Every U.S. PlayStation 2 Game Manual Is Now Scanned In 4K


NeoGAFs Kent Brockman

Physical game manuals are hard to come by these days, especially as the industry begins to heavily lean into cloud streaming and digital-first infrastructures. But if you remember those good ole times when game boxes came with chunky pamphlets for you to peruse before jumping into your recent purchase, a games preservationist called Kirkland seeks to preserve that nostalgia for posterity by creating high-quality scans of the manuals of yore. In fact, he’s just finished uploading his complete set of U.S. PlayStation 2 manual scans.

My fave aspect of buying a new PS2 game was always reading the manual to see what tips, tricks, and occasionally cheats I could use. While that time is long gone, Kirkland has now preserved just over 1,900 of them, uploading every single U.S. PS2 manual to Archive.org in full 4K resolution for your downloading and scrolling pleasure. The set comes in it at roughly 17GB—it was 230GB before compression. That’s chonky.

“The goal is to raise some awareness for game preservation efforts,” Kirkland told Kotaku. “So many games growing up shaped how we looked at and experienced the world. Of course as we ‘grow up,’ we move to other things but there are a lot of us who have nostalgia for these things and want our kids to be able to enjoy what we did. The whole ‘read the books your father read’ deal. And there have been great efforts to preserve games: VGHF, the Strong Museum, and grassroots efforts like MAME, redump.org, No-Intro, and Cowering’s Good Tools before that. Which I always thought, ‘This is great! We’re going to have everything preserved. But without the manuals, we’re not going to know how to play them.’”

Unfortunately for the manuals, scanning can be a pretty rough process. “My process is horrible. I pull the staples and run most everything through my Epson DS-870 sheetfed scanner. As a die hard perfectionist, using a document scanner is disappointing for quality, but a necessity due to volume,” he said. I spent seven months scanning SNES manuals and only made it to the letter ‘E’ using three flatbed scanners. With this setup I’ve been able to scan almost 75,000 pages in the last year alone.”

After the tedious work of scanning each page, Kirkland used a bevy of apps—like Adobe Acrobat Pro, Photoshop, Textpad, and PDF Combiner Pro—to get them as clean and pristine as possible before uploading them all to Archive.org in both 2K and 4K resolution. “I’ve spent entire summer vacations scanning manuals, only to discard them as I’ve gotten better equipment, or better processed,” he said. “Lots of late nights.”

Kirkland said he dropped about $40,000 on his U.S. PS2 collection as he methodically bought every U.S. release over the course of 22 years. “I grabbed new releases when they got down to $20 for about the first 800 releases, then I started picking up used sports games in good condition, then it was hunting down the odd variants (which is never-ending).”

Kirkland’s 4K U.S. PlayStation 2 scan set is likely the largest, highest-quality collection of video game manual scans publicly available, but to him, it doesn’t quite constitute “archival” quality.

“I consider this ‘functional preservation’ for now,” he said. “Since I’ve popped the staples, I can always chuck them on a flatbed to properly preserve them. But then it goes back to my perfectionist nature. What is ‘good enough’? 2400 dpi at 48-bit color (over one gigabyte per page). At what point are we archiving ink instead of images? There is no easy answer.”

Maybe further advances in technology will eventually make the task easier.

“In the future, I’d love to have an AI that can truly reconstruct the text and images as they were intended, correcting skew and properly descreening without blurring line art,” he said. “As it is, no one really wants a 600 dpi scan with staple holes and black edges, they just want the polished, finished project.“

Of course, getting there requires an incredible amount of labor on the part of the archivist.

While finishing over 1,900 PS2 manual scans might strike you as a good life’s work, it’s actually just another milestone for Kirkland. He’s previously completed the full set of U.S. SNES manuals in 2K (collecting those to scan cost him $8,000), and is in the process of chipping away at SNES 4K, Atari 2600, and Game Boy. “I’ve scanned about 300 of the original PlayStation manuals the last few weeks,” he casually drops, as if it’s nothing.

Kirkland says he has about 7,500 manuals on hand, of which about 3,000 have already been preserved. He just wishes that this work didn’t all have to fall onto the backs of unusually motivated individuals like himself. “In a perfect world, companies would step up and release their original artwork sent to the presses for preservation,” he said. “But so many of those have been lost to history and hard drives over time.”

Yet collaboration brings its own challenges.

“At this time it’s mostly a solo effort—which I’m hoping to change as I move on to systems I cannot 100%,” he said. “I’ve been burned in the past by collaborations, so I’ve been a little leery of attaching to other projects, in the hopes of having a little more control over quality and direction.”

The work is painstaking, and many of the manuals most in need of preservation are stuck in private collections or being jacked up in price by “investors.” But Kirkland plans to continue his scanning projects because, in his view, this work simply must be done before it becomes impossible.


Where's PAL

Mr Bean Waiting GIF by MOODMAN


"But without the manuals, we’re not going to know how to play them."
seems to me the guy is a special kind of moron


Gold Member
That’s really awesome, I think that gen was the last gen to really have game Kenyans that weren’t paper thin or nonexistent.


Hype Train conductor. Works harder than it steams.
Only 4k, what year is it?

Nah seriously a 4k image isn't as impressive as 4k video.
We had that over a 15 years ago.
Still impressive they managed to do them all.


Looking through the Timesplitters manual was a walk down memory lane PS2 was really an unmatched generation.


Where's PAL

Mr Bean Waiting GIF by MOODMAN
That would be a lot more impressive. Although the games themselves were only localized for the languages that have about 50+ million speakers, the localization for manuals and especially the covers were more common even for small nations.


Those long posts don't cover that red neck boy
Surprising answer on the question "Would you rather have sex with a insane looking wife that remains the same for 22 years, or would you rather scan the entire Playstation 2's library of game manuals?"
I used to love those things. They contained some cool lore sometimes that you wouldn’t know through just playing the game too.

Also, I’ve no idea how most people played games like Baldurs Gate without the manual, for someone who didn’t understand AD&D it was fucking nuts to play. That manual was longer than a lot of books too lol.


18+ Member
What does it means 4K?

I used to scan game magazines in the early 2000 (the yearl at 300ppi, and I had files 3000x2000.


not tag worthy
That’s pretty awesome from an archive point of view. I hope other games companies are doing such a thing for preserving their output.
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