Nintendo Quest, 2015
Directed by Robert McCallum
In this all-encompassing 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 (1985) 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 more.
Imagine Super Size Me with less burgers and more Nintendo games, and you get a good idea of what Nintendo Quest is all about. One man has 30 days to collect all 678 officially released games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and achieve a lifelong goal. He cannot get help from family and friends, he cannot use the internet to purchase any of the games and he only has a limited budget to complete the task. Even if he already owns the game, he still has to buy all 678 games.
Nintendo Quest is every retro gamer’s dream journey. Who wouldn’t want to spend 30 days of your life traveling the country and speaking with like-minded gamers and collectors in order to obtain a complete NES library. As one of the interviewees puts it, having a ROM file of every NES game on your desktop isn’t impressive, but having a complete library made up of the artifacts is. That’s what Jay Bartlett is attempting to do here.
And the journey is fun. Thankfully Robert McCallum has a good subject matter to follow on this quest in the form of Bartlett. He’s an incredibly likeable guy and he feels like he could be any one of the people who this documentary is aimed at. He’s so down-to-earth and genuine that you can tell this quest means the world to him and isn’t just a gimmick to get a film made. His emotion when things don’t quite go right for him is incredible and it makes you invested in his quest more than you would be if you just wanted to see a guy barter with a salesman for a copy of Battletoads.
It’s not all a bed of roses however. It feels like there wasn’t enough interest in Jay’s quest to fill out the runtime in full, so McCallum fills out the time with segments looking at the history of Nintendo and an extended chat about competitive gaming. While the latter of those topics feels connected as it talks about the 1990 Nintendo World Championship, it doesn’t play into Jay’s quest and/or journey, so therefore has no place in this documentary. It works in documentaries like King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and Man v. Snake, but not here. If McCallum had interviewed other collectors of NES paraphernalia, then it would have made sense. But speaking with the record holder on Missile Command holds no bearing on a man collecting every game in the NES library.
There’s also a slight bit of padding around Jay’s history. There’s a portion of the movie dedicated to a very personal moment in his life that McCallum seemingly uses to explain why Jay suffers from anxiety. I’m no psychologist, so perhaps it is, but it didn’t need to be shown in this documentary. Jay’s anxiety plays a huge part in his quest, but we don’t need to see why he suffers from it.
Nintendo Quest is a lot of fun and well worth a watch if you have the slightest interest in the world of retro video game collecting. There’s more to pick apart in the movie (different clothes being worn between shots but acting like it’s the same day, McCallum’s narration is rushed etc.), but they’re all surface issues. If you dig a little deeper you may question the inclusion of the competitive gaming element and Jay’s personal history, but the quest itself is so much fun that you can look past it. And further to that, Robert McCallum and Jay Bartlett never act like they’re the best for doing this quest and encourage anyone and everyone to attempt it, which is really quite refreshing.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and a contributor for Flickering Myth TV. You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen.