Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Other Famicom Stuff: The Strategy Guides

One side project in my collection that I have been slowly working on over the past few years has been the Famicom strategy guides.

Strategy guides are a big thing in Japan. Actually, I`m not sure if they are a big thing in North America and elsewhere. Are they? I never noticed them back in Canada, but then again I never looked for them either.

Anyway, pretty much every video game store of any size in Japan will probably have a section devoted solely to video game strategy guides. For the Famicom collector these sections are almost always a letdown. At most of the stores I frequent, they have hundreds of strategy guides for Playstation, Sega Saturn and even Super Famicom games, but I often look through shelf after shelf of these guidebooks and don`t find a single Famicom guide. This applies not just to game stores, but also to regular used book stores which I also search from time to time for Famicom strategy guides and almost always come away empty handed.

In the three years I have collected for the Famicom I have been able to amass more than seven hundred Famicom games. In contrast my Famicom strategy guide collection has a grand total of:

The only place in town that has a decent selection of Famicom strategy guides is Mandarake, and they are pretty much all expensive (generally 1500 -4000 yen), so I have only ever bought one of them there (1942, which was quite cheap).

I suspect that the reason for their scarcity is that strategy guides only really took off during the Super Famicom era and that relatively few were produced and sold during the Famicom`s day. Either that or people threw their guidebooks out once they had finished with the games.

Anyway, I really like these books. They generally have quite colorful covers and all of the pages in them are fully colored as well, like this one for Super Mario Bros.:
I like the back of that one, it cost 390 yen back in 1985:
There were a number of different publishers that released these, so they come in a wide variety of styles. The Super Mario Bros. guide was published by Family Computer Magazine. I love the font they use to write their name:
I never use these as actual guide books. Most of the games just don`t need them and any games that do probably aren`t ones I`m interested in playing anyway. I just like them for what they are - colorful stuff.

The biggest I have is Hoshi no Kirby, at 127 pages:
While the shortest is for 1942, at 32:
I quite like the cover of the Ice Hockey one:
And the Doraemon one has an interesting ad for more strategy game guides on the inside cover including Adventure Island and Meikyuukumikyoku. The two at the bottom are volumes 1 and 2 of the Takahashi Meijin Story, which also sounds interesting:
I`m hoping to score a few more of these, but I have no plans of trying to collect one for every Famicom game ever made. I`m not even sure how many games had these made for them, though it seems likely that a lot did.


  1. I don't think strategy guides during the NES era were very popular, but SNES through N64, I think they had some sort of popularity. Prima was kind of a big name, I think.

    I remember that some versions of Earthbound came with that incredibly awesome strategy guide. I never owned it, but I used to rent it from the grocery store (remember when you COULD rent games from grocery stores), and since I guess that was the version they bought, they gave you the full strategy guide to go along with it.

    Also, my mom plays video games and loved using them when she got stuck, so there are a ton somewhere in my house, mostly for the N64 Zelda games, Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie and some other random PS2 games.

    My favorite one that I own, is definitely the one for Super Mario All-Stars.

    Nowadays, I guess with how accessible the internet is and websites like GameFAQs, basically ran out the market. Even my mom uses GameFAQs now instead of buying the Prima Strategy Guide or whatever.

  2. The guides are hot!! I love their cover art. Of course, their art is 100000000 better than the US releases. There is no doubt in that, even in their strategy guides.

  3. Sean-

    Strategy guides were very common for games until the advent of the internet to find game guide info. Nintendo originally published their own guides for the NES up through the early Wii titles, the guides for Super Mario Bros. and Zelda specifically are translations of the official Japanese guides, including the Mario one you have!

    I own a whole box-full of official Nintendo guides from the 80's to the recent past, but I also own a few Japanese Famicom guides, including Super Mario Bros. 2, Zelda, Metroid, Kid Icarus, Ai Senshi Nicol, and the FDS Dirty Pair game.

    Prima still publishes guides for the North American market, but they're pretty much the only game in town now.

