Information not actually mentioned within the show, but only found in other material related to the franchise. The difference between this and normal merchandising is that this information may actually be relevant to understanding the plot, making the audience wonder why the writers didn't put it in the show to begin with.
For example, many anime OVAs based on a manga begin with a One We Prepared Earlier situation and rarely explain themselves under the assumption an OVA (being an occasional test run for a series) will typically be watched by someone who has read the original manga.
Other information can be found in text novels, video games, radio dramas, and image songs, as the entire franchise is treated as a package. Though if you don't have the money for all that, your best bet is Wikipedia. When done to extremes, Crack is Cheaper.
Fairly common in anime, this is mostly unknown in American shows, although it seems to be steadily picking up speed with shows like LOST. However, it's very common in American comic books, possibly because of the assurance the stereotypical fan is obsessive enough to collect supplemental material (see Ultimate Universe).
If this material is necessary to progress in a video game or work on fanfiction, it becomes a Guide Dang It. If the manual contains information that the player isn't supposed to know until some playing, it's Spoiled By The Manual. All There in the Script is a subtrope of this, referring specifically to names. When it's all there in an In-Universe book, see Great Big Book of Everything.
Compare Deleted Scene. Not to be confused with Read the Freaking Manual, which refers to the oversight of not reading the manual despite it containing practical information.
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Anime & Manga
The incidents between the Martian Successor Nadesico TV series and movie were explained in various Japanese-only video games, novels, and radio shows, leaving American fans puzzled at the movie's very different tone.
There was actually another manual that was released later, then basically overtook the previous manual in canonicity. No one had translated that into English yet. This is technically the third time it happened, since the Spin-Off Game decanonized the first manual called the Red Cross Book. It's likely they'll continue making new manuals with mildly and noticeable different interpretations of what's going on until they finally go Bankrupt.
Curiously, though the new Chronicles share many major points of info with the PS2 Game, they curiously completely ignore all references to a certain group of Secret Benefactors that don't ever show up within the Anime at all. In combination with Gainax's OFFICIAL stance on the Game being that "All plot details were made specifically" for the Game, it's possible we got Retconning Manuals on our hands here.
The Renewal of Evangelion DVD contains the director's cut editions of episodes 21-24. New footage was added in order to make the plot more comprehensible and answer a few lingering questions (such as Kaworu's origin).
The Koko Wa Greenwood OVA literally directs the viewer to a specific chapter of the manga to explain a reference.
This is because the second OVA happens after the next 4 (it even refers obliquely to the plot of 5 and 6). AND it's a sequel to a story they didn't animate.
Bleach provides a series of databooks that contribute to a broader understanding of how the main manga should be interpreted. The databooks offer further information on published events and characters while also adding teasers and hints for events and characterisations that might be expanded upon in the future.
For an example of a series where all the materials are becoming officially translated for the West, see .hack//SIGN and its sequels — to get the full story, you need to read a novel, watch a 26 episode anime series, play four games, watch the four OVA anime episodes bundle one with each game, read four more novels, and read a three volume manga (and/or watch the 12 episode anime adapted from it, but that isn't canon so it won't really help you), preferably in that order. That's not counting the non-canon spinoffs or the sequel project, which consists of much the same combination again.
The 3 .Hack//GU games, in fact, took place after the 26 episode series .Hack//Roots, directly continuing the story of the protagonist Haseo. However, the first GU game was released several months before the first DVD of Roots was translated and released. Therefore, gamers who had not been watching fansubs of Roots were completely in the dark about who Shino was, what had happened to her, and why Haseo was going so mental over her; especially since the game was purposefully vague on details.
There's going to be a third project that takes place in the real world too.
On the other hand, watching the anime first will completely spoil most of the plot, especially one particularly dramatic twist that occurs at the end of the second game. So it's not really clear what order these were meant to be seen in.
Not everything has made it to the west. .hack//Zero still hasn't been translated. Seeing as it was set in The World R:1 and they've moved on past R:2 to R:X, it's doubtful it will see light of day. Or be finished in Japan for that matter.
Pokémon 2000 has two instances of this: First, the scene near the end where the collector found the Ancient Mew card on the shore in the wreck of his ship. This scene makes sense in English because they added a line earlier where he said that it was the object that started his collection. In Japanese however, you had to be lucky enough to get the program book given out at theaters. Also, that program book gives his name, which is never said in dialogue (it's Jirarudan, and his ship is called Hikoukyuu). To complicate things, in English he has two names—the captions call him Gelarden (an acceptable if not slightly convoluted Romanization of the original) while the English movie book calls him Lawrence III. As in Japanese, no name is said aloud.
There are two novels by Takeshi Shudo, a major writer for the anime, that give insight intothe world. It tells us stuff like what happened to Ash's father, Brock's father is his step-father, and that ten year olds are legal adults (they can get arrested, they have to pay taxes, they can get married..). A lot of the info isn't canon nowadays but it does make sense in the Kanto days, like how Officer Jenny was able to jail a bunch of kids so easily.
In Yu-Gi-Oh!'', there are various questions in the anime that are All there In The Manga, mostly characters' backstories.
The Macrossuniverse includes significant amounts of supplementary canon from books, comics, and video games in addition to the series and OVAs that were actually filmed.
The final fate of Hikaru, Misa and Minmay is buried in the manual for Macross M3 — They were lost with the rest of the crew and passengers of SDF-2 Megaroad after they apparently encountered a black hole.
Masaki Kajishima, main writer for the Tenchi Muyo! OVA-verse, has regularly released supplemental material, such as novels and self-published doujinshi, with information about that continuity. One of the reasons for releasing the spinoff series Tenchi Muyo GXP before the Tenchi OVA Revival series was to introduce some of the new characters and other elements from the novels to the audience that hadn't read (or wasn't able to read) them.
Similarly, Ken's backstory in Digimon Adventure 02 has him disappearing into the Digital World as a kid and reappearing a short time after; later, we see a scene of him adventuring with another kid and getting infected by a Dark Seed. These are both references to the game where he teamed up with Ryo.
Unfortunately, none of these games were released outside of Asia, so this resulted in some confusion.
The supplementary manga and Sound Stages of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha explains how Nanoha learned the Bind spell during her battle with Fate, who that Linith woman was in the Lotus-Eater Machine, what the heck happened to Arf in the third season and what that gift from Reinforce that Vita was talking about was.
The supplementary files also contain a fair amount of information on the plot. Not only does the Striker S Sound Stage X explain how many of the spells work, but it also provides information such as how the N2R squadgot its name, and specific information on the long-standing consequences of Teana's partner being outed as the real killer in the Mariage case.
Want to know the backstory for One Piece Strong World's villain, Gold Lion Shiki? You have to either go read the supplemental "Chapter 0" or watch the OVA based on said chapter.
Likewise for One Piece Film Z, where the titular villain's backstory is revealed in Volume 1000, a complementary book that was given as a present to Japanese movie-goers. However, this is actually subverted, as part of Z's backstory is mentioned in the movie itself, and the book only reveals it in full.
The OVAs of Gravitation take place after nearly the entire manga, only obliquely hinting at its events in flashbacks; Yuki's troubled past isn't even mentioned.
Xxx Ho Lic and Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle have ended up so interconnected that it is nigh impossible to understand one without reading the other. And even then you wish you had the option to phone Ohkawa and demand an explanation.
The Saint Beast anime series and OVAs are more illustration than substantial, the whole story happens in the audio dramas.
The Kiddy Grade Artbook contains a timeline for the main characters and the changes in attire as well.
Code Geass actually has quite a few forms of All There in the Manual, including Sound Episodes (released on separate CDs) as well as Picture Dramas and short story inserts with the DVDs. Unusually, Bandai localised all these into English, with the Sound Episodes being part of the Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition package.
For Gundam SEED there is, in addition to 10 Drama CDs (six of which are set before the series starts, three set during the series, and one post-series), 10 novels that go into more detail about the characters and events, several Manga series (Gundam SEED Astray), and a few OVAs and TV specials, an official website that has a lot of extra information about the Cosmic Era...including a highly detailed Timeline that goes back about 100 years before the start of the series.
Not to mention at least one plot point from SEED (Kira surviving the Aegis' self-destruction) was explained in the Astray manga.
The original Mobile Suit Gundam Universal Century series is the king of the trope. Novels, sourcebooks, even supplementary material printed in model kit instruction manuals.
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing has a backstory that was supposed to be placed into episode 27 and 28 - but was shafted due to internal politics. Thus, the explains-a-lot backstory was put into a sidestory manga that, while released in the USA, wasn't released with a high profile...and isn't in print anymore. There's also another pair of sidestories that explains some events between the two Wing works, with the same release problem in America. The fact that there was a third one released that barely amounted to a fan work published by a company trying to cash-in on the phenomenon in America didn't help things at all.
Gundam 00 took the concept of All There in the Manual and ran with it from the very beginning of its airing. Gundam 00 Sidestories include 00P, a photo novel type series that covered events before the series proper and dealt heavily with the development of the Gundams, 00V, a series of documents on variations of existing MS from the series with accounts of said machines told from a historical perspective, and 00F, an Astray style manga that took place at the same time as the series and did its best to fill in certain gaps. But it doesn't end there, there's also 00V Senki, the follow up to 00V that elaborates on some of the machines from 00V and features stories from all over the timeline, including AFTER the conclusion of the series, 00N, a new series of documents, and 00I, the follow up to 00F that gives way more insight into the Innovades from the show and covers events that took place between the two seasons. On top of that you have your usual novels, sourcebooks, audio dramas, and model kit manuals, and Gundam 00 is certainly making an effort to take the crown of All There in the Manual king. Only 00F has been released in the US.
Gundam F91 may be the biggest example of this in the MSG franchise. As a result of originally being a TV series that was cut down and compressed to a movie partway through production, most of the story is completely dropped from the movie. The movie does not show how Seabrook and his friends defeat Cosmo Babylonia and the Crossbone Vanguard. So, to actually finish the movie's story as well as find out various things that happened within the movie but were skipped because of time constraints, you have to read the manga or novels. Which have never been officially released in the US.
Gundam in general does this in the form of various magazines and Gunpla infosheets. Yes, you heard me right, many of the debates among fans will often end up with one side pulling out the supplemental info shipped with various Gunplas. And just like any of the highly-controversal Gundam SEED(Destiny) canon info, these are known for being extremely prone to Retconning over and over, with MG and PG Gunpla infosheets often outright contradicting their earlier HG counterparts, and MGs of different mechas don't tend to treat other very well either...
See also Zoids, whose main continuity (Battle Story) is almost entirely told in the model kits. None of this information ever gets translated.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. The first OVA series not only started in the third story arc of the manga, it starts HALF-WAY THROUGH IT. The entire thing presumed you knew exactly what was going on, which, unless you read the manga, you didn't.
Eventually the Studio A.P.P.P. solved this problem by creating a prequel OVA series that cover the first half of that story arc (with skips, of course) specifically so it would be more salable overseas. The English adaptation of the anime combines both series, showing the episodes in chronological order, while adding a narrated summary of the first two story arcs.
The Five Star Stories by Mamoru Nagano contains some of the most ambitious worldbuilding in anime and manga history, a lot of which gets little exposure in the series proper. Fortunately, the English editions come with sections from the sourcebooks printed in the back of each issue, including full-colour illustrations.
Devil May CryThe Animated Series doesn't bother to fully explain Dante's connection to Trish or Lady, their respective histories being found in the first and third game. Amongst others.
The series are meant to be viewed in the order of Games 3, 1, the anime, 4, and 2. So missing the games does indeed leave you with a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to the anime series.
The hosts for Papillon's homunculi in Busou Renkin were all humans that pissed him off for one reason or another, as detailed in their character bios in the tankobons. Good luck understanding Papillon's hallucination without reading the bios first.
The artbooks provide a lot background info as well.
Any character in Axis Powers Hetalia that might come across as a Flat Character probably has most of his/her personality only displayed in the profiles. Some characters can only be seen in the author's blog.
There's also a lot of references to past events that you might not understand without either pausing to read the history annotations or looking it up. Then again, pretty much everything in that show is related to past events, even Chibitalia's dress.
Himaruya had a habit of this with his earlier series as well. Many characters in Advance! Kitakou Broadcasting Club and Barjona Bombers were never really fleshed out or even got to appear in the series, although illustrations and (lost) profiles served to provide information on them.
Baccano. Generally, the anime is relatively self-contained and understandable without turning to the Light Novels (sans one scene in episode one that is Left Hanging), but there's obviously a lot of background that doesn't find it's way in, and there's also quite a bit that goes on after the events in the anime. Good luck finding translations, though.
In the American release of the Read or Die OVA, the post-it notes in Yomiko's apartment are mistranslated because the translators apparently didn't realize "Nenene" was a name; she doesn't show up in the OVA but in the manga and subsequent TV series, Sumiregawa Nenene is Yomiko's best friend.
In Death Note, you never do find out L's real name. Unless, of course, you get the book with all the supplemental information in it. It's L Lawliet.
The Sakura TaisenOAVs and movie are based on (and mostly continuations of) the games. Somehow America got the former without the latter.
Random splash pages in Fairy Tail will be entirely dedicated to a member of the titular guild. When it's a main character like Erza, or a minor one with a decent amount of attention like Elfman, it will tell you random things like how Erza terrorizes fashion designers into making her armor, of that Elfman once lost a bird and never realized the one he found was not the same. If it's a background character who gets roughly one line per arc at best, it will give detail into their past and personality. Much of this information ends up getting incorporated into the anime as filler.
Overall, the original Light Novel series of Slayers goes into detail of how the magic system and the like works better than the anime does, but not in clarity, as both forms of media tend to contradict themselves. The only true "manual" for the series is a long series of interviews by creator Hajime Kanzaka, and he flops around and whimsily comes up with answers to questions to the point that he's making every potential canon fact up on the fly. The only truly solid facts are extended backstories of the main characters (especially important in regards to Idiot Hero Gourry because he is the only major character whose background gets no spotlight in any media). Even then, some incidents, such as Gourry and Sylphiel's first meeting and Lina's great fear of her older sister are never explained.
Also, there are two radio dramas that act as extensions of the Slayers PremiumNon-Serial Movie; a prologue and an epilogue that both set the stage and tie up loose ends (including how Naga sided with the Big Bad of the movie and how Amelia was saved after being blown off to an abandoned island); naturally, they're only available in Japan. The manga adaptation as a whole does a better job at telling the story.
Some information in Naruto can only be found in databooks. Most of the Tailed Beasts and the names of the other Jinchuuriki and Kages were shown in the supplementary materials long before they were revealed in the actual manga.
At the end of every Mirai Nikki volume, there is an Omake that may explain certain things that were not very obvious, such as how and why the 3rd, 4th and 9th were targeting each other, and how they began to focus on Yukki. It also gives a little background info on some of the other future diary holders.
There is also Mosiac and Paradox, which focus on the Ninth and Akise, giving more info on the Sixth as well.
A few of Chibisan Date's characters only appear in the author's blog.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica's website gives extra information on the witches and their minions and familiars. To some extent, anything in runes counts, as few viewers take the time to decode it.
The DVD releases come with audio dramas. The first one is about the cat that appears only in the Title Sequence. The third one expands on Kyoko's past, and how she knew Mami. The second one is probablynot canon.
In Mai Hime, the sound dramas, specials (often characters narrating about themselves) and art books often provide more information about the characters, and the short story "Natsuki no Prelude" contains details about how Natsuki became a HiME and her friendship with Shizuru.
Similarly, the Mai Otome sound dramas provide bits of backstory from the main series, such as how Tomoe met Shizuru, some of Yukariko's backstory (she was a Meister who had to cancel contracts due to her masters falling in love with her) and Mai and Natsuki's early days at the academy, including how Natsuki became Shizuru's room attendant.
Much of the back stories and family life for Ronin Warriors in Yoroiden Samurai Troopers can only be found in supplemental books and Drama CDs.
A lot of additional information for the Tiger & Bunny series shows up in the audio dramas (which are included with the Blu-Ray releases) or in supplemental guides. Information within them ranges from amusing tidbits (such as all the heroes' first crushes) to more plot-relevant elaborations (like who Kotetsu's wife was and how he met her).
In Future GPX Cyber Formula, there are several drama CDs and supplemental artbooks that details the backstories about the characters, such as in the last drama CD, which revealed Kaga's backstory, how Kaga got his scar on his forehead and why he warned Hayato about the Zero Realm in ZERO (he was in a racing accident with his best friend Eiji which was caused by the Zero Realm and Eiji was killed).
THE iDOLM@STER - Some events in the anime series make a lot more sense if you've played through the game it's based on and unlocked the backstories for the idols.
