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Thinking back on old games I've played, I've been wondering how many I've used a strategy guide for. It's an astounding number- an estimate is somewhere between 50 and 90 percent, but closer to the 90 range. Why is that? Well, I admit I've been curious about plot points (I read the entire FFVII strat guide before playing the game), and also wanted to finish the game (Breath of Fire III was just lloooonnnnnggg), but those aren't "proper" reasons to spoil a game and waste time, money and effort getting a guide... right? Are some things really that hard? Let us consult Merriam-Webster for a moment.
(checks definition of obscurity)
(checks definition of obscure)
This is one point. You'll need it later.
My first example of this is with Breath of Fire III. Notice how I tell you what game it is, but don't tell you there are possible spoilers ahead. That's somewhat like my next point.
..Anyway, continuing with my argument. In BoFIII, there's a scene where Peco is required to run around and headbutt rocks to break some greenhouses, however, for at least one greenhouse, it's impossible to headbutt the rock to break the glass without running around to gain energy first. Is this point mentioned? Maybe, but not that I could see. Is it annoying? Definitely.
My second example is in Monkey Island. Yes, the 10 year old adventure game for the PC, now with its third sequel available as of this reading!ú. I admit I wasn't given a manual for the game, or at least none that I could find. I cleared the first area (the port) of items and info as much as I could, but still couldn't access everything. So I go exploring back the other way, and... oops, game crashed. Didn't save because I wasn't told how. Guess it's up to me to find a guide and learn how to save. I repeat my work as much as needed and learn how to save, besides learning that there's a world map entrance hidden on a screen before the first one. Do you see a trend developing here?
A third example that should be common among RPGamers is chocobo breeding in FFVII. I don't know about you, but I followed several guides to get that glorious chocobo and spent hours getting money, feeding, racing, breeding and reloading to ensure a successful birth. Now, imagine what would have happened if I, or you (assuming you've tried it) hadn't gotten a guide. What are the chances of getting a blue or green chocobo? A black one? A gold one? Now, the chocobo sage has some info, but in all the time I've played, not once can I recall him giving me enough of a hint to breed a black or gold on my own.
Moving onto my fourth example-Lunar: SSSC's bromides. Can someone please tell me how they got these without use of a guide? I managed to find none, zip, zilch, null, zero of them besides Luna and Mia, which are given after Ghaleon's fall and upon saving Nash. After completing the game, I was reading one of the guides to bromide finding and saw that one of them was available for a -very- short time, right before getting Kyle. (The guide author even noted it was the most missed bromide. Now what about the other 9 or so?) The engine is building speed...
For my fifth and final example- a Dungeon Master Starcraft map. Yes, Starcraft. Yes, it's obscure, but let me explain. On a Dungeon Master Map (which is just what it means-one person is a DM that controls the creatures, storyline, interactions, etc. and other players are heroes), one of the ways to heal is by "regetting your class". Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it isn't in practice for most people. I'll explain the setup: There are 13 areas (pads, or Altars as called in-game) with an idol representing the class on that pad. The selecting unit (Civilian) moves onto a pad and that unit is given to the player. To undo this (change class), the unit is moved onto the pad with the civilian idol, and BOOM, class change. But of course, if it isn't stated directly, people won't get it. And the engine is running at full speed...
That is my second point, put them together and... Nevermind, I'll do it. I wouldn't want you to misinterpret this. Some things have become so hard to find, so out-of reach that it's near impossible for the average player to find the answer, item, etc. without outside help, making "playing to perfection", or near completion, not worth it alone. After hours of trying to understand storylines, plot points, character motives, battle systems, etc., we don't need another "...." or "mayonnaise on the totem pole"-type reply. ...And the engine is heading dangerously fast...
It seems that some critical points (Peco/Greenhouse) to minor bonuses (Lunar bromides) have reached the state of obscurity; where there don't seem to be any clues in places most would look, or at all. (Or in the case of the Starcraft map, misinterpretation.) I hope this isn't a trend of people not willing to think, or designers putting things in places most people wouldn't go, or think of searching. Obscurity is a matter of opinion to designers (the number of clues and help amount of each hint), but then, not everyone can be pleased with information too bountiful or too scarce. Take a look at this comic, ADVENTURES! #77, Zorn Tower (copyright Mark Shallow). It seems to sum up this annoyance issue fairly well. Remember RPGamers, the old adage about "search everywhere and talk to everyone"? Well, I have an addition to that, "think".
There's a couple points deducted for minor bits and pieces: Nevermind, while often used, is wrong, and should be two words. Meanwhile, although chocobo sage is technically correct in terms of grammar, it should really be Chocobosage, as it's a named character within the game. Also the meaning of FFVII should have been explained - it's in the rules, but it's standard enough that it's quite minor, in this case.
The flow of the editorial is nice and fast and well suited to both the writing and the subject matter, while the arguments are generally very good, with nice clear examples. The only slight problem is, as the author admits, how to save your Monkey Island game, which is in fact listed in the manual, making it slightly a moot point.
All in all, it's nicely presented, well written, and a good read.
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