Prima Official Game Guides

Prima Games enjoyed a long history in publishing printed video game guides, until the imprint was discontinued and the brand went online only in 2019. At some point, I ended up with Prima‘s guides for two of my favorite games – Prince of Persia (2008) and Mortal Kombat (2011). In fact – I got two copies of each – one regular paperback, and one hardback “Collector’s Edition” – essentially the same guide with some extras (something Prima has been known to do for many games).

With tons of information online, constantly tweaked and updated, the usefulness of a printed guide is questionable. They can still be handy for quickly checking something without interrupting the game or resorting to an auxiliary device. There is also the aesthetic aspect, if one values a nice colorful book with images. So are the Prince of Persia (2008) and Mortal Kombat (2011) guides actually good?

Prince of Persia (2008)

The Prince of Persia guide introduces the main characters and the enemies, dedicates 20 pages to teaching you the basics – moves, combat, game environment, and follows up with a complete game walkthrough, spanning approximately 150 pages. Every level, battle and puzzle are covered, as well as the location of all light seeds (the game’s collectible currency). For some sections, maps are included showing the seeds and power plates; for others only a textual description with some screenshots. Most light seeds are easy to spot without any guide, but if you miss a couple of well-hidden ones, the walkthrough may be helpful.

The introductory section on game mechanics does a good job explaining how the world works, how the levels are connected, which enemies lurk where as well as your and your opponents’ powers. Most interesting to me was learning how to delay the release of the deadly traps by choosing the order of visiting different levels. This is something that can make the game quite a bit easier, and players have no way to know about it during their first playthrough.

The combo tree is displayed in a very succinct and informative way, but, unfortunately, some of the links are wrong (Elika combos link into Acrobatic or Lift combos, not Aerial combos as shown). It can be easily corrected if you don’t mind marking the book.

Finally, a few pages at the end are dedicated to Xbox/PS3 achievements, and secret accomplishments. The 14-hit combo is also mentioned, but the sequence is not given. You can easily figure it out yourself, if you correct the combo chart as described above.

The hardcover Collector’s Edition includes all the above, and then some:

“The Making of a New Prince” section – 15 pages of interviews with the game’s developers. I found these well-done, providing a few interesting angles on the game and the designers’ intent. There are also some photos of the people at work, and the tools they used (although it is hard to figure out the details).

“Art Gallery” section – 15 pages of concept art, characters and scenery from the game. It is quite nice if you like this kind of stuff, and could fill a small artbook by itself. My favorite are the enemy concept drawings.

An 8″×10″ art print, in a sealed envelope attached with some strange glue to the inside of the front cover. Personally, I found the attachment to be a bit annoying, and preferred to remove it and store separately. Three different art prints were made for this Collector’s Edition – one for general retail (showing the Prince), and two “exclusives”- for Best Buy (showing Elika) and GameStop (Prince + Elika). The book itself is identical, so I wonder if they actually thought people would buy it multiple of times just for different pictures.

The hardback edition also uses thicker, higher-quality paper, which feels noticeably more robust and less likely to be damaged during routine handling. Since it appears just as common on eBay / used book shops as the paperback, I definitely recommend it over the regular version. Overall, if you are into printed strategy guides and/or think you need a walkthrough for this not very difficult game, I find this one quite good. It can teach you how to get 100% completion, but it will not offer any speedrunning tips or anything of the sort. Note that the guide hit the shelves simultaneously with the game, so it does not cover the “Endgame” DLC, which was released later.

Mortal Kombat (2011)

The Mortal Kombat guide was also released simultaneously with the game, in April 2011. The general structure is familiar – a few pages of introduction and history, followed by explanation of the basic game mechanics (10 pages – including different types of attacks, combos and 2-player techniques) and almost 30 pages of surveying of the game single-player modes, including every one of the Challenge Tower missions and Krypt collectibles, and the corresponding goodies/bonuses unlocked by each. Specific tips are offered only for about 20 of the 300 challenges – apparently those considered hardest by the writers.

The last few pages of the regular guide list Kombat Codes and Trophies/Achievements. The hardcover Kollector’s Edition adds another section here – “From Concept To Fatality” – approximately about 30 pages of interviews with developers, designers and soundtrack artists. The text is rich with various concept images, but there is no dedicated art section. Compared to the Prince of Persia guide, I found the interviews neither as polished, nor as interesting; I felt they offered less insight, and it is pretty clear the transcripts were taken pretty much verbatim, without any serious editing for readability.

