Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Quest 64

Quest 64 has all of the ingredients for a good adventure. In most ways, Quest 64 was bashed for not being revolutionary. But somehow it's acceptable for Final Fantasy 3 (the DS Remake) to merge simple gameplay and basic 3D graphics. In this sense, Quest 64 was very much unintentionally ahead of its time because the quest for ultimate graphics nobly proceeded and consumers did not yet yearn for the video games of old. What I mean is, Quest 64 would be well-accepted today as a budget title.

But history, I think, might be better to Quest 64 because when we look back to 1999 we see the world ready for the new millennium, the past is unacceptable. Simple 3D graphics are a mode of representation that will likely not be repeated, therefore, I think, Quest is something special, something limited. It belongs to a select group of games that we haven't seen repeated in large quantities of high-quality games since the N64.

But it is a pioneer, for which it never received any specific credit. It is one of, if not the first, early examples of a 3D 8-Bit-style JRPG. The gameplay is pure 8-Bit simplicity. Stats that make sense, spells, no weapons, no armor, items, towns. The battles are very dynamics, random encounters happen within the field, no battle screen, but the mobs are not visible before a battle. You fight in an octagon of death, represented by a simple line. Your enemy has a movement octagon, typically fairly small. This movement system is a great analogue SRPG feature (think Warhammer). You have to aim your spells, so battles stay interesting, but it's turn-based, so you have time to think.

You also have a staff, which is stronger based on how much magic you have and how evenly-proportioned your character is. You have complete control with spell progression, and there are 4 spell categories.

Quest 64 doesn't bore you with cut scenes (though it's people talk a lot). You'll fight lots of monsters, and, more importantly, explore lots of areas. The story is developed through dialogue with NPCs. The music always great, every track is enjoyable with some exceptional pieces interspersed. The world changes from night to day, slowly... and that's when you might realize something about Quest 64, after having played through ten hours or so: this game is massive. Environments, castles, towns are pretty large and there is a huge world to explore. Unfortunately you explore it in a linear fashion and rarely return more than one town behind you, but the result is that you are constantly exploring new territory.

I'd go so far as to say that Quest 64 feels like a combination of an 8-Bit RPG and a massive 3D adventure like Oblivion or World of Warcraft. That, and one of the coolest final dungeons in video games.

The brilliance of Quest 64 is that while most video games take place in an "environment," others games almost create a complete world. Quest 64 is one of those games. The texture mapping and polygon count might be low, but that allowed the designers to make Quest 64 an expansive and memorable adventure.

Protip: if you move the joystick to the left or right (in town, in an open area) Brian should run in a circle. Unplug the controller, and Brian should continue to run in a circle. Now, while you wait several hours let's talk about how the game raises your agility. By running. Eventually you'll have 255 Agility and your movement octagon will be larger than the battlefield. No enemy can touch you, and you'll never miss with your staff.

Screenshots are from the European version. Long story. The games are basically identical aside from a few changes (Brian's name and his cloak color, for example), this article refers to the American version, but I thought people familiar with the NA version might like to see what our friends in Europe played at 50 fps.


Benjamin Fennell said...

I never actually got to play this one. I'm hoping it'll hit the Virtual Console in time. (Along with Harvest Moon 64 and Ogre Battle 64, as so to complete the RPG library on there.)

8bitcity said...

It uses the controller pack to save, so, to my knowledge, it won't be released on the VC (unless they did that and I didn't notice).

Colin said...

Man i always wanted to play this game when i was a kid, i had a 64 but for some reason i never got around to buying it. seems like i missed out.

Benjamin Fennell said...

Ah, a shame. I've got one of those packs, at least, so maybe I'll just track down a copy of the original cart sometime then. Though considering what they did with Pokemon Snap, you'd think N64 game code could be touched up a bit to make controller pack save games work on the VC.

Del_Duio said...

The only N64 RPGs I had that were worth playing were Ogre Battle & Aidyn Chronicles (but Ogre Battle >>>>>>>>> Aidyn Chronicles).

And no, OoT is not an RPG :)

Anonymous said...

cool review. i've had a copy of this lying around. will give it a try at some point.

Anonymous said...

Anybody got a scan of the Prima strategy guide for this game? I've been looking for it for ages.