Republished on Tuesday, 29th December 2015: We're bringing this article back from the archives as we look back at some of Push Square's features from 2015. The original text follows.
Originally published on Monday, 3rd August 2015: Sometimes I think that strategy guides are a little bit misunderstood. I understand that spoilers are a big problem these days – especially with titles that are heavy on story – and there's no denying that finding your own way through a game is, more often than not, the most rewarding way to play. But for me, the appeal of strategy guides has never been their intended purpose.
Back when I was a kid, I remember buying a pocket guide to Discworld on the PSone. The point and click adventure sailed straight over my head at the time, and the only way that I could possibly beat it was to use the aforementioned guide and go through the game step by step. But this is the only memory that I have of actually using some sort of walkthrough to reach the ending credits of a release.
For me, a strategy guide is like the encyclopaedia of a particular game. To an extent, it's almost like a physical record of a game – something that can be archived and dug out when you want to be reminded of its contents. Where most people have novels on their bookshelves, mine's stacked with strategy guides for some of my favourite titles.
I've spent hours upon hours just poring through the knowledge stored within these guides even when I'm not playing the related release. There's something satisfying about having all of this stuff at your fingertips, and while that's obviously also the case when it comes to using the Internet for guides of all different shapes and sizes, there's something compelling about the information being bound in a physical form. I guess it's the same reason why people went mad for Skyrim's limited edition cloth map.
Having said all that, it's not like strategy guides are particularly fun to read. Most just rattle off instructions on where to go and how to do things – but again, it's everything except the guide's intended purpose that makes it compelling. In many cases, it's the accompanying artwork and neat presentation that make strategy guides a pleasure to flick through – and if this article's pictures haven't given it away yet, Square Enix is usually the absolute best for this.
Take the brilliant Final Fantasy XII guide, for example. I managed to pick up the limited hardback edition when the game first launched on the PlayStation 2, and I still give it a read now and then. It's got everything that you could possibly want to know about the release, from a complete walkthrough to massive amounts of data on every enemy, character, weapon, and item, but it's the way that it's all presented that's masterful.
Detailed illustrations accompany perfectly laid out tables, maps, and charts, while a ridiculous amount of screenshots adorn nearly every page, which is great if you're up for a hit of nostalgia. It's a superb account of the game and all of its workings, to an extent where it almost feels like a celebration of the release.
In that respect, strategy guides prove to be great companions to the games themselves, and I think that it'd be a real shame if they were to ever disappear thanks to the digital age, much like a lot of other printed media. I think that there's always something to be said for works of quality, especially when it comes to gaming merchandise, and as far as I'm concerned, you just can't beat a good old strategy guide.
Are you a fan of strategy guides? How big's your collection? Tell us all about your favourites in the comments section below.
Do you enjoy strategy guides? (63 votes)
Yes, I use them to complete games
I do, but I just like to collect them
No, I don't really see the appeal
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