I was pondering last night while playing some random side mission in inFamous 2 on what was the best strategy guide I have ever found. I couldn’t think of an answer, because I’ve come across so many that were so great that it would be hard to pick one over the other.
So I’m narrowing it down by console, and the first guide that instantly came to mind was the strategy guide for Kingdom Hearts.
Before my friends rise up in arms, let me assure all of you that I didn’t pick this simply because I love the KH series. If you need further proof, go read my review of the strategy guide for Kingdom Hearts II. That said, I admit that nostalgia does play a little part in my love for this guide.
Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows may be what brought me back into the gaming world, but it was Kingdom Hearts that moved me to the hardcore. Considering that I hadn’t played a hardcore game since, oh, Super Mario Bros. 3, I was in way over my head with KH. I was still learning how to use the analog sticks and how to use more than four buttons, so anyone who has ever played KH can probably figure out EXACTLY where I first ran into trouble: Wonderland.
I got to the world boss within five minutes, and I knew I didn’t find half of what I needed to (such as fire magic) in order to fully complete the level. I knew there were Dalmatian puppies waiting to be found. I knew I was missing chests. And I KNEW I was missing puzzles to solve. I started over using GameFaqs, and I was somewhat satisfied with using it, but it apparently drove my husband crazy to see me play with my laptop open constantly. What can I say? I didn’t want to miss anything!
I didn’t get the game until late in the summer in 2005 for my birthday, so the strategy guide was pretty much sold out everywhere. I gave up on searching for it and continued on my merry way. Until I got absolutely stuck in Agrabah. GameFaqs wasn’t helping. I had one gaming friend in the area, but she lived 30 minutes away and had beaten the game awhile back. She had no advice. I was ready to quit, but my husband didn’t want me to. He actually did a scavenger hunt across GameStops and Best Buys in our region and found perhaps the only Kingdom Hearts strategy guide in stock in Denton County. The cover was ripped, so Best Buy sold it to him for half price, but I think he would have paid twice the tag for it. He surprised me with it one night after work, and after flipping through it, I realized that I had missed a ton of things that GameFaqs either didn’t explain very well or didn’t mention at all. I actually started my game completely over.
I didn’t miss a single thing once I had the guide in my hands. I never got lost–not even in Monstro–and I found every last collectible. If there were Trophies back then, this would have been the first game I would have 100%-ed on. There is a non-existent platinum trophy out there with my name on it. There’s something to be said about a strategy guide that can help a newbie to gaming complete every single thing.
That should be how all strategy guides go, but believe me, they don’t. Not all guides have 100% useful screenshots. Not all guides make note of when certain collectibles are available in previous areas. Not all guides avoid spoilers in walkthrough descriptions. Not all guides are organized in a way that makes it incredibly easy to find what you’re looking for without flipping through the entire thing. Not all guides have detailed maps of every area a player can visit that include markers that point out this item will be available at such-and-such point. The strategy guide for Kingdom Hearts does.
In many ways, I use this guide as a standard when I review others, especially since none of my other PlayStation 2 strategy guides–not even the others written by the author, Dan Birlew–have come as close to perfect as this one.