Nintendo Quest

Directed by Rob McCallum

Released: 2015

Reviewed: 2015/09/19

by Jonathan Leung (JonLeung)



The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is one of the most popular video game consoles of all time, indisputably so in the mid-1980s and into the '90s. Now that young gamers from that era are in their thirties with plenty of disposable income, collecting these games, besides just playing them, is a passionate activity which is increasing in popularity. With a ready audience, the premise of "Nintendo Quest" makes it sound like it should be a hit - and indeed it is. And not just for gamers and collectors - it also has enough heart that even non-gamers will be intrigued.




Jay and Rob drive thousands of miles across North America in search of 678 NES cartridges.  Collecting games is already daunting, and especially so within only a month and without buying online.

"Nintendo Quest" follows the story of Jay Bartlett, a Canadian video game collector, on a road trip to collect all the Nintendo Entertainment System games. This follows a dare made to him by his best friend, director Rob McCallum, to see if Jay can obtain them all within thirty days, and without any online purchases. And so Jay and Rob hit the road, starting in their hometown of London, Ontario, and then across the United States, checking out games stores and meeting collectors while on this month-long journey.

As should be expected, obtaining 678 NES cartridges that are nearly 30 years old is going to cost a lot of time and money, both of which are limited. To assist the viewers, a heads-up display on one corner of the screen is present during the hunt. It displays what day it is and how many games have been acquired. The amount of money that Jay has budgeted for this adventure is indicated by a meter, which drops as he makes his purchases. Actual prices are rarely mentioned, to keep the film timeless, so the film is not, nor was it ever intended to be, a definitive price guide for any other collector thinking about taking on a similar challenge. Besides, what is more challenging than buying some of these games is finding them in the first place.

The film occasionally brings up a checklist of the twenty games that are considered to be the most rare. Though collectors may debate the precise rarity level of the games on the list, it is clearly understood that if Jay sees these particular games in his travels that he must strongly consider purchasing them. Obviously "getting every game" means that every game is important, but with limited funds he may pass up some games, hoping for a better deal somewhere else later. For these rare games, though, sellers may be asking more for them, and knowing that chances are slim that another copy will be encountered before the month is over, Jay has some tough choices to make.

Though the driving force is the goal of collecting the games, as cliché as they say, "it's all about the journey". If this were merely a movie about shopping, it would not be very interesting. Thankfully, there is more to it than that. Jay and Rob meet all sorts of people on their way, some that are helpful to the cause and some that are not. We also learn about Jay, and witness his personal growth through this quest - he gains more than just stackfuls of NES cartridges along the way.




Jay scans some stacks of NES games, looking for anything he has not obtained yet.  Besides being a film about hunting and haggling, "Nintendo Quest" is a story about a man chasing a dream despite the odds.

When the film is not following Jay around on his travels, director Rob McCallum examines the legacy of the NES. Early in the film, he presents an animated segment called "Nintendo History 101", a two-minute overview of Nintendo's history for almost a century before it became a household name. While most hardcore Nintendo fans already know many of these facts, like that Nintendo began in 1889 as a card company, this concise briefing is sufficient to get everyone else up to speed. As the film progresses, snippets of interviews with industry veterans, world record holders and gaming enthusiasts give a better picture about why gaming is such a big deal and why people like Jay have so much passion for this hobby and the one company that is the most associated with it.

However, it goes without saying that Jay is passionate about Nintendo. Even if you have never touched a Nintendo game in your life, you will feel his determination and get caught up in this quest, and you will want him to succeed. Everyone knows what it is like to face a challenge, and it is easy to relate to a normal guy (who likes Nintendo, Star Wars, and Foo Fighters) who is just trying to do something that is important to him.

Whether you know the Konami Code by heart or forget which buttons are where, "Nintendo Quest" is highly recommended.  The journey is emotional, enthralling, and even inspiring. If living a collector's life vicariously through "Nintendo Quest" is not enough for you, after this film you may want to start a collection of your own. Be warned, if "Nintendo Quest" gets the audience it deserves, you might not be the only one eyeing any copy of "Little Samson" or "Stadium Events".  Even - and especially - if you do not get what this hobby is all about, come along with Jay and Rob; you will certainly gain a greater understanding about why gaming matters.

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