Supplemental materials for Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex have very detailed information about the world of the show, including the political backdrop of the story (which is only hinted at in-series) as well as plenty of weapon descriptions.
The DCU's super-hero espionage comic Checkmate has a supplemental website whose address, www.gideonii.com, was hinted at within the story. Username CARL DRAPER, password wilhelmina; subject to change. It's ostensibly the diary of a minor character within the story, written in the first person, with entries detailing various elements of the series in greater depth and hinting at future plot events.
Fall Out Toy Works has a good chunk of background info glossed over in the comic (Baron's rise to power, the Toymaker's previous involvement in an anti-Baron smuggling operation/art collective, the Second Industrial Revolution, etc.) was mentioned on the comic's minisite. The section the information was included on is currently broken. Whoops.
The Ultimate Spider-Man video game was initially stated to be canon to the comics. Eventually, this opened up a lot of plot holes and continuity issues, so the writer decided to retell the events of the game in the series while changing the bits (such as having Gwen Stacy replace Spider-Carnage as the Final Boss) that wouldn't make sense in the comic.
Legion of Super-Heroes v.4 had a role-playing sourcebook that included various pieces of info and backstory not in the comic itself. It's particularly notable because Volume 4 was set five years after the previous series and featured a radically different status quo, with many unexplained situations and characters which had histories the audience knew nothing of.
Very few of the characters in Fables get their origins explained in much detail (or at all). This is fine for say Bigby Wolf or Snow White but some of them are very obscure and Frau Totenkinder's name can't be found in an actual fable because Word Of God says she's every unnamed witch in Fairy Tales. So the background before they come to earth is all their in the manuals, the dozens and dozens of not internally consistent manuals.
This is actually extensively played with in the course of the story. All Fables that join Fabletown are granted a General Amnesty - meaning that their pasts are essentially 'forgiven' and thus, never need to be spoken of, ever again. As for Totenkinder herself, there is an in-universe theory that mundane recognition grants power - neo-revolutionary Goldilocks, for example, does not seem to be capable of dying because of how incredibly popular and enduring her story is. Totenkinder has stated she doesn't think much of this theory and has gone to great lengths to keep stories featuring her as low-key as possible, and yet she seems to display the same ability, dying again and again but always coming back. The one story she appears in that simply 'won't go away' - heavily implied to be Hansel and Gretel's story, in which she meets her end burned to death in her own oven - her name is never mentioned. 'Totenkinder', which literally means 'Child Killer', is very likely not remotely her real name.
This can, however, be slightly frustrating when dealing with relatively major supporting characters whose stories can be hard to place without context - such as 'Kay', a man with a sliver of a broken magic mirror in his eye socket that is cursed with the ability to see all the evil done in the life of anyone he looks at (The Snow Queen) or Doctor Swineheart (a Grimm story about three dueling doctors). Luckily, the narrative usually tells us the basics.
Lack of background does in fact have a role to play. In Jack of Fables we meet an African fable who says all his stories were censored by the villain who intends to wipe out fables by removing all their stories. (It was Little Black Sambo.)
The spin-offs are pretty much necessary to understand some of the points. 1001 Nights of Snowfall makes Totenkinder's identity 100% certain, along with clearly up various other backgrounds of characters, and "The Great Fables Crossover" is downright nonsensical unless you've been reading Jack of Fables.
The X-Wing Series comics, after their abrupt end, had an issue of Star Wars Handbook come out, which elaborated on various ships and the backstories of a number of pilots, major villains, and villains of the arc.
Watchmen had three RPG modules made of it in the 1980's, which incorporated information directly provided by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Said info greatly fleshes out the characters' histories and provides details about their equipment (and relative levels of skill, if you understand the system). They're out of print, of course.
In The Transformers, a fair bit about the origin of the Transformer Civil War is only provided in text stories in the annuals.
Chassis: Due to the short run of the title (and the fact that it moved between three publishers), many details of the world where only spelled out in #0 issue which was intended as an introduction for new readers. This included profiles of characters who never made it into the series proper.
Before House of M, the numerous X-Men titles were loaded with students of the Xavier Institute whom were never given proper codenames or an identification of their powers. They were finally identified and sorted in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z #13 in 2010, five years after most of them lost their powers (and a good number killed).
Subverted and played straight with Final Crisis: the Final Crisis Sketchbook was supposed to give details about the evil New Gods and their heroic counterparts via new artwork and descriptions of them and Morriosn's plans to update the characters for a new generation. Sadly NONE of it got into the final book, as Granny Goodness and Desaad had new forms, Orion never appeared after his death scene, and a new group of heroes were made into the new Forever People.
Played straight with the tie-ins. All of them greatly elaborate on events critical to the main plots (the fall of Checkmates' main offices, Superman's whearabouts, who Mandrakk was, Darkseid's plot to create an army of Batman clone henchmen, Tattoo Man's Heel Face Turn, and fall-out on Martian Manhunter's death and how Libra managed to be recruited by Darkseid) but DC has largely refused to collect them all together in a cohessive collection.
Not to mention the Seven Soldiers of Victory, Death of the New Gods, and Countdown to Final Crisis debacle; all three have to be read to understand how the New Gods got to where they were by the start of Final Crisis and in the case of Seven Soldiers of Victory, skipping Countdown at the very least means massive massive plotholes such as how Mary Marvel was captured by Darkseid and turned into his second in command/host for Desaad and as well as the true nature of how the New Gods fell and why Darkseid's entire scheme revolving around temporal trickery.
When Archie Comics' Sonic Universe released the Silver Saga storyline (which Silver the Hedgehog aided the alternate universe daughter of Knuckles, Lara-Su, against her power mad father), they released a number of blogs that told the story of Lara-Su before and after the storyline.
As well, Archie released the Official Sonic The Hedgehog Comics Encyclopedia Guide that revealed a whole set of new information about the characters and events that the comic itself didn't explain, such as Amy Rose's minor Reality Warper powers and that the events of Sonic Shuffle and Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) did occur.
Arguably in Harry Potter And The Methods Of Rationality. (Note: Spoilers even if you've read every chapter) The fact that Voldemort turned the Pioneer plaque into a horcrux is heavily implied, but by no means confirmed, in the text. It is explicitly stated in the author notes.
A large amount of Company0051's background is detailed in supplementary artwork, including the history and locations of the Chief's scars and the names and designs of everyone in the encampment. It's well worth checking out.
Renegade features a number of Codex entries similar to the Codex in Mass Effect that details additional notes about the setting.
This is actually a recurring trend in Mass Effect fanfiction. Particularly with Halo crossovers.
In the Nanoha fanfic Blood and Spirit, a chapter after the main story discusses how Arisa is able to maintain her existence as a ghost and how her powers work.
Most of the world building in "Miracle Child" takes place on the work's tumblr rather than in the story itself. This is understandable, since bogging down the work with tidbits on how the Alternian Empire works and what the various canon characters are doing would quickly leave no room for the plot.
The bonus chapter for Season Two of Calvin And Hobbes The Series reveals Andy is homeschooled, and both him and Klein are named for their (proposed) voice actors (Andrew Lawrence and Robert Klein, respectively).
To The Stars author Hieronym has a tumblr account specifically dedicated to giving extra information that doesn't fit in the narrative (along with answering questions, posting character bios, and giving ideas for spin-off stories).
Certain information (including age, hometown, and in some cases appearance) about the characters in Plasma's Folly does not appear in the story, but may instead be found in an illustrated character profiles page that the author rarely updates.
The Total Drama story, Legacy includes hyperlinks to supplemental information on ancillary topics, including the song that became the basis of Trent's tribute song.
Between My Brother And Me: In-universe: May and Max learn all they need to know about dueling from a magazine called 'Duelist Monthly'...that their mom had for some reason. From it, they learned about Duelist Kingdom, Battle City and the 'who's who' in the world of dueling.
The Total Drama story, Courtney And The Violin Of Despair includes a substantial Notes section. The narrative and notes also include hyperlinks to supplemental information on ancillary topics and embedded music videos for some of the compositions mentioned.
The Legend Of Total Drama Island includes an extensive Notes (aka trivia) section, which mainly explains the more obscure allusions. The Notes also include hyperlinks to supplemental information on ancillary topics, mostly things alluded to in the story. The story itself includes embedded music videos for most of the compositions mentioned.
Films — Animated
Right before the release of the 2007 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, the writers put out a five-issue comic book mini-series that served as a prequel to the movie and basically bridged the gap between it and the previous movies.
Detailed profiles of other Supers that are only briefly mentioned in The Incredibles (if at all) in the Extras section of the DVD. The comic book also fills in some holes the movie may have left open.
Lampshaded (a bit more literally) in Toy Story 2, when Rex discovers the player's guide to a video game he's been trying to beat. He cries indignantly, "They make it so you can't beat the game unless you buy this book! It's extortion, is what it is." Later in the film, the tip on how to beat the game (enter the villain's lair through a secret side entrance) is used in the real world when the toys sneak into their own villain's apartment.
The Wu Sisters made it into the Kung Fu Panda video game, as did the wolves and crocodiles, though they're not so much subservient to Tai Lung as they are trying to win his favour. The game also features Tai Lung's training arena, though this may or may not be a Dream Sequence.
The two animated shorts included in the DVD releases greatly expand upon the backstories of the Furious Five and the Kung Fu Council, respectively. The latter also includes the first canonical appearance of the Wu Sisters.
The official website for Kung Fu Panda 2 gives additional info on the backstories of Lord Shen and the Kung Fu Council that wasn't brought up in the film (though the latter was Retconned by one of the aforementioned animated shorts). There's also The Art of Kung Fu Panda 2, which serves pretty much the same purpose as the first.
A fair amount of information on Titan A.E.'s world is only given in the two prequel novels.
Many "Art of" Disney books contain information that wasn't mentioned in their films.
The Lion King spun off a mini-series of storybooks that revealed some of the backstory of the characters, most notably Scar's real name, Taka (unfortunately, no one told this to the guy who wrote Disney Dossiers).
Treasure Planet: A Voyage of Discovery, the art book for Treasure Planet, reveals an almost insane amount of information not included in the film, such as the name of Jim's father (Layland), Jim's relationship with him, the species and backstory of Silver, how Treasure Planet came to be, and even the names and personalities of the crewmembers.
This also happened with Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The novel, which was written by Arthur C. Clarke in collaboration with Kubrick at the same time the film was made, explains more of what is going on with the final "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" sequence.
Back before there were DVDs or the Internet to provide you with summaries of deleted scenes, you had to read the novelization of Superman II to find out how Superman got his powers back.
The book and movie complement each other. The book explains the confusing parts of the movie including the starchild, and the movie conveyed the writing through spectacular imagery. The reason for this was that the book was written as the same time as the film.
To be fair, though, the book is still somewhat vague on some of the more ambiguous elements. While it provides more of an explanation for the ending, it still says almost nothing about the aliens beyond the fact that they've evolved to unimaginable levels.
Clarke's Law says that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. It apparently continues "... and therefore we needn't bother even attempting to explain what the hell is actually going on." Clarke never actually came right out and said that last bit, but it's a pretty apparent leitmotif in his works.
An In-Universe example: The complex and confusing rules for ghosts in Beetlejuice were apparently all explained in the Handbook for the Recently Deceased. Unfortunately, notes the Maitlands, it's so technical that it's nearly incomprehensible. This nicely moots any criticism of apparent contradictions in the movie's cosmology, since the audience hasn't read the manual.
A lot of the protagonist Leonard's unexplained, highly material history in Memento is found on the Memento website.
Star Wars took this a bit too far in the Prequels. Nothing in the films really tells us what the Sith are, aside from the fact that they use the Dark Side of the Force. So Revenge of the Sith loses something in that we never really learn what the revenge is for, without knowing the details from the Expanded Universe. But considering that's kind of an important part for the motivation for every other thing Palpatine does, that's not something to just assume the audience doesn't need to know.
"And don't any of you shit heads tell me that it was explained more in the novelization or some Star Wars book. What matters is the movie. I ain't never read one of those Star Wars books, or any books in general for that matter. And I ain't about to start. Don't talk about them stupid video games or novels, comic books, or any of that ***ing crap. I've seen enough of that shit."
Revenge of the Sith begins with Coruscant under attack and recently "kidnapped" Chancellor Palpatine a prisoner on General Grievous's ship. While it's not strictly necessary in order to understand that setup, the first series of Clone Wars cartoons (the Genndy Tartakovsky ones, not the CGI ones) actually showed his kidnapping. The last episode of that series ends the moment the movie begins. The same cartoon has the introduction for General Grievous; going only by the movies he appears out of nowhere and his presence is never explained.
On the flipside, if the viewers read up on the Visual Dictionary by the time The Phantom Menace is released, it would also essentially spoil the fact that Senator Palpatine was the same guy as The Emperor in Return of the Jedi. Something similar happens with the Inside the Worlds of the Original Trilogy guide, where the portion where it shows the Emperor electrocuting Luke has the statement about "Darth Sidious' Crooked Fingers," essentially spoiling the secret of who Darth Sidious was before Revenge of the Sith unveils the revelation that Palpatine and Sidious are the same person.
This "super secret reveal" was spoiled a long time before that. Like, when The Phantom Menace came out and has a guy named Palpatine in it. I suppose he could have turned out to be Emperor Palpatine's father or cousin or something.
The Chronicles of Riddick universe certainly applies to this. Not only are there tons of special features for the two main movies that are everything from trivia to mass info on the backstory of The Necromongers (who you would know almost nothing about just from watching), and other character's pursuit logs for the main character, there's also a 30 minute anime film that shows what happened right after the end of the first movie and introduces a major character, two video games showing how Riddick got his eyeshine and escaped from prison, leading up to the first film, and on the website, there's a point and click adventure game, an animated comic book, and collection of background info on all the characters in the first film and who they are. There's also a novelization of the 2nd film that has an exclusive epilogue, an exclusive mock-documentary only available on the region 2 DVD of the first film, and it just goes on and on.
Much of the background of Rose Red (the titular house featured in the miniseries) is covered in detail in The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer. Without it, its just a bunch of people going to a haunted house that hates them.
Of course, since this movie extended Rule 34 to vehicles, they have a lot of explaining to do.
Keep in mind that it becomes readily apparent that the film's a pseudo-sequel to Donnie Darko. It greatly expands on the character roles described in The Philosophy of Time Travel, so it's almost a manual about the manual...
Donnie Darko itself. One of the reasons it has become a cult Love It or Hate It film is that it is not self-contained at all. Nothing about the Manipulated Dead or Tangent Universe is ever explicitly (or implicitly!) stated, requiring you to read the script-book or check out the director's commentary at length to have any hope of getting the plot.
In Star Trek (2009), the motivations of bad guy Nero are only vaguely alluded to in a mind-meld flashback scene. In order to fully understand what happened, and to give the character some actual depth, you have to read the Star Trek: Countdown comic books (although the physics of Romulus being destroyed by the supernova still might have some physicists scratching their heads, even though it's further explained).
The comic also covers what the movie doesn't, how Nero's "simple mining vessel" became that humongous juggernaut of a warship.
Transformers uses this fairly prominently. A good deal of backstory for Megatron, The Fallen, Optimus, Bumblebee, and the Cybertronian civil war in general is covered in the prequel and sequel comics marketed by IDW. The absence of the information covered in these comics makes some of the decisions and motives in the films confusing, Megatron's allegiance with The Fallen being one of the most-cited among fans.
The only issue is that these comics can be nonsensical, inaccurate, or even downright contradictory to the movies. The only ones considered canon are the prequel to the first movie, which was made into a bonus DVD feature. Otherwise, they're considered a different variation of the same continuity.
The comic book prequel to Iron Man 3 explains why War Machine was absent during the events of The Avengers, showing that he was dealing with a terrorist attack in Hong Kong at the time of the invasion.
The one-shot short films also serve a similar function. For instance, The Consultant shows what happened to the Abomination after The Incredible Hulk, and reveals that he was initially picked as a potential member of the Avengers before the Hulk joined up.
In Thir13en Ghosts, a lot of the 'Who are these people and why should we care?' information for the Black Zodiac isn't actually in the movie, but rather in special footage on the DVD.
Sparrow's history with Beckett, the Pearl, and Davy Jones is only hinted at in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. It was given in a series of books detailing his past.
Avatar has an on-line guide explaining points that were left out of the film proper.
Avatar: An Activist Survival Guide was a book released for this purpose. Some editions of the DVD and Blu-Ray include the guide as an extra.
Why they even want the 'Unobtanium' in the first place (a room temperature superconductor - restored to the actual film in the collector's edition).
It also explains how humans even got to Pandora in the first place without the Unobtanium.
When The Truman Show arrived in theaters, a companion book marketed as an in-universe supplement to the show was released which contained a copy of the screenplay as well as detailed background information about the setting and each of the various characters who appear both as "actors" and as audience members in the film.
