When I told a friend of mine that I would be playing Quest 64 for the first time, he told me two things. The first was to set my expectations really, really low. The second was to only focus on earth and water. I didn’t know what he meant by his second statement, but his first statement was obvious. It’s been almost 20 years since Quest 64 was released on the RPG-starved Nintendo 64. At the time, my desire to play it was overshadowed by the cornucopia of RPGs on the PlayStation. Now, with so many RPGs coming at me in every direction, I’m surprised I had the patience to actually sit down with this basic, barebones title. My expectations weren’t set low enough: there were no redeeming qualities in Quest 64. I don’t regret losing the ten hours it took to finish it, but I wouldn’t recommend this RPG to anyone.
You read that right: ten hours. It only took me, someone who never touched the game, ten hours to finish Quest 64. This came after getting multiple defeats and dealing with one too many random battles. The interesting thing is that I was -glad- when the credits rolled. Seriously, the story was so minimalistic it could be missed if you blinked. It’s about a mage apprentice named Brian who is on a search for his father. In order to find him, he needs to also find the Eletale Book. And in order to find this book, he needs the power of four, elementally blessed treasures. It’s as cliche and uncomplicated as it gets, which would be fine if there were some actual exposition to go along with the story. Brian is a silent-protagonist and is never given any dialogue options during conversations. The people he encounters have plenty to say, but they’re easy to bypass. In fact, you can go nearly the entire game without talking to anyone. While I wouldn’t recommend this due to a few good Samaritans giving you free items, it’s certainly possible.
Exploration in Quest 64 has a bit more to offer. Brian hilariously scampers and scuttles through various towns, dungeons and fields. In all locations, you can find spirits that can be added to Brian’s elemental levels. He has four at his disposal: earth, fire, water and wind. At the start of the game, each element is at level one. Finding spirits throughout the world of Quest 64 will let you level up elements in a way you see fit. Aside from finding these hidden spirits, as well as uncovering items in treasure chests, that’s all there is to do when you’re not fighting monsters. There is no currency, thus there are no shops. There are no side-quests. There is no equipment to upgrade. If not for spirit finding, exploration in Quest 64 would be desolate.
The battles in Quest 64 are random, which is aggravating due to their frequent occurrence. The battle arena is a giant octagon in which Brian can move around. By running outside of the octagon’s perimeter, you can run away. You can also use items no matter where you are in the field. During your turn, you can move Brian as far as the range will allow. If an enemy is in range, he can attack with his staff. Otherwise, he can use magic. While Brian is usually up against three or more enemies, only one enemy will act. An interesting mechanic is that Brian can move around the battlefield when an enemy is attacking. This allows him to dodge certain attacks. Another interesting thing is that moving Brian both in and out of battle will increase his ability to dodge. Receiving damage will increase his HP, and the more he uses magic, the more MP he gets. Experience points are gained, but they’re for Brian’s elemental spirit power. When he “levels up” he can add to his earth, fire, wind and/or water powers. As his elements increase in power, he will learn new spells and power up existing ones. In theory, it sounds like Brian can become a vicious force capable of ravaging the lands. Well, sort of…
Most of the spells that Brian learns have the potential to miss their target. This is slightly annoying at first, but eventually doesn’t become too much of an issue. With the words of my friend in the back of my mind, I did as instructed and only focused on using the spirits found in the field and on leveling up to add to my earth and water levels. His advice didn’t have any effect at first when it came to battling the hordes of monsters out to stop Brian’s campaign. But eventually, Brian had the potential to become invincible. Spells in the water category are capable of healing. Spells in the earth category create barriers that nullify damage and a spell called Avalanche in this category will rain boulders upon enemies. Quest 64 actually starts off challenging, but any semblance of a challenge is thrown out the window if you power up your spells to a certain level. I didn’t experiment with fire or wind, but my guess is that things would have been similar. Brian’s magic points recover outside of battle and all of his stat upgrades carry over even if he is defeated in battle and sent back to the last spot he saved. The odds look stacked at the start of the game when the most you can do is throw a measly fireball. The more you battle, win or lose, the more deadly Brian becomes. The lack of challenge isn’t a bad thing, per se, but the high encounter rate and monotonous boss battles lack excitement when all you need to do is put up a Barrier and then throw out an Avalanche and win.
One thing that is worth praise is the game’s look. Despite Brian’s unintimidating stature and stubborn, unrelenting cowlick, he and the rest of the folks around the world are a colorful bunch. The 3D graphics show their age most of the time, but there is an undeniable charm to them. Spells are where the real fun lies. Watching Brian, who is looks to be about 3’0”, summon all sorts of elemental destruction is entertaining. The monsters he faces are a graphical highlight; they are some of the most creative and diverse group of beasts I’ve seen in the genre. The music is also worth mentioning. Most of the tracks are catchy and will have you humming along. There is no voice acting.
Once finished, there is no reason to go back for a new adventure unless you want to try leveling up different elements. And, that’s a big “if.” Also, there is no new game plus option. I have a hard time recommending Quest 64 to anyone, no matter their familiarity with RPGs. Quest 64 didn’t bring anything to the table that made it worthy of a look when it was released, and it doesn’t have anything these days that would make it worthy of a look for those still curious about it. If you are in the mood to dust it off and wield the Nintendo 64’s trident controller, then play something other than this.
Overall, 4.5/10: There are other RPGs out there. Play those.