|Publisher & Designer:||Sunsoft|
|Release Date:||September 1989|
Now this game surprised me! You wouldn't expect a late eighties video game starring Uncle Fester (from Addams Family fame) to be anything special but somehow, someway, Sunsoft put together a real hidden gem here. Fester's Quest is actually quite fun and is surprisingly deep for a simple licensed game. Sunsoft took a lot of liberties with The Addams Family license and the end result is sort of a Blaster Master/Gremlins 2 hybrid. Disregard all of the bashing/negative criticism that this game has received online too...popular opinion really missed the mark on Fester's Quest in this gamer's humble opinion.
Overview: Some of the fondest memories I have of the NES era involve visiting our local video rental store(s) with friends and attempting to pick out a good NES game to enjoy for a couple of days. You have to remember that, back in the late eighties and early nineties, we didn't have the luxury of checking online or delving through the countless resources that are readily available today. Gamefaqs.com and ign.com didn't exist yet and finding out if a game was worth playing or not was an adventure in every sense of the word. Other than the myriad of video game magazines that were published at the time (GamePro, EGM, Game Player's, and most notably, Nintendo Power Magazine), we didn't really know which games were worth playing other than simple word of mouth. Everyone knew that Super Mario Bros. was an excellent game and gradually, additional titles such as The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Contra, and Castlevania began to grow in popularity.
What about some of the lesser-known games, however? How about Blaster Master or Monster Party or something like Gyruss? Finding a hidden gem and being pleasantly surprised with a game that you didn't expect much from was part of the fun of renting games. It was honestly just as fun to uncover a real unsung hero than to play some of the more popular games of the day. The possibilities seemed endless and I know that many of my friends along with yours truly had a great time trying to find all of the gems while somehow avoiding the filth. For every Snow Brothers, there was always a Hydlide or Castlequest lurking. And, unfortunately, not every NES rental experience ended with smiles and laughter. I still remember my cousin Jason and I renting Snake's Revenge instead of something like Super C and regretting it afterwards (I pushed for Snake's Revenge so it was completely my fault.)
Anyway, there eventually came a time when I happened across a little-known game called Fester's Quest. My memory is a little hazy on this because even I can't quite remember what drove me to rent this game. With its creepy box cover depicting a ghostly Uncle Fester with a spider crawling on his forehead, it is a wonder in and of itself that my overprotective parents even allowed me to rent this game. Seriously though, I think that seeing the "Sunsoft" brand might have been enough to convince me to give Fester's Quest a chance. I had just recently played through Sunsoft's Blaster Master and Batman titles and, having enjoyed both of those epic experiences, felt that perhaps some of that greatness could rub off onto Fester's Quest.
Well, my gut was actually spot-on because Fester's Quest was not only a darn good game but it looks and feels like a Sunsoft game. And to narrow it down even further, Fester's Quest has a lot in common with Blaster Master in particular. The whole game sort of plays like the base/overhead scenes in Blaster Master with a few tweaks here and there. You can no longer move diagonally (unfortunate as I loved that feature in Blaster Master) but Fester can move up, down, left, and right with ease. And while the B button allows you to fire your gun (and eventually, your whip!), the A button is your specialty button that allows you to use weapons/items such as TNT, Invisible Potions, and Nooses that you acquire during your quest.
Basically, the main goal in Fester's Quest is to successfully navigate the city and sewers, obtain items from defeated enemies as well as the other Addams Family members, and take down the vicious alien bosses. By fending off enemies (many of which look like the frog and scorpion bosses from Blaster Master too!), you can collect light bulbs, keys, money, and increase your gun/whip power by touching the blue "Gun/Whip" capsules. Without this review sounding too much like the manual, just know that light bulbs will light up the sewers (which are completely dark otherwise), keys will allow you to open doors that lead to extra health/bosses, and money can be spent at the many hot dog shops (...hot dog shops?!) in order to replenish your limited health.
Graphics: Sunsoft games have always been known for their crisp yet gritty style and Fester's Quest is no exception. The main overhead scenes look quite presentable as do the myriad of sewer areas strewn throughout the game. Fester himself actually looks kind of snazzy with his black robe and some of the animations (particularly when he uses his whip) are impressive enough. The 3D bases that involve you searching through a maze are simple yet they get the job done nicely. The boss battles are where things really shine, however. Some of the bosses look amazing by NES standards and this aspect of Fester's Quest will certainly bring back fond memories (or not-so-fond memories) of Blaster Master's epic boss battles.
