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Author Topic: Game Guide Books: Which are best, Prima, BradyGames, Versus, or else?  (Read 12519 times)
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TerraEsperZ
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« on: June 26, 2011, 08:12:35 PM »

I don't know if anyone is like me, but I've always been fascinated by strategy guides. It started back in the first few years of Nintendo Power when they started making dedicated guides to games like Super Mario Bros 3, Link's Awakening and A Link to the Past and even though I never actually got them myself, I loved the idea of guides that covered a single game from top to bottom.

Nowadays, such guides are considered by many to be outdated thanks to online information sources like GameFAQs or sites like IGN who also offer their own guides for free, with videos sometimes. But despite reading most of my news online, I still like having a physical book in my hand. It's just hard to know which company makes the best guides nowadays.

The main publishers are Prima, BradyGames, Versus, and Nintendo Power I think? Sometimes a game will actually have multiple guides by several companies and they're not always good from what I've heard. Some don't include maps at all (HERESY!), some are made before the game is even finalized and are thus quite inaccurate, and other just don't offer much more in terms of actual information or strategy than you'd find in the game's instruction manual.

I currently own three such guides:

-The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages & Seasons Perfect Guide(Versus Books):

This guide is actually a flip book, with on one side covering Ages and the other Seasons. Even though it features quite a bit of character artwork on the pages, it's really not the best looking guide or the most interesting in terms of providing additional information from the game's world, but it more than makes up for it by not wasting any space in its pages and being quite thorough. It feels a bit cluttered and yet it's very easy to follow, and includes great-looking maps made from screen captures for pretty much every area of the game aside from the occasional single screen cave. Everything is numbered and the game holds your hand while taking you all the way to the end of the game while covering every upgrade and item except for the tedious ring collecting. For that, there's a list of all the rings and where/when you can hope to obtain it. All in all it does an excellent job at being a strategy guide.

-The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, The Official Nintendo Player's Guide (Nintendo Power):

This guide is also very good, which is expected from what little I remember from official Nintendo guides. The layout is easier on the eye than the Oracle one, and it also includes great maps and a detailed walkthrough for the whole game. It also include full listing for all the collectibles and unlockables, which given how many there are is a good thing but I've always found it annoying to have to constantly refer to the back of a guide to make sure I don't anything during a playthrough. Anyway, also a very good strategy guide.

-Super Mario Galaxy 2 Prima Official Game Guide (Prima Games):

I bought this one along with the game and it's generally very complete in that it covers all the moves, enemies, worlds, galaxies and Power Stars. However, I can't help but be disappointed with the all the maps. For one thing, they're all taken from screenshots of the various planets seen from afar that were cut out, enlarged (and overly blurred in the process), and had the general geometry traced over with thick black lines. It doesn't look good and since they're all taken from far away, the maps for the larger galaxy don't show any worthwhile details. I don't know how they could have done it better but I almost think I would have preferred hand-drawn maps that were more like schematics but more detailed. I can't help but imagine how gorgeous it would have looked with Peardian doing renderings to use for the guide's maps...

I'd probably be the kind of guy to collect guides for games I liked even if I never played them if the game is good enough and featured great-looking maps, but I'm not that rich!

But given all this, I'm still wondering about the overall quality for the guides made by each company. There seems to be considerable debate on the web regarding this question, so I've been wondering what you guys thought about this.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2014, 05:59:53 AM by TerraEsperZ » Logged

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Paco
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« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2011, 11:11:16 PM »

I owned alot of Strategy-Books.mainly about RPG and such. ^^

I consider BradyGames and Prima the best, but if i have to pick one then its BradyGames.
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Peardian
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« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2011, 10:48:15 AM »

I actually have quite a bit, but I've collected less of them than I used. I used to collect them for their original purpose, but now I get them to look at their maps and (my favorite part) the bestiary/enemy gallery. Nintendo Power had the best guides for a long time... and then something happened and they stopped caring as much. I was very disappointed when I picked up the Super Mario Sunshine player's guide and they referred to the enemies as "fish" and "spiders" and "creatures". Even some bosses didn't get names. I had to get all of the enemy names from Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour! I'm not very happy about them giving up on making guides in general and letting Prima do them, mainly because Prima likes to make up names for stuff, and miss out/muck up details since they're a third party. I really don't like unofficial names, but I'll use them when the official source doesn't bother to give them any more.


On the subject of Prima's SMG2 guide, I was really quite disappointed with the maps. For SMG1, they had a guy (Garmichael) make custom models of most of the planets for them to use. Not as good as the official planets, but still charming and a lot of effort. For SMG2? They just took screenshots and ran it through a Photoshop filter. Seriously. If you look close enough, you can see obscured objects and enemies thrown in the mix. Plus, with any sort of long planet like the slides, they just took a single pic and called it a day. It looks like a messy warped squiggle! You can barely even call that a map. And the worse part was that for the planets in the Boss Blitz Galaxy, they used the filter on renders of Garmichael's custom models instead of screenshots! And don't get me started on the enemy names.


If you want to see some of the best player's guides, just look at Nintendo Power's Yoshi's Island and Paper Mario guides. Ocarina of Time, too. All excellent.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2011, 10:50:10 AM by Peardian » Logged

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Revned
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« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2011, 05:43:15 PM »

I never bought them, but I did get several as re-subscription bonuses back when I got Nintendo Power. I have Super Mario 64, Zelda: Majora's Mask, Star Fox 64 and a few others. The maps were definitely my favorite part since they actually used the 3D models instead of screenshots. I liked how polished they were, almost like professional versions of the various game Wikias nowadays.
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JonLeung
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« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2011, 08:32:59 PM »

I have quite a few, too, mostly Nintendo Power's own.