Wild Wild West. The novelization provides some altered scenes, including introducing a subplot where West claims while surviving on his own he befriended a native shaman, who later appeared as Jim fell off the giant spider to revive him.
TRON Legacy never explains where the Iso's come from, simply stating they just "appeared." It also mentions, but never explains the Sea of Simulation. The comic book TRON: Betrayal details that the Iso's came from the Sea of Simulation. It also makes C.L.U. a much more sympathetic character.
TRON Evolution explains most of this as well, but is much more vague and less sympathetic towards Clu. For now, it appears that the comic is canon.
The 2005 version of King Kong has "The World Of Kong: A Natural History Of Skull Island", an art book done in the style of a nature journal, with the information in it apparently collected on expeditions that occurred after Kong was revealed to the world. It goes into great detail explaining the living habits of the various creatures (many not seen in the film itself) that lived on Skull Island, as well as explaining the island's geographical conditions (Skull Island was literally ripping itself apart).
Since The Lord of the Rings recaps the events of The Hobbit in less than a minute, a few of the plot points can be a bit confusing if you haven't read the latter novel. The reference to "The incident with the dragon" will go right over your head, you may wonder how Bilbo and Gandalf already knew each other at the start of the film, and you may find yourself thinking, "Who the hell is Gollum, and why should I care?" when he's introduced. And the ending, where an aging Bilbo leaving Middle Earth with the elves won't be nearly as emotional.
The 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes had a bizarre Gainax Ending in which Leo returns to his time, only to find that the Earth had been conquered a 2nd time by General Thade before he got there. If you visited the (now defunct) official website, it would explain that Thade accessed the Oberon's computer system while he was trapped in it and learned about the real history of the world. Afterwards, he managed to escape, fishing Leo's pod out of the swamp where it had crashed and fixing it to working order before riding off to the electromagnetic storm and arriving back on Earth before Leo did, where he staged a second rebellion.
Even worse, the VHS version of the movie claimed that everything you needed to know to understand the ending was already in the movie, showing a series of clips that apparently explained it for you. All the clips explained, though, was that the planet was actually Earth, a plot twist that had reached It Was His Sled status long before the movie came out.
9 was only 75 minutes long, but it has entire websites dedicated to it in which you could do all sorts of interesting things.
The first Mad Max film has the character of the Dark One. Originally, he was Max's partner and May Swaisey's husband, but for whatever reason he was removed from the final draft, appearing only as the man they take Cundallini's severed hand to who reports it to MFP, Max's line "May, call the Dark One" when Jessie is chased through the forest, and the names "M. Rockatansky" and "The Dark One" on the Interceptor's fender (though this is best seen in promotional stills).
While it was one of the most faithful comic book adaptations, Sin City had to leave out some dialogue and a couple scenes didn't make it to the theatrical cut (though are in the director's cut). In particular, how Hartigan found Nancy's apartment, Dwight's monologue about why he can't use his own Cadillac and how the Thunderbird used to be a Cool Car, but has been abused to its present condition.
The One has a (now shutdown) website that provides tons of background information regarding the Multiverse Agency and how Yulaw came to be a villain. It reveals that he's not the first nor the last to try that. In fact, one of the "offenders" is a female assassin who is hired by a wealthy businessman in Universe Alpha (the one to actually invent interdimensional travel and the one we see twice very briefly) to track down and kill his doubles, although MVA analysts suspect she's also taking the opportunity to kill her own doubles. Yulaw has actually managed to cover up his own murders for quite awhile until another agent started suspecting him and tricked him into revealing his superhuman strength by carrying a box he stuffed with 300-pound weights (the agent paid for that by being made a paraplegic by Yulaw). Interestingly, the website doesn't provide much information on how wormhole travel works, only mentioning that it has something to do with quantum tunneling.
There are some inconsistencies with the website. For example, Funsch, according to the website, was an LA cop in Universe Beta before being recruited by MVA. The film makes it appear as if he's from a warzone where everyone is considered a combatant. Of course, it's possible that LA is really that bad in Universe Beta (although the fact that his hobbies, from the website, include fishing and restoring classical cars makes that unlikely).
The original script described Saavik as being half-Vulcan, half-Romulan. This doubles as an Aborted Arc in conjunction with Star Trek VI, as Valeris was intended to be Saavik.
The Red Shirt who dies when Engineering is attacked is Scotty's nephew, which explains why he reacts so emotionally. A scene explaining their relation was cut. The scene was used in the extended ABC broadcasts in the early 1980s, and subsequently included in the Special Director's Edition DVD.
Some people consider the remake's revelation that Spock created the Kobayashi Maru test to be a distracting change, but subtle hints throughout the movie imply it here. Spock knows the number of times Kirk took it, and the way he finally beat it, but a captain's academy test results aren't usually shared with his junior officers. That Spock never took the test himself is also telling.
The novelization of the film reveals that Saavik and David became lovers after the events of Star Trek II, making his murder doubly tragic and his sacrifice even more meaningful (he gives his life to save the woman he loves when he realizes the Klingon is about to kill her).
The most iconic object from eXistenZ, the pistol made out of bones and teeth, is not named in the film. Background material reveals it's actually called the "gristle gun".
The author of Greystone Valley has a regularly updated website that has a lot of supplementary material only touched upon in the book.
Amelia Atwater-Rhodes hosts her own website with a great deal of supplementary information about her vampires, shapeshifters, and their world. Even more information can be found on her forum.
It may surprise some to learn that some of the most famous parts of The Iliad—the invocation of the Achilles heel and the Trojan Horse, for instance—are not actually in the Iliad. Instead, they're in The Odyssey. Similarly, the cause of the war and the recruiting of many of the warriors are told in outside sources.
To be accurate, the Iliad and Odyssey are the only surviving parts of a cycle of epic poems about the Trojan War. We do have descriptions of what was in those lost parts though, and that includes most of the background mentioned.
And to be exact, neither the Achilles Heel nor Trojan Horse appear in The Odyssey. They appear in The Aeneid, written by Roman Vergilius (Virgil) some 700 years later.
There's a huge deal of background material about Middle-earth written by J.R.R. Tolkien, if only you have enough time. First published were the appendices to The Lord of the Rings. For about twenty-five years before the publication of The Silmarillion, it was the best source of information about Middle-earth's backstory and went a long way towards giving it a historical feel. Then there are Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth and the 12-volume(!) History of Middle-earth. All those books have tons of information about the history, culture and languages of the peoples of Middle-earth, as well as differing or earlier drafts of the stories.
It is uncertain how much of this material was actually intended for publication. Christopher Tolkien, appointed by his father as is literary executor, is responsible for all the works mentioned above. Much of the material is, to quote the other wiki, "unfinished, abandoned, alternative and outright contradictory accounts, since they were always a work in progress." There have been many accusations that Christopher has been publishing his father's wastepaper basket.
But then, how many other authors had a publishable wastepaper basket in the first place?
The Septimus Heap books all have sections at the end providing details for even the most minor characters. The series itself has also a true manual - or, more accurately, a "city guide" - The Magykal Papers.
Greg Egan stuffs his stories with heady physics that is almost impossible to fully convey without diagrams and calculus. He has interactive animated simulations on his website for the confused yet still interested. He's recently taken this Up to Eleven, posting eighty thousand words along with hundreds of illustrative diagrams to describe the alternate-universe physics he invented for Orthogonal.
Hal Clement, Robert Forward, and Tony Rothman are similar. Mission Of Gravity (Clement) and The World Is Round (Rothman) have appendices explaining (some of) the physics involved in the novels, and pretty much any novel by Forward can be expected to have an extensive one.
George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series has ancillary material forming part of the role-playing games that is considered semi-canon (canon unless GRRM decides to change it) and throws some light on elements such as the history of the Targaryens and the Doom of Valyria. More important are the two 'Dunk & Egg' short stories set about 90 years before the books which cast significant light on background elements in the novels. A surprisingly large number of fans of the series remain unaware these stories even exist. The forthcoming World of Ice and Fire Book is also promised to feature extensive new canon information on the world and setting.
Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series has extensive auxiliary material available for it, . Both The World of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time and Wizards of the Coast's short-lived Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game feature extensive background information and maps that are considered canon.
Not to mention the huge glossaries at the end of each book.
Canon arguments are raging over the Dune universe, with the recent revelation that Frank Herbert's notes used by other authors to complete the Dune novels and write prequels were nowhere near as extensive as first claimed. As a result, some fans now refuse to consider any of the prequel or sequel novels by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert as canon, due to the extensive level of personal invention they brought to the setting.
Some of the canon background notes and secret information regarding Larry Niven's Known Space universe has only ever been published in the long-out-of-print and now nearly-unacquirable Ringworld roleplaying game.
The Aubrey Maturin canon has A Sea of Words, a 500+ page lexicon and handbook for readers who can't parse the series' prolific nautical jargon, drop-in historical references, and other arcane miscellany.
Night World clears up some ends left loose on the author's website, along with occasional sneak peeks. Link.
Les Misérables contains vast amounts of information on most of its named characters, regardless of their individual significance in the story. Although no adaptation of the novel thus far has made use of all the information, several of them, in order to remain canon, therefore end up retaining the names of the many minor characters and therefore confusing the intended audience. Possibly the instance where the background information in the novel has most effect is in the importance of the real historical figure Lamarque as a pivotal part of the plot. As this historical figure is only every referenced rather than actually appearing, it is virtually impossible to understand this sequence in any adaptation without reading either a historical source or the original novel.
The Horatio Hornblower stories have a separate book that has diagrams of the sea battles and maps of the settings. It takes work to follow some of the technical parts of the battles without it.
An X-Wing Series novel, Starfighters of Adumar, has a set of articles called Adumar: Pilots Wanted made for the roleplaying game, which are partly in the form of the characters talking about those events for a documentary. It reveals something more about what happened after, while casually mentioning other things, like how Wes apparently died in Marvel Star Wars.
There's an old Star WarsDnD manual called "The Thrawn Trilogy Sourcebook" which largely is there to give stats for the characters and locations of the trilogy so that gamers can play them. (Thrawn's stats are slightly terrifying. Authority Equals Asskicking, indeed.) But it also comes with biographies that say a little more about the characters than could be gleaned from the books and tiny stories that illustrate some points. Some of these - for example, the bit about Wedge Antilles' parents dying on their fuel station when pirates took off without unhooking - were elaborated on later by other writers.
The entire Star Wars Expanded Universe is based on being a multimedia experience. Characters and events flip back and forth from movies to novels to cartoons to comics to video games to non-fiction sources all the time, making entire plotlines incomprehensible to readers/viewers without the complete picture who did not resort to online sources for clarifications. Those who read only novels would wonder where the heck did all those things the characters are alluding to happened, the gamers will not appreciate the appearance of random extras who are actually fan-favorites and important events and backstories being elaborated upon only in Visual Guides and RPG sources are commonplace.
...It's not nearly that bad. The games are all full of new characters, and those who are carried over from prior media don't really stand out. The only cartoon to get books written about it is Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which introduces those characters itself. Most games which aren't rehashes of the films have tie-in novels. Kyle Katarn is the most major game character to get any kind of role in the books without such a novel, and that role is extraordinarily minor - save for the fact that he's never killed, he doesn't stand out among the many other Jedi who are mentioned to be present. It's true that you don't get the whole story if you stay with only the novels - for example Shadows of the Empire shows different aspects of the same chain of events in the novel, the comic book, and the videogame - but generally storylines keep to themselves and wrap up without needing tie-ins to complete things, and when aspects are carried from one medium to another they get an explanation.
The fourth and final book in The Dalemark Quartet is followed by a "Guide to Dalemark," a sort of glossary of terms, places, and characters. It contains a lot of supplementary information not mentioned within the stories themselves.
In case you were wondering just what the hell Gilead was, what purpose the Gunslingers had, and why the Tower's down to two Beams, try reading a book called Black House by Peter Straub and Stephen King. You'll actually get more information there about what The Dark Tower is all about that you will in all seven of King's books.
The Dresden Files has an RPG supplement that not only exists in-universe, but was edited for content by Dresden, and includes references to upcoming books.
Eoin Colfer released a tie-in book to the Artemis Fowl series which contained some "interviews" with the main characters and the author, the substitution cipher for the Gnommish alphabet, and two short stories involving Holly Short and Mulch Diggums.
Scott Westerfeld made a tie-in book for the Uglies series called Bogus to Bubbly which talked about all the world building and research that went into the series.
The Amber Roleplaying Game was coauthored by Roger Zelazny and goes into detail about metaphysics, power relations, and characters' hidden motivations. In this case, though, enough is burlesqued to make the game work as an RPG that it's difficult to tell what's canon. (Among other things, the RPG offers completely different character sheets for every character, the first reflecting the Unreliable Narrator's descriptions and the others offering contradictory "real" explanations.)
The Honorverse has the Pearls of Weber, containing almost 20 years of collected statements from the author, along with the Jayne's Intelligence Review series and a forthcoming compendium.
In addition to The Black Book of Buried Secrets, the official companion book/guide to the series, The 39 Clues has a plethora of trading cards and a website where you can input the cards' codes and unlock secret files with additional information on the series' universe.
In Greek Ninja, additional details about the characters that aren't mentioned in the story are given on a separate page.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a whole bunch of stuff contained in non-show stuff. Hell, the universe is continued in the comics.
The miniseries Rose Red has a tie-in novel that fills in some of the background. Not required, but nice. Unfortunately, it refers to a website with lost excerpts from the novel (including one that implies Ho Yay between Ellen and Sukeena), but that site is gone.
Battlestar Galactica series finale infamously divided the fandom with its vague non-answers over the nature of 'God' and its refusal to explain either the 'Head-People' or what was going on with Starbuck. The Sci-Fi Channel had already approved a comic series called The Final Five which will address some of these questions: a preview of the first issue, for example, reveals that Pythia appears to have been an earlier incarnation of Starbuck and was given her visions of the future by Head-Six, whilst the father of Saul Tigh was one of the original Cylon skinjobs of Kobol. The comic is written by one of the TV scriptwriters with the approval of the producers: however, a caveat was added to the first issue stating that it was "An original interpretation of the story,", making its canonical status dubious. This may actually have been a wise move: having been denied their answers on TV, the dissatisfied section of the fanbase may have actually exploded to learn the real answers were being given in a comic book mere months later.
More overtly, there were two serialised webisodes (totaling 30 minutes each) preceding Seasons 3 and 4.5 which expand on many important elements. The Season 3 webisodes show life on Cylon-occupied New Caprica, how Duck and Jammer ended up where they were in the opening episodes of S3, how Tigh and Tyrol's morality was gradually eroded until they were willing to consider the use of suicide bombers and more. The Season 4.5 ones are even more important as they show exactly how Felix Gaeta lost faith in the battlestar's command crew, setting up later events in the series, and explain why he stabbed Baltar and lied on the stand in late Season 3. The existence of these webisodes is not well-known outside of the USA, as they tend not to be included on the Region 2 DVD releases.
The 4.5 webisodes haven't been included on any DVD releases.
It also confirmed everyone's suspicions about Gaeta's sexuality.
The true purpose of the DHARMA Initiative from LOST was only revealed in the Internet ARG The Lost Experience.
However, the writers have specifically stated this knowledge is not crucial to understanding the show; it's meant as a bonus for viewers who want more.
In addition, some of the material from the game has been given in the series in a different context, making tracking down information on the game not essential to understanding the story in the series.
The extra material involved with 24 is staggering. There are book series, one-shot comics, the prequels that are only included on the DVD release (and are actually important to understanding the context of the season), and information on the various forms of the 24 website at FOX.com (which gave background information on the characters never mentioned in the show) that are crucial to understanding some characters and their subplots:
Operation Nightfall, referenced by Jack Bauer and others during the first and third seasons, is only shown in the comic series Nightfall.
During Day 2, a feature on the official website references a report making the rounds that has sensitive information regarding Jack's experiences on Day 1. That report is the basis of the "24: The Special Subcommittee's Findings" book.
The 24 video game shows how Max, the mastermind behind the events of Day 2, is cornered and killed. It also focuses on Kim Bauer's first day on the job as a CTU intern.
The season four prequel shows Jack being fired from CTU, and with his new girlfriend, Audrey. The fifth-season prequel shows how Jack was discovered after faking his death for a year. While the Day 6 prequel is irrelevant, there is extra material included on the Season 6 DVD set that takes place after the day's events finish. Jack is debriefed by two fellow CTU officers, and gives background information on himself.
The show Babylon 5 left out the conclusions of some subplots, because they were going to be covered by the (canon) novels.
