I've kind of always had a fascination with strategy guides. I don't know why or when this weird obsession started. I'll buy guides for games I don't own or even have any intention of playing, I don't give a crap. For the most part, I don't even use them when I am playing that particular game, at least not my first time through. If I miss something, then I'll go in with the guide in-hand.
These days, there are only two major players in the strategy guide market: Prima and BradyGames. Walk into any big games retailer and I guarantee those are the only companies with guides on the shelves. Sure, it's easier (and much cheaper) to just go to GameFAQS or watch a walkthrough on YouTube, but there's just something about having a nice, hefty book in my lap that takes me back to the days when gaming magazines were as coveted as gold for their "Tips & Tricks" sections.
Almost every child of the late 80s and early 90s has memories of shuffling through the pages of Nintendo Power
, or EGM
--among many others--and having that 'Eureka!' moment when all mysteries about a certain cryptic game were revealed.
The first strategy guide I remember wasn't actually a guide at all, at least not in terms of how we think of them today.
That's a guide book. There are no pictures, just text, and yes, you basically read it like you would a typical book. It's a novel, and it's amazing. Finally, we can all figure out how to get past that goomba in World 1-1.
When I was around nine years old, my family got our first computer. My father instantly became hooked on PC adventure games, specifically the King's Quest
series. The first one he played was King's Quest V
(with the sun-poisoned King Graham and his annoying hooter), and while it didn't have a typical strategy guide, it did have a hint book. It was a bit odd, so I'll explain it as best I can. The hint book came packaged with the game, and includes pages upon pages of questions that all went a little something like "What do I do with..." and "Where should I go from..." The answers, however, weren't just given to you. They were hidden away in a text box, and the only way to see the answers was to hold the included red visor to your face like Cyclops. At the time, that absolutely blew my mind.
After his King's Quest
adventures, my dad moved to two PC games that are burned into my memory: The 7th Guest
, and its sequel, The 11th Hour
. These were the first real strategy guides I remember ever seeing. My dad wouldn't let me play it because he didn't want me to accidentally mess up his save file, also, I was 9 and this was a mature-rated game, but he let me look over the strategy guides as much as I wanted, and I would pore over them for hours at a time. I probably knew more about the game from reading the guide and looking at the pictures than my dad did from playing it.
When I was 12, Resident Evil 2
was released. I've written before about my passion for the series, so I won't go into it, but that passion began with Resident Evil 2
. But, being that young caused RE2
to be very opaque for me. I had no idea where to go or what to do, I had to get a strategy guide, otherwise I would be stuck forever. So my dad took me to the local CompUSA and I purchased the Resident Evil 2
guide with probably the worst cover of all-time:
That doesn't look like a zombie, that looks like an elderly man with leprosy. But take notice of that yellow bar at the top. Even though the guide was made by Prima, it was completely unauthorized. You wouldn't see something like that in stores these days. The funny thing about this, though, is that unauthorized guides were usually the best ones. The RE2
guide pictured above was terrible, but then I found this one by VersusBooks:
It was so much more detailed. Every area had very elaborate maps and sketches, as well as pointing out where all the items were, much like how a typical guide is today. Not only were VersusBooks guides incredibly detailed, but they had awesome little facts strewn about. In their Metal Gear Solid
guide, they devoted a half-page to talking about the Eskimo Olympics
that Vulcan Raven mentions during your battle. It was so awesome.
I originally intended for this blog to be a history lesson about strategy guides. But, after hours of research, I turned up almost nothing, at least nothing concrete. However, I'm convinced that VersusBooks became BradyGames based on the quality of the guides. I could be wrong, and if anyone has any information on this, please comment and shed some light on the situation.
What would be classified as the first real
strategy guide? Nintendo Power
's guide for Super Mario Bros. 3
, perhaps? Or one of their other Player's Guides? I'm not sure where it begins. It's about as vague as videogames themselves. People have long debated about what the first real videogame is.
A lot of people will argue that guides are pointless in the age of GameFAQS and YouTube, and to a degree, they have a point. I've used those outlets before in order to find something or learn the best strategy for defeating a really hard boss, but it's just not the same. Like I mentioned earlier, having the guide in my lap, looking at the pictures, reading the character bios, the bestiaries, and having all these minute extra nuggets of information, makes it worth it to me to spend an extra few bucks. It reminds me of my childhood still today, having this bit of knowledge and telling my friends about it. It's just like being on the playground.
Thanks for reading,
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