The bulk of the guide – about 240 pages – is, of course, specific strategies for each one of the 28 characters – including the PS3-exclusive Kratos, but not the DLC warriors Rain, Skarlet, Kenshi and Freddy Krueger, which were added to the game later. For each character, 8-9 pages cover all their basic moves, special moves, standard combos, tag combos/specials (for 2-player tag-team mode), as well as custom “intermediate/expert” combos and finishing moves. Bios, general strategies, best/worst matchups and relative tiers are given as well.

Unfortunately, it is exactly here – in the most important aspect – that Prima‘s guide falls desperately short. I could write several paragraphs on omission of important data (e.g., the damage of each attack), while putting too much emphasis on screenshotting every move and establishing relative character ranking (bound to be off by miles anyway when researched so early in the game’s existence). Instead I will just direct you to Kaworu’s famous review of the guide, which has become legendary and is as true as it is entertaining.

Worse than omitting useful info – the guide was also riddled with many errors. Quite a few button combinations were plain wrong, which was quickly discovered by early buyers of the guide. The worst was probably Liu Kang’s intermediate/expert combo section, listing Kano’s combos instead (the joys of copy-paste).

The most meaningful addition to the Kollector’s Edition are the reference cards – two-sided, about 5″×7¾”, colorful, glossy cards, one per character. These include the move lists from the guide, but not the screenshots, explanations (where applicable) and the custom combos. In comparison, the regular paperback guide only included Fatality reference cards – 2 double-sided sheets, 7 characters per sheet, with the finisher button sequences for all characters. Naturally, these contained the same typos and errors as the main text. Checking, out of curiosity, I found mistakes of varying degrees with at least 20 out of 28 characters. Wow. No wonder the backlash was so strong that Prima issued an apology and offered to mail updated, corrected reference cards to all buyers of the guide who requested them, free of charge. These cards also included button sequences for all the Babalities and Klassic Fatalities for Reptile, Scorpion and Sub-Zero.

Less known is the fact that the paperback guide received a full reprint, even though Prima suggested it would not. I suppose that once the early copies was sold, and there was still demand, the source material was updated for subsequent printings. The update included all the error corrections, Babalities and Klassic Fatalities, as well as a few moves here and there that were missed in the first version. Notably, none of the additions are accompanied by screenshots, clearly to shorten the time-to-market and avoid dealing with repagination. The attached Fatality reference cards were also corrected and updated with Babalities. In the custom combo sections, however, there have not been any changes other than fixing the Kano/Liu Kang mix-up, so I have no idea if / how many errors have gone unnoticed.

The corrected guides hit the shelves just a couple of months after the originals – in the summer of 2011. I know this for a fact, because I bought one back then, and apparently not only I. However, it seems this has gone largely unnoticed by players and did not save Prima‘s reputation in the fiasco. The original and the reprinted version look exactly the same on the outside and share the same ISBN/UPC, the shrink wrap has to be removed to know which one you have in your hands. The easiest way is to check whether the Fatality cards attached to the first page include Babalities.

As far as I know, the Kollector’s Edition hardcover has not received a reprint, and so it seems that there is no way to have a book that is both correct and complete with extras, and no way to obtain the updated reference cards, except through someone who took advantage of Prima‘s mail-in offer back then. Corrected cards can be identified by Babalities / Klassic Fatalities in the finishing move section, instead of blank placeholders.

What went wrong? The guide was probably just rushed. Maybe they messed up the schedules, or got the game too late to finish writing, proofreading, editing the interviews and doing general QA. If only the writers spent less time meticulously getting screenshots for every single move, perhaps the product could have been more polished before release.

With a few simple changes the guide could have been much better. I would have liked damage ratings for every move (easily obtained from playing the training mode), fewer screenshots (really no need to show every motion in every combo), but instead – bigger and better screenshots for special moves and finishers (the guide only showcased one Fatality per character). More detail on the game modes – list of matches in the Story Mode, different settings in Test Your Might/Sight/Luck, etc. – would be appreciated, rather than just having these things glossed over in one page or less.

Do I recommend the MK guide? Only if you are a die-hard fan of the series, and if you understand that you are getting a glorified artbook, with information mostly available through the in-game pause menu. Even then you have to choose between the Kollector’s Edition with the extras and the corrected paperback version (if you can even find it). The only strategic value of this book may be in the intermediate/expert custom combos, but even for those – there are bound to be better and more accurate lists online.


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