Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, shall we? It’s November 2000, and the world was ready to take the big leap into the next millennium. It was an uncertain time. While we survived the supposed apocalypse causing Y2K bug less than a year prior, many people were unsure as to where the next thousand years would take us. Yes, it was a crazy time. But something much more important was happening, something that superior human beings such as myself were preparing for in the days leading up to the end of the era.
Final Fantasy IX. Yes. YES. YES! Finally! Square had finally done it! The game that would revive the classic RPG genre. The game that hyped us up with the genius tag line, “The Crystal Comes Back.” The game that would ALMOST make up for Final Fantasy VIII (more on this nightmare in a future review). So while the world prepared to celebrate the beginning of a new age, I was prepped to sit my ass down and play this game non-stop.
So, in usual fashion, I get the game, and I make the additional purchase of the strategy guide. For a small pittance of 15 dollars, I figured why not? I get some nice maps, a bestiary, hidden treasure locations, the works. But something was different about this guide. In large print across the bottom of the cover read, “Enhanced by PlayOnline.com.” Neat. An enhanced strategy guide. Square really was pulling out all the stops for this release.
Upon returning home, I decide to thumb through my “enhanced” guide to see exactly what the deal was. At first glance, it looked like the usual deal to me. Maps, walk-through, boss tips, yadda yadda… It looked pretty harmless, but man was I in for some major annoyance. A more thorough reading brought me right into the gates of despair and damnation.
Nearly every piece of useful information was ONLY available by logging into the PlayOnline site and typing in a keyword that was provided in the guide. Now I don’t know about most people, but in 2000, the Information Super-Highway was more like the George Washington Bridge during rush-hour. A 56K modem + AOL = %$#!ing slow! So now I had to stop my game, attempt to get online, and fish out the information from this dandy website. I think we can all see where I am headed with this…
Oh, and did I mention that the guide taunts you?? Yup, it basically tells you flat out, “Want to know how to find the amazing treasures of the forest? Head to PlayOnline for the details!” These adorable little blurb boxes can be found on nearly every page. What a lovely enhancement! Take my money, string me along with some brief information, and then make me journey to PlayOnline so I can get my damn Elixir! How did we ever survive without this wonderful new feature? I can’t imagine a guide with the information already in it. That would just be silly.
The weeks went by, and my guide quickly began its impressive collection of dust. Thankfully, I clearly was not the only one who gave up on this abysmal idea. Today, PlayOnline only exists for the purpose of housing information on Square-Enix’s online titles (such as Final Fantasy XI). The only positive thing that came out of this train-wreck was the realization that there were websites out there that actually had all the same information on games that a strategy guide offered. Plus, these sites had the added bonus of being free of charge. So in reality, thanks to this botch-up, strategy guides became obsolete in my book. While I should perhaps be thankful, I still get aggravated whenever I look at my useless Final Fantasy IX guide.
Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy IX, and PlayOnline are a ™ trademark and/or © copyright of Squaresoft/Square Enix and related parties.