Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fantasy Guidance

I wanted to take a chance during this break between games to talk about strategy guides.  I've been using them a lot lately.  The JRPG genre in general tends to have more use for guides than other genres and Final Fantasy is no exception.

I've used a strategy guide for four out of the five games I've played so far.  The game I did guide-less was FFIV.  I actively needed the guides for the other games.

That's the sad part, guides are basically a necessity for so many of these games.  It's really easy to get stuck in the early Final Fantasy games.  There are sections where the only option would be to wander the world aimlessly searching for hours... or look at a strategy guide for five minutes.  I will almost always choose the guide at that point.  Not to mention how easy it can be to get stuck somewhere and not be able to go back.  In a few places it's a very real possibility that you can get stuck in an area that is too high level for you.  And if you saved your game there and don't have a backup save you can be entirely screwed.

The iOS versions have gone a long way toward making it less possible for a player to get stuck somewhere with a bad save spot.  Although, they don't do much to help guide the player in the aimless wandering situations.

One of the reasons I loved FFIV so much was because it did such a great job of guiding me from place to place.  It did such a good job that I never needed to look at a guide.  This is one of the other places that FFV didn't live up to it's predecessor.  I was confused about where to go next a number of times.  In FFIV I always felt like I knew where to go, but I still had freedom to explore the world.  I didn't have to go to the next plot point immediately.  It wasn't linear and confining.  The main path was just well defined by the story.

Here's the way I've been approaching it.  I start a game and just play.  If I hit a spot where I get confused, lost, or feel like I could potentially miss an important item or character I'll look at a guide.  If looking at the guide gets me back on track I ignore it again and just play.  If I have to go back to the guide a second time... I find one that I like and commit to using it throughout the rest of the playthrough.

In case you're wondering, I've been using fan created guides on Gamefaqs.  Most of the time these are actually better than the "official" guide because they've had years to improve on them and find out secrets about the game.

I'm about to start FFVI.  I'll start without a guide but will probably end up using one.  From what I've heard, this is a Final Fantasy game with a lot of characters and I don't want to miss any of them.


  1. I'm definitely a fan of GameFAQs, though I still have the Prima guides for most of the later FF games. What can I say... I like books.

    I think it's a design flaw that players can get lost. I think it's a design flaw to make the game so linear it's impossible to get lost, as I hear FFXIII did.

    In an ideal JRPG, I'd find some sort of "compass" or magic trail guide that would point me to the next plot point (that I could call up at any time I can get to a menu), but have the full freedom to just go wherever I feel like at the moment. Sometimes I want to just wander the world or go hunting for loot.

    As for secrets like the Zodiac Spear in FFXII... I kinda sorta don't like them, but if missing them isn't game breaking, I don't worry about it much. If something crucial to the game is hidden, that's a Twinkie Denial condition in my book. There's a whole TVTropes section on this sort of thing, the "Guide Dang It" page.

  2. Back when all we had were the Bradygames guides I used to sneer at walkthroughs but that was back in the early 90ies when we didn't have the internet quite yet. I once got stuck in BoF2 so badly however that I used to phoneline to some obscure help center that used to help players with that sort of thing....incredible.

    The internet watered down the lines imo between guides vs 'cheating'. it's hard to ignore that much knowledge at your disposal and we don't get more patient over the years. ;) hehe or at least I don't - like Tesh, I'd say a game that gets you stuck for hours is flawed and personally am not up to force myself through that anymore. time is precious and between stopping entirely and using a quick Gamefaqs guide, I choose the latter.