Granted, the visuals in Fester's Quest lack the diversity found in some of Sunsoft's other games (Blaster Master and Batman come to mind once more). I do like how the final area in Fester's Quest has a look and feel all to its own but otherwise, each area kind of looks the same. Just for fun, it is worth noting that the red dirt/small rock surface found late in the game looks exactly like Stage 5 of Jackal. How's that for a weird/random NES factoid of the day?
Music: You wouldn't expect a game as obscure as Fester's Quest to have good music, right? After all, other than The Addams Family theme, what music would fit an Addams Family game let alone one starring Uncle Fester? Well, where Sunsoft is involved, there is a way because they absolutely nailed the sound aspect of this game! I was very impressed the first time I heard the overworld theme along with the eerie track that plays as you explore the sewers. Not surprisingly, Sunsoft did happen to throw in a pretty solid Addams Family theme (along with a funny Game Over remix of the main theme) too. Other favorite tracks include the suspenseful 3D building music along with the rockin' boss theme. My gosh...the boss theme is outstanding in Fester's Quest! It absolutely blew me away the first time I heard it! As much as I enjoy Blaster Master's boss music, I think that the boss track in Fester's Quest actually feels more complete. The overall sound quality is simply superb once more and Sunsoft truly went the extra mile from a sound standpoint.
Lastly, the sound effects are pretty good. Sunsoft seemed to have a lot of fun trying to come up with new sounds in their games (Blaster Master, once again, is a great example of this.) and Fester's Quest is no exception. I enjoyed hearing different sounds as you power up Fester's gun and whip. The chain/flame whip sounds great!
Play Control: The controls in Fester's Quest are a little bit of a mixed bag but are still pretty smooth overall. You move with the D-pad, shoot with the B button, and use items with the A button. Pretty simple, right? The only problem is that, unlike in Sunsoft's other games featuring this overhead perspective, you cannot move diagonally in Fester's Quest. This takes away a nice element of freedom and certainly makes the game a bit more challenging. Also, it is probably worth noting that Fester's walking speed leans a bit on the slow side. And if Fester happens to get hit by a bug or a frog's fireball, his speed will diminish even further and he will have all the speed of a jar of molasses. Seriously, a paralyzed Fester might be in the running for the slowest NES character in existence. Granted, there is an item (Vice Grips...I might have known) that will alleviate this problem but it still warrants mentioning.
With all that being said, however, I honestly have no major qualms with the controls. Moving and shooting is easy enough even if it doesn't feel quite as fluid and sharp as you would expect in an action/adventure game. And, to be honest, I actually thought that the controls in the game's 3D buildings were superb. This is worth mentioning since so many NES games that attempted anything in 3D fell flat when it came to the controls.
Challenge: Any of you who have played Fester's Quest extensively have probably been looking forward to reading this particular section haven't you? After all, Fester's Quest is notorious for its difficulty and for having one of the most miniscule life bars in the history of video games...or so it would seem. When I fired up this game for the very first time and glanced over at my two-hit life bar, I honestly didn't know what to think. Now granted, there are a plethora of NES games that feature one hit kills (Contra and Life Force instantly come to mind) but in most of these cases, you have a plethora of lives to draw from and you normally re-spawn where you lost your life. Well, in Fester's Quest, everything is pretty much a one-shot deal because, if you happen to lose a life and select the Continue option, you literally start at the very beginning of the game! To the game's credit, you do retain all of your items and any bosses you happened to defeat stay defeated but still...this is pretty brutal.
The good news is that, as you progress through the game and start to obtain items, the challenge level works its way back to the mean a bit. Thankfully, there are Potions that fully replenish your life along with Invisible Potions that allow you to become temporarily invincible. And there are two crucial Life Bar upgrades (one is in the first building while the other one is in a secret mansion) along the way. The ability to power up your Gun and Whip cannot be understated either. As you can see, Fester's Quest is not simply a "two hits and you're dead" ordeal...even though the game starts out that way.