The Legions of Fire trilogy explained how we got from Londo becoming Emperor to Centauri Prime being ablaze 17 years later (as seen in various flash-forwards), whilst the Passing of the Techno-mages trilogy explained how Morden survived the nuclear explosion on Z'ha'dum and why the Shadows apparently didn't have any AA batteries protecting their capital city. Interestingly, whilst allowing the novels to expand and even resolve important plotlines from the show, JMS drew a line at explaining how the virus afflicting Earth in Crusade was eliminated in case he was able to revisit the series later on: a character in the Centauri books starts explaining it but gets interrupted.
In the first series of novels, both "The Shadow Within" and "To Dream in the City of Sorrows" are also considered canon. The first deals with what actually happened to the Icarus, Anna Sheridan, and Morden on Z'Ha'Dum. The other describes in more detail Sinclair's early days as the ambassador to Minbar, as well as the conclusion of Catherine Sakai's storyline, the first reactivation of the Rangers, and why Sinclair's hair is white in the whole Babylon 4 storyline. The second is especially tasty because it has a buttload of info, due to the fact that it's written by JMS's wife, Kathryn Drennan.
Also, the comics were considered canon. In a possibly ground-breaking moment, Garibaldi's out-of-the-blue announcement in the TV episode Messages from Earth that he saw a Shadow ship being excavated on Mars seven years earlier is actually a reference to a comic storyline produced a year earlier depicting his first meeting with Sinclair. Fascinatingly, this storyline also set up the departure of Talia Winters by revealing that the Psi Corps had been experimenting on her with Shadow tech at the same time. The first four issues of the comic also revealed all of what happened to Sinclair, and how he ended up as the Earth ambassador to Minbar. A miniseries called "In Valen's Name" described the final fate of Babylon 4 and showed some of Sinclair's tenure as Valen.
To understand some plot points in Heroes, you have to check out the online graphic novels.
Regarding the Doctor Who episode "Journey's End": The Doctor Who Adventures magazine reveals that the Doctor left Rose and his human counterpart with a chunk of the TARDIS (presumably so they can go off and have their own adventures), a detail which has a huge impact on the ending shown in the episode. The scene was shot and was boxed with the DVD set. Russell T Davies has stated that whether we acknowledge it is our own choice.
A much worse Doctor Who case is the notorious old school story "Ghost Light", which had almost all its exposition cut for time, making it almost incomprehensible without the lengthy DVD special features explaining the plot. Oh, and the DVD came out fifteen years after the TV broadcast...
From "The Angels Take Manhattan," we get no indication about how Amy and Rory being trapped in the past affects Rory's father, despite him being introduced just three episodes earlier and thus being very fresh in viewers' memories. A scene was written giving closure to him, but was never filmed.
Many of the new-gen Kamen Rider series are prone to this.
Although, this is usually minutiae such as weapon or attack names or height and weight. You don't need to know that Kamen Rider Kiva's Rider Kick is called the Darkness Moon Break and that it has the strength of 30 tons of TNT to enjoy the show.
The Super SentaiHyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger is subject to this. "Hyakujuu" is a Japanese word that means "All of the Animals". It literally means "One Hundred Animals". Seventeen show up regularly in the TV series, five make up the ultimate Humongous Mecha, another one debuts in The Movie, another shows up in a drama CD, and four more make their appearance in the Grand Finale. The other 72 show up in the series concept art, where a few of them were even conceived to be further Mecha Expansion Packs, become their own Humongous Mecha, and even more to have short one shot appearances in the finale but were left on the cutting room floor. These ranged from animals like the horse and cobra to the penguin and reindeer (named GaoRednose no less).
During the Disney era of Power Rangers, there was a lot of things that were placed on the shows website or in promotional materials that never actually showed up on screen. During Dino Thunder, Disney's site for the series said that Ethan developed a way for them to teleport across the city by text message. Jungle Fury gave Lily's name as Lily "Chill" Chilman, a nickname she was never called by. Finally, never once in the entire season was it mentioned exactly what RPM stood for (It's Racing Performance Machines, if anyone cares.) Whether it's All There in the Manual, Aborted Arc, or They Just Didn't Care is a matter of debate.
Farscape: Crichton's notes provide some musings and further information about various technology from the show. The Journey Logs, written from various characters' viewpoints, are also good sources of character insight, wit, and lampshade hanging ("Apparently Scorpy had been able to trace my DNA from the sample he took when he had me in that frelling Aurora Chair, and that enabled him to find my head. Don't ask me how that makes sense. I just work here.") in addition to being episode recaps.
Also, you have to play the video game to find out how Crichton came to have a favorite gun that he names Winona.
Twin Peaks had several print and audio media (The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, Diane:The Tapes of Agent Cooper, e.g.) which offered teasing insight into the developing plot.
Firefly. While Joss Whedon probably would've explained it all had the show not been screwed over so badly, if you want to know Shepherd Book's past you need to read a comic book titled "The Sheperd's Tale", which was released in late 2010.
Although this history is hinted at pretty broadly in the movie Serenity.
The exact layout of the systems that make up Alliance territory was eventually revealed when the "Official Map of the Verse" was released. It shows that Alliance territory is divided into a complex, multi-starsystem cluster with five star systems and a number of smaller protostars, with four smaller systems orbiting one massive supergiant, around which the Central Planets orbit.
Degrassi: Whether the original or Next Generation, you always learn more about the characters from the website, DVD extras, and tie-in novels than you EVER would just watching the show. Melanie wanting to be a professional writer, or Liberty being a year younger than anyone else, for example...
The full rules of The Amazing Race are never fully disclosed during the show, and many rules are only brought up when a team breaks them.
A rather heartbreaking elimination by lost passport (rendered all the more heartbreaking by the fact that the team in question had finished the leg first before they discovered it was missing) was properly explained in an online video, where the team admits that they took a wrong turn and must have lost the passport in the dark (which also justified not showing it in the actual episode).
The motivations of the players of Survivor are often utterly inexplicable to those who have not watched the supplementary videos on CBS's website (and sometimes remain inexplicable even then until interviews with the players after the game has ended make things more clear). This is often the case for 24/7 Reality TV shows which only use a tiny percentage of their filmed footage to form the narrative of the show.
Some of Carnivŕle's mythology was given in information and notes from series creator Daniel Knauf outside of the show, later presented by the fans via The Gospel of Knaufias. While it's not essential reading for the show, it does answer some mysteries and fill out some gaps concerning the show's plot and characters.
Played with on Warehouse13: Pete hasn't read the manual, Myka has read it cover to cover, and Artie doesn't need to.
Wizards Of Waverly Place's website does more of an efficient job at explaining the functional magic rules and plots than the program itself does through dialogue.
Naturally, any type of program music of the "narrative" variety, although its quality does not necessarily suffer if you have not read any program notes.
This trope applies to a lot of classical music. In twentieth-century and contemporary works especially, there may be a lot of details in the score, special performance notes, and analytical information that is known only to the performer or to a scholarly audience.
In the instance of Charles Ives's Concord Sonata - a musical depiction of the transcendentalist movement in Massachussets - a pianist may have read selected writings of Emerson, Hawthorne, Bronson and Louisa May Alcott, and Thoreau, as well as Ives's own "Essays Before A Sonata" (an extended program note on the sonata), performance directions, and numerous supplemental materials, and still have no clue as to how to interpret the work except by intuition.
The Second Viennese School of Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, Alban Berg, and their subsequent influence turned out to be the apex of this in the early twentieth century. The techniques and aesthetics employed, including twelve-tone rows, athematicism, and non-triad-based harmony, had placed such composers at the furthest reach of comprehensibility while still maintaining a system that was, at least internally, organized by some logical system. You have to know the score well, in other words.
Parts of the backstory for the Rock OperaSpace Crackers can only be found on the band's website.
All of Coheed and Cambria's albums are about The Amory Wars, a sci-fi story by frontman Claudio Sanchez. The only way to truly understand the music is to read the comics, which so far have only covered about 2/5 of the saga. The rest is pretty much guesswork.
Without the stories that accompany The Residents' album Eskimo, all you'll be hearing are wind noises, tearing, and grunts.
Though you can understand the songs on their album Animal Lover, the manual does help a bit.
Avantasia suffers from this. Sure, the music may make some coherent sense listened to by itself, but to get the entire story, you need to read the liner notes.
Also, Blue Oyster Cult's Imaginos suffers from this. Doesn't help that they were in a botched track order by the record label...
The Who wrote two musical Rock Operas, Tommy and Quadrophenia, as both albums and stage musicals. The stories of both of these albums can be difficult to figure out using just the music and lyrics, watching the film versions and reading various analysis of the albums is required for the full story.
The same can be said of the mini-opera "Wire and Glass," though the originator of the kind, "A Quick One While He's Away," is blissfully self-explanatory.
Really, any rock opera qualifies. Including a lot of things by Trans-SiberianOrchestra / Savatage. While the songs usually make sense in their own context, the backstory to them is usually found online or in the song booklet.
The booklet for Savatage's Streets A Rock Opera provides both the story and a number of details concerning DT Jesus not found in the lyrics.
The albums of The Protomen are packaged with liner notes containing pages of narration and stage direction which are not included in the music proper.
It is not too hard to grasp the story, although details will be lost without the notes. The first track of the first album begins with a narrator telling of Dr. Light building Protoman to fight an oppressive robot empire led by Wily. Proto Man dying is clearly told. Then comes an instrumental, followed by Light arguing with Mega Man about fighting and why he believes it is useless. The next two songs are of Mega Man deciding to fight and his lust for vengeance. Finally Face Heel Turn Protoman's speech and their battle. The second album can clearly be conveyed to be of first "Tom" being betrayed by his friend while building a mechanical work force, then being framed for murder, then a youth fleeing the oppressed city, then the two teaming up and trying to start a revolution. As said, things like why Light built Mega Man and how the "revolution" occurred can only be understood from the notes.
Michael Nesmith's 1974 album The Prison was famously marketed as "a book with a soundtrack." That is, the album was packaged with an actual novella (written by Nesmith), and you're supposed to read it as you listen to the album. 20 years later he tried that format again with The Garden.
While Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything is perfectly listenable on its own, Rundgren's liner notes for the album put the songs into a more coherent context. Each side (it was originally a double vinyl album) had its own thematic concept, and on the last side, Rundgren turned an eclectic group of songs into an "operetta" via a clever liner-note narrative that linked the songs together.
Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" is about a kid who kills himself in front of the rest of his class. You wouldn't know this unless you saw the music video. And even if you did, it was more than likely the one that was edited to remove a key shot vital in making it even remotely obvious.
Roger Waters' Radio K.A.O.S. Try linking the songs without knowing the story.
Even if you do know the story, that still doesn't mean it makes any sense at all.
The mysteries presented for listeners in Nox Arcana CDs are near impossible to figure out unless you visit The Arcanum on their website. And even then, some of the puzzles (The Doctor's Office and Pirate Treasure come to mind) will still require visiting the "Hints" section of the forum. In a much less psychologically challenging vein, all of the stories in the songs are much better understood once you've read the full stories/poems.
The CDs of Standing Stone, a mostly-instrumental classical work by Paul McCartney, includes a poem that includes the storyline for the piece. The NPR broadcast from when it was released did not.
David Bowie's Rock Opera1. Outside has a short story in the liner notes setting up its storyline and major characters. Unfortunately, this only takes the story so far because the album was intended as the first of three; Bowie decided not to write/record the follow-ups, so we will probably never know how everything was going to work out.
Pepe Deluxe's album Queen Of The Wave is a Rock Opera involving an epic hero and the fall of Atlantis, based on the novel A Dweller On Two Planets. To pick up anything beyond the broadest strokes of the story (like, say, the characters' names), you need to read the album liner notes, or the "album companion" files that the band posted online. PD themselves said that they were more concerned about making the album an enjoyable listen on its own than they were about conveying the entire plot via lyrics.
As the clock ticked down to the retirement date planned for Lynn Johnston's comic strip For Better or for Worse, she attempted to wrap up numerous loose ends in her ongoing story arcs. The sudden surge of activity in the previously glacial pace of the strips was too much to fit into her three- or four-panel a day limitation, so she set up a website containing letters written by the characters to their fans. In the letters she explained in more detail some of the sudden changes in plot or personality, and indulged in major retconning in response to fan outrage at some of the more absurd developments. Nonsensical in-strip events that were explained in the characters' letters became so commonplace they were a running gag in discussions on the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.comics.strips.
The comic strip Pluggers uses a cast of Funny Animals to illustrate "Pluggerisms" sent in by readers (granted, the definition is a sliding scale). The now-defunct website used to include mini-bios for each characters, but their traits rarely, if ever, showed up in the actual strip. For instance, Sheila the kangaroo is supposed to be an aerobics instructor according to the 1997 character bios, but not once was she ever shown being one. The character bios were done away with less than four years later.
30 years, like 1980, if you were like "I wanna make a video game that's, you lose your son and then you need to track down a serial killer, not just to save your other son, but to finally atone for your past mistakes and be able to look yourself in the mirror," the programmer would be like "Okay. I can give you a yellow circle, eating other, smaller yellow circles. And then the rest of the story we can put in the manual, you know?"
Warhammer 40000 has a small library of rulebooks, rules supplements, codex sourcebooks, codex supplements, alternate army lists, Imperial Armour collections, Chapter Approved collections, etc, etc. And that's just the latest edition.
The metaplot in the old World of Darkness. You can play the roleplaying game without the metaplot, but the game writers scattered the metaplot and canon character background stories across various rule supplements, novels set within specific gamelines, crossover novels between the different gamelines, and computer games. Vampire The Masquerade especially had the whole series of "clan novels" towards the End of the World metaplot. The final supplements that detailed the final fate of the various races and factions (or at least gave lazy Write Your Own Ending options to chose from) still sucked. Other people found it completely awesome, though.
This was especially egregious with later books, in particular the later Changing Breeds books. The Nagah (Were-snake) tribe book is the only book that ties Hunter The Reckoning into the rest of the Werewolf/Vampire line, and does this with a single paragraph. Turns out that Hunters are Gaia's last-ditch attempt at saving herself, since all her other children have utterly failed in the task.
Collectible Card Games do this to an extent. Sure, there are starter sets with rulebooks but if you are simply buying packs of cards you will have to go online to read up on how to play. Even if you buy the starter set you will still have to read up on the 'advanced rules' on the official site.
This also applies to such games that try to incorporate an actual storyline spanning one or more sets due to the inherent 'snapshot' nature of card art and flavor text. Magic is one fairly prominent example — it's not hard to get a general idea of what's going on in a given setting from just the cards, but those still leave plenty of blanks to be filled in via the novels or articles on WotC's website.
Before the Magic novels, players pretty much put the storyline together based on the snippets of flavor text on the cards (eg. Ice Age and Antiquities).
Legend of the Five Rings is also notorious for this, with every expansion "main pack" containing different snippets of storyline depending on the faction of the said expansion pack. Furthermore, there are also novels, short stories published on the website, as well as the little snippets on the cards themselves.
Also applied to some art, with two or three cards forming diptychs and triptychs, or displaying some sort of event in snapshots (as in Iaijutsu Challenge, Iaijutsu Duel, and Kharmic Strike.)
Eberron. Eberron Eberron Eberron Eberron Eberron. 90% of the details and Dungeons & Dragons statlines can be found in the extra sourcebooks like The Forge of War and Faiths of Eberron.
True of pretty much any D&D setting across the history of the game (and many, many RPGs aside from D&D, as well). The core setting books/box sets are there to provide just enough information to start your own campaign in that setting if you want to fill in the little details yourself. However, the extra books are there to fill in all the blanks for those who want the "official word," and for the development of the metaplot. In other words, it's a common scheme by RPG publishers to get you to buy more books. That, and highly detailing a whole world would make many books into weighty $100+ tomes — like Monte Cook's Ptolus, which clocks in at 672 pages detailing a single large city.
Shadowrun, especially in the first through third editions, put nothing more than a timeline in the core books, but had a vast multi-leveled metaplot through the published adventures and, most well-known, the in-character "comments" section of the sourcebooks. Each story arc of the story of the metaplot was hinted in previous books, from the bugs to the Otaku.
In the board game Talisman, the entire story of how the victory causing Crown of Command got to be where it was and why the world is in its current state is in the manual, and easily ignorable for players who just want to roll dice and acquire treasure.
The point to having such a long backstory was three-fold: 1: to ensure the GM would never actually read it and 2: Since he would never read it except for in excerpts i pointed out to justify things, I could re-write and change things around completely at random without anyone noticing and MOST IMPORTANTLY 3: Convince everyone that I was serious about this character, and that it wasn't simply the game wrecking bullshit that it was. Dickish yes, but he really did have it coming.
