One man’s quest for the holy grail of 8 bit gaming takes him on a cross country road trip to self recollection, in “Nintendo Quest”. In this irresistably charming documentary on Nintendo, gaming enthusiast Jay Bartlett hits the open road with best friend Rob McCallum in hopes of buying the 678 official retail licensed Nintendo games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, in 30 days with no online purchases. Along the way Jay and Rob will discuss Nintendo history, landmark games, box art, music, graphics, game play and reflect on life.
“Nintendo Quest” is being given a limited run in independent theaters across the country, and if you are an 8 bit gaming enthusiast like i am, this is the film for you. The quest for gaming immortality might seem like a joke or laughable goal, but what this documentary taught me was that it’s what’s important to you that drives you to do better and reach for more. For Jay, Nintendo is his greatest passion. What makes his quest even more challenging is the fact that he can’t use the internet to find where the games are that he needs. That gives “Nintendo Quest” a very nostalgic feel for what it is trying to encompass. This was the way things were done in the 80’s and early 90’s, so it’s the only way to communicate to the younger generations of audience members just how difficult it was to own them all.
For a 90 minute run time, the film does try to juggle a lot, with Nintendo history from different gamers perspectives. It’s not that it’s not appreciated, but i would rather McCallum (Best friend and Director) focus more on Bartlett’s quest and some of the challenges that he faced with greedy game shops. The movie does showcase some uphill battles with price negotiation, but for the most part we never see any long winded debates. Everything is kind of pictured in a yes-or-no result, so it feels kind of rushed. There’s too much focus on other people, and not enough on the central protagonist whose quest is the entire reason i sought out this documentary. This would be the only real problem that i had with Rob’s feature, as there is so much more about it morally than just 8 bit memories.
Like any cross country adventure, there are many challenges at home that Jay must face along the way. Putting your life on hold becomes a lot tougher when you are in your 30’s, as opposed to being a child when the only thing that mattered was you and the boob tube. One thing that excelled in creativity about the film, was it’s 8 bit inspired animation for the opening credits, closing credits, and game lists in between. On the latter, McCallum uses some dreamy 8 bit designs to capture how many games Jay has bought, and how many days he has remaining. On top of this, there is a top 20 list of hard to find games that we get to follow along the way. The ending credits were among my very favorite of 2015, as many of the films on screen characters invade a game of “Super Mario Brothers”. It’s certainly an eye pleasing way to a positive stamp of creativity on the documentary genre.
Overall, “Nintendo Quest” is a calling card to the days when gaming was much more time invested by the gaming companies. Everything from the music, to the art design, to the games plots, required an endless stream of imagination, and that is something that the big budgeted games of 2015 could take a lesson from. The film is so much more than just a quest for one manchild’s biggest wish, but an inspiring message to all of us to seek out the things that make us happy. That is a message that i feel gamers and non gamers can relate on. “Nintendo Quest” is available now on Vimeo for $4.99- 24 hour rental, or $11.99- to own.