai logo and "Distributed for Nintendo by Bandai UK.Ltd." Box has circular seal and reads, "NES Version Entertainment System." Cartridge catalog is NES-ZL-UKV.
198?-??-?? NES-ZL-FAH Belgium/France/Luxembourg/The Netherlands FAH 1 Download Has a ™ next to Zelda logo. Subtitle reads "Handleiding Mode D'emploi". Box has English and French seals of quality. Back has Nintendo logo centered. Back has Bandai logo and reads "distributed by Bandai" in English and French.
198?-??-?? NES-ZL-FAH Belgium/France/Luxembourg/The Netherlands FAH 2 Subtitle reads "Handleiding Mode D'emploi". Has red triangle on top left of manual and Ⓣ in lower right corner.
199?-??-?? NES-ZL-FAH★ Belgium/France/Luxembourg/The Netherlands FAH 3 Has a ™ next to Zelda logo. Subtitle reads "Handleiding Mode D'emploi". Back has Nintendo logo centered. Back has Bandai logo and reads "distributed by Bandai" in English and French.
199?-??-?? NES-ZL-FAH-1 Belgium/France/Luxembourg/The Netherlands FAH 4
199?-??-?? NES-ZL-FAH-2 Belgium/France/Luxembourg/The Netherlands FAH 5
1993-??-?? NES-ZL-FAH-3 Belgium/France/Luxembourg/The Netherlands FAH 6 Classic Series release. Has golden Mario medal on cover. Has ™ next to Zelda logo and Ⓣ in lower right corner. Subtitle reads "Handleiding Mode D'emploi".
1991-05-?? NES-ZL-ESP Spain ESP 1 Red triangle on top left of cover and ™ next to Zelda logo. Subtitle reads, "Libro de Instrucciones". Red triangle on back, and no address.
199?-??-?? NES-ZL-ESP-1 Spain ESP 2 Subtitle reads, "Libro de Instrucciones".
1991-12-?? NES-ZL-FRG Germany FRG 1 Download Entirely in German. Has ™ next to Zelda logo. Subtitle is "Spielanleitung". Back has no address, Nintendo logo is centered.
199?-??-?? NES-ZL-FRG-1 Germany FRG 2 Entirely in German. Subtitle reads, "spielanleitung". Has Ⓣ in lower right corner. Back has no address.
1987-11-15 NES-ZL-SCN Scandinavia SCN 1 Has ™ next to Zelda logo. Subtitle reads, "Instruction booklet". Back has Nintendo logo centered with copyright year below it. Instead of address, it reads "Imported to Scandinavia" then "by Bergsala AB. Kungsbacka Sweden".
1987-09-?? NES-ZL-EEC European Economic Community EEC 1 Written in English, Swedish, and Finnish.
1991-12-?? NES-ZL-GPS GPS GPS 1 Gray triangle on top left of cover and ™ next to Zelda logo. Subtitle reads, "Libro de Instrucciones". Red triangle on back, and no address.
1987-??-?? NES-ZL-GBR  ?  ? Existence not verified.
1988-??-?? NES-ZL-ASI Asia  ? Existence not verified.
1988-??-?? NES-ZL-HKG Hong Kong  ? Existence not verified.
198?-??-?? NES-ZL-ITA Italy  ? Existence not verified.
1989-??-?? NES-ZL-KOR South Korea  ? Existence not verified.

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