When it came time to sit down to take a sneak peek at the video game documentary, Nintendo Quest (Pyre Productions USA, Directed by Rob McCallum, running time 92 minutes) the one prevailing question rolling around in my head was “How can one man’s search for video games not only satisfy a hardcore audience but simultaneously convey an interesting message to a casual audience too?” After watching the movie, like many of the Nintendo’s greatest success stories that question was answered in a way this reviewer didn’t see coming.
The focus of McCallum’s movie is on his best friend, Jay Bartlett and the quest given to him by Rob to collect the entire Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) roster of games (totaling 678 cartridges…remember those?) within 30 days without any assistance from purchases on Ebay, Amazon or any other online shopping entity. The NES is the gaming console system introduced in the United States in 1985 that in many ways brought gaming back from the brink of financial death and revived what was once thought to be a marketplace without any hope for a prosperous future.
It’s the journey these two friends make in order to attempt to complete the collection which serves as the backdrop for this adventure of a lifetime as the guys roam the United States and Canada in their search to find that next crucial game on the list. The movie also provides interviews from various video game celebrities and collectors as they share their memories on why the NES was so special to them and also to the video game industry. While at the forefront this movie satiates every gaming fan’s dream in having the opportunity to go after and complete an entire library of gaming nostalgia and history it’s the challenges brought upon by the constraints of the challenge which provide Jay (and the movie audience) some of the film’s most tense of moments.
Does Jay complete the collection in time? Can he acquire all those much-beloved titles from video game lore including the ones (such as Stadium Events and Little Samson) that are rare and seemingly almost impossible to find? Will the contest itself prove too difficult to overcome? While all these questions get answered in the movie the film becomes something more than just a straight narrative and evolves into something much greater. What starts out as a film about video games into a deeper look at Jay’s evolution in how he views himself and how he interacts with the world at large.
At several points where negotiation, patience and other tactics are called for in the movie Jay has to get outside of his comfort zone and develop skills which he wasn’t even sure he had in order to even give himself a fair opportunity to complete the Quest in the allotted time. It’s this closer look at his best friend that Rob provides that ultimately becomes even more important than the ultimate outcome of the Quest itself. This ends up being one of the main reasons why Nintendo Quest succeeds beyond the trappings the movie could have been so easily hooked into.
The direction, flow and pacing of the movie is well constructed and very easy to follow whether you have a taste for gaming or just fancy a great documentary that’s easy on the eyes but will warm your heart. The only quibbles are small with a better placement of the interviews within the framework of the movie and an opening which could have used a little more love and tweaking in order to get it “just right”. With that being said if that’s the only issues with this film that are being bandied about then it’s pretty easy to presume we have quite the cinematic experience on our hands.
Quite often in the days of Playstation 4, Xbox One, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and the Nintendo 3DS we have a tendency to forget about gaming’s past and where our love for it truly came from for many of us. This film reminds viewers of this past and the deep emotions and feelings behind it while showing us how we as individuals can progress beyond what we necessarily believed before when life challenges are presented to us and those tough decisions must be made. Nintendo Quest is an outstanding look into the psyche of game collecting and a movie no video game fan or documentary fan should miss. As the end came up on the film my daughter, who had sat down to watch and was engrossed with the film throughout, conveyed to me one simple phrase that says it all: “Dad, please tell Rob that this was a really good film…”. You know something my dear, I believe I will.
Please note that for this review Game Source did receive a code/copy/product from the Public Relations Firm, Developer, Manufacturer and/or Publisher responsible for distribution to the press.