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Enhancing the Game? Strategy Guides & the PlayOnline Fiasco

by Misery Guts 

We've all bought strategy guides. We've all peeked ahead and cheated every now and then. We're human, right? It's natural. Strategy guides are closely becoming a companion piece to the game itself, like a soundtrack to a movie. Some games are getting so tough nowadays, with in-game secrets becoming so obscure, that you'd think they made games under the assumption that you'd have a strategy guide by your side!

So is this good or bad? Does the strategy guide enhance the game, or take away from it?
Let's look at it from a few perspectives, providing both pros and cons;

Spoiler Factor: - When you have one it is hard to resist the temptation to read ahead and spoil the plot for yourself. Or sometimes you don't even have to look - it just happens. I tested my self-control by not looking ahead in my Legend of Dragoon strategy guide, then it happens to fall open onto a page plainly informing me of the death of a character. I didn't want to know that! It seems that no matter how hard you try, so long as you have a guide by your side, you're going to ruin it for yourself.

Thought Process: - Part of the lasting appeal of RPG's is the strategy. You get your arse kicked by a big baddie and learn from your ass-whuppin'. You turn your enemies skills against them by studying his every move. Or you can just look in the book where they tell you instead. My Final Fantasy VIII guide had strategies for every boss except Ultimecia. Yet I had the most fun figuring that strategy out. My problem with every other boss is that I want to kill them NOW, and fail to realize that learning HOW is part of the fun.

Uncovering Secrets: - There's always secrets abound in an RPG, and it's your job to find them. However, using FF8 as an example again, some of the most important secrets were so obscure that I'd have never made it through the game without my guide. Getting the Lionheart was not that easy if you had no clue how to refine those items from items which were refined from rare items won in random battles! (confusing!)

Officially Unofficial: - Is the guide official or unofficial? My Legend of Dragoon guide was an "Official" strategy guide, which are best avoided. These are made either directly or indirectly through the game developers, who only want you to know what they want you to know. They made Melbu Frahma out to be the most difficult final boss in RPG history, and it turns out he was a push-over!

Convinience: - I also play Tomb Raider games, and the last time I did I looked up a walkthrough online. However, every time I was stuck I had to run upstairs to the computer, look it up, and go back downstairs. This may or may not apply, depending on your local geography. With a strategy guide, however, it's always right there beside you, should you need it.

So what do you think? Are these valid pros and/or cons according to your playing habits? What do you think of strategy guides?

What I'd really like to know is, what do you gamers think of the latest idea from Squaresoft, introduced in their Final Fantasy IX strategy guide?

PlayOnline

"Enhanced by PlayOnline", the cover said. How intriguing. I had vowed not to buy a guide for this game, but thought....ah, what the Hell. I spent just over $20 on that book - $17.00 (CDN) plus this province's nasty %15 tax rate - and all I got were constant references to an internet site. The Final Fantasy VIII guide was money well spent, but this guide tells you nothing, but constantly refers you to this www.playonine.com site. "Want a to know how to beat this boss? Check out our site!" I paid $20.00 for an internet link, basically.

Here's where they add insult to injury...

I have to continually go upstairs when stuck to go onto the computer, only to find that nine times out of ten I can't access the site! And it's not just my computer, I've tried it from a few computers as well. Too many users at one time, I guess. Either that or they just don't know how to build a site. So where do I get my money's worth, Squaresoft? Who's brainchild was this?

Where can I get my money back?

Grr!

If this is the way of the future for strategy guides, then we'll unfortunately all have to once again rely on our wits to beat the bad guys. Meanwhile, those deeply obscure secrets will have to stay that way...

Again, is this necessarily good or bad?

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