Walkthroughs – we’ve all used one at some point during our time inside a beloved but frustrating video game. But to what extent have you ever relied on one? This week, I tell you about how I let one run my life. [Insert Dramatics Here]
Strategy Guides and walkthroughs have been around for donkey’s years. From the first conversation you had with your mates about that awesome button combination in Mortal Kombat that makes Sub-Zero rip someone’s actual spine out, to texting your mum about the easiest way to kill the Kraken in Call of Duty: Ghosts; walkthroughs have helped gamers globally to maintain our levels of achievement and enjoyment with such a frustrating pastime.
And yet, with all the experience and good feelings feel for strategy guides, one particular instance has ruined not only a game for me, but potentially an entire month of my life. It helps if you envision it like this: I’m sat on my bed. It’s 5 in the morning and I haven’t slept. Instead of duvets and pillows, I’m surrounded by 13 pieces of highly precious paper. At least 3 pairs of dead and discarded batteries litter the floor. I’m sat, hunched, over a blue Gameboy Colour with a game of Pokémon Red basically touching my eyeballs. And with the scent of Sharpies making me higher than a fucking kite, I continue on my mission to follow a Pokémon walkthrough step by step until I catch every single Pokémon.
At NO POINT, did I feel like a Pokémon Master. Quite the opposite in fact.
You see, I had already defeated the Elite Four using just my level 83 Blastoise only a few short weeks before. I had achieved greatness already, and I was mere days away from grinding my way to capturing every single Pokémon that the Red version could offer me without a link-cable and an actual real person. And then came the nightmare. The one that anyone who played the original Pokémon titles will remember… the Overriding of Saves.
Some douche canoe came storming in, took my game and basically committed infanticide. All of my hard work, all of precious Pokémon, all my wasted youth – gone. And what was in its place? A level one Squirtle nicknamed ‘FUCKTRUCK’. Yup, you read that right. Goddamn FUCKTRUCK.
So, after the crying and obvious throwing of various obscenities at my closest family members, I melt into a quiet rage. A pensive rage. One which reminisced about all my hard work in game and what I had left to do to finally become a true Pokémon Master. I remembered the amount of hours I spent in the Safari Zone trying to discover my way around the all those bloody bushes to get to the HM. I remembered the half baked choices I made between Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan. But then it struck me – and I remembered all the horrific hours I spent trying to catch low leveled Pokémon with OP goliaths. I was manufacturing cruelty in order to reach the top.
And with this revelation, the walkthrough stepped into place. My mission was to replay the entirety of Pokémon Red through from start to finish, using a strategy guide step-by-step to make sure I didn’t leave an area until the correct Pokémon was caught and trained to an appropriate level for its next battle. The aim was to be efficient and logical in my next playthrough. I had already played it wild and free, choosing to capture what I needed to suit my team and to toss the rest of the vermin back into the grass I needed them to occupy my Pokédex.
However, as obviously and mind-blowingly exciting as it sounds, the walkthrough doomed me from the off.
In one of the most memorable instances, I was beaten by a fucking Pikachu. My walkthrough, which I followed to the damn letter, told me that before I left Viridian Forest I needed to catch a Pikachu, Caterpie and a Weedle. Now, everyone remembers that Weedle’s would throw themselves at you like the most desperate of whores, and that Caterpie’s took a little bit of convincing and trickery to emerge from the shrubbery. But a Pikachu… my god. It just wasn’t happening for me.
Death after death. Poisoning after poisoning. Remember at this point you’re only level 10 or something (according to the walkthrough), so you’re dying based on the limited funds you have to actually heal and fix your Pokémon back to fighting form. It was a drag.
On the plus side? This time around I was told that Vaporeon was the most informed choice for an Eevee evolution. And that Hitmonlee was the more superior choice. I was even given a full rundown of what exactly I needed to catch and fish for in the Safari Zone – it was sheer, perfectionist heaven. And for someone with a history of video game OCD, the option to have someone walk me through the most specific and technically perfect way of playing my favourite game was dreamy.
And what’s more, I never felt like I was cheating either the game or my myself of true enjoyment. Neither did I consider it cheating or diminishing the entertainment factor of the game. I simply wanted to streamline my own playtime and perhaps learn a couple of pro tricks along the way.
In hindsight, I was bored rigid and wasted a month of my life playing a game through the dominating control of a random person. How shameful. And it took me a fucking age to get my main Pokémon back up into the 80’s again and defeating the Elite Four was not the same second time around. I was abused and mis-lead by my walkthrough into thinking I would be able to enjoy completing Pokémon Red once again. I did catch that fucking Pikachu though…