Anima: Beyond Fantasy is another good example. The game has a fairly rich setting that, however, is scattered among a RPG (and its manuals), a miniatures game (better said, its manual), several card games, and a videogame. No doubt Crack is Cheaper.
The Yu Gi Oh card game has (or rather, had) a somewhat extensive metaplot if you paid attention to the flavor text of some of the cards, though some of it was apparent in the artwork. Since cards only have either flavor text or effect text, the sudden drop off of monsters with no effects caused this to all but disappear. "Master guides" explaining the background of the card game's universe were released, explaining things that the cards didn't get a chance to. Newer strategies involving Normal monsters means that Konami is producing more new cards with flavor text, so this might turn around.
Almost all traditional Theatrical Productions have this to an extent—whereas a film or TV series have credits in them, and books feature acknowledgements, etc. etc., if one wants to know who the cast and crew of a particular production are, or sometimes even what the setting is, one needs to have a program from that production (or look it up online...), which will have all that listed. With the exception of Les Misérables, no shows generally use title cards to indicate things, and with the exception of Passing Strange, no show usually has the names of the cast and crew listed aloud at any time during the run.
If you want to completely understand the underlying themes, vague plots, and significance of all - well, most of - the peculiar characters and acts in a given Cirque Du Soleil show, you will probably have to buy the souvenir program and/or explore the official website. According to the 20th anniversary book 20 Years Under the Sun, the creators prefer that people watch the more abstract shows (as most of their productions in The Nineties were) and create their own interpretations of them rather than have the creators' ideas in mind all along.
In The Drowsy Chaperone, Man-in-Chair never names Trix or Geroge's actors, but the CD case to the 2006 recording gives them names. Because this could have been created for the CD alone, it could also be considered Loose Canon.
Some of the attractions at the Disney Theme Parks have backstories, but you have to look in books and promotional materials for the parks to find it.
Some of them are explained by voiceover artists over intercoms or through video packages aired while you're waiting in line, but not everyone pays attention to them — or they speed through the line too fast to even see them. For an example, at the rival Universal Studios Florida park, the ride for The Mummy at Universal Studios is based around the concept that you're participating in a filming of another Mummy movie. If you take the Fast Pass-style line, you'll go through too fast to even figure this out.
Disney is an odd case of this, as their official policy regarding a ride's backstory is that it is whatever the Cast Members working there that day decide it is. Most rides have a generally accepted story that most Cast Members will stick to, but any details are subject to change at a moments notice, and some of the best parts come from some guy one day deciding to change it up a bit.
The Blizzard Beach water park has a backstory. One day, Florida was hit with a freak snowstorm and it was decided to create the state's first ski resort. When all the snow melted and the plans were to be cancelled, they saw the Ice Gator sliding down the slopes and they decided to make it a water park.
Toylines in general are like this. At best, packaging has a blurb about the story and a quick bio giving the rundown on the character. At worst, there's nothing in or on the box explaining the world the characters live in. Some may have a TV or movie tie-in (if they're not based on one in the first place), but other than that when they say it's All There In The Manual, they mean it's All There In The Manual.
For BIONICLE - besides the fact that the toys are some of those have no story material included at all - the main story has to focus on current toy sets, so information on other characters and general world-building can be the domain of supplemental guidebooks and web-published side stories (and occasionally Word Of God).
Explanations about the true nature of the Maverick virus in the Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero games, as well as the fate of the Guardians at the end of Zero 3, can only be found in the Rockman Zero Complete Works sourcebook. The events of the ELF War and the backstory for the Eight Judges from Zero 3 are similarly only explained in Japanese drama tracks on an OST remastered CD.
The Mega Man Battle Network and Mega Man Star Force series are full of alphanumeric codes that do various things (Number Trader codes for free stuff, compression codes to make NaviCust parts smaller, etc.) You can find some "legitimately", i.e. in-game, but not all. Where are the rest? Japan, of course. They appear in magazines, during anime episodes, and so on. Japanese fans then post them on the net so the rest of us can get them.
There are also manga prequels to the original series as well. These fill in some of the details behind the game's plot. For example, the prequel manga for Mega Man 9 notes why older robots don't have to worry about the expiration date imposition, show the Robot Masters from the first game attempt to stop the rampage of the latest set, and even explains why Mega Man doesn't have a chargeable Mega Buster after five consecutive games with one. As a Continuity Nod, said explanation was given by Dr. Cossack, who was blackmailed by Wily in the fourth game but working for Dr. Light from the fifth game onward.
And in 2012, the Robot Master Field Guide was released, featuring detailed bios on every single RM to date as well as the series' main characters, in an attempt to compile as much supplementary material as possible in oneEnglish manual.
In IV in particular, there are certain bits about the game's plot and storyline that only ever were covered in the official artbook; some have been incorporated into the (presently-ongoing) manga adaptation, some haven't. Of course, all of this plus the two phone-game side-stories are not available outside of Japan and China, so we in the BoF fandom tend to be really grateful for Scanlation...
Betrayal At Krondor tosses the readers a huge bone concerning one of the main characters and clears up viewer confusion concerning Gorath, who has a beard despite being an elf. Apparently the beardedness is explained by him being half-human on his mother's side (which, unfortunately, is just as impossible in Midkemia canon) - something that is not remarked or even hinted at in the game or the novelisation and should have had huge repercussions for him, if true.
Ni No Kuni, a collaboration between the legendary Studio Ghibli and Level 5, is a unique example in that it comes with the manual. Still not impressed? Its over 300 pages long and includes in-game spells, potion recipes, and the like.
Pick a fighting game. Any fighting game. The apparent obligation of having optimal storylines for each character makes it so that plot essentially disappears within the game, but it's all there, just not immediately obvious.
The Street Fighter series is particularly notorious for this, with the most of the characters' backstories being published in Japanese only publications such as game specific special editions of Gamest Magazine or similar strategy guides/sourcebooks such as All About (insert game title/company here). It doesn't help matters that the English localizations of the early Street Fighter II and Alpha games had inaccurate translations (i.e: changing Cammy's past with Bison from subordinate to lover, Akuma being a demon or mass murderer, or the whole "You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance" thing, which launched much Fanon). Incidentally this plot doesn't resemble the one in the action movie at all.
Mortal Kombat has an amazingly complex storyline, for example, but you wouldn't know it from playing the game. Not to mention the players don't find out which characters' endings are canon until the next game in the series is released. Mostly the main plot involves someone betraying someone else and trying to conquer the multiverse, only to be betrayed, only for the betrayer to be betrayed, only for the original betrayer taking back his throne, rinsing and repeating. Everything else involves the heroes trying to defeat/free themselves from the current overlord, and being blindsided by the next usurper. This one doesn't resemble the movies at all, either.
Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe had a one-shot comic that was only included with the special edition release. It expanded on the plot of the game by showing how the two worlds were merged together, and also explained the absence of fan favorites like Johnny Cage and Robin.
The special edition of Marvel Vs Capcom 3 came with a one-shot comic book that tried to weave a more coherent story, since all you really have to go on in the game itself are the intro sequence and the various non-canon endings.
Furthermore, the only way that one can find out the actual names of the Special Attacks for all of the characters is by either reading the instruction manual (which is incomplete as it lacks certain characters) or visiting the aforementioned official website for Super Smash Bros. This is averted for the original Super Smash Bros. (Nintendo 64), however, as animations accompanied by the Special Attack names are briefly shown at intervals when one reads the biographies found in the Data section.
The Rival Schools series simultaneously averts and plays this trope straight. On one hand, the fighting portions of each game have introductions, cutscenes and endings that (for the most part) explain what's going on and the motivations behind most of the characters' actions; on the other, the Japan-only character creation modes in each game actually reveals even more background info about each character, as well as little known facets of their personalities (though none of it is required to understand the story). If you only play the games in English, you'd never guess Gentle Giant Boman is a fan of sunbathing, or Musical Assassin Yurika can identify a person by the sound of their footsteps.
This is the only way you find out anything about the plot in the Virtua Fighter series, because there isn't even so much as an ending in the games. Although, come back in about a year, you may be enlitened.
Guilty Gear... o lawd, Guilty Gear. Japanese-only drama CD's, Bibles/Material collections and novels and press kits are a few of the things you'll need to get all the plot of the GG universe, especially most anything about the Crusades themselves or the inner workings of the Assassin's Guild.
Spiritual SuccessorBlazBlue has started down this path with a prequel novel explaining what half the cast was up to before the first game started along with more time-travel shenanigans.
Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc contained several secrets that were only explained in the manual provided, making it a literal example of this trope.
Additionally, the game uses its manual in-game to break the fourth wall during the opening level by having the character Murphy instruct Rayman by reading to him from the game's manual, occasionally commenting on the manual's various illogicalities.
At one point, the manual actually talks back!
The English release of the Galaxy Angel manga includes an actual manual detailing things that the writer left out from the game.
Batman Arkham City has a series of comic book minis filling in the gap between itself and its predecessor, Arkham Asylum. The comics detailed how characters like Catwoman came to be captured and show events only alluded to in the game, such as Selina's past encounter with Poison Ivy. They also provided origins for a few of the game's original characters.
Malicious, this popular Download-only Title for PS3 is known for its great gameplay experience and colorful design, the main game is almost devoid of any sort of storytelling, typical of a download-only title you just pick your character up and go on to fight epic battles; that is, if you skip over the conviniently named "Backstory" menu on the Title Screen, in it there is a short novel detailing all of the game's backstory, everything that gives a meaning for what you do in the main game.
A companion volume to the Wild ARMS series reveals that, appearances to the contrary, they actually are directly related to each other — large time gaps and Filgaia's remarkable disaster-proneness obfuscates this, making most of the games appear to be largely unrelated stand-alone titles.
Really common in early (before the mid-80s, approximately) video games. With low resolution and limited storage space, most games would give you no on-screen clues about what to do or why you were doing it. Even worse, many of them had manuals "translated" from Japanese by simply playing the game and making up a new story, leading to some fun confusion when sequels (on later systems with on-screen story) follow the Japanese plot, not the US plot.
Many plot-heavy early games (I.E.: RPGs) had literal all there in the manual plots. Partially as an anti-piracy measure, partially to save space on the cassette/floppy, the game would instruct you to read specific lengthy snippets from its manual upon having reached certain points in the game.
Western text-only computer games used passages from the manual for anti-piracy, but the Infocom games often included toy-like extras to the game. Most were for amusement or to flesh out an idea in the game, but occasionally something, such as a map, would contain very important information.
On the other hand, nearly all of the second-generation (SCI) and third-generation (SCIV) Sierra games that don't have actual copy protection claim, right at the start, that you need "information from the manual" to complete the game, whereas in fact that isn't true. In some cases you do need information from the hint line, though.
While it's not critical to playing the games, the Kings Quest manuals have massive amounts of Back Story and character notes. The Peter Spear player's guide cranks it Up to Eleven with a creation myth for the universe the series is set in, documents "written" by the characters, and a fictional history of Daventry. And that's not even touching the Fanon on the universe...
The manual for Sid Meier games, particularly the original Pirates, are loaded with historically-accurate details about the era you're playing, including Silver Train and Treasure Fleet routes, information on known pirates of the era, detailed notes on the cities, and commentary on the accuracy (or lack thereof) of the era's firearms!
The HD rerelease Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Re MIX includes the Final Mx content form the first game. A simultaneous release is rumored for North America as well which means that the Final Mix content may be available for the first time outside Japan. It can be assumed that a second collection might do the same for the Final Mix content of the second game and possibly Birth By Sleep as well if it should be included in another collection.
In an odd surprise from Square Enix, Re: Chain of Memories was released in North America in December 2008 (but not in Europe, because Square-Enix really hates Europe). For the unaware, this is a remake of said GBA game, but on the PS2, and in Japan it came bundled with the Updated Rerelease of KHII.
358/2 Days is pretty bad in this regard. While it's clearly intended for existing KH fans longing for backstory elaboration, anyone who just picked this up not knowing any better is going to be absolutely lost, as you need to at least understand what is going on in 3 separate games to make sense of the plot: the original Kingdom Hearts, Chain of Memories and KHII. It doesn't stop there, though: the Chambers of Repose and Waking, plot points introduced only in Final Mix+, are mentioned several times, and Ventus from Birth By Sleep makes an Early-Bird Cameo.
Square Enix's "Ultimania" series. These monstrous manuals easily contain a hundred pages for a short book. Most of them are suitably doorstoppers and are packed with all of the information anyone could ever want about the game and its storyline. Unfortunately, it's all in Japanese so it is up to the kindness of fan translators for this information to be shared for a broader audience.
On a similar note, the Reunion Files book is essentially Ultimania for FFVII: Advent Children. It further explains several plot elements, such as who the Remnants are and the fact that they're actually inadvertently undertaking Sephiroth's will, amongst other things. Mercifully, it's in both Japanese and English, and a lot more is covered in the more readily-available Advent Children Complete, but it's still annoying that it's only conventionally available in Japan.
In reality, it seems they packed so much information into the Ultimania Guides that they completely change the tone and course of the original story. Whether it makes the story more sensible or awkward is up to the reader, though none is allowed to question its canon level. Annoyingly enough for some people.
Civilization took this trope very seriously, albeit as a somewhat primitive form of averting piracy. After a certain number of turns, the player would be asked to take the Civilization Quiz; failing the quiz prevented the player from continuing the game. The quiz was on specific prerequisites to technologies, which in theory could only be figured out by reading the manual. In practice, it was either possible to guess the prerequisites or to have already seen the technology in game. Those who were extra confused could just reload from an earlier save, at which point the quiz would randomize to something potentially easier.
In The Elder Scrolls games you have to dig around through in game supplemental material to make sense of the setting and the plot. Some fans have assembled an online archive of the game supplemental material.
Daggerfall's manual has a 'history' portion that details not only the history that can be found in-game, but also elaborates in more detail the events that lead from meeting the Emperor to waking up in a cave than what the game, itself, does. The manual also includes a handy genealogical chart for the three main noble houses of the Iliac Bay, although that information can be found in-game (just not graphically and in one place). Daggerfall's manual, however, is also notoriously shaky. Because they wrote the manual for features they had in planning, but never got around to release, the manual gives reference to objects which don't exist.
Touhou, and how. While the series has an unusually high amount of dialogue and cutscenes for a shmup, that's really not saying much. Most actual information is in the character profiles, short stories, fanbooks, or spinoff manga.
One word: Dragon. It's the single most powerful being in Gensokyo and the Border which defines Gensokyo won't exist without its approval, but in-game it's only ever alluded to in Iku's lines (of whom she's a messenger). It's getting even more egregious because the kappa is a race that as a whole revere the Dragon, yet Nitori (your kappa ally) never speaks of it in-game.
Some of the side material managed to do this to itself. More specifically, the side-story Bougetsushou was split into three parts: the main story, Silent Sinner in Blue; a collection of character-focused vignettes, Cage in Lunatic Runagate; and a gag-manga, Inaba of the Earth and Inaba of the Moon. Inaba isn't really important to anything, but Runagate explains a few things that were glossed over in Silent Sinner. Also, it has the ending, and the explanation for why the whole thing happens that comes with it.
This is made glaringly obvious when certain characters or subplots become relevant to the main storyline, and suddenly some fully-developed characters will show up in World Of Warcraft without their full backstory being given. Half of the story in the Sunwell Plateau dungeon, covering the adventures of Anveena Teague and Kalecgos, is only found in The Sunwell Trilogy, a manga series released several years before the dungeon. Anyone who did the dungeon without reading the book saw a few conversations between Kaelcgos and a girl in a bubble who loved him without knowing that Anveena is the human embodiment of the energy of the destroyed Sunwell. It is why her "explosion" helps end the encounter.
The entirety of the Nerubian race's political system, motivations, and personality is found outside the game. In the game there's only one with a speaking part, and it's just about a quest like any other npc.
Ditto as for why people are supposed to invade the Obsidian Sanctum, a sacred place to the black dragons where there is supposed to be no conflict, and kill a dragon who's defending a clutch of eggs. This is because they're twilight dragon eggs, and their presence indicates that the dragon Deathwing is working against the other dragonflights. The red dragonflight is using you as a proxy because they can't directly confront the black dragonflight about it. But the dungeon just showed up after a patch without any of this explanation.
The Dungeon Journal often reveals details about bosses that don't come up in the game, particularly for those that don't appear in Expanded Universe works. For example, Asira Dawnslayer's entry reveals that she was a mercenary who worked for the Twilight Hammer Cult, then was slowly corrupted until she changed her name from Sunbright to Dawnslayer.