  4. Nice post, they certainly are colourful and appealing to look at :) I've only ever bought two personally - Super Metroid and Ocarina of Time - but then, that was because I needed them! :P

  5. Amazing finds. One question Sean, probably you know better japanese than I, but you mentioned the Family Computer Magazine and I bet (because several mags have been scanned in the english spoken language) that maybe there is a japanese site with some pdfs of Family Computer Magazine but I haven't found anything (because I don't know japanese at all). I am very interested in the graphic design artwork on those magazines. If you know anything, just let me know.


  6. Also, sorry for double post. I wanted to ask you if you have Holy Diver and Getsu Fuuma Den (and his amazing box!) in your collection already.
    I would like to see a post of both games wich are amazing.
    Again, regards.


  7. I thought, my dream could be: these guides as game manual inside the cartridge box hehe :)

  8. ^EarthBound beat you to the punch with that... though I suppose when you say that, you mean you'd like that for all games. But it's no fun if you automatically know where to go when you play. I like to play on my own, and then only turn to a guide when I have absolutely NO CLUE what to do.

    I myself have a Japanese guide book for Shining the Holy Ark on the Saturn, though I wouldn't mind getting my hands on one for a Famicom game!

  9. Really love that SMB one, Sean! I feel like I've seen it before -- maybe here, maybe elsewhere? Wasn't one of the SMB guides really popular the year it was released?

    Anyway, like someone else said earlier, Nintendo of America released a ton of official guides for their NES games back in the day. They released similar ones for their SNES titles, too. I have a few of them, although not as many as I used to have. All of them are high quality, though -- large size; thick, glossy paper; full-color screenshots and illustrations, etc.

  10. Thanks for the comments everyone! Usually I`m quicker to respond to these...

    Nate - Interesting. And I agree, the internet has completely obliviated the need for these things.

    FF - thanks! hot indeed!

    Zach - cool, sounds like you have a pretty good collection of them going.

    elfamilygame - I dont know any off the top of my head. A google image search for ファミリーコンピュータ マガジン might help you out though! I do have a copy of Holy Driver, I might do a post about that sometime if I ever get around to playing it!

    Cleber - yeah, that would have been great!

    Simon - yes, they are!

    Skyrunner - good point. The level of detail some of these go into seems quite unnecessary

    Bryan - could be, I don`t know. I was in Germany when SMB came out! Nice to hear that the NES ones are good quality too!

  11. Let me guess: 1942 consists of
    "Shoot all the airplanes"
    "Don't run into bullets or airplanes"
    "Good luck."
    and then 30 pages of colorful pictures.


  12. Alec - BINGO! Basically its just the one paragraph of text and then 30 pages of pics. If there was ever a game that really didn`t need a strategy guide, 1942 is it!

  13. I *love* strategy guides... at least, retro strategy guides. I think a lot of that is, as you said in your post, all the great full-colour art. It's probably the closest you can often get to an artbook for a game when there was never one produced in the first place.

    Are guides for games for the SFC/Saturn/PSone/Mega Drive expensive in Japan?

  14. Sean - yeah me too!

    SFC, Saturn and PS 1 strategy guides are dirt cheap here. Omocha Souko has a huge selection of them for 100 yen each and most Book Offs also have shelves full of them for 100 yen. Mega Drive ones are harder to come by and usually sell for more though.

  15. I know this post is years old, but I wanted to ask:

    Are there specific publishers that are seen as "official" in Japan for Famicom guide books? When browsing, I see a lot of different guides for the same game. Some publisher names come up a lot, while others not so much. Can you shed any light on this?

  16. Hi,

    There doesn`t seem to be an official guide book publisher. Like you say, there are a ton of different publishers that put them out, some of which were more popular than others. The prices also vary quite a bit, at Mandarake some of them sell for $40-$50, while others only $3-$4. I don`t have a good sense of which ones are more prized than others though.

  17. I was just doing some googling for famicom guides after watching some Game Center CX episodes and seeing scans of guide covers over at Video Game Den. My favorite type of Famicom guidebook are the ones presented as manga - I don't know how many of these exist, but I know of, at least, ones for Metroid and Zelda. The Metroid one has been scanned and translated and can be viewed over at the Metroid Database.

  18. The manga ones are definitely the coolest, I agree.