Simply put, playing Fester's Quest is a war of attrition. If you are a resourceful gamer and are willing to learn to use all of your weapons/items wisely, you stand a very good chance at succeeding where so many others have failed. Patience is key and trial and error is an inevitable step towards success in a game like this. The boss battles in particular are what tripped me up the most. Some of them are very difficult to defeat (the 4th boss in particular gave me fits!) and the only way to succeed is to save all of your crucial items (Missiles, Potions, and Invisible Potions mainly) for the boss encounters. The good news is that your entire weapon supply gets replenished after defeating each boss so make sure you hold nothing back! That is critical information!
What's funny is that, the moderate-to-high challenge level is both one of the best aspects and one of the worst aspects of Fester's Quest. Once you get a good feel for this game and understand how to fight enemies/bosses effectively, it becomes a simple matter of execution. You will find yourself just narrowly losing to one of the game's bosses and will instantly fire up the game again and give it another try. The good news is that Fester's Quest is at least fair in terms of its challenge. Sure it can be frustrating at times but at least it isn't incredibly cheap and ridiculous like with the first Adventure Island game or Ghosts 'n Goblins. Those are two games that are challenging for all the wrong reasons. On the flip side, there are probably a lot of gamers who never really gave Fester's Quest a fair chance because of the high difficulty right out of the gate. This is unfortunate because this game really develops into a quality game pak once you start to accumulate items (and hope in the process!)
Storyline: You've got to love the 1980s. So many movies during this time featured some of the worst, most laughable stories in existence that they were actually good. This apparently trickled down to video games too because I can't even begin to tell you how many NES games have the most goofy/wacky background stories. Blaster Master is once again a great example with the hero braving underground labyrinths and menacing bosses in order to save...his pet frog. Fester's Quest, on the other hand, involves Fester innocently moon bathing (...moon bathing?!) when suddenly, an alien spaceship appears out of nowhere and takes over the city! The first time I saw the opening scene, I couldn't help but laugh. Fester looks all relaxed and chill and, after glancing to his left and seeing the alien spacecraft, has a totally freaked out expression! It's just really funny and is almost surprising as well. Heck, you would half expect Fester to invite the aliens over for a game of "Wake the Dead", right? In the movies, nothing fazes the guy...except for women that is. In any case, you have to love the kooky plot. It's so 1980s isn't it?
Funfactor: Despite what you might have heard or what popular opinion thinks, I really enjoy playing Fester's Quest. Even more than twenty-two years after beating the game (Fun Fact: I literally beat this game at the very moment my younger sister Cari was born. I kid you not! That very day and that very moment, I finally managed to beat this game. How wild is that? Oh, it was on a Labor Day too! True story!), I still find myself coming back to play this nostalgic feast of a game from time to time. There is just something about this game that I really like! It isn't earth-shattering and it doesn't reek of greatness, but Fester's Quest is one of those obscure, forgotten games that is very playable once you get the hang of things. It features a really cool atmosphere, a surprisingly good soundtrack, and epic boss battles. If you love old-school games and want to enjoy a fresh, challenging experience, give Fester's Quest a try! You might be surprised and find yourself enjoying this "bad" game too!
Negatives: Fester's Quest is the perfect example of why you don't want to make a game too difficult on the front end. Unfortunately, I think that most gamers never really got to truly experience this game due to the high difficulty right out of the gate. I know that it took me a while to figure out that you actually want to grind a bit at the beginning and power up your gun to the max. If more gamers had taken the time to do this, perhaps Fester's Quest wouldn't be lost in obscurity.
Also, while the controls feel pretty smooth overall, it would have been nice to have a little added dexterity. The ability to move diagonally along with a little added speed boost would have made the game a bit more accessible. As much as I enjoy this game, even I am amazed at how slowly Fester can move...especially when some random enemy projectile paralyzes him. Fester's limited speed can make some of the bosses and even regular enemies quite formidable at times too.
Lastly, I didn't really touch on this in the main review but those nasty red Gun/Whip capsules are especially annoying. While the blue ones increase your Gun/Whip power, the red ones deplete it and the red ones appear a lot in this game. I would have honestly rather seen Sunsoft include a system like the one found in Blaster Master where your gunpower decreases as you get hit versus picking up the wrong capsule. Either way, you will find yourself standing around waiting for these red capsules to disappear on a regular basis. It's a minor gripe but a gripe nonetheless.
Ratings: Graphics: 3.9 Music: 4.3 Play Control: 3.7 Challenge: 4.0 Storyline: 3.8 Funfactor: 4.1 Overall Score: 23.8 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Unsung Hero
Back to NES NostalgiaLast Updated: September 25, 2013