Perhaps the most egregious example is the return of King Varian Wrynn. To sum up, since the game was first released, there had always been a long and involved questline involving finding out what happened to the missing king. This quest line cut off suddenly at around level 30 with the capture of someone that might have some information, and a letter to the player saying that they would be called on again when the prisoner divulged his information. Fast-forward several years and the quest line was slightly expanded, only to dead-end again with no real conclusion. In Wrath of the Lich King, the king was suddenly back with (from the perspective of someone who doesn't follow the Expanded Universe) no explanation whatsoever. Why? Because they literally took a quest that had been left dangling in-game for four years and concluded it in the comic book series, in which the missing king is the main character.
Another good example comes in the form of the third expansion to the game, Cataclysm. Quite literally overnight, the whole world was altered completely. The leader of the Horde was suddenly Garrosh Hellscream instead of Thrall, Cairne Bloodhoof was Killed Off for Real and replaced by his son, Baine, and Magni Bronzebeard was effectively killed off and replaced by a council of three, including one of the Always Chaotic Evil Dark Iron clan. Little of this is ever actually explained in-game, and all of it takes place in the novel The Shattering.
Around this time, FandralStaghelm, the widely hated archdruid of the Alliance, suddenly gets replaced, and an early quest in Mount Hyjal in Cataclysm involves escorting him from his prison to prevent the Twilight Hammer cultists from breaking him out. The reason why he was imprisoned is revealed in Stormrage; Xavius manipulated him into corrupting Teldrassil by using an image of his dead son, and when the image vanished and he essentially lost his son again, Fandral lost his sanity.
It gets even more complicated when including the RPG sourcebooks as legitimate sources of information. At least one piece of information is totally inaccurate (the death of Maiev in the sourcebooks was rendered obsolete when she showed up in Outland as a major plot point). This calls into question any assumption made based on the sourcebooks.
Thankfully (or maybe not) a Q&A on the World of Warcraft forums revealed that the sourcebooks are officially not canon.
Starcraft's manual contained much of the game backstory, much of which play a hand in the expansion pack's story (which barely contained any information in its manual, if it existed). The game itself assumes the player is already familiar with the histories and factions of the different races given there. There is no in-game exposition for even basic things, like who the Sons of Korhol or the Xel'Naga are or the Protoss caste system, which are all vital to even vaguely understanding the plot.
The manual also explains why the Zerg need resources to build units.
Starcraft II turned the phenomenon up to eleven; all of the major characters, excepting those retained from the original, have backstories which are only explored in tie-in novels, though a brief summary of each character can be found on the official website.
And most of the fun facts about the units, such as calling the medivac ship a "heal bus" and the subsequent amusing response had by the pilot, can only be found by buying those units in the single player mode and reading the information in the armory.
This would have been the case with Starcraft Ghost, had it not been cancelled after the novel Starcraft: Ghost: Nova came out, detailing Nova's background and how she came to be a Ghost (she happens to be the most powerful human telepath/telekinetic ever, able to mind-control others and emit TK blasts comparable to nukes; even Zerg!Kerrigan can't match her). Interestingly, the end of the novel has Nova joining the Ghost program, knowing that her memories will be erased, which kinda makes the novel irrelevant. The character of Nova is "revived" and used in Starcraft II, and an additional novel has been written about her exploits.
Diablo's manual contained most of the plot and backstories of all the races and units. This includes a very vivid description of a little boy being transformed into Diablo.
Halo 2 ends at the start of an epic battle. Halo 3 starts at the end of the same epic battle. The battle itself is covered in the comic series Halo: Uprising.
Even more so, Halo Combat Evolved begins with the characters having just discovered the titular installation. What happened before that is covered in Halo: The Fall of Reach. Another novel, Halo The Flood, tells us what everyone else (both human and Covenant) was doing on the ring while the Chief was running around, while Halo First Strike explains what happened between the first and second games (like how Johnson survived).
Halo Reach is notorious for this: the significance of Dr. Halsey, why she distrusts NOBLE Team, the Forerunner artifact, Cortana, the Pillar of Autumn, and even the setting won't make full sense unless you've played the first game and read both Halo: The Fall of Reach and Halo Ghosts Of Onyx.
Even if you have, you'll also need to read Halsey's Journal (which only came with the Limited/Legendary edition of the game), this in-universe communication on Bungie's official website, the Waypoint Data Drops, and the 2010/2011 reprint of The Fall of Reach, in order to settle what might otherwise seem to be Halo: Reach's contradictions with earlier EU material.
All of that is nothing compared with Halo 4; numerous players who were not familiar with the Kilo-Five trilogy, The Forerunner Saga, and/or the terminals from Halo 3 and 4 expressed severe confusion about the story, ranging from why the Chief is fighting the Elites again to the very identity of the Librarian and the Didact.
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and its sequel Radiant Dawn had its backstory explained at the official Japanese website for the series, namely that Sephiran Lehran and Altina founded Begnion together and they were the first couple to bear a Branded child.
This information could be found in game if the player was willing to go through a second time while performing certain extra tasks.
Metal Gear Solid 2 also featured a fictional novel titled In The Darkness of Shadow Moses: The Unofficial Truth, a tell all account written by Nastasha Romanenko exposing the true events of the Shadow Moses Incident from her perspective. This novel elaborates a lot on the Shadow Moses Incident from the support group's end.
Although it is heavily implied in Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater, the Metal Gear Solid 4 Database is also the only place you'll find a direct confirmation that Ocelot is the son of The Boss and The Sorrow. The Metal Gear Solid 4 Database also elaborated on what happened with the Metal Gear Gs as well as the history of Shadow Moses.
The Metal Gear Solid 4 Database is has received some criticism for not resolving some things, getting some info wrong, and retconning some things.
The Japanese manual for the MSX2 version of Metal Gear included bios and artworks of the main characters and bosses (including an explanation of Schneider's motive for creating the resistance movement), and gave the specifications of TX-55 Metal Gear as well as the designs for it. A fan translated version can be viewed here. In contrast, the English manual for the European MSX2 version only included the standard playing instructions, although it's not as bad as the English translated version of the NES port's manual, which pretty much butchered the story.
The Metal Gear 2 Solid Snake manual also elaborated quite a bit on the game's story and other things, and was absolutely vital to playing the game and understanding the story (in fact, it was even needed for a certain part of the game that probably made it far too difficult to be beaten otherwise). For instance, it elaborated on exactly how Solid Snake managed to infiltrate Zanzibarland, the history of Zanzibar Land as well as its statistics, including military strength and natural resources, a history of FOXHOUND, and bios for the main characters. It also explained a bit about the landmarks of Zanzibar Land, and the backstories of several bosses, and specifications of several vehicles encountered in the game, including the Goliath tanks, which were originally supposed to be fought as a boss but were removed due to time constraints and kept as part of the scenery on the first floor of Zanzibar Building, the Hind Ds, which explained that these were modified, the Gigant, and the Sikorsky Dragoon (the chopper that was briefly seen in the ending of the game that took out a platoon of Zanzibar Land personnel when Snake and Holly White were surrounded due to running out of ammo.). Like its predecessor, it gave the statistics of Metal Gear D, as well as elaborated on the mass production of Metal Gear G that Dr. Drago Pettrovich Madnar alluded to in game. It also explained how to use tap codes in this game, which makes the manual absolutely necessary to use to get Dr. Madnar's frequency, and thus get further into the game. A fan translated version can be view here.
There was also a leaked voice casting document for Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater that elaborated on some details on the main characters. It gave the real name of Major Zero (David Oh), and elaborated on a few things about some characters, such as mentioning that the American colleague of Granin was actually Otacon's father (which was later confirmed by Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker).
The originalMetal Gear Solid included a segment where Kenneth Baker tells Solid Snake that the only way to contact Meryl Silverburgh is to look at back of the "CD case" to find out what her frequency. This is a reference to an actual screenshot on the back of the game's boxart, which depicts Snake conversing with the character in question via Codec.
Microcosm apparently takes place on another world in the distant future, involves a multi-generation war between MegaCorps, an assassination attempt, and Cyberpunkish corporate espionage. You wouldn't know this from playing the game. It's a Rail Shooter with controls that makes Baby Jesus cry himself to sleep at night, and an opening FMV that is almost as long as The Godfather II but explains NOTHING about the labyrinthine story. The manual's story lasts for more than twenty pages, including a three or four chapter story, an atlas of the fictional future star system it takes place in, and an long essay on why the MegaCorps are fighting and how crappy their planet is. All this for a rail shooter that would have to be as bad as Superman 64 to be run-of-the-mill.
Mass Effect seems to be heading this way. The available in-game Codex offers incredibly detailed information on everything from asari biology to element zero. In addition, the two novels offer and expand upon the backstory and provide additional information.
Not quite so bad, the novels flesh out in greater detail aspects of the story which are easily followed in-game. While the codex is more detailed, many of the topics are usually mentioned at some point in the game dialogues.
And most of the information in these areas isn't necessary to understand the game's main story, only some of the backstory behind the world (which you can also dig out through conversations).
One can play through the game without reading the codex at all, but it does kind of beg to be read (with the flashing every time you pause). It's kind of an instance where more detail becomes available as you learn about things (ie, Joker explains the Normandy's stealth drives a bit, the codex provides a bit more), and not so much where you have to read the codex to understand stuff. However, at the end of the game, having read the codex articles on the Protheans helps make things make more sense.
The comic book series Mass Effect: Redemption (an official prequel to Mass Effect 2) explains Liara's attempts to get Shepard's body back from the Shadow Broker in much greater detail, and how she first met Feron. The DLC "Lair of the Shadow Broker" references, but doesn't fully explain, the events mentioned in the comic series.
One tie-in novel, Retribution, finally explains fully one of the major mysteries of the second game: why are the Reapers converting humans into a Reaper? The answer: because organic life is short and imperfect, the Reapers think they're doing us a favor by granting us an immortal existence as one of them.
Retribution only confirmed speculation after Mass Effect 2. Harbinger's lines, such as "we are the harbinger of their ascension" and "[we] are your salvation through destruction" make more sense, but it was fairly clear what was going on. Again, this is a case of expanding on something that was briefly covered in the games.
Valkyrie Profile has the Japanese-only Materials Collection, which contains tons of information about characters and settings. Since the game series is not as popular as, say, Final Fantasy, it has not been translated.
As it is, Killer7 is undoubtedly one of the most bizarre video games ever created, so naturally the developers put out a companion book, Hand in Killer7, that provides some backstory and explanation to the game's characters and events. Though this information is hardly any less confusing than that provided by the game itself, and often outright contradicts the game altogether. Given the nature of the game, this has to be deliberate.
Also, to understand who the characters are (especially some of the characters not in cut scenes, like Coyote and Con) you have to read the manual with the game. It's also nigh IMPOSSIBLE to solve some of the puzzles without this information.
Let's not forget the 12 issue comic miniseries meant to portray the story in a more linear, comprehensible fashion...a miniseries that got to issue four before being summarily canceled. Only one other issue was released, a zero issue, but that one only existed as a promotional material and couldn't be bought on its own.
Homeworld has a large manual which describes the history and technology of your faction leading into the campaign, and goes into quite a bit of detail. However, the intro cutscene usefully summarizes the parts which are directly important.
The sequel, Homeworld: Cataclysm, also provides a long, detailed backstory in the manual, along with descriptions of all of your ships and a lot of enemy ships. Again, though, the really important backstory is summarized in game.
Homeworld 2 plays this straight, though. To really understand the backstory and what's going on, you need to either have shelled out $20 for the strategy guide or waited until the developers released their internal history documents onto the web.
Made worse if you played Cataclysm, since it takes a few missions to realize none of the world-building from that game was canon. Even disregarding that, the martial now available still doesn't explain how the Bentusi were reduced to one ship.
One defenseless ship, which was able to destroy entire fleets by itself in the manual. Cataclysm also shows us Bentusi tradeships that can hold off flotillas.
The original version of LucasArts' Loom included a 30-minute introduction on an audio cassette. However, if you've got a pirated version lacking the cassette, you can play the game without missing much.
Also fits if you legally download the game off Steam, or anywhere else.
Suikoden IV's final boss is actually quite an appropriate end to the game, seeing as it's the ultimate source of all Rune Cannon ammunition, and its presence at Fort El-Eal was what allowed the Kooluk to make their giant Rune Cannon superweapon. Its destruction also means that no more Rune Cannons may be made, which is undeniably a Good Thing given how much trouble they've caused. Of course, since this is never addressed in the actual game, if you never read the backstory for the game, which is published separately, it just looks like a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere.
Bust A Groove, a little-known rhythm game for the PSX, was a game entirely about having dance battles with people ranging from twelve year olds and disco playboys to a thirty-foot tall robot and twin aliens. The game itself offers absolutely no explanation for these battles, or the characters themselves for that matter. The manual reveals that the characters are battling one another in order to receive their heart's desire using Dance Power. These wishes are vaguely alluded to in each character's ending cinematic, but never stated outright due to ever character being a Silent Protagonist.
The sequel has the same problem, though it's compounded by the fact that not even the booklet describes the game's plot, just each character's backstory.
The real name of the protagonist of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is never given in the video game; he is for the most part referred to by his Code Name, "Starkiller", which many fans erroneously assumed to be his real name. The novelization based on the game, however, gives his real name as Galen Marek.
American Mc Gees Alice, in the deluxe addition, comes coupled with an illustrated "casebook" of Alice from the insane asylum she's staying in. It gives many details about the causes of particular events in the corrupted Wonderland, as well as giving hints about proper ways to defeat certain enemies and bosses.
In The World Ends With You, only the Japanese manual refers to the fact that the abilities of every Player is tied to at least one pin. Yes, this means that Mr. Mew is controlled (partially) via pin (it's called Groove Pawn, by the way).
Shiki does make an off comment about being impressed with Neku's ability to use more than one pin near the start of the game though...
Bad or hasty localization can also cause this. The Nintendo GameCube version of Ikaruga only had the basic story outlined in the manual. Everything else was supposedly in game... but it was removed and not even the Japanese remains. Granted, you'd be lucky to even read half of it before it disappeared, but at least it was there in the other versions.
Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri has this in spades. Additional information on the faction leaders' personalities, the backstory of the game before arriving on Planet, trivia on the planet and the solar system of Alpha Centauri...you name it.
Psychonauts only recently got a complementary, developer-made Wiki, which you can find here. It also quenches some of the fan speculation, such as revealing the name of Razputin's father (Augustus, for you fanfic writers) and confirming the long fan speculation that Raz' last name is Aquato.
Parodying this trope, the manual of Sub Terra contains a backstory that is not found in the actual game, but is also completely unrelated and irrelevant.
Illwinter strategy game Dominions 3 has a massive 300 some-odd page manual including a complete list of the hundreds of spells and a description and sample strategy for all of the myriad nations, alongside the admittedly limited backstory to the game.
And that still doesn't include stats for most of the national units, details on many unit attributes and spell effects, province stats, etc.
A certain code in Star Tropics was revealed only by following an in-game character's cryptic suggestion to dip a certain document in water... the aforementioned document being an actual real document packaged with the game. Without the code, you can't progress. When it hit the Virtual Console, the loading screen showed the letter and code.
Venerable Amiga / DOS adult (pixel art boobs and gore) RPG DreamWeb originally came with the "Diary of a (Mad?) Man", which greatly fleshed out the main character, his mental problems, and the world he lives in. In fact, the story of the diary is far more detailed than the game itself; it also features a progressive rendering of symbol seen in dreams, necessary to unlock one of the final doors.
Although Sword Of The Stars gives you a fairly comprehensive info-dump on the in-game universe inside the game, reading the supplementary novel and following the game's forum provides a wealth of supplementary material: The game's story writer is a sci-fi novelist, and likes to frequent the game's forum to answer fluff questions from the fans.
Think you've found a plot hole in one of Kinoko Nasu's visual novels? Well... you may be right. But it's just as likely that Nasu has addressed that very point somewhere, though maybe not in the same route or even the same game. There are so many rules to Nasu's universe that even hardcore fans have trouble keeping them straight.
Super Metroid gave Samus two undocumented moves: the wall jump and the shinespark (no, not that one). These moves aren't in the manual; instead, they're in the demos, and there are also a bunch of animals who demonstrate them for you (of course, this doesn't tell you what buttons to press). Since then, all the 2D games have included these moves — and maintained the tradition of not documenting them.
Super Metroid actually had a third secret move seen only in the demo: the Crystal Flash, a last-ditch recovery technique. The conditions and method for performing this one are so specific that only Nintendo Power readers had a chance of learning it.
Ridley, The Dragon who appears in almost every game, is an extremely intelligent and cunning, if bloodthirsty, military leader. Not that you would know this just by playing the games, as all he's ever done is screech, roar, and claw at Samus whenever he shows up. Further, the way he keeps coming back after being defeated (eating corpses and then absorbing their biomass to heal injuries), is never mentioned outside the manga.
Flashback came with a short comic book explaining the story. The key details are given in the second level, with a few minor characters and events missing.
