Sometime back in 1988 or 1989 I got permission from my mom to call a Nintendo of America "game counselor" for a problem I was having with a game called Final Fantasy my dad had picked up in a Houston pawn shop. My friends didn't play it, I didn't have the relevant Nintendo Power magazine, and I couldn't find some item or another. I distinctly remember that the dude who picked up couldn't help me, although he tried to hunt down someone would could. Eventually, though, my mom made me hang up.
Yep, that's what we had to do in the days before YouTube videos with full real-time walkthroughs (and often distracting commentary). Fan-made, book-length walkthroughs existed like those in GameFAQs now, although you'd likely get them stapled and photocopied from nerdy friends in class who made them themselves. Apparently, Nintendo itself was operating much the same way. My clueless game counselor was probably working with a book much like the official one from 1989 that YouTube Metal Jesus Rocks got a hold of and shows off in a new video, along with a employee handbook from the same period.
Sometimes, he shows, the walkthroughs were little more than maps and secrets drawn out on notebook paper, which were then photocopied and hole-punched for the rest of the crew. Little doodles featuring game characters were worked in, showing a genuine affection for the work. Sometimes they'd include maps ripped from the pages of Nintendo Power or some specialized strategy guide.
Metal Jesus doesn't say as much, but much of the information seems rather scant, as if only to serve as a rough outline as an alternative to a full strategy guide that was probably on a shelf within reach. Some of the notes prefacing the walkthroughs seem to acknowledge this (although my own experience suggests otherwise). Other notes hammer home that it's important to play these games yourself to be effective as a game counselor.
The Nintendo of America employee manual isn't quite as interesting, as it's stuffed with the same carefully typewritten legalese that you'd probably read as an employee at Liberty Mutual as at Nintendo. Its main attraction is a hierarchy list toward the back detailing how Nintendo of America was run at the time.
Getting stuck rarely poses such problems anymore. These days, figuring out how to proceed is usually a question of willpower—Do I figure this out on my own or look online for a solution? Yet as someone who reviews games for a living (and thus often plays them before launch), I still sometimes find myself in that '80s-style rut in the days when there aren't yet any walkthroughs online. I've never caved, but often the temptation to just email the developers for a solution is strong. And if I did, I wonder, would they be using a book like this to give me answers even today?
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