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Arc the Lad Official Strategy Guide: Chapters One And Two
Review By:  Jared Black
Author:  Henry LaPierre
Publisher:  Working Designs
# of Pages:  571
Related Link:  Arc the Lad Collection Review
MSRP:  $29.99
Date Posted:  10-24-02

While we don't usually cover strategy guides here at VGF, I felt compelled to check this one out after reading Working Designs' bravado-filled press release announcing it as "the biggest strategy guide ever released". I didn't doubt that it was huge, but I did doubt that any strategy guide could be worth $30…even to a fan of WD's games. I hope I never have too much pride to admit it when I'm wrong.

Let's start with the outer construction, which is fantastic. Like most of Working Designs' recent instruction manuals, the outer cover is made of hard leatherette that instantly differentiates the guide from every other Prima and Brady guide on store shelves. You could stick this baby on the same shelf as your Clancy novels, and it wouldn't look out of place at all. They really went the extra mile though and included a slick glossy reversible dust jacket. Turn it one way and a nice picture of the Silver Noah, Arc, and Kukuru adorns the cover while Arc and Kukuru look defiantly into the distance on the back. Reverse it and Elc's (from Arc the Lad II) pretty boy mug graces the cover while he examines a wanted poster on the back. So yeah, this is something you won't be ashamed to own, and should hold up quite nicely to the test of time.

Inside is what really counts though and, as you'd expect this is excellent as well. While it's a bit disappointing that the guide doesn't cover all three main games in the collection (due to time constraints I assume), the first two games are covered as completely as anyone could ever hope. Included for both games is a complete walkthrough, color maps of every location, numerous charts for weapons, spells, items, and enemies, and hidden quests and secret character guides. The charts are incredibly comprehensive, featuring all the information you'd ever need (or care) to know and reminiscent of the ones that used to be included for free with SNES and Genesis RPGs. Specific to Arc the Lad II, you'll also find Jobchecks for every Hunters' Guild job and Outlawchecks for tracking down every outlaw wanted by the Hunters' Guild.

If all of this were presented as mere text, it really wouldn't be worth the $30 as one could just go to an online FAQ and find most of this. Thus the presentation here is key, and WD pulled through fantastically in that department. Most importantly, the writing itself is witty, easy to follow, and detailed. WD has always had it's own sense of humor when translating games, and that humor has carried over to this guide. It'd be awkward for me to try and describe it for you, so just look at the picture captions on the following screenshot:


(Click to Enlarge)

All of this is printed on the same durable and high-quality paper used in recent WD instruction manuals. Sprinkled throughout the guide are a number of different hand-drawn and CG illustrations, screenshots, maps, sidebars, and hilarious captions. WD even included not one, not two, but THREE ribbon bookmarks to mark several different places in the book at once. Also included is three pages of stickers, ranging from character portraits to game logos and illustrations.

My only real complaint with this guide is the "free" poster offer. Yeah it's free, as in send us a money order for $6.50 to cover "shipping & handling" free. I don't doubt that it's a spectacular poster, as it's glossy, features an excellent illustration of Arc carrying Elc framed by the Silver Noah and trees, and measures 26.5" x 36". That's a bit much to pay for a poster that's advertised as free in my opinion, but I didn't honestly expect them to ship it for nothing. A bigger issue for a number of people who'll actually buy this guide is that, in order to get it, you have to cut out the original form. Photocopies are not accepted. Again it's understandable as it limits the number of posters that can be requested, but it certainly creates a crisis for collectors and perfectionists. Mutilate the book or forsake the poster?

FINAL VERDICT:

I never expected to say this, but Arc the Lad Official Strategy Guide: Chapters One And Two is easily worth the $29.99 MSRP. While most of the information presented in the book can be found in free FAQs online, it's presented with such class and style that it's actually worth paying for here. Throw in the extra stickers, hardbound cover, dust jacket, ribbon bookmarks, and witty writing and it more than pays for itself. Whether you own the game or not, any fan of WD's work (AKA anyone who bothered to read a review of a freakin' strategy guide this far) should pick this one up. After all, you'll own the game eventually won't you?

If you are planning on getting it, you better do so soon. Word out of Working Designs is that the guide is nearing a complete sell-out already, and it was only released a little over two weeks ago! With the kind of print run one would expect on a guide for a $74.99 game, it's destined to be one of the rarest gaming collectibles in the future. I'm sure you know what happens to rare items once they hit eBay…

You can pick the guide up directly from Working Designs or from most major game retailers such as Electronics Boutique.

Overall Score: 9.0



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