Reviewed by Raymond Almeda
Did you ever notice that gamers want to stick everything into neat
little genres? We're like those kids who can't stand it if their peas
are touching their yams or if their cornbread's in their mashed potatoes.
For us, every genre has to stay in its own neat little pile. If a game strays
too far out of one category and starts touching another, we take our
mental forks and make up a whole new pile so we can be sure nothing
gets muddled up. We're so picky, we even argue with each other what we
should name each pile. Even the brattiest kids aren't that bad ("I think
this should be the carrots/pintos pile," Biff said. "No!" yelled Fluffy. "It's
pintos-carrots! Get it right!").
Anyway, the reason I think we're like that is because it's so hard for
developers to make a truly original game. Genre formulas are easy to
follow and they often produce successful titles. When developers color
outside the genre lines, they're taking a pretty big risk. Genres give them
rules to follow and standards to meet. We adopt those rules and standards
and use them as our criteria in judging games. Once we know a game's
genre, we know what to expect from it and we can use that to judge it.
Every now and then, we'll get a game that successfully breaks out of
those categories by slapping us in the face with a new standard of
excellence. These games give us something new to expect-- a new category
and standard to judge future games by.
Unfortunately, Quest 64 is not one of those games, and I don't think its
developers intended it to be one. Instead, I think they tried to adjust the
RPG format to a Mario 64 audience and ended up with a game that's pretty
confused about what it wants to be. Quest 64 delivers gameplay that could
be satisfying with a little more gusto and confidence but, as it stands, is
not able to pack enough punch to succeed on its own.
Quest 64 tells the story of Brian, a lad who has received the gift of spirit
taming from his father, Lord Bartholomy. Using this power, he can take
mystical energy from his surroundings and use it to increase his own
elemental magic. Bartholomy has left the boy behind to search for the
stolen Eletale's Book, a mystical tome that keeps his home island of
Celtland (although it's oddly devoid of any real Celts) united. The game
begins as Brian gets tired of sitting on his hands and decides to go out
in search of his father.
You, of course, get to play Brian, a lad with huge green puppy dog eyes
who strolls around wearing a medieval Superman costume and a quail
feather hairdo. In one of the game's strongest features, you get to
explore Celtland, which is beautifully rendered in vast 3-D landscapes,
from a Mario-esque third-person perspective. There are no "overland
maps" or 2-D screens for inns, shops, or anything else. Instead, every
road, house, farm, castle, and sea exists in 3-D space. The realistic look
of Brian's world immerses you in his environment, and it brings you a lot
closer to that unity of player and character that all games strive for.
Unfortunately, once you get into Brian's world, there's not much to do.
Big, beautiful Celtland is like a giant Hollywood backlot-- everything's
just a false front or a prop that doesn't really work. If it's not a person
to talk to, a treasure chest to open, or a spirit to absorb, you can't do
anything with it.
For example, as Brian is leaving his monastery home he passes by a stable
that contains a horse. Since I had yet to learn how dull Celtland was, I
thought, "Aha! I'm about to start a long journey. Maybe I can ride this
horse!" I steered Brian over to the black nag and pressed the action button.
The horse said "whinny," or something to that effect, and nothing else
happened. Nothing. Later in the game, I realized that I was lucky to get any
response. Quest 64's environments are long on detail and very, very short
Since Quest 64 can't use fun environments to make people explore Celtland,
it spreads "spirits" (which look like little whisps of smoke) across the
landscape for Brian to "tame." For each spirit absorbed, you get to increase
the power of Brian's earth, air, fire, or water magics. As Brian grows more
powerful in an element, he learns new spells that correspond with that
element's attributes-- fire magic is more attack-oriented, earth magic
centers on defense, etc.
These elemental spells and magics are the crux of combat in Quest 64.
Since you're a hero on a quest, you must, of course, do battle with every
ill- tempered animal and off-kilter varmit that populates the land. Brian
carries one weapon, a staff, and wears no armor. Without magic, all he
can do is walk around bapping things with his stick-- not the best
method for taking out the bad guys. Instead, you have to figure out
which element each monster is based on and hit them with a spell that
opposes that element. For example, water attacks will douse fire-based
hellhounds, but water-based bigmouths will soak the same spells and
not feel a thing.
There's also a tiny tactical element in Quest 64. During your turn in
combat, you get a polygon that shows how far Brian can move that turn.
You can position him anywhere inside its bounds, which can be useful for
getting out of range of enemy attacks and lining up your spells so that
they do as much damage as possible. Being able to move freely inside the
limits of the polygon adds a real-time feel to Quest 64's turn-based
combat, and that feeling is intensified by a lack of menus. Each button on
the controller corresponds to one action both in and out of combat, just
as it does in most action games.
Unfortunately, combat comes a little too often in Quest 64. In some areas,
you can't walk ten feet without being attacked. Usually, you'll be fighting
a weak opponent who only slows you down or drops your health a few points.
However, if you don't feel like taking the time to mop up the enemy and possibly
boost your magic or stats (there are only four), you can usually run Brian away
from the fighting in just a few turns.
However, if combat ever does take its toll on you and Brian starts getting
weak, you can teleport him back to the last town you visited and stay at
an inn to recover. Both are free of charge. In fact, everything's free of
charge. There's no money in Quest 64-- instead, all the townspeople are as
sweet as June Cleaver and they gleefully give you everything they have.
It sorta takes the fun out of the tried and true tradition of breaking into
townspeople's houses and stealing all their earthly possessions (although,
as a rule, the houses in Quest 64 contain absolutely nothing. I guess that's
because the townspeople have given it all away).
The graphics in Quest 64 are rich and fairly well detailed, although the
windows on houses occasionally flicker as you pass by. As I've said, the
world of Celtland is beautiful, but the game's camera often actively tries
to obscure your view of it. Whenever you walk into a room or a new location,
the first thing you see is Brian blinking at you. If you want to see the room,
you have to walk a few steps forward (into the unknown), hold down the B
button, and wait as the view slowly shifts behind Brian's back.
Quest 64's music is usually in sync with its environments and promises a
lot more mystery and wonder than they deliver. It made me want to become
part of a deep, living world, and instead I became part of a shallow, lifeless one.
It's possible that Quest 64 will appeal to gamers who want a simple, easy
introduction to RPGs. However, I doubt it holds enough entertainment to hold
players for very long. I applaud its immersive world and innovative combat
system, but I just didn't enjoy playing the game. Quest 64 took the wrong
things from the wrong piles-- it's like a piece of apple pie that's been
sitting in bean juice. Take my advice, and use your mental fork to fling
this one off the plate.
Overall 7.2 out of 10