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Quest: Brian's Journey (Game Boy Color) artwork

Quest: Brian's Journey (Game Boy Color) review

"A scaled-down remake of a bad game? 'I'm shocked I didn't love it,' I say sarcastically."

There's a decent story behind Quest: Brian's Journey, and since retelling it is more interesting than virtually every aspect of the game itself, let's start there.

Once upon a time, Sony decided it was time to take advantage of the superior storage capacity offered by optical discs instead of continuing to rely on the more restrictive cartridge format. Nintendo preferred to maintain the status quo, however, and continued to champion the cartridge format. Some people found that decision hilarious, and in fact the Final Fantasy VII marketing campaign even pointed out how many Nintendo 64 cartridges would be required to store that game's content ($1200 worth).

Nintendo's hardware still saw the release of the occasional RPG, however. For example, Quest 64 released to, I don't know… Derision? Scorn? Apathy? Choose whatever emotion befits a plain, generic game that's now nothing but a footnote in history. It's no wonder that after that sort of response, Nintendo's next console utilized discs.

But there was a time when someone had high hopes for the game and the intellectual property. Not only was Quest 64 released for the Nintendo 64, but a year or two later, the project was reworked and released for the Game Boy Color as Quest: Brian's Journey. The plot was largely unaltered for the second take, but everything was scaled down for the less-powerful handheld. And, well, if you're an RPG junkie who has plenty of time to burn, I suppose this could be a passable time-waster... as long as your expectations aren't particularly high.

Working in the game's favor is its atypical approach to the genre. It utilizes a variation of the classic SaGa character-building system, which here works better than it did for any title within the series that seems to have inspired it. When you fight monsters, you don't receive experience points. Instead you have stats, along with health and magic points, which are improved as you attack, cast spells and receive damage. It's a simple progression system and, more importantly, it works. You'll improve consistently throughout the game, at roughly the same rate that your opposition grows in strength, which leads to a consistent difficulty level.

Battles also introduce a twist. You'll be pulled into them at random, but the fights play out like small-scale SRPG encounters. Brian moves around a field, along with his enemies, and can cast spells to harm the opposition. A number of spells are only designed to hit the squares nearest your hero, so you have to position him properly or you'll waste points. However, there also are some spells with homing capabilities, which means that the developers' effort to require strategic play didn't go as far as it probably should have.

Quest 64 truncated or even eliminated a lot of RPG aspects, and that's also true here. For instance, money doesn't exist. You find items in treasure chests, or collect them from townspeople and occasionally fallen monsters. A night spent at the inn won't cost you a thing, and local shops give away free wings you can use to teleport to safety. Overall, I found the game to be quite easy. Once I began to lose interest, I was happy to find that I could advance quickly through dungeons without properly exploring them and still grow powerful enough to dispatch anything that tried to stand in my way.

It really didn't take a long time for my interest to wane, either, as the game really doesn't offer the depth required to provide satisfaction. Quest: Brian's Journey is completely linear, with no side-quests or optional realms to visit. And although fights aren't as strategic as they could have been, completing them does take a long time. You'll come to dread certain monsters, since they do nothing but spam certain spells with lengthy (at least by the standards of this game) animations. Meanwhile, it seems that for much of the game, the average random mob takes three or four melee attacks to dispatch.

I'd estimate that it took me no more than an hour to develop the general strategies I relied upon throughout the game's remainder. I'd mostly use magic on bosses to deliver powerful hits using the elements they were weak against, but otherwise I would simply run up to the weaker foes and use melee attacks, pausing only occasionally to heal Brian when it proved necessary. The more I depended on those melee attacks, the more powerful I got. The more often monsters hit me, the better my defense grew. By the end of the game, I was a powerhouse whose only fear was remembering to regularly heal myself when facing the few bosses that possessed magical attacks powerful enough to deal much damage.

What else? Oh yeah, the story. As I noted, it mostly follows the same course as the one plotted by Quest 64, although there are a couple of differences. It doesn't much matter, though, because everything is so threadbare that you'd have to have some familiarity with the previous edition to even realize that there's more to the plot than "young guy goes on a journey to save the world from evil folk." Actually, though, it turns out Brian is a "spirit monk." He's on a quest to find a mystical book that was stolen from his home. He ventures through towns and dungeons in search of relics that are necessary to, uh, keep him on the path to find said book, I guess. Along the way, he learns that an evil king plans to summon a demon. Then, after a bit of drama, he kills the king and the demon and the game ends. Gripping stuff, I know...

Quest: Brian's Journey is the sort of game I don't enjoy talking about. It's put together solidly enough that I can't mercilessly mock its failings, but it doesn't do enough things right for me to find any real enjoyment while playing it. Instead, it simply exists, providing a subpar and bland experience that I'm already starting to forget. Quest 64 was a poor console game, and its follow-up continues in much the same vein. No additional Quest titles were ever released for subsequent systems. Funny how that works...

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (November 04, 2015)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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