Strategy Guide Review Policy:
My goal for these strategy guide reviews is not to discuss whether one needs the guide to complete the game. Every gamer has different strengths and skills, and one may need every bit of a guide, another may need to look up information for quick assistance once, and another may laugh at the idea of ever using a guide, even the online freebies. My goal is to determine whether the guide is 1) helpful in the first place, 2) does it encompass gamers who need hand-holding as well as those who need a quick reference and 3) how much information does it really have.
Anyone who has played both Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks knows that the latter is basically the former with a train and more polished gameplay. The same goes for the strategy guide.
As Stephen Stratton wrote both guides, it’s obvious that he took the same formula from the first guide and applied it to the second, and it worked just as well. And why shouldn’t he have? The game had the same basic formula—even when it came down to the final boss fight, sadly enough—so the guides definitely should have followed suit.
Each chapter in the walkthrough starts with maps, a checklist of items players should have already obtained and items players should obtain while playing. The guide then holds the players’ hands through each task, offers tips, and then starts over with the same format for each dungeon in the chapter. The guide also tells players when they can play certain mini-games, such as finding specific rabbits, in between tasks or in between chapters. This is particularly useful in hunting down heart containers and force gems, since they are each hidden in screwy places or random mini-games.
The guide also shines when it comes to boss fights. The bosses are far tougher this time around over PH, and with a few, it isn’t particularly obvious how you fight them. Sure, you know that you use the weapon that you find in the dungeon, but it’s not always obvious exactly how you are supposed to use it. The boss in the Snow Realm that you defeat with the boomerang immediately comes to my mind.
And of course, in the back is the stellar list of every item Link can pick up in the game and where he can get it. Well, except for the rabbits. For these, the guide has included a map that marks every rabbit with a number and color (green for forest, blue for ocean). This way, when the guide says, “You can find rabbits 1-7 in the Forest Realm,” you know exactly which rabbits the book is talking about. The only real excuse you can have for not catching every rabbit is your poor rabbit catching skills (some of the buggers are hard to snag, I admit).
The only complaint I have about the guide is the same complaint I had about the PH guide, no big shock there. Every now and then, the guide would give the direction “west” or “east,” when the opposite direction is really what was meant. But this doesn’t happen often, nor does it make it impossible to understand what was meant. As much as the north, south, east, and west directions are given throughout, it’s understandable that one or two would get messed up. At least “west” was never written instead of “south,” or something similar. That might have been too confusing.
As you might have guessed from my comparison to the PH guide and from, well, the image at the top, I have given the Spirit Tracks strategy guide a 5 out of 5. Well done, once again, Mr. Stratton.