Action 52 came with a 12-page comic book explaining the origins of the Cheetahmen. The Action 52 manual, however, was quite inaccurate (it appears the game summaries were based on projections rather than the final product). It did offer a mailing form you could fill out to get more complete instructions on each particular game, but they haven't been discovered or even documented on the internet.
The Dark Forces Saga's backstory for the protagonist was first given in the manual for the original game and was later contradicted by a trilogy of graphic novels. It was later revealed in an RPG supplement that the original manual were lies written by the agent who recruited him to make him seem more trustworthy.
The instruction book for the original Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesNES game states that the Turtles' main mission in the game is to capture Shredder's Retromutagen Ray generator Life Transformer Gun, with which they can turn Splinter back to a human. This is why, at the end of the game, Splinter is restored to his human form; the game itself makes no mention of the transforming gun.
Shredder can use the gun to One-Hit Kill you in the final battle, but the reason why the turtles want it from him is never explained.
Looking at a whole other type of Splinter, the Splinter Cell games have a metric crapload of extra stuff ranging from novels ("Created by" Tom Clancy, with a negligible amount of help from his two sub-writers, their four ghost-writers, and the four ghost-writers 8 different ghost-writing-agencies), secret-filled flash-websites, trailers, teasers, articles, spinoff-games, multiplayer campaigns(!), etc. The third game in the series was somewhat notorious for explaining the story (namely the manslaughter/murder of Sam's daughter, his short career in crime, subsequent imprisonment and the undercover infiltration of JBA. solely through preview articles and trailers.
Pirates! used (ironically) an anti-piracy technique best explained by this trope. In your first confrontation with another ship, you would be shown a flag and asked to identify the famous pirate that it belonged to. These pirates, and their flags, were only ever shown in the manual. There is no indication given in-game as to how important it is that you get this right, or whether you got it right at all, but if you answer incorrectly, the game quickly becomes Unwinnable as you will never find any other ships at sea.
The Sierra adventure game Rama was (loosely) based on Arthur C. Clarke's second Rama novel. Despite there being some fairly major differences between the game and the novel, characters in the game will sometimes reference events that only happened in the book.
Zelda II The Adventure Of Link had a rather standard Save the Princess plot in its opening crawl. The manual, however, revealed that the princess you were saving was actually the current princess' distant ancestor who had been put into an eternal sleep because she wouldn't reveal the location of the third Triforce piece to her brother and an evil wizard. It also explained that this is the reason the princess is always named Zelda — in honor of the one under the spell.
Oddly enough, the intro in the English version almost implied that it was the same Zelda from the first game, whereas the Japanese version clearly specifies (in badly translated English) that it's "Another Princess Zelda". The Nintendo Power preview of the game also implied that it was the same Zelda.
Supplementary materials also reveal that the boss of Maze Palace is the evil wizard who cast the sleeping spell on Zelda.
The full name of the Big Bad of half of the franchise, Ganon, is Ganondorf Dragmire, aka Mandrag Ganon, at least in the English version. This is mentioned only in The Legend Of Zelda A Link To The Past's manual and when you talk to an out-of-the-way white Octorok in the Dark World (though he only mentions the Ganondorf Dragmire name).
A mild example, but the blond Kokiri in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was named "Fado" on an old version of the official site. She's one of the few named Kokiri in the games, a leftover from her important status in the beta.
There is now Hyrule Historia, an encylopedia of sorts for the Zelda mythos in honor of it's twenty-fifth anniversary, which confirms or expounds on a lot of story details that were either ambiguous or outright overlooked in the series. Most notably (and to much controversy), it finally gives an official timeline of all the games to date. The book is basically the answer to every possible question that fans have regarding the series, the characters, and the timelines.
Super Robot Wars does this occasionally, but subverts it with Original Generation Gaiden, which takes most of the "Manual" from the Drama CD and OAV and puts it right in the game.
Then it goes on to use it with it's own Drama CD, which brings us to...
Ace Combat has details not covered in the game proper, such as the stories of the aces as found in the Assault Records or the full history of the Ulysses asteroid.
Sins of a Solar Empire does not have a campaign mode, and as such, you get no storyline with the exception of the opening cinematic.
Machines opens with you aparently playing as a computer. It turns out took over a thousand years to get to this point. Why is explained in print
The SimEarthmanual was over 500 pages, bound in a ring, and was larger than most modern game boxes. It explains the entire philosophy of the game as a "computer toy", the science behind the various models, and the equations for the atmospheric model are ALL IN THE MANUAL. It's quite impressive, but looking back, it was a bit of a wallbanger when they put CO2's greenhouse effect so high, practically ignoring the warming effects of nitrogen, oxygen, and water vapor, despite their completely saturated warming bands.
The various Sim X game manuals LOVED to provide massive amounts of information on the subject they were simulating. Sim Ant's manual was a couple of hundred pages long, but only 20-30 of those pages were about how to play the game; the rest of it was a small introductory textbook to the field of Myrmecology.
SimCity 2000 was much the same. A good chunk of manual, and many times more pages devoted to discussing city planning in reality. Much of it was useful to the game, giving you insight into the models used to create the simulation. Just as much of it was simply a love letter to city planning as a subject of research.
Several significant plot points in the Wing Commander series are, for various reasons, only mentioned in the game manuals. The manual for the X Box Live Arcade game Arena, "Star*Soldier", fleshes out the game in a way the then-limit of 50MB on game size didn't allow. (The limit was bumped to 150MB while Arena was in development.)
Outpost 2 was an early RTS with very sparse cutscenes, so at first glance, the backstory and campaign mission briefings seem sparse-more an Excuse Plot than anything else. Then you crack open the manual or on-disk manual and find detailed explanations of every unit, structure, and weapon, complete with a [very] short story centered around the structure, unit, or weapon, as well as plenty of backstory. Then you realize the game came with a novella on the CD as well, spinning two very different tales (one for each faction, which are very different) about the ongoing struggle to survive. Plymouth's ending in particular comes out of nowhere if you haven't been reading.
However, you are shown the information in the mission briefings (you can show the briefing itself, some technical information and a corresponding chapter of the novella), so this is more of an All there in the manual *and* in the game itself.
Almost all of the powerup names in the Backyard Sports series nowadays come from the manuals for the respective games.
Normally, the mostly-textless opening cutscene of Stretch Panic is utterly confusing and makes no sense. But with the multiple pages of story in the manual, it becomes...very confusing, making little sense. Given that it's a Treasure game, though, that's par for the course.
Also, the same novelization explains the origin of his powers: He made a pact with Satan to gain control of hellspawn to conquer the world. It also explained that he gained control of Hell because of his disposing of Satan.
Both the original System Shock and the sequel has some backstory, while not essential to know, that fleshes out the game more, particularly in the sequel, which explained the motivations of Captain Diego, Korenchkin and Delacroix for joining the Von Braun mission.
A lot of things that seem to come way, way out of left field in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines are actually taken from the various Old World of Darkness source books. To the point where fans of the tabletop game will appreciate the many references, and everyone else blinks and tries to work out what the hell is up with the freakin' wereshark!
The PC game Where In The USA Is Carmen Sandiego? required you to look up information in Fodor's USA travel guide to get promoted. This was before the internet was in common use, so if you didn't have the book (which came with a new copy of the game), you'd have to guess what the largest export of New Mexico just happened to be.
The obscure adventure game The Eidolon came with a long and detailed story in its manual/diary, full of Steam Punk science and dream logic. It also told you flat-out how to face down certain creatures by detailing the writer's experiences with them. The game itself just starts up in the pilot seat of an unidentified vehicle with nothing but blackness visible.
In the game Vexx, you have to collect a certain number of hearts in order to come to new worlds, one of these hearts is hidden inside a chest (which is itself inside a sort of whale), this chest has a lock on it that you can only open by inserting the right code by pressing buttons. It's possible to guess the right combination, but it becomes much easier with a hint in the manual, the description for the heart even tells you to "look in the book".
The web material for the John Woo game Stranglehold includes bios for all the major characters, such as the Captain with his authoritarian father, Jerry Ying and his estrangement from his straitlaced cop father, Dapang's background in child labor and underground death matches, and the bad guys' various criminal backgrounds. It also includes a tie-in to Hard Boiled, the movie this game is a sequel to, in Mr. James Wong's background, which mentions the involvement of his only son, Johnny, in arms running and his subsequent death in a certain hospital shootout.
In Final Fantasy XIII, much of the story (and various commonly used terms) make no sense unless you read through Datalog. However, it's better than most examples here, because it's conveniently located in-game.
Some - especially critics such as Spoony and Yahtzee, who both made a point of addressing this directly - would say it's actually worse than most of these examples. Instead of expanding on the universe or filling in plot holes, the datalog in Final Fantasy XIII basically has to be read if you want to understand even the most fundamental things about the setting, plot, and motivations of the characters. Needless to say, it's Final Fantasy, so this is a controversial viewpoint. Yahtzee puts this best:
Yahtzee: You're supposed to weave exposition into the narrative, not hand the audience a fucking glossary as they walk in to theatre!
The first two Star Control games feature manuals with lengthy stories explaining the background of the Hierarchy Wars, each race's history, and what happened leading up to the beginning of Star Control II. In the case of the first game, it was arguably an Excuse Plot for a space strategy/combat game, in the case of the second game, most of the relevant information was available in-game if you ask enough of the right questions. And many vital plot points are only in the game, without the manual knowing anything about them.
The various ghouls and player characters from The Ghouls' Forest series of Doommods, as well as the multiplayer Ghouls Vs Humans, used to have detailed bios available on the author's blog. They were then removed (and no known copies exist) because the author felt they were "no longer needed".
The Myst franchise had three novels written with it, the first two of which explain all the background of Atrus, his family, and the D'ni civilization. The third fills in some of the gaps between Riven and Myst 3: Exile.
Played quite literally in Hotel Mario, where Mario turns to the camera in the opening cutscene and tells the player to consult the included instruction manual should they need any help.
In Super Mario Bros. 2, the text on the opening screen tells you that "Wart hates vegetables". This is the key to defeating Wart (the Final Boss); you have to grab vegetables and force-feed them to him.
Most of the (official) Super Mario Bros. games play this straight, where the functions of various characters, enemies, and items are only covered in their instructions manuals, but for some reason Super Mario Galaxy inverts this (although still played straight with Mario's side of the story).
And speaking of Galaxy, there's the game's tie-in trading card game. What makes the trading card game count is the fact that it revealed in the game's prologue the Magikoopa that attacked Mario when he is trying to save Peach when Bowser kidnaps her and carries her high up into space to be... Kamek!
A lot of Satoru's past in Remember11 is explained more thoroughly in a timeline that was released after the game.
Lampshaded in Empire Earth's fourth mission of the Russian campaign when the briefing recommends you to check out the manual to learn more on cybers' abilities.
Humongous Entertainment included help files with every single one of their games, and gave the solutions to all the puzzles.
Each Escape Velocity had more in the manual than the predecessor: the original game was not this trope at all, Override has a couple of things that were never explicitly stated in-game, and Nova has eight 'preamble' PDFs, one of which is a Universe Chronology, six of which go into deeper detail about the importantnote That is, each corresponds to one of the major and exclusive to one another storylines of the game civilizations and groups of the 'verse, and one which is an example of a traditional song sung by one minor group.
In the first Shenmue every single character, from Ryo to Nozomi to the guys who exist only to get beaten up in the 70 Man Fight, has their own name and backstory, most of them fairly detailed and interesting. Did you know that the girl working outside the thrift shop is really the daughter of a wealthy family who ran away to escape an arranged marriage? Or that the reason Nozomi is in love with Ryo is due to him defending her from bullies? Unless you've gone out of your way to search for the bios most likely not.
Much of the backstory in Nie R is kept in the supplementary book Grimoire Nier, including the game's connection to Drakengard and the beginnings of Project Gestalt.
The Reconstruction, sort of. There's an in-game glossary that has background information and history on tons of things, some of which are part of the plot that the game itself only half-explains to you. Fortunately, though, none of it is really vital to understanding the actual plot.
The plot of Shatterhand isn't really stated at all in the game proper.
The NES version of Hydlide had an opening screen in which a demon casts a spell and turns a princess into three fairies. The full explanation of this was left to the manual. The PC 88 version at least had a screen of text at the beginning of the game.
There's tons of this in Asuras Wrath, which can be found in the pre order art book and all the extras in the game menu, such as where the Demi-Gods come from, how they came to be, the time period the gohma started attacking, explaining the origins of Mantra and how it became a power source, and several other things for stuff that is unexplained in the already fleshed out story of the main game.
Even inFAMOUS got in on this trope. In between the first and second game there was an interquel comic published and released by DC. Although the main story was still understandable enough without reading the comic, a number of the game's subplots are only resolved in said comic, like Cole coming to forgive Zeke, whatever happened to Sasha, Alden, and Moya, and Zeke learning that Kessler is Cole's future self.
Most of the plots for the Angry Birds series games are all covered in their commercials.
The notorious 1985 flop The Great Space Race for the ZX Spectrum came with the back-story for every character in a series of comic strips (which actually looked like first-drafts drawn with marker pen) in the manual. This kind of thing was common in the 8-bit era as memory and cassette/disk space was limited and traditional media was often used to provide background and atmosphere for game worlds.
Golden Sun's instruction booklet came with notes on everyone's relationships to one another, and a map of the continent you would be exploring. A similar cheat sheet came with The Lost Age, which in addition to helping you keep tabs of your adventure, helped newcomers who hadn't played the first game catch up on what was going on.
However, Dark Dawn is by far the biggest offender in the series. In addition to the map and the character relationship charts (the printed one blows the secret of Matthew's ancestry; a version that only leaked to the internet blows the plot-relevant secret of Amiti's), the game itself has an in-game encyclopedia, which is filled with new information whenever words in red text show up. The encyclopedia entries provide a lot of information the NPC chatter and cutscenes do not, and without them, you're going to have a hard time making any sense of the plot, and likely miss several key points and quite a bit of foreshadowing and world-building.
Syndicate (2012) has a lot of background conversations and collectibles that add details.
Several details about characters in the Rune Factory games only come up in an interview, such as Ivan and Raguna's specific relation to the royal family, the fact that Iris is not human-though her actual species is not given, the Sharron can see the future-and also probably isn't human, or that all four dragons look the same as infants.
Marvel Avengers Alliance has Marvel XP, a database which often gives extra details about the plot in its News section and Dossiers.
The X-Universe has a history that goes back almost five billion years (Kardashev Type IVPrecursors are involved), of which the games through X3: Albion Prelude cover about forty. Various dribs and drabs of conflicting information on this backstory have come out of Egosoft over the years, which they finally decided to codify into an X-Encyclopedia packaged with the X-Superbox series collection. In addition to explaining the history and fleshing out much of the setting, it loves to talk about things that aren't even hinted at in the games, such as an independent human government called the Hatikvah Free League, and a race of Sapient Cetaceans on a hidden Boron planet.
Doki Doki Panic had the Big Bad, Wart, already defeated when he tried to take over Subcon according to the manual. The manual also stated that the family's children fought over reading the book and they accidentally tore off the book's ending page, causing Wart's defeat to never happen and allows him to reach out and snatch the kids (the missing page also explains why World 7 has 2 levels and not 3). However, the game itself only shows the kids reading the book before Wart snatches them.
Runescape: A lot of the lore is buried in the website itself and the in game books. One example is the "Moonclan Manual". Most players believe magic comes from the runes the game is named for. But the Moonclan Manual states that they are more of a focusing tool to bring the energy inside the caster out, and it's possible (not in gameplay) to use magic without them.
General Chaos came with a 16-page comic book explaining the origins of the conflict between Chaos and Havoc and giving each member of The Squad a humorous personality.
The Sacred Armour of Antiriad had a comic book prologue showing the Earth being devastated by nuclear war in the future, the ensuing post-apocalyptic civilization being menaced by an Alien Invasion, and the development of the titular armor.
But to be fair, this is due to the comic's slow update rate, as well as Tracy trying to make up for it with supplementary material.
Misfile If you really want to understand how the Celestial Depository works and the effects of reversing the misfile, and find out just how Tempest has such a cool mountain racetrack you need to have read the "about" section on the website, read the Ask Ash column, and ordered the print books so you could read the liner notes.
Zoophobia: Character sheets and Word Of God tend to explain and expand on characters and concepts in the comic.
Supernormal Step has all the main characters' full names, heights, weights, etc. revealed in the author's reference sheets.
The Order of the Stick has a couple of prequel books that explain a few of the more obscure points in the story. The first book, On the Origin of PCs, details what the various characters were doing before they all met, and other details, such as where the name "Order of the Stick" comes from (because there's a stick on the ground). The second prequel book, Start of Darkness (which is the Trope Namer, incidentally), gives a lot of exposition on the villains of the story, such as why Redcloak despises the paladins so very much, or how they met the Monster in the Darkness.
