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The Bane of Strategy Guides

by Jason Connor 

Being a regular poster on Gamefaqs.com, I have noticed a very disturbing trend, one that is most prominent on message boards but is becoming more and more prreviewent in the RPG world.

The trend I'm talking about is the bane to RPGs known as the strategy guide. I really believe this is part of the reason why RPGs in particular and games in general have become so dumbed down. People are too lazy to do any actual work to beat a game, so what happens? Bingo, the game companies actually listen to you! Stuff like the FFIX/PlayOnline strategy guide colaboration is what happens when people whine and complain like little babies.

Before anyone jumps on me for this, let me be clear about who I'm ranting about. I'm ranting about the so-called 'new-schoolers,' who've grown up in a world that would have us believe that we're gods and that the universe was made specifically for our pleasure and entertainment, that everything should be handed to us on a silver platter and that everyone should come before us on hands and knees. Sorry, people, it doesn't work that way. You want real enjoyment and entertainment out of a game? Then get up off your sorry arses and work for it. Here's a novel idea: play the game on your own, as in, without a strategy guide. Granted, strategy guides once upon a time had their uses, for times when you were stumped on a puzzle, getting your arse kicked by a boss, or just plain lost on a world map. But now, things are completely what they shouldn't be.

Let me give some examples to back up my claim. First, Final Fantasy VII. I consider this the turning point in RPGs, mainly because it was--sadly--the first actual RPG to be played by mainstream America. For most Americans, FFVII defines what an RPG should be, and that alone is a serious misconception. But I digress. I bring up VII because it was the RPG that began the trend of hiding items and such throughout the game that almost couldn't be found without help from a guide. Breeding a Gold Chocobo was one. Without a guide, how could anyone possibly stumble onto the right combinations of male/female, blue/green/black chocobo breeding, the right greens to feed them, and so on? Not very likely, right?

Next target: FFVIII. VIII took the hiding items thing a step further with the introduction of Triple Triad. I challenge anyone to find every single unique card in the game without using a guide to figure out who has what cards , especially how to get back certain cards you have to lose in order to get other cards. I daresay it can't be done within a human lifetime. Then there's the Draw aspect. Without a guide, who would have thought to run all over the Islands Closest to Heaven and Hell in order to get the most powerful spells? And I'll just mention the Lionheart. Heaven help the poor soul who goes after that by himself.

More recently: Chrono Cross. While not near as bad as the two previous examples, I include it because of the illogical steps necessary to take in order to acquire some of the characters.

Last, and certainly not least, is FFIX. As I mentioned before, the problem with IX and strategy guides is the whole PlayOnline deal. No longer is it a matter of looking to the guide to find an item that you wouldn't have found otherwise. Now it's look to a guide to find an item you wouldn't have found otherwise, only to find that the guide simply tells you about it; it doesn't tell you how to get the item, but it does tell you that PlayOnline will. What kind of joke is that? What did I just pay fifteen bucks for if the guide in my hand tells me less than what's online for free?

People, that is effectively a slap in the face by Squaresoft. You know what they're saying? They're saying that your money belongs to them, that it's your obligation to buy their games and their guides, regardless of actual worth or help. They're saying you're too stupid to beat a game on your own, so they're going to all but play the game for you, but in the process they'll make sure to clean out your wallet. Well, people? Are they right? Are we Americans so lazy that we'd rather pay twice as much as we have to just so there's no challenge? Personally, I resent that implication. I dare all of you to go and play an RPG--any RPG--without touching a strategy guide. Only go to a guide when you are absolutely stuck, when you've tried everything you can think of, and even then only look up the barest info that you need. Don't spoil the game by misusing a guide; in the end, you'll really only have yourself to blame.

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