Unauthorized strategies

A couple of weekends ago I found a copy of the Ultimate Unauthorized Nintendo! Game Strategies at my local thrift store for a quarter. It’s got hints, tips, and strategies for around 100 NES games, which is pretty awesome.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Isn’t this the same guy who told us some time ago that strategy guides were contributing to the dumbing down of our game players of today?”

You better believe it! Let’s engage in a thought exercise for a moment for those who might think I’m a hypocrite for loving an old timey strategy guide over new-fangled ones.

Pretend for a moment that there’s no Internet. No GameFAQs, no GameWinners, no IGN, nothing of the sort. You’re sitting there, playing through a pretty tough game, and you hit a section or a puzzle that you just can’t wrap your head around. What do you do? I recommend throwing your hands up in frustration, staring at the ceiling for a few minutes, turning off your system, going to bed, and trying again the next day. But what if that doesn’t work? You can get a friend involved to see if you can work together to overcome whatever challenge is standing in your way, or you can run out and grab a hint book, I’ll repeat, hint book, not strategy guide.

A hint book won’t give you step-by-step handholding directions on how to overcome every challenge the game throws at you. It gives you a few pointers and then turns you loose. Heck, one of the most complicated games covered in the book, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, only gets five pages of exposition, and the first page is nothing but a fuzzy screenshot and some data about the game itself.

Which is a large part of why I have the stance on walkthroughs that I do. I view them as an absolute last resort if you’re stuck. Not some holy text to be followed by rote. To sail through the game guided along every step of the way by someone else’s instruction is more of a hollow victory.