Haley, Belkar, and the Thieves' Guild retrieving Roy's corpse was saved for the printed collection due to pacing issues. However, the sequence also justifies why Haley seems to murder Crystal in cold blood, which was hotly debated on the forums.
Many Korean Webtoons such as Kubera and Tower Of God have author's blogs where a great amount of background information is given to those curious. And fluent in Korean.
Girl Genius has a whole Wiki of its own, as well as the Secret Blueprints (which may or may not be canon but are accepted as 'close enough' by most fans with access to them), several trade paperbacks (the latest issue of which contains a few extra pages that were never published), and The Works - a strategic card game that contains several cards depicting people who haven't been seen yet, and some information about people we have seen that hasn't been confirmed in-comic yet (for example: Klaus's card was one of the first confirming pieces of evidence that he's a construct, although the FAQ and his Wiki article explicitly state it. Then there's the whole business about the Other, whose true identity - while canonically confirmed as Lucrezia Mongfish in the comics - is still widely unknown by the majority of the cast and is still a subject of speculation among fans (possibly because the speculators don't quite want to believe that Lucrezia would actually do something that would kill her own son.) Not to mention that it might be a bit difficult to keep track of just what happened when without that nifty time-line...oh, and the timeline has its own problems at times.
A more minor example is the Island of the Monkey Girls. It's referenced several times in the comic, but there's no indication as to what it really is—just a bar with a weird name.
The identity of Klaus as Zeetha's father, Chump arguably falls under this. It was learned when one fan requested a sketch of Zeetha's father. More or less confirmed by a requested sketch of Klaus dressed as he would have dressed back in Skifander.
The website for Cwynhild's Loom features a great deal of background information on the comic, including maps and a section on Martian timekeeping.
DMFA has the Demonology 101 pages, which give details about Furrae and its races (some of which aren't even mentioned in the actual comic). In the Hybrid Genetics 101 pages, the creator's assistant, Fluffy, expresses disdain for giving so much information about stuff who will probably never make to the comic.
Inversion: Early on, Erfworld inserts explanatory material from Parson Gotti's website between its conventional story pages. "Parson's Klog" functions identically to the supplemental online sources that other users of this trope provide, giving needed information about the rules of the game-cum-world Parson finds himself trapped in ... except, in this case, it only looks like a separate web source. In short, this time The Manual Is All In There.
Samurai Princess has some smaller info like character ages that are not mentioned in story on the cast page.
Aetheria Epics: A significant amount of background information to the world not mention in the comic proper has been described in the site's forum, simply because the author candidly answers most non-spoiler-y questions posed by fans.
Schlock Mercenary has had several conversations and references to other events which are only explained in extra stories in the print versions of the story. The author has kindly pointed this out.
MSF High has highly detailed background in the library section of its site and on its forums, as well as the RPG rulebooks
While not strictly essential, you'll have a much clearer idea about what is going on in Sailor Sun if you read the supplementary sections of the website. In particular the Fan Fic section which is where the story started.
Among The Chosen has extensive liner notes about the art and universe at the bottom of each page. As well as the FAQs and cast pages, some of which are a little hard to get to.
Harkovast features a large amount of additional maps and background information that has yet to appear in the comic, but is posted on the accompanying forum.
Word Of God says that's no longer the backstory, but was more like an early sketch for it.
Emily Martha Sorenson provides a running commentary alongside the strip, which explores character's psyches, the cultures of various races, and some incidents from her own life in any sort of way. A straighter example of this would be the forum, where fans often point out possibilities and she either expands on them,agrees with them, or josses them.
Handsome Fungus makes many references to other members of the Save Tiny Tim site.
The about page for Shadownova shows several characters' full names and other extra details about them. It also reveals several plot points which the actual storyline (It's still fairly new) hasn't addressed yet.
A Tale Of Fiction makes use of one of the characters' laptops as an in-universe depository of lore, maps and other data relevant to the story, as well as another in-universe webcomic and blog. More content is added as the characters restore more of the damaged hard drive or stumble across new websites.
Due to the lack of text in Fite!, most of the characters' names are only on the Cast Page.
El Goonish Shive has a fan made and maintained timeline on a wiki that Dan considers canon and is very useful for keeping track of how much time has passed between events and what day it is in comic due to Web Comic Time. The rest of the wiki is good for keeping track of characters traits right down to their height and eye color which otherwise would require sifting through forum posts and twitter updates.
Quite a bit of dragon culture, history, and anything else related to Dragon City are explained in the "Ask Professor Rachel" segment in which readers ask the mother of the family in the comic about the previously mentioned subjects. Some of these things are touched on later, but most of it is strictly contained in this segment.
The Kevin & Kell =FAQ= answers many questions about the comics, including about a few developments that occurred before the strip began, such as Rudy taking on his mother's last name on her suggestion after his father died.
One of the authors of Comic Shorts has set up a Wiki to keep track of background story details as it gets expanded on. Most of the information on it has yet to be brought up any of the comics.
The history of the Blackridge family (as well as the roots of their feud with the Cunninghams) in TRU-Life Adventures were provided in a posting to the strip's Message Board. Said message did not survive the transition to a different board platform.
Questionable Content author Jeph Jacques has constantly put in bits and pieces about how the AI's in the comic (AnthroPC's, etc.) function, and after 8 years, finally gave a full rundown in the commentary section of this comic.
Adventure Dennis has its final chapter devoted to an "information booklet" that reveals some information about the story and specifically acts like an old game manual.
Maggot Boy has a written version that goes into a lot more detail than the comic. Sketches on the artist's deviantart page also give information on some of the characters before the events of the comic.
Universal Compass has a lot of this in the comments below the webcomic page due to the complexity of the plot.
The website for Our Little Adventure has info on the comic's characters, planar system and cosmology. The notable characters have character sheets that show their stats and abilities. Paying attention to the forum also helps as the author often gives additional information on people, places and things to readers who ask about it.
True Villains has a cast page that explains backgrounds, as well as gives the (very shocking!) ages of the main characters.
In Roommates the artist comments basically count as part of the pages, there are also explanatory journal entries (the Such Stuff... arc had a dedicated FAQ), an author tumbler blog and comment sections / forum where (s)he answers reader questions. Also the closest thing the series has for character bios is the subpage on this very wiki and if you want background... well, you're free to read/watch the source materials.
Shameless: Word Of God promises to explain any vague things or things that otherwise aren't delved into in-comic. This includes characters' backstories, as well as extra characters' personalities.
Terra features a decent-size codex explaining various details of setting and backstory not covered in the comic.
League of Intergalactic Cosmic Champions falls into this with several characters introductions being deleted off the web, information revealed in other cybersoap boards and author fics giving backstory.
Some of the Red vs. Blue DVDs have character profiles which give information on all of the characters that isn't found in the series, such as backstories, hometowns, and explanations for plotholes. For some characters, this is the only evidence of their full names. For instance, Sister's full name is Kaikaina Grif, Junior's is Blarggity Blarg-Tucker, and Sarge's is Sargeant S. Sarge III.
Plinkett from Red Letter Mediahates this trope and during one of his Star Wars reviews he points out how stupid it is because when watching a movie everything in the movie needs to be explained within the movie, not in countless other pieces of literature and comics.
Confused Matthew has the same opinion. He really didn't care for the number of things in Iron Man 2 that required knoweldge of the Marvel Universe to understand, especially Nick Fury suddenly coming in halfway through the film and the film acting like we're well aware of who he is, after just one brief scene after the credits in the first film. He ended up declaring that he now refuses to see The Avengers just out of spite over this.
The Global Guardians Encyclopedia had tens of thousands of entries, detailing all kinds of fun facts, most of which never made it into any story at all. Examples include how the Las Vegas casinos dealt with superhumans who use their powers to cheat a casino (harshly), when the first flying car was released to for public purchase (1974), to how much it costs to buy a John Deere Iron Man II brand power-assist exoskeleton ($75,000), and pretty much everything in between.
After he finished Fine Structure, the author released supplementary material that didn't fit in (some canonical, some not) and started taking questions.
Survival of the Fittest (and by extension other Play By Post Games) can fall into this at times. Some information is only given in character profiles, and not mentioned anywhere else for any number of reasons. At other times, you may have to look through pre-game threads, other characters' plotlines, and sometimes even past versions to fully understand events that go on in the main game.
The Whateley Universe has a wiki that's maybe four or five hundred pages, most of which came from the secret Canon Bible the authors work from, even though it's maintained by fans. It has tons of detail, even on characters we haven't seen yet and secret threats we haven't even had mentioned yet in Canon.
Trinton Chronicles also has a wiki page which is mostly kept by the author's, there is no known Canon Bible par-say but there is a web page, a wiki page, and secret documents maintained by the creator.
The official website for The Mercury Men provides tons of supplementary material, including blueprints, digital props, and faux-1960’s trading cards.
Elcenia has two indices, one for setting and one for characters. There's nothing you need, per se, but it does clarify or teach not-fully necessary bits of the background, and help keep everything else straight if one forgets.
In Fairies of Notting Cove an extra seventh chapter was released alongside the final chapter. It contained mostly meaningless details with some things that couldn't be written in.
MSF High Forum: Besides the same issues with MSF High proper, many characters have extensive backgrounds written up, or plotted up, that simply have not been publicly released. In addition, a few times, private roleplays have been used to save time on certain actions between NPCS...and these roleplays have not been released.
And then there's how Michelle got turned into a catgirl...
In Avatar The Last Airbender, a large amount of supplementary information such as the history and details of locations or the names and background info of minor characters and animals comes from Nickelodeon website and DVD Commentary. The creators have since expanded on this and additional info can also be found within the four Lost Scrolls books, based on screenplays of the show.
The second All-Avatar Nick Mag, in itself a collaboration of writers of the show and acclaimed comic artists, which contains comics that serve as a bridge for the time jump that occurs between the second Season Finale and the season three premiere.
As of 2010, there's also an artbook, which shows, among other things, the evolution of the character designs, background art, storyboards, sketches, and a ton of other stuff, including a little bit more in-universe background info.
A lot of character and setting details for Transformers are only found with the back-of-the-box toy descriptions for the characters and profiles released as supplementary material, occasionally with characters who never even made it into the show itself.
G.I. Joe also had a bit of this as well, one example would be the Dreadlok Buzzer whom was a disgruntled former Sociology professor in Cambridge England. Before he joined the Dreadnoks Richard "Buzzer" Blinken was a sociology college professor in England whom got in trouble because the college he worked at did not like his "extremist left-wing political beliefs". Buzzer wanted to do some research on Australian Biker gangs in which he ended up being a part of the very thing he was researching when he joined the Dreadnoks.
It should be noted that the box bios often have their own canon and storyline that might match the show's events, but for the most part writes it's own story. This is especially obvious in the Beast Wars toys. Since only 20 characters or so were introduced in the series, and dozens were created for the toyline, the differences are expected. Also, in the beginning the Beast Wars were set to take place after the Autobot-Decepticon war, among the humans. The early toys reference this, and the characters who appear in the show often have an entirely different characterization in their initial bios.
The Transformers Animatedwriting and art staff actually sat down and wrote a pair of manuals. The Allspark Almanac I and II are a pair of incredibly detailed books about the characters, setting, and plot devices in the show, including a lot of things that most cartoon writers would never think about in the first place. It's also ridiculously geeky.
The Total Drama Island Interactive flash site on Cartoon Network has bios for all the 22 campers for the show. This has very useful information for campers that got voted off early like Ezekiel, Eva and Noah, who got very little character development.
It's even useful when it comes to the main characters, for example, it reveals that Cody and Lindsay are both Spoiled Sweet, even though the series itself never mentions how rich they are.
Each episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars is accompanied by a comic, episode guide, and creator commentary on the official site. While these normally just contain trivial info, they were all but necessary to watch the "Dooku captured" episodes. The comics explained Anakin's voluntary capture and showed how Anakin and Obi-wan got drugged, the episode guide explained how Dooku lost his sabers (the monkey-lizard pickpocketed him!) and the commentary video was Filoni explaining that he believed even Dooku can be captured by pirates if he's sufficiently outnumbered.
When Lilo & Stitch: The Series was still in production, Jess Winfield kept in touch with the fanbase at TV.com and helped confirm numbers, names, and functions of each experiment featured on the show. With Leroy and Stitch, all we need to find out are the remaining functions. Oh, and among other things, he confirmed that the 628 pod seen at the end of Experiment 627's episode was just a throwaway joke.
The Fairly Oddparents had a special "77 Secrets of the Fairly Oddparents" revealed Timmy's middle name (Tiberius) and Wanda's full name (Wanda Venus Fairywinkle). Also, a TurboNick special revealed Cosmo and Wanda's family tree.
Similarly, the Nick.com e-cards for ChalkZone told us that Rudy's full name is Rudolph Bartholomew Tabootie.
Dwayne McDuffie has a Q and A for Ben 10 on his site which details lots of info such as Ultimate Humungousaur can't grow, Way Big is bigger than Ultimate Humugousaur and that Azmuth didn't make the ultimates, Albedo did.
The first series had a marathon with "Omnifacts", which gave an extensive, off-screen backstory for Ghostfreak, explaining how Vilgax survived the first season finale, as well as hinting at characters in future series such as Seven-Seven, the Live-Action Adaptation also had Omnifacts, which showed early hints about Paradox.
In Trollz, the Trollz' pets, aside from Amethyst's dog, Wa-Wa, are only seen on the website. Some of the backstory involving Simon is only found there, too.
Young Justice has a tie-in comic, like most DC animated adaptations, but theirs is co-written by writers and producers from the series and goes into details like why the Justice League abandoned their headquarters at Mt. Justice, how Artemis found the battle with A.M.A.Z.O., and just whySuperboy hates monkeys so much. It also provides an origin for Clayface, and at least one issue contains a scene that was scripted but ultimately cut from an actual episode of the show.
The producers have announced that the upcoming Young Justice: Legacy video game will shed some light on what happened during the five year Time Skip between seasons one and two, as well as introduce a new villain who is set to appear in season three, had it not been cancelled.
The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes has tie-in comics containing stories and bios that confirm such details as the Crimson Dynamo's real name, Ivan Vanko, and the identity of the "giant robot" Iron Man fought in his first episode, Ultimo. They also record the capturing of some criminals whose defeats did not receive inclusion in the show's 52 episodes.
The later issues handle dangling plot threads from the show, such as what exactly happened to Grey Gargoyle, Queen Karnilla, and Princess Ravonna.
The tie-in comic book for The Avengers: United They Stand attempted to make sense of some of the baffling elements of the cartoon, such as providing a decent explanation as to why the Avengers were wearing gaudy, Animesque battle armor. It also provided an origin for Ultron.
A lot of information in Rollbots on the various tribes and special information regarding characters can only be found on the Rollbots webpage on the Ytv website, which can now no longer be accessed. Even when it was available, many aspects of it could not be viewed from outside Canada.
Much information about the Teen Titans could be learned from the Teen Titans Go comic book such as Terra's origins and much of Starfire's family.
The Scooby-Doo gangs ages are never stated within the series but they are within outside material. An official calender from the original series pinned Velma at fourteen, Shaggy and Freddy at seventeen, and Daphne at sixteen. A more recent example - bios from a video game - based off the same series has Velma at fifteen. Sources also have their sizes as: Fred is 185 pounds and 5'11, Shaggy is 6 feet tall and 160 pounds, Velma is 4'9 and 95 pounds, and Dapnhe is 5'7 and 115 pounds.
Since Bravest Warriors is still in production at this point, a lot of the information about it comes from the production art.
On The Flintstones, when the Rubbles first find baby Bamm-Bamm in a tortoise-shell basket on their doorstep, they quickly learn that he has near-superhuman strength. No explanation was ever given for this strength on the show. Some 30 years after the series aired, a trading card finally gave an answer. Bamm-Bamm was raised by dinosaurs in the wild.
Many of the background ponies/minor characters are never named in-show, their names only being found on toy packaging or trading cards. This even extends to supporting characters' surnames/middle names; Trixie's surname is "Lulamoon" and Diamond Tiara's middle name is "Dazzle". The greatest example of this is probably the Changeling Queen. She's never referred to by name in the show proper. Her name (Chrysalis), was relegated to All There in the Script until the comics came out and made it official.
The upcoming book Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell contains a lot of worldbuilding that never shows up in the show. It also expounds a fair bit on Princess Cadance's backstory, something the show barely even mentions.
Sponge Bob Square Pants: Do you want to know what anti-sea-rhinoceros undergarments look like? Just play the game based on "The Camping Episode".