Friday, February 3, 2012

Reminiscing: Strategy Guides

I purchased a strategy guide for Final Fantasy XIII-2.

I’m going to be clear about this: I don’t typically buy these. I have purchased a total of three of these, ever, including this one. The first was for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and the second was for Pokemon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition. So including this one, that makes three strategy guides out of hundreds (thousands? I really should count one of these days) of games that I have played.

I have distinct memories of buying the guide for Ocarina of Time. Well, actually only one memory of the actual purchase, and it’s actually a little vague. I remember when I purchased the guide (probably for full price, and also probably at the same time as buying the game) I said something to the effect of “This is the type of game where I’m going to need the help of the guide, so I’d be silly not to get it.” This was before the FAQ community became good enough that you could load up GameFAQs around launch day (sometimes on launch day, if the right people got the game early) and get answers to pretty much any question you might have.

I remember using that guide quite a lot, enjoying the pictures on its pages, gasping as I read spoilers when I read too many pages ahead, and thinking that the map and directions they provided for the infamous and insidious water temple weren’t quite good enough for me. I was glad when it led me to the hookshot in the graveyard (it would have taken me forever to figure that out on my own), and appreciated that it offered tips on how to defeat Bongo Bongo. The thing that it helped me the most on, though, was collecting all the Golden Skulltulla tokens and all the heart pieces. I thought it was so rad that I was rolling (in this case, quite literally, as I preferred it to walking most of the time) around Hyrule with all the best equipment and the maximum possible amount of life.
My memories of Pokemon Yellow are a bit different. I remember specifically lying on my  couch in the sun (because on those old Game Boys you couldn’t see what you were doing unless you were in extremely bright light), playing my way through the first forest before you fight Brock the gym leader. I was training up a Caterpie so I could get a Butterfree to win the battle.

Pokemon Yellow put you in a unique situation compared to Pokemon Red and Blue, since it starts you out with a Pikachu (electric-type) instead of a choice between Bulbasaur (plant-type), Squirtle (water-type), or Charmander (fire-type). The first gym leader uses rock-type Pokemon, which, in most cases, are also paired with the ground element. This causes a problem in  Pokemon Yellow because at this point Pikachu only can reasonably know electric-type moves (0% damage vs. ground-type Pokemon) and normal-type moves (50% damage vs. rock-type pokemon).
Because of this unusual (unfair?) setup, the strategy guide suggested catching a Caterpie and spending a little time grinding to evolve it into a Butterfree. The idea was that Butterfree learns Confusion, a psychic-type attack that would tear through most of the gym battles without trouble. So at its urging I spent a half-hour and leveled my Caterpie.

Then tragedy struck.

I was playing on my Game Boy Color, and at that time I didn’t have rechargeable batteries. My parents didn’t buy me batteries, so I had to provide my own. I would go to the dollar store and buy dozens of the four-packs of batteries they sold there. These were the cheapest, no-name, four-for-a-dollar batteries that you could come across, and I only used them because the total playtime to dollar ratio was pretty good, even if individual batteries didn’t last very long at all.

The batteries died, and I hadn’t saved.

When I say that I hadn’t saved, I mean that I hadn’t saved at all. Not once, since starting the game, so I was back at Professor Oak asking me what my name is and what his grandson’s name is, since he can’t be bothered to remember unimportant details like that. To the fourteen year-old me, this was devastating. It was a full day or two before I could bring myself to start over again, and this time I made sure to watch the batteries.

I loved those books, and I still have them today (well, at least the Pokemon one. I’m not sure about the Zelda one). I hope that I wind up forging similar memories here with this new one. We’ll see how it goes.

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