Back in 1990, the year before I subscribed, Nintendo Power, then bimonthly, planned to release six Strategy Guides (capitalization deliberate) in the months that a regular issue wasn't released.  They only ended up making four reaching until the end of that year (as you can see in my Nintendo Power topic), one of which I ordered a back issue of...Super Mario Bros. 3.  At the time, it seemed like it was the best guide ever.  After those four, they didn't do any more of these Strategy Guides (which actually fit into the issue numbering), and Nintendo Power simply became monthly in 1991 onwards, and that's when I started subscribing.

Then a couple years later, I'm going to guess it was 1992, Nintendo Power returned to a similar idea by promising a number of Player's Guides with yearly subscriptions.  The first four that all subscribers got that year were not specific to a game...The NES Atlas (just like it sounds...such a great book!), Game Boy (a look at various Game Boy games), Mario Mania (about a bunch of things relating to Mario, but the majority of it was a Super Mario World guide), and Super NES (a good look at then-still-new Super NES games).  These are among my favorite books (of any kind) of all time.  I think any retro gamer should have these in their collection.  Soon after, they made a fifth Player's Guide, Top Secret Passwords (which covered a whole lot of NES, Super NES, and Game Boy games that use passwords, still somewhat common at the time but no doubt dwindling).  While they didn't continue to offer an actual number of guides that defaulted to all subscribers, from then on they would often make getting the choice of one free guide as a yearly renewal bonus.

When they began with The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past, the guides became specific to a game (Mario Mania, which covered Super Mario World, was practically there).  I absolutely love this Player's Guide.  Aside from the fact that it is probably my favorite video game, if you were to take a look, you'd be wowed by the amount of work put into this guide.  It has tons of artwork not seen anywhere else, and really expands the world of Zelda with a lot of interesting facts and such (that no one's really going to debate are canon or not).  Look at the Super Metroid Player's Guide, same deal there.  So awesome.  And despite beating EarthBound on a rental, I went and bought the game (at Canadian Tire for a whopping $100, which is a lot of money when I was still a kid with an allowance).  Why?  Because that game came with a Player's Guide instead of a regular manual, and around that point I had EVERY Player's Guide released.  The EarthBound guide is so awesome because it came with so much artwork, including images of clay versions of various characters, and lots of amusing articles that showcased the offbeat and wacky humour that EarthBound is known for.  Extremely well-done.  My copy still has unscratched "scratch-and-sniff" cards in the back.  Among the non-Super NES games, I loved the Link's Awakening Player's Guide too, for my only Game Boy game for a long time.

Unfortunately, something happened.  I think it was around when I got the Donkey Kong Country Player's Guide.  While still a valuable guide with all the maps and locations and information and stuff, it just felt like there was less heart and effort put into them.  Pages were adorned with all that prerendered stuff, the cover was bland (just a close-up of DK's front on a white background...really?).  There were still some great guides...take Killer Instinct, for example, that's a crazy amount of information.  But I soon didn't feel obligated to get every guide ever, and, the Nintendo fanboy that I was, couldn't understand at the time why games like Final Fantasy III (VI) were getting the Nintendo Power Player's Guide treatment, which I thought should only have been reserved for Nintendo's own games (though now I am curious as to if they feature as much official art and the like, or if they managed to work closely with Squaresoft in this case to actually do so).  But things were definitely downhill.  The only N64 guides I got were for StarFox 64 and Pokémon Snap, which I only got 'cause I couldn't think of what preorder bonuses to get, and they just didn't seem as charming as the any of the Super NES ones.  N64-era polygonal characters look kinda weird when you cut them away from a TV screen and you get this clipart of something with blurred textures yet with jaggy edges which are very evident when on a page and out of context.  The Pokémon Gold/Silver Versions Player's Guide was good, but there's something very, very wrong with it.  How do you make a guide - about a game that's about catching creatures - and you can't be bothered to have an index section showing all the details of every one of them?

And that's what I miss about Nintendo Power Player's Guides.  Gorgeous artwork and vital information.

I'm a Nintendo fan, but I don't limit myself to just their games.  A couple years ago, a friend gave me his PS2.  I played some Square-Enix games on there, along with the BradyGames guides.  I actually finished Final Fantasy X-2 maybe a month ago, and I admit to using the guide for that.  Those are very thorough when it comes to the Final Fantasy titles on the PS2.  I also have the Kingdom Hearts II guide, but I haven't really looked at it much, since I'd already finished the game before I bought the guide bundled with others for cheap.  Oh yeah, and while I worked at Playdium, playing the crap out of Soul Calibur II in the arcade (I got over 10000 wins on my Nightmare character named "VGMAPS.COM" in Conquest mode...a mode like Risk that stores your progress in the game via passwords that unfortunately didn't appear in any home version), someone left a Soul Calibur II guide in the Playdium Sports Bar upstairs.  No one claimed it for a month, so I laid claim to it.  I'd have to check, but I'm guessing it's BradyGames as well, and it came with a soundtrack CD, and some great official art.

Maybe Nintendo Power dropped the ball, which is kind of sad as their very magazine probably started the whole "map-a-game-and-explain-tons-of-strategies".  If not for Nintendo Power, I probably wouldn't've heard of games like DinoCity or Xardion.  Maybe they're not the greatest games ever...  But I recall there's a joy in seeing a game for the first time and suddenly knowing tons about it.  I really miss that.
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