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Sleigh Ride In The Mushroom Kingdom

The Totally Unauthorized World Of Strategy Guides

AlundraVideo game strategy guides that have the blessing of the game's publisher are often packed with useful information and gorgeous artwork of the game's characters and settings, but one doesn't have to actually have approval to release a strategy guide.  Before the Internet largely made such things an unprofitable waste of time, there were entire lines of unauthorized guides for the most popular games like Final Fantasy VI and Super Mario 64 that were created by writers who slammed through Japanese copies of games before they reached the west.  These guides had to rely on weird, off-model artwork that did not infringe on the publisher's assets or creations.  That led to all kinds of strangeness.  VGJunk has taken a look back at a handful of some of these kinds of guides and mocked their unusual appearances.

Most of the time, this is what you'll get on the cover of an unofficial guide - Microsoft Word text effects and sub-clip-art levels of design. This dragon gets off lightly by remaining in shadow, although I'm not sure that is a dragon. I think it's a garden hose lying next to pigeon that's been hit by a truck.

There's a discussion happening at MetaFilter about this article that digs a little deeper into the whole TOTALLY UNAUTHORIZED schtick surrounding these kinds of guides and tears up the whole "the man doesn't want you to know" aura.  The hubris and marketing angle behind that attitude always mystified me.  We're talking about where to find hidden trinkets, not who really took down Nixon.

Also, as the title of this post implies, I love the ones where "Unauthorized" is used as a positive thing, like, stuff THE MAN doesn't want you to know. You got the BradyGames Totally Unauthorized strategy guide for Super Mario 64? Oh shit, man, won't that put you on a CIA watchlist or something? You rebel, you -- totally unauthorized. Shit man. That's serious business.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:39 AM on December 23

Yeah, I always liked that there was the "Official Guide to FFVII" and "The Totally Unauthorized Guide to FFVII".  Like you can't just be unofficial, you have to be TOTALLY UNAUTHORIZED! Like you just chugged a Mountain Dew, ate a bag of Doritos, and then snowboarded off Midgar.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 12:51 PM on December 23

If you crave more on just how shoddy these old guides were, turn to Hayku & Me in which the author of an unauthorized Final Fantasy VI (III in the United States) guide explains his method and how it went so wrong.

And so we set to work on the project and, as you can imagine, it was a clusterflop of immense proportions. The high noon for this project came after the 450+ pages were somehow written. But like car mechanics working blindfolded while reassembling an engine, there were a lot of parts left over when we finished. Our professor had identified an entire list of magical items that we simply could not comprehend. For example, something called a "rance" seemed to figure prominently in much of the game, but what, we wondered, was a freaking RANCE?

It was during one of those moments of sublime exhaustion that I saw it, at last, and I tumbled from my chair, convulsed in laughter. "It's not a rance!" I managed to gasp through a torrent of laughter that left me incommunicado and left Ken looking at me with sincere concern.

"It's a LANCE!" I finally spat out, thereby solving many of our mysteries (Reader=Leader, Randwum=Land Worm, etc.) in a bolt from the blue. Anyway, if you care about this subject, buy the book, because this isn't the actual story I wanted to tell; it was just necessary if it was going to make any sense.

My stategy guide collection from those old days is made up of official Nintendo guides from the Nintendo Power label with the exception of a single unauthorized Prima guide for Donkey Kong Country 2.  Like the other guides of its time, it was incomplete and unhelpful.  It was a Christmas gift in 1995 and while I tried to make the best of it, I did eventually replace it with the real Nintendo guide.  Sorry, Granny.  You didn't know what you were really buying.