As a collector of all things classic gaming, I always get that little “twitch” when I see someone else’s amassment of digital history. There’s the feelings of envy, the levels of being impressed, the intrigue of seeing something new in person, and of course, the stories that go behind finding those rare artifacts. There’s a lot that goes into a collection, and it spans far more than going to the local store and buying something. To be sure, there are simple cut and dry tales like that, but when looking for those “holy grail” goals in game collecting, that’s where stories get interesting.
The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is one of the most beloved gaming consoles in history. Not only did it save the gaming industry from death in North America, it spawned the video gaming consciousness into the public consciousness like never before. It also captured a slice of real-world history, as many games captured popular trends, movies, and television shows of the time. For some, the NES was more than a game system. It was a way of life. A time capsule of the 1980’s and the 1990’s.
And that’s one of the main themes of Nintendo Quest: A documentary that features Jay Bartlett facing an NES challenge of his own that extends well past any difficult level or end boss. Jay has been given a very different type of challenge: Using his own money, collect all 678 officially licensed NES games in 30 days without any online help or purchases.
And so, he sets out from his native homeland in Canada to reach out to every friend, private seller, and game retail shop in both the United States and Canada to complete his goal. Many of the titles are cheap and easy to locate purchases. 20 of the games, however, are extremely expensive collector’s items (such as the insanely priced Stadium Events), and it becomes a matter of quantity of games versus having some of the most rare titles in his challenge while fitting into his personal budget.
It’s an interesting way to collect a unique piece of history. The quest to “get them all” is tempered by the journey that Jay goes through, coupled with the experiences that go behind amassing his collection. Along the way, we find out more about Jay and his motivations for loving these video games so much. Some of these revelations are very personal, and some, as he attempts to reach this goal, draw out some emotions that one wouldn’t expect. His goal is deeper than simply collecting a complete set of Nintendo games, and one of the personal tragedies that he endures towards the end tugs at the heartstrings.
Does he complete his goal? Without spoiling the ending, yes and no. Nintendo Quest highlights the message that while you may have a dream that makes sense only to you, it’s important to go out and reach that end, to challenge the unknown, and help yourself to grow. And while the destination is the ultimate goal, how you get there becomes the bigger story.
As someone who collects video games (though not to this large of a level), some of the collections from private sellers are awe inspiring. One attracted to the medium can’t help but feel a twinge of yearning, to be face to face with some of the “holy grails” of the NES library. Some of the titles I had forgotten existed for the system, which shows how deep into pop culture some of these third-party developers mined into to make a video game. Still, some of the prices for these titles (and I’m seen some in the wild) will make you gasp at the price tags, though many of the confirmed sale prices are never shared.
This is a journey of love and a personal resolution for Jay Bartlett, and an interesting story that veers into the personal realm in surprising ways. It’s funny and interesting, and telling that a video game system that is now over 30 years old still finds a way to create new stories while keeping its collective hold on the public consciousness. This truly was a “Nintendo Quest” from start to finish.