As us retro gamers grow older our free time becomes harder and harder to get. Be it a job, a family, or a combination of the two, finding time to play games is a god send for some of us. When we do have the time to play games we make every second count because who knows when we’ll be able to play again. It can also be extremely frustrating when one is playing a retro game for the first time, has no idea what to do or where to go in said game, and wastes their entire play session not advancing at all. Imagine wasting your only time to devote to games only to have not made any progress whatsoever because you didn’t talk that one NPC or look in that one barrel for a specific item. Thankfully with retro games the internet is a great tool for looking up game guides and walkthroughs to help players who don’t have the printed strategy guides handy. With these guides however sparks a debate among retro gamers, with the limited time you have, should you play using a guide or no?
Personally I use a guide when I get stuck. I do try to play games as blind as possible, especially if I’ve never played the game before. However, more times than not, I’ll get stuck and not know where I need to go next or get wonder if I missed a special item somewhere. 2 games come to mind when I got stuck and either didn’t look up a guide, or did so long after I should have. Mega Man Legends 2 (PlayStation) and Final Fantasy III (DS). With Mega Man I was younger and told myself I was going to beat it with no guides whatsoever. Using guides on the internet was still pretty new at the time and YouTube wasn’t much for game tutorials. I needed a certain item to craft a drill in order to advance the story but could not find the item to save my life. I searched over 99% of the map that was available to me to find this thing and 40 plus hours later I finally caved and looked it up. It got to the point where playing the game seemed like work and I could’ve saved myself hours of time actually playing the game instead of farming for money to get an item that was for something else. Turns out the item was in the one wooden box I did NOT check at the beginning of the game and when I got it I started enjoying the game again. Now with this knowledge I used a strategy of talking to every NPC I met and checked every box, crate, chest I could when I started Final Fantasy III. I was also older and had a better understanding of games but here’s where using a guide probably would’ve helped me a ton. I was a freshman in college when I started playing Final Fantasy III and that is when I started to realize I didn’t have a ton of time for games. Between school work and wanting to hang out with my friends I noticed I wasn’t playing games as much as I used to. I was also stuck on this one particular boss for the longest time and even though I would level grind my characters, I would still get my butt handed to me. When I finally did beat it there was no indication as to where I needed to go next so I put the game away and eventually sold the game. I recently rebought it and I was able to find the strategy guide for it at a shop as well so when I do replay it I’ll have a better understanding on where to go after that one boss.
Curious as to how other gamers felt I put a poll on my personal Twitter and out of the 187 people who responded to it, 68% of them will use a guide but only if they are stuck. About 11% use guides, 15% don’t and the final 6% or so only use guides for completion’s sake. Most of the comments where how gamers like to go in as blind as possible but will use a guide if only absolutely necessary. Even though I am in the vast majority of people who do use guides if they are stuck, I also use them to enjoy a game and not miss anything. Especially when it comes to older RPG’s since their puzzles and destinations can be more vague on where you need to go next or how to solve said puzzle. Thankfully there was no one yelling on how if you use a strategy guide you didn’t “actually beat the game” and while that is a valid opinion, it’s one that I fully disagree with. Even though a guide may tell you the best way to beat the boss or get through a certain level, you still have to do it yourself. No one else is pressing the buttons to beat the boss or get through that one super hard platforming level. In some cases I find that the guides suggestion to beat a boss doesn’t work well for me. While in the late game of Kingdom Hearts, the strategy guide had me set certain spells but I found a different load out that suited my play style better. I was still able to beat the final boss no problem and even though I had a guide, I still did it my way.
At the end of the day it’s all up to player on whether or not to use a guide or not. If I want to get through a game and enjoy the story and have a clear heading on where to go next, I’ll use a guide, but only for the direction I need to go to advance the story. Once I get into town or a dungeon I put the guide away and explore. I may take it out again to make sure I didn’t miss any side quests or if I’m completely stuck on a particular puzzle. I see guides as a great time saver so I can play and enjoy a game instead of getting frustrated or putting in hours upon hours of grinding for something that won’t help me in the long run. If you don’t use a guide, that’s great. If you do, awesome. Games are meant to be fun and enjoyed and there is no shame in asking for a little help here and there.