[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Hint Book No One Wanted

June 13th, 2011 by Benj Edwards

Ultima Exodus NES Hint Book Cover - 1989Retail price? $7.99. For you? Fifty cents.

In the early-mid 1990s, I regularly made trips to Toys ‘R’ Us to pick through their video game clearance section. It was then that I built up the foundations of my fast-growing vintage game collection.

I had a blast when they started clearing out their NES items — for example, I picked up Kirby’s Adventure for $10 and a whole bunch of unopened NES accessories like controllers and cleaning kits from that time for a mere pittance (I still have about four new-in-box NES Advantages from that time that I bought for $2 a piece). This is the same place where I bought the Virtual Boy and Sega 32X new in their boxes for about $30 a piece. Man, those were the days.

One day while browsing the store’s video game strategy guide rack, I noticed this forlorn and chronically passed-over hint book for Ultima: Exodus, a poorly received port of the PC classic Ultima III for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The copyright date in the back said 1989, and by the look of the discount stickers on the front, it appeared the booklet had been sitting on the shelf since that time. After five years of neglect, its cover had become scuffed, dirty, and mysteriously ink-stained on one corner.

The book’s binding was off-kilter when I bought it for the low low price of 50-cents, which may be why consumers passed it up in favor of non-defective printings of the same book. On the other hand, they may have simply passed it up because the associated game wasn’t too popular.

[ From Ultima Exodus Hint Book, 1989, cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When’s the last time you bought a physical paper hint book for a video game?

13 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Hint Book No One Wanted”

  1. Rodolfo Says:

    What! I loved that game! I was vast! It got hook me in to the Ultima series, hard as nails, the secret was not to level up after reaching level 5.

  2. BRIK Says:

    I bought a Driver 2 guidebook from a second hand book shop about 8 or 9 years ago. I think this was also 50 cents. It was in pretty good nick except one of the pages was detached, but still in the book.

  3. Brony Says:

    I last bought Gamemaster: Conquering Sega Genesis Games by Jeff Rovin in 1994. After that, I discovered gamefaqs dot com, which has served me well.

  4. XCALIBR8 Says:

    Just four days ago I picked up The 1994 Prima strategy guide, entitled “CD ROM Games: Secrets”, for a mere $1.49 at the thrft shop. It has a great section for Return to Zork.

  5. JackSoar Says:

    The last game guide I remember buying was for Final Fantasy VIII. I liked Jeff Rovin’s guides, and I had plenty of game magazine guides that served me well over the years, but once the Internet came along, there hardly seemed much point in paper guides anymore.

    I guess one could argue that many strategy guides for individual games provide nifty lore and artwork in addition to gameplay tips, (for example, the official guide for “A Link to the Past”) but again, most if not all of that stuff can be found online nowadays in one form or another.

  6. Donn Says:

    It must have been the second edition of Shay Addams’ excellent “Official Book of Ultima”. I already had the first edition, but when I saw this new one at an overstock book sale, I couldn’t pass it up, as it covered the Worlds of Ultima games and Ultima VII, whereas the first one stopped at VI. This was years ago, of course, and it looks like it goes for a very pretty penny on Amazon now.

    This is an outstanding book, with not just walkthroughs of the games, but it tells the story of the development of the Ultima games, starting with Akalabeth.

  7. Xyzzy Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Donn about “The Official Book of Ultima”; I only have the 1st edition, which at this point looks like the Avatar really did drag it around Britannia for 20 years.

    If we count only books I paid for, the last was Prima’s Ultima IX strategy guide in 1999; if we include trading sites, then “Ultima Underworld: Mysteries of the Abyss” last year. I think that the only non-Ultima hint book I ever bought was the Invisiclues for Suspended, which is now useless because the clues went back to being invisible after a decade or so.

    Even though I liked the computer versions I’d started with better, I agree with Rodolfo — I was pretty hooked on the NES port of Exodus back in junior high. I never finished it, mostly because I lost motivation after the battery failed and ate my party when we were about 90% of the way through the game.

  8. Alexander Says:

    The guidebook for Metroid Prime… I lent it out, and he never gave it back.

    Thats the only guide book Ive ever purchased. Mind you, Im 20…

  9. DPenn Says:

    I remember having a strategy guide for Tomb Raider that probably came with the Sega Saturn and lot of games I bought from a guy I worked with in ’96 or ’97. And I remember definitely referring to it a couple of times for help near the end of the game.

    But I don’t think I’ve ever bought a strategy guide, although God knows a few might have helped when I was drawing graph-paper maps of Zelda, Metroid et al. when I was 12 years old.

  10. arlandi Says:

    i never bought any hint-book, only borrowed from friends and read them in the store. that was ages ago before the ‘net.

  11. badbob001 Says:

    Oh man, I just remembered that I use to have two large hint books for text and early graphic adventures. I have no idea where they are now so I’m going to assume I donated them to the library. Why!?

  12. Sir Fatty Says:

    I played that game, but on the C-64. Fantastic game!

  13. megaocher Says:

    i bought one in 2011. it was published that year and covered xbox 360,ps3,wii, and gba

Leave a Reply