Let\’s Make A Sequel: Quest 64
by Ryan C.
Welcome again to Let’s Make a Sequel, where I take a game that deserves to have another shot in the spotlight. Today’s topic is going to be on Quest 64, a game that receives mixed reception even to this day. Being noticeable as the first RPG released for the N64, a console whose predecessor was known for having an amazing line-up of the genre, Quest had a lot to live up too.
Upon release, it received mostly negative reviews, as people felt it was too simple, deprived exploration and lackluster storytelling. One area that was generally praised was the magic system, as Brain (the main character) could level up four different areas based on the four elements: fire, earth, water and wind. From defeating monsters and finding hidden spirits throughout the world, players had the freedom to level up whatever they wanted, fitting to their play style. Want powerful attacks? Earth or wind will satisfy. Want to have healing magic or status boosts? Water and fire respectively should do the trick. Players could balance all four or be the most powerful wind mage in the land.
I also liked how the other status mechanics operated. HP, MP, defense and agility could all be leveled up, but not in the traditional sense. If Brain receives damage, points will pour into defense and HP. If Brain avoids enemy attacks, his agility will raise, which has three advantages. It determines who attacks first, how often you will avoid attacks, and finally how often you will successfully land hits on your enemies. Finally, using magic attacks will raise your maximum MP level. It is a unique system that works extremely well.
Another aspect of the game I enjoyed was the atmosphere. Caves and dark forests had scary music, entering towns for the first time felt heroic, and enemies were sometimes downright terrifying. The amount of detail some enemies have is impressive, and no two humans look alike (with few exceptions). The story was intriguing, and had tons of mystery, but for the majority of the game, storytelling was non-existent. The payoff at the end was merely satisfactory, but featured a twisted end level and hellish final boss.
I am not going to do a full review on it, but if I did I would probably give it a six or seven. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it, despite its multiple flaws. My biggest issue is how lazy it sometimes felt. A few hours into the game you come to a town where the wind is out of balanced, causing havoc in some areas or being stopped in a town that needs windmills. One particular fellow tells you a bridge has been destroyed, but upon inspection, the bridge is perfectly fine, minus the locked gate. All the towns indicate a particular problem, but no one seems to be suffering or having any trouble at all. Games on the SNES were able to create a sense of dread, so I guess this game ran out of time or budget.
My biggest hope for a sequel, if one were to happen, is that the world would feel more organic. I want the game to make me genuinely sorry for the NPC’s and their villages; it is hard to care when everything seems so happy-go-lucky throughout the game. With that said, the end game village does have a sense of dread due to the dictatorship of their king. Another area that would help is the storytelling. Before the game starts, your master informs you that your father disappeared while looking for the legendary Eletale Book, and before long you discover that the world is thrown into chaos due to the four elements being out of balance. Once the initial premise is known, the story just disappears until the last few hours. It is a shame because what is here is interesting and well realized. History is also thrown in sometimes with the Great War that took place thousands of years ago. In short, the story is intriguing and mysterious, but gets pushed to the side for the majority of the game.
In RPG’s and adventure games, it can be expected that side quests will be available to earn treasure, experience points or learn something interesting from the NPC’s, but Quest does not have a single side quest or activity to distract from the main goal. With a world full of characters with problems it would have been nice to be able to help out some villagers. One village early on in the game is in panic because of a brutal robber in the woods, blocking the path to another nearby city. One particular man needs materials to make pottery, so why not help him by collecting the required supplies in and around the forest? In addition to side quests, exploring could be better with rare items or secret villages throughout the land. Quest 64 is not a very open game.
What I talked about so far was mostly to do with story and making the world feel more natural and alive, but the gameplay needs to be expanded and tweaked to make a better flowing and replayable game. First of all, the way death is handled should be reworked. It is common practice for RPG’s to have some sort of penalty after death, i.e. losing money or experience. However, in Quest, death simply means going back to the last save point with no penalty whatsoever. Even experience points you gained from the fight that defeated you are kept. What this means is there is little to worry about, as battles will be eventually won if your defense and health increase regardless. It would be more of a challenge and hectic if something was lost. On the other hand, there is no money system in place as all your potions and items are found in treasure chests. If something happened where you have no Honey Bread left, someone in the village will give you one for free. With a system like this, why bother healing in a fight if you can return to the area in a few minutes? You will level up all the same and your items will be saved for a boss fight.
As previously said, I enjoyed the leveling system as it lets you choose if you want to specialize in a particular element, balance all four, or choose from increasing agility or defense. Regardless, I feel this can be expanded greatly to help replay value and really changing how each individual would experience the game. Brain is a magician first and foremost, but the way he uses his magic could be altered. The system could be a magician based fighter, thief, or healer. For a fighter, his magic could increase his attack power, or add an elemental affect on his staff for a powerful fire strike. For a thief, he could learn an invisibility spell, or make a duplicate shell of himself to distract people or enemies. A healer would specialize in curing many status aliments or recovery. If the player chooses to become a thief, then experience will be gained from stealing and not necessarily fighting monsters. If you want to be a specific class, level up by being that class.
This could also come in place to side quests. Imagine a poor sick villager who requires a certain herb; players could steal it, heal him himself, or defeat a monster that holds it. Depending on what the player does could affect how they are rewarded and seen through the eyes of everyone around him. Healing the sick person could result in other people requesting aid, and stealing would make people more distant from you. This mechanic alone would perfectly solve my issues with the world and side quests.
The controls were serviceable, but had one recurring issue. While in battle, the B button re-centered the camera, and both A and Z buttons were confirm and cancel. I often found when going in for a melee attack that the enemy could sway out of the way right as I press the confirm attack, making me skip my turn entirely. A simple way out of this is spreading the three actions across the three buttons. Z would control the camera, B would cancel a spell selection or skip a turn, and A would confirm the attack of spell. One last thing is the camera itself. The default positions around the battlefield could sometimes be horrendous, as it could go behind a door or tree. Being an early N64 title, these problems were probably to be expected so I have faith a sequel on a current generation system would fix these issues with little hassle.
Quest 64 was a moderate success, with enough sales for the developers to think about doing a sequel. Instead, we got a port for the Game Boy Color before this franchise died. Open world RPG\’s seem to be all the rage these days with both reinventions like Fallout 3 and new IP\’s like Dragon’s Dogma, so it seems like the time is right to give this forgotten game another shot. Unfortunately, I highly doubt we will ever hear from Quest again, but maybe Brain has one last spell up his sleeve.
You can also read more about Quest 64 on our feature the 100 Best N64 Games