I’m normally a bit disappointed when I open up a second hand game and find someone’s actually used the notes section – how dare they! We all know that any blank spaces in manuals or on maps must be kept pristine and untouched, even if the developer openly invites us to use that space by writing “Notes” or “Passwords” at the top. Well, the day I opened up my PC-88 copy of Falcom’s first-person dungeon crawler Dinosaur was the exception to that rule for me – every last inch of the official graph paper had been scribbled on, and I loved it.
This wasn’t just some child vandalising a manual (at the price computer games went for in Japan at the time, the chances of a kid affording Dinosaur were rather slim in the first place!) but someone’s adventure, all mapped out in front of me. They’d spent time with this. They’d struggled in places, and I could see it. They also had a selection of biros and weren’t the sort to care which colour they used this session.
It all starts off innocently enough – Falcom kindly provide colourful painted not-map-maps of “World of DINOSAUR”, and like all good old dungeon crawlers these “fluff” illustrations are actually useful if you take the time to think about them; the location positions in the first image are correct and both maze paintings in the second image are accurate, it’s just up to the player to notice.
Falcom continue to help out and start you off with a few fully-outlined but un-annotated maps of some starting areas, easing you into the idea that yes, you really are expected to carry on and use up all the other blank sheets they give you. At this point Mr Dinosaur Player has circled a few little points of interest and drawn some small maps.
As we get further into the game Mr Dinosaur Player is now totally on his own and seems to be doing pretty well until he appears to have a breakdown mapping out 2F of the Tower of Ordeals.
Let’s look at another sheet shall we? This one’s almost at the end of the game… oh dear, we aren’t even in neat line territory any more! At this point he’s gone through the Dimension Maze, AKA The Most Evil Dungeon I’ve Ever Come Across, and I can practically feel his despair oozing out of every scribble, poor thing.
I don’t really want this to come across as though I’m pining for the Good Old Days; making your own maps is a time consuming process and something our games are more than capable of doing for themselves (heck, we expect our phones to be able to map out a route home now!), but I do think it’s a shame that with that streamlining we lose these little windows into battles fought long ago and late nights spent swearing at spinner plates and invisible walls. Mr Dinosaur Player, I salute you!