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ShadeOfLight avatar 3:44 PM on 06.22.2011  (server time)
The Strategy Guide that changed my life

(It's been much too long since I posted something here: I've been busy with my studies for a while now. And it turns out that trying to study while E3 is going on is really darn difficult. Who would've thought? :P Fortunately, I'm done for a bit, hence a new Cblog. This is a topic I wanted to write about for a while, since in a way it is 'where it all started'.)

Strategy Guides are really interesting things, and gamers seem to have many different opinions of them. Some people feel that using a strategy guide is almost an insult to their intelligence, while others follow a guide step by step because they simply don't like to get stuck. Finally, there are those who consider guides nice pieces of swag and little more. Personally, I tend to avoid them. I want to do as much as I can on my own, and I'll only use them if I'm completely out of ideas. Even then, I'm not likely to buy a guide, since I can find all the information I need on the internet. There was one exception though; there is a particular guide I owe a lot to.
(This will not be a sappy blog about how games have made me a better person, or anything like that. I'm not even sure whether or not that is the case, although I guess it might be. I'm sorry if that was what you were expecting)

Back when I was still a little ShadeOfLight, I wasn't much of a gamer. Some kids are practically born with controllers in their hands, but I simply wasn't. We didn't have a SNES, (or later, N64) and I hardly even knew what those things were. A friend later got an N64, but that didn't get much use either.
When I was about 7 or 8, I did receive a Game Boy (the original), and I played some licensed games on it. We got internet around this time as well, but since we paid per minute, my time was very limited. I could play some flash games (again, based on licensed crap), but that was it.
Yet, I can call myself a gamer nowadays, so something must have happened. And it did.

What happened was Pokémon Red.

The left one, which is blatantly better than Blue anyway

Like all kids at the time, I loved the Pokémon 'cartoon'. I watched it when it first aired (luckily, it got translated into Dutch), and was quickly hooked. I never missed an episode during the first couple of seasons. You can image my excitement when I heard that there would also be Pokémon games. Despite (and maybe even because of) the fact that I didn't know that the show was based on the games instead of the other way around, I really wanted to give it a shot. I already had a Game Boy, so it fit perfectly.
I received Pokémon Red as a present not too long after that. Interestingly enough, my parents had actually come across a special deal: buy the game, get the strategy guide for free.
Looking back, that was one hell of a lucky deal.

The Pokémon games are often seen as 'kiddy' experiences, as great games for children. But think of it this way: an 8-year-old kid who has never played a 'real' game, let alone an RPG, and doesn't even speak English, somehow has to figure out how these games work. I probably could've handled it if it had been a platformer, but RPGs really can be quite complicated. That even includes the Pokémon games.
I knew some of the core concepts from the show, but trying to figure out how to play the game can be quite difficult, especially if there is no one around to help. You have to figure out what you're supposed to be doing in the first place, how fights work, which attacks actually do something, how to catch Pokémon, how to use HMs on the overworld, how to not get slaughtered by gym leaders, etc. etc. etc. Sure, the game tries to teach you these things, but how much of a help is that when you can't read English and the game isn't translated?

This is where the Strategy Guide saved the day. The guide actually was translated, and it included basically everything I needed to know. It had maps of all the areas in the game and the routes I had to take, ensuring that I could never get lost and frustrated. It also had a incredibly handy table, which showed which types were effective against which Pokémon. This allowed me to actually stand a chance against the many trainers I would have to face. It had a list of Pokémon and it showed you where to catch them. (A nice touch: it also had a sticker of every Pokémon. There was room for a sticker next to every Pokémon on the list, so you could mark the ones you already owned)
Finally, a list of gym leaders really aided me with one of life's most important choices: "Which starter should I choose?" Bulbasaur would work well against the first 3 or 4 gyms, so that seemed like the smartest pick. Bulba/Ivy/Venusaur are still among my favorites.

You may have started as simply the practical choice, Bulbasaur, but you grew on me more than you know
(Get it? 'Grew'? What plants do?)

After faithfully naming my main character 'Ash' and the rival 'Gary', I went on my way with Bulbasaur and the guide by my side. It worked like a charm. I always knew what to do and how to do it.
Gym leaders fell one by one, Legendary Pokémon were caught (Zapdos was awesome), and the Elite Four was conquered. Mewtwo was added to the team by using the Master Ball, after the guide helpfully suggested that I save it for him. Finally, after many, many hours, it was done. 'All' 150 Pokémon were in my possession. At this point the Strategy Guide was literally falling apart because it had been used so much. But it was more than worth it. Safe to say, I loved the game throughout.

I really think that this guide was very important. Without it, there is a very good chance that I would not have been able to finish this game back then. I probably would've become too frustrated from not knowing what to do, that I would have given up by the time I got to the second town. I know this because I've seen kids around me trying to play Pokémon Black/White, without success. But with the guide, I was able to play through the entire game, loving it all the way. After that, I bought Pokémon Gold when it came out, and I became interested in many other sorts of games. At least now I had a notion of what such games wanted from me and how to play them. The fact that my English improved throughout the years (in fact, it improved even while I was playing Red) meant that I wasn't dependent on a guide anymore.

And in 2011, I'm a gamer telling the story of the Pokémon Red Strategy Guide on Destructoid. So in many ways, the Strategy Guide was what got me into gaming in the first place. When people ask me what my first game was, I answer Pokémon Red, because the others simply "don't count". Therefore, I think I can safely say that the guide changed my life, in a sense. And since I still love being a gamer, this is not something would like to change anytime soon.

Off course, I still have the guide in my possession. Here it is, in its current state:

This is the effectiveness table. It became outdated with the second generation of the series, but it was invaluable for the first

More or less a random page, it show how to get to Mewtwo and how to catch him, as well as some other stuff

Carry on being awesome, you three. Carry on

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