The Best and Worst of Strategy Guides [08/04/01]

In the world of videogames, nothing can be considered as much of a vital tool in getting the most out of a videogame than a Strategy Guide, whether official or not. While some gamers find that using guides takes some of the joy and challenge out of a game, most have to admit that from time to time, it has been helpful in answering questions and getting through some of their favorite games. Videogame completists often refer to them to see if they've completed all that has a game to offer. While the argument can be made that people buy guides to walk them through the game, we believe that guides should be used to get through tough parts in the game, not hold a player's hand.

Below are a list of guides that we have found either to be helpful and have enriched our own gaming lives, or to have been useless wastes of cash and time. In determining what was good or not, we considered spoilers, depth of and correctness of information and overall design (whether the guide was easy to flip through and use). If something wasn't included here, it was only because we didn't have a chance to use it.

The Best
We consider these to have been the most helpful, useful and informative. They even make good reading material in the bathroom or on a plane trip.

Final Fantasy 7 (Versus Books) - Having seen and used both this unofficial guide and the official (see below), the Versus Books Guide was much more helpful in getting as much out of Final Fantasy 7. While the art produced for this book may have not been great, the layout and numerous screen shots were well done. Also, just about every aspect of the game had a section and there were even material combo suggestions. The mention of the Type 0, the hidden creature removed for the US version, was a nice bit of trivia found in this guide.

Resident Evil 2 Perfect Guide (Versus Books) - This comprehensive guide was packed full of screen-shots, maps and the locations of just about everything. It also gave details on how to unlock just about everything in the game and added a lot of good side-commentary.

Resident Evil: Director's Cut (Brady Games) - This little book (4.25 x 7.5) was released as an unauthorized guide to the re-released version of this classic. Those who mastered the original game and thought the new version would be a cakewalk found themselves hunting down something to let them know where everything had been moved to. This book was essential for helping players get through the game in shorter times to unlock the better weapons.

Final Fantasy Tactics (Prima Games) - Square's huge strategy game deserved a guide like this. Every battle has a page or two and there were sections for everything from monster guides with poaching items to a list of Propositions. Also, the guide makes wonderful use of original artwork. Even though a few screenshots were wrongly labeled, the guide is still extremely helpful in getting through this game.

Metal Gear Solid (Millennium Books) - Stocked with character art, bios, tons of screen shots and maps, this book is probably one of the best official guides for any game. This book gave a lot of info, interviews with the game developers and a sealed section for those who didn't want the game ruined for them with spoilers.

The Worst
This part of the list includes books that were a severe waste of money or just ruined the game for us.

Final Fantasy 7 (Brady Games) - Of the two guides, this was the weaker. Information was hard to find quickly without a series of bookmarks. A lot of things seemed to be left out.

Final Fantasy 9 (Brady Games) - "For more info, visit PlayOnline..." We could write a term paper on what was wrong with this guide. In fact, we wrote an article about it. This guide has a bunch of character and screen shots and it well-designed, but like the Tin Man of OZ, it has no heart. There is nothing in this guide that will be of use to anyone. Consider it a soulless walkthrough.

Tomb Raider 2 (Dimension Publishing) - Okay, this guide isn't totally useless, but some of the directions were lackluster. Also, there were times where the description under the screenshot really didn't help. For the most part, the guide just held the player's hand and didn't do a decent job of that.

Tomb Raider 3 (Prima Publishing) - Pretty much the same as Tomb Raider 2. The descriptions were even more vague and useless than the previous guide.

Somewhere In Between
Okay, this is the category where we're not sure if these are good or bad. They often gave us good info, but on the other hand, often left major items out that could have helped.

Vagrant Story (Brady Games) - Basics of the game and a fairly good walkthrough are the strong points here. What wasn't all that great is that there was very little effort to let gamers know what weapons and equipment could be forged from what. A little info, please?

Chrono Cross (Brady Games) - This guide was hard to place. It was informative and told you how to do everything. It looked good, but... It seemed to make a game that should have been fairly nonlinear into a Point A to Point B to Point C walkthrough